Planning a visit to Duluth? Here are my tips for a budget-friendly visit!
Since I grew up in Duluth and visit family and friends there many times each year, I thought I’d write up a list of ways to enjoy Duluth for less money, especially since many people I know visit there regularly, too. These are the things we do when visiting Duluth to enjoy the northland to the fullest without going broke!
1. Pick up a free Northland Coupon Book
To start your visit to Duluth for less money, get coupons! You can get these at the Maritime Museum in Canal Park (go to the second level and ask for one at the desk – they don’t always have them out). If they don’t have them there, try the Vista Fleet in Canal Park. Or visit their website to download coupons. The current year’s coupon book comes out around May and most are good until the next year. The coupons are valuable for sightseeing, shopping, eating out and lodging. There are about 66 and include discounts at the Lake Superior Zoo, the Great Lakes Aquarium, North Shore Scenic Railroad, and Spirit Mountain Adventure Park, to name a few. Restaurant coupons include Grandma’s Restaurants (I LOVE their wild rice chicken salad plate), Grizzly’s Grills and more. I especially recommend downloading coupons for lodging if you know you’ll be staying overnight!
2. Find low-cost lodging.
Canal Park has some beautiful hotels, but they can be pricey. The Edge Waterpark Hotel on London Road is great for kids (I used to be a housekeeper there, before it had a waterpark) but is more expensive. However, you can buy tickets to local attractions for discounted rates at the front desk if you’re a guest.
Other scenic but lower-cost options include cabins (with amenities) on the North Shore drive (I used to work at some there, too!). You’ll get a beautiful view, and be away from all the hustle and bustle. Or if you like being close to all the action, stay at a hotel or motel near the mall area which can be more reasonably priced. The Visit Duluth website lists lodging options by region.
3. Enjoy a few hours in Canal Park.
Walk along the lakewalk (which has now been extended all the way to 60th Avenue East!!! Great for bike-riding!). Tour the Maritime Museum (it’s free!). Rent a unique bike from Wheel Fun Rentals (next to Comfort Suites). Browse in the unique shops. Have a coffee at Caribou Coffee, enjoy a treat at Cold Stone Creamery or Dairy Queen, eat a meal at Grandma’s or Little Angie’s Cantina (use your coupons!). Tour the William A. Irvin ship (Kids 10 & Under are FREE with a paid adult).
4. Visit Park Point and Minnesota Point.
If it’s a hot summer day, enjoy the public beach. If it’s cooler, bring your kids to the neat play area. Or walk the beautiful trail through the woods that goes from Park Point (from the airport there) to Minnesota Point (allow for a couple hours to go to the end and back).
The trail going to Minnesota Point, and the abandoned lighthouse and other sights there, make for a unique visit. Plus, it’s a special place for my husband and me – it’s where we had our first kiss!
5. Visit Enger Tower.
Best way to visit Duluth for less money? Enger Tower offers a great free, photographic opportunity! See all (or most) of Duluth from the top of the hill along Skyline Drive. There are lovely gardens here, too.
6. Visit Brighton Beach and Lester Park in East Duluth.
I grew up in East Duluth so I visited these all the time. There are miles of trails for walking or cross-country skiing in Lester Park, making it enjoyable all year round, plus people swim in Lester River, and there’s a play area for kids. It’s located at 60th Avenue E. and Superior St. (where the lakewalk ends). Brighton Beach, now called Gitche Gumme Park, is a quieter place to wade in the water of Lake Superior or have a picnic. It’s where the North Shore drive begins past 60th Avenue East just off of London Road.
7. Visit the Lake Superior Zoo.
Yes, it’s open! We actually visited there this summer on Father’s Day, TWO DAYS before the flooding destroyed much of it. But they’ve opened it since and they need business! Plan on a few hours there. There’s a cafe where you can get good, cheap ice cream (a sizable bowl for only $1.00 when we were last there). There’s also a kiddie train that goes around the zoo (adults can ride, too!). Also, use your Northland Coupon book coupon ($1.00 off)!
8. You’ve got to check out Spirit Mountain Adventure Park.
Spirit Mountain is known for skiing fun, but in the past couple years they’ve added new attractions including an Alpine Coaster (Timber Twister), Zip Line and mini golf! Our 4-year-old Heidi enjoys the Alpine Coaster and Zip Line (riding with mommy or daddy!) so it’s great for all ages (if you’re not afraid of heights!). Use your Northland Coupon book coupon (Buy One Ride – Get one 1/2 Off!). Your picture is taken on the Alpine Coaster so be prepared to be tempted to buy pictures, framed or as key chains.
9. Go for a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
In the summer they operate every day; otherwise, they’re on weekends only. Use your Northland Coupon book coupon (Purchase One Adult Lester River Ticket and Get a Child’s Ticket Free). Check out their website for seasonal or themed rides.
10. Drive up the North Shore Drive to Two Harbors
You can either go along the lake or take the highway north – stay along the lake! The scenery is beautiful, and there are many restaurants and gift shops along the way. Visit Tom’s Logging Camp between Duluth and Two Harbors (watch for signs). Open from May to October. Kids love it! There are animals to feed, and you can tour their authentic duplicate of a typical Northern Minnesota Logging Camp (my husband loves looking at their old artifacts). Plus they now have a sandwich shop.
In Two Harbors, there are many tourist-friendly places to visit. But be sure to go to the lake. There’s a pier you can walk out on.
Of course, there are MANY more things to do in Duluth and in the area…in my experience, these are some of the best, cost-effective ways to spend your time. But if you’re looking for more to do, check out visitduluth.com. There’s the Depot, the Great Lakes Aquarium, Glensheen Mansion on London Road, and much more. It can get pricey to try to visit them all, which is why this list mixes up great free activities with some of the best that cost money.
Update: Another scenic area, Jay Cook State Park, was closed due to the flooding at the time of this writing; otherwise I would have added that to the list. It has great bike trails and other features. I’m hoping it’s open by now!
If you have ideas to add to this list, please share!