Duluth, Minnesota has a certain magic to it. Sitting on the shores of Lake Superior, you almost feel like you are on the ocean, with nothing but water for miles and miles spanning out from the city. It’s the birthplace of Bob Dylan, it has the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, and it has a special small town charm while still providing culture, incredible restaurants, and endless fun things to do. It’s only a two hour drive from the Twin Cities, making it a feasible day trip, but even better if you give yourself a whole weekend to explore.
Here are some places I’d suggest checking out if you’re going to Duluth!
Restaurants & Bars in Duluth
It’s overstated, but it’s just a must. OMC Smokehouse (Oink, Moo, Cluck) is one of the best restaurants in Duluth and you have to eat here at some point when making the trip. Delicious barbecue and cocktails, everything we ate was spectacular. Located on West Superior Street outside of the chaos of downtown Duluth, you’ll want to make a reservation or get here early to guarantee a table. I indulged in an old fashioned and we shared the jalapeño brisket bombs and the Smoked OMC Plate which had a little bit of everything. Go here.
Uncle Loui’s Cafe for Brunch
If you leave the cities early in the morning and arrive in Duluth just in time for brunch, this diner-style restaurant is a great greasy spoon to start the day. Get ready for your day of hiking and exploring with a high-calorie breakfast and unlimited pours of diner coffee. It’s a cute, local spot that is off the main drag so it’s not as touristy. Visit Uncle Loui’s Cafe for breakfast favorites all day.
Duluth Grill for Brunch
Another classic stop if you’re headed to Duluth early in the morning and want to brunch once you arrive. They usually have a bit of a wait but it’s so worth it, and the portions are absolutely huge. Duluth Grill is located right off 1-35W before you get into the heart of the city, so it’s a great first stop if you head up in the early morning. I’ve had their Chilaquiles skillet and it was incredible. You might have a long wait if you visit on the weekend, so plan accordingly!
A great brewery to stop in for a quick drink is Hoops in Duluth. It’s right on Lake Avenue, which can make it difficult to access if you come by car. I recommend finding parking outside of the main busy area of Downtown Duluth and enjoy walking everywhere. Hoops has a huge beer hall, a variety of rotating taps, and the option to buy crowlers to take to-go if you want to bring some home. Just pack a cooler with ice packs for the drive back to keep them cold!
Bent Paddle Brewery
A trip to Duluth for a beer enthusiast requires a stop at Bent Paddle. Arguably one of Minnesota’s more well-known breweries, it’s a huge space with outdoor and indoor seating, a huge selection of beers, THC/CBD Seltzers, live music, a cool gift shop, and store selling local artisan wares. I tried their Venture Pilsner and a CBD Seltzer, both were delicious and it was a happening place to visit during the weekend.
New Scenic Cafe
This restaurant provides an intimate, Scandinavian dining experience with a stellar menu and great service. It’s tiny – a reservation is a must if you don’t want to potentially wait hours for a table, and they are dedicated to a hygge, relaxed atmosphere. Here we indulged in a lobster roll, salmon, deviled eggs, and a smoked hummus plate with homemade naan that was incredible. It’s a wonderful place to share a bunch of different items, and it has a menu that changes frequently. Everything was delicious and the space is beautiful too, overlooking the lake with outdoor seating and fire pits. Check out New Scenic Cafe when staying in Duluth for a long weekend – you won’t regret it. It’s definitely a great restaurant for special celebrations like a birthday, anniversary, or a date night.
Northern Waters Smokehaus
This sandwich shop came as a recommendation from my neighbor, and I am so happy she said something because I had never heard of it before. It’s a walk-up shop with some outdoor picnic tables to eat onsite, but it’s great for getting a sandwich to go. They cure and smoke meats and fish and turn them into delicious sandwiches on fresh baked ciabatta. You can also buy smoked fish in bulk at Northern Waters – just be prepared to wait in line if you don’t order ahead, on the weekend there was a long wait but it was worth it! I had the Cajun Finn smoked salmon sandwich and it was life-changing. This place will 100% become a standard stop for me when I visit Duluth.
Fun Things To Do in Duluth
Jay Cooke State Park
This is one of my favorite state parks in Minnesota. Jay Cooke can get busy in the summer months, so be prepared to potentially search around for a parking spot if you don’t get here early, but it’s a lovely park with beautiful waterfalls, rock formations, and vistas. Enjoy a hike along the river gorge or the Willard Munger State Trail. I wished I had packed a swimsuit for this day trip, there were a few spots that looked perfect to jump in for a swim.
The Great Lakes Aquarium
In my opinion, this is a must-do in Duluth. This aquarium is amazing – there are so many great exhibits of fish from the Great Lakes, information about the local ecosystems as well as animals and ecosystems from around the globe. It’s the largest freshwater aquarium, and there are great exhibits like touch tanks, live feeding shows, and wildlife rehabilitation. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two in Duluth, whether you’re visiting with children or adults, and it’s especially great for a rainy day.
The Great Lakes Aquarium costs $18 for adults, and it’s open daily from 10am to 6pm. We visited on a weekend and didn’t have any issues with lines or wait times, it was open and easy to roam around.
Park Point Beach
Lake Superior is always pretty cold, but if you visit Duluth on a particularly hot day and want to dip in your toes, Park Point Beach is the place to visit. It’s a long stretch of beach that has nice sand for laying out in. This place is also known as “Minnesota Point” and it is the longest freshwater sandbar in the world.
To access the beach, you have to walk on quite a bit of sand uphill and through a little wooded area, so I would not say it’s very handicap accessible. The nearby parks often have outdoor events and festivals during the summer, so it’s a fun area to check out.
Vista Fleet Boat Tours on Lake Superior
Who doesn’t love a boat cruise? This historical tour around the Duluth Harbor and around the waterfront of Lake Superior is a really fun and fascinating experience. The tour guide was excellent at entertaining as well as informing, the boat has 3 levels and multiple bars and a great crew that made for a wonderful experience. It’s about a 2-hour cruise, which is the perfect amount of time to sip a cocktail and relax while learning about Duluth’s history. They had great drinks and snacks onboard.
Vista Fleet cruises runs from May through October, and I would highly recommend it as a unique thing to do in Duluth. Even on a cooler, rainy and cloudy day, it was still super cool to see the city from a whole new perspective. You will need to buy tickets ahead of time and reserve your time slot for a cruise, as there are multiple options per day. Don’t miss the boat!
I love visiting Duluth, it’s fun to go for a day or a weekend, and every time I go I feel like there are new places to explore, foods to try, and things to experience. I love recommendations so please leave a comment if you’ve done something in Duluth that I should try!