Best 5 Things to See & Do in Duluth with Kids

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Duluth has been an endless source of fun for my family. With lots of options for outdoors adventures we have traveled to Duluth and the North Shore many times over the years.   The beautiful, sometimes serene Lake Superior is at it’s finest in the summer sun.  And while this lake isn’t ideal for swimming there are lots of ways to embrace nature. Whether you are staying at one of the many popular resorts on the North Shore, a hotel along Canal Park, or camping a Jay Cooke State Park here are my top recommendations for fun, kid-friendly sites in the Duluth and North Shore area. 

1. Gooseberry Falls 

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I won’t hold you in suspense.  Let me just cut right to the chase and tell you our absolute favorite place- Gooseberry Falls. No state park pass is even needed to make the easy trek to the main falls. Just check out the visitors center {love it!} and bring your friendly canine on the paved trail to the falls.  That’s the simple part and typically {obviously} the most congested.

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Beyond that I highly recommend taking some of the many trails around the area.  Our must-do every single visit is the hike from the main falls to Lake Superior.  The easy trail follows the Gooseberry River til it reaches icy, cold Lake Superior.  At the mouth of the river are pebbles in vast quantities made ready to toss into the lake.  My boys could spend hours tossing stones into the river/lake.  Hours. They wade in shallow areas. They build canals. They skip stones. They toss large handfuls of rocks into the lake. They look for rock treasures. 

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Just beyond this pebble area is the lava flow.  Watching young children closely explore the lava cliffs along Lake Superior.  This area is perfect for checking out the small tide pools. And is also ideal for nighttime sky gazing.  

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North of the main falls are a plethora of many more trails and even additional falls.  Gooseberry Falls hiking adventures come in different levels of difficulty.  Check out one of the detailed maps for particulars. My littlest fellas is only five years old and we have been able to conquer many trails with ease.  

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Gooseberry Falls is a beautiful area with great hiking opportunities for children to enjoy the great outdoors. 

 

2. Canal Park 

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Visiting Canal Park is the quintessential part of visiting Duluth.  With the Aerial Lift Bridge in close sight take the short walk to see the lighthouse {no entry inside} and watch enormous vessels navigate the harbor.  The rising of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the tankers that come through can be quite noisy {small kids will be amazing & probably upset by the sounds}, but is definitely a sight to behold. 

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No visit to Canal Park is complete without a stop at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center.  This small museum is one of my all-time favorites. With model ships and interactive engineering displays this free museum is one definitely not to miss.  My kids learn new things every time we visit.  My oldest educated me on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on our last visit.  I love to see my children engaged in history and the Maritime Visitors Center makes it easy for kids to have fun and explore the stories of the area. 

 
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 3. Enger Tower 

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You’ll need to climb up the streets of Duluth by car to make it to Enger Tower, but the scenic drive is worth the view. Built in 1939 this sightseeing tower is the best way to see the entire Duluth harbor.

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 Those scared of heights might want to pass climbing the tower, but the sturdy fortress can easily be navigated without peering too close to the edge. Near the tower is a small Japanese style garden and a peace bell from Duluth’s sister city, Ohara.  Enger Tower and the surrounding area is a quiet, beautiful park like setting perfect for seeing Duluth and small scale hiking. 

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4. Split Rock Lighthouse 

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 Split Rock Lighthouse is fabulous not just for the glimpse back into the past at the lighthouse, but for the hiking as well.  By all means, go see the lighthouse and the surrounding home.  Though be warned the very tip top of the lighthouse isn’t entirely friendly for little ones. The base of the lighthouse and the keeper’s home are kid friendly and a great way to bring history alive for kids.  

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But our favorite part of Split Rock Lighthouse is the state park portion.  Drive down to the lake shore to …….throw more rocks in the lake! This is what kids live for right? Or is it just my fellas? Maybe it’s a boy thing? I can’t say for sure, but three little guys and of course, our dog love hiking along the shore.  We’ve picked a spot along the lake here many times for a good hour of rock throwing all with a views of Split Rock Lighthouse. 

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5. Two Harbors Depot Museum 

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 Another family favorite is visiting the old-time locomotives in Two Harbors.  We actually don’t care very much for the museum. The trains are outside and are completely accessible no museum visit necessary.  At various ages my little guys have been obsessed with trains. Thanks, Thomas the Tank Engine.  This quick free visit is a great way for kids to get a close-up view of these classic engines. This visit won’t take all afternoon {an hour max}, but is an easy way to make little ones happy. 

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 There is obviously much more to see and do in Duluth and the surrounding North Shore.  But these five listed above are our most-do almost every visit to the area.  

What are your favorite things to do with kids in Duluth? 

 

Comments

  1. I lived in Minneapolis until I was 35, my family would rent a cabin near Duluth for a month every summer. We did everything on your list and they are great for kids.

    • Alicia Kirby says:

      What a fabulous experience to stay in a cabin near Duluth every summer! I can’t say I wouldn’t mind doing that myself:) The Duluth/North Shores is such a beautiful area.

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