Situated on the westernmost end of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, Duluth's international harbour is filled with ships and the city bustles with sailors and the arrival of new wares. Although miles from either coast, Lake Superior is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the St Lawrence River. The authentically restored waterfront can be explored along the Lakewalk Trail, or the scenic Skyline Parkway drive above the lakeshore on the bluffs, which affords magnificent views of the city and harbour.
The city itself is quiet, yet there is much to see and do in Duluth. Because of its location it has always been a busy shipping port, and there are enough antique shops, cafes, restaurants and other diversions. The city's two universities ensure the bars and pubs are always bustling during the semester. Kids will enjoy the Great Lakes Aquarium and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, while adults will enjoy the well-preserved house and grounds of the Glensheen Mansion.
The spectacular Scenic Hwy-61 (North Shore Scenic Drive) follows the shore of Lake Superior for 160 miles (257km) from Duluth to the Canadian border, its precipitous cliffs interspersed with pretty little harbour towns, charming shops and restaurants, waterfalls and beautiful lake-view picnic sites.
The Split Rock Lighthouse is popular for hiking, picnics, and photo opportunities. There are several state parks and hiking trails along the way, including the long distance Superior Hiking Trail, and the unspoilt beauty of immense Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that draws canoeists from around the world to its pristine lakes and streams. 40 miles (64km) north, Gooseberry Falls State Park has excellent walking trails. Duluth is roughly two and a half hours' drive from Minneapolis, the nearest major city and airport.
The best time to visit Duluth is in autumn, when the fall foliage is truly spectacular. Winters can be unforgivingly cold, while late summer provides idyllic weather for enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Part of Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (also known as the BWCA), is an immense chain of lakes in north-eastern Minnesota that is extremely popular for canoeing, camping and fishing. With more than a million acres of pristine wilderness, it's no wonder the Boundary Waters is the most visited wilderness area in the United States.
Visitors can hike through forests, and canoe along thousands of miles of water routes. No motor vehicles or boats are allowed in the park, and there are strict guidelines as to leaving the area as you found it. Combine this with the fact that you may explore for days without seeing another person, and it's easy to understand why the Boundary Waters is the perfect place to get lost in nature.
The best time to visit the Boundary Waters come in the summer months (June to August), as summer temperatures are warm but rarely exceed 90°F (32°C). Entry points include Ely in the west, and Grand Marais in the east. Both towns have numerous outfitters where canoes, kayaks, and camping equipment can be hired. Note that camping permits are required.
This 39-room Jacobean Revival mansion on the shores of Lake Superior is a popular attraction in Duluth. Managed by the University of Minnesota, the Glensheen Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 7.6-acre grounds and carriage house can be explored at leisure, and the lavishly furnished interior of the house is accessible on informative guided tours lasting 60-90 minutes. A new attraction is the nighttime 'flashlight tour', which focuses on the lives of the servants of the house. Be sure to ask the guides about the various ghosts that are said to inhabit the mansion!
A popular tourist attraction outside of Duluth, Split Rock Lighthouse is located on the shore of Lake Superior, and was constructed following a major storm in 1905 that caused 29 shipwrecks. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969, and is now operated by the Minnesota Historical Society, who have restored it to its 1920s condition. The lighthouse offers tours and children's programmes, and has a gift shop.
Its picturesque location in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park makes it a popular destination for hbicycling, cross-country skiing, and camping; both the Superior Hiking Trail and the Gitchi-Gami State Trail run through the park, making it ideal for hiking. Even for visitors who aren't actively-inclined, the beauty of the rocky shore has earned it a place on many postcards from Duluth and Northern Minnesota, and is a stunning place for a picnic.
Duluth's climate varies drastically throughout the year. Summers are hot and humid with average temperatures ranging between 50°F (10°C) and 76°F (24°C); while winters are bitterly cold, with temperatures dropping as low as -4°F (-20°C). The best time to visit Duluth is in the autumn (September and October), when the fall leaves turn spectacular colours, while summers (June to August) offer the chance to enjoy outdoor activities. Winters in Duluth are best avoided unless you're an avid snowmobiler.
The Duluth Transit Authority operates a number of scheduled bus routes that include access to the airport, The University of Minnesota Duluth and Park Point Recreation Area. One-way fares are $0.75 during off-peak hours, or $1.50 during peak travel periods (7am-9am and 2.30pm-6pm). Day passes are available for $4; exact change is required. Many visitors find that renting a car is the easiest way to get around Duluth, especially if they wish to explore the beautiful North Shore area.
Duluth, a seaport city, is home to many rewarding sightseeing experiences. Both sunny days and rainy days can be occupied with many interesting things to see and explore.
Whilst the city is a quiet one, there are museums, galleries and theatres to enjoy, keeping the historically and culturally enthused occupied. Attractions such as the Fitger's Museum, exhibiting memorabilia from what was once the most successful brewery in the state, or the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, where people can climb up one of the world's largest steam locomotives, make for a memorable visit. For those interested in art, the Tweed Art Museum is always a popular choice too, exhibiting over 7,000 art objects.
The outdoors is a large part of what makes Duluth and its attractions special to visitors. Hiking in any one of the several state parks is a joy, especially the long distance Superior Hiking Trail and the trails accessing the untouched beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Split Rock lighthouse is also a popular landmark to explore, allowing fresh air and scenic splendour. Duluth is home to many quaint harbour towns, which make good excursions from the city, complete with charming shops and cafes to enjoy after a day of outdoor activity.
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