Doing Duluth
July 16, 2017 7:17 PM   Subscribe

We are going to be in Duluth for a long weekend in August. We have no idea what to do while we are there! Help, please!

Me and baniak are going to be up in Duluth for a long weekend in August. I've been dying to spend time there since we drove through on the way to Tettegouche in 2010.

We are staying at some cabins about 10 miles north of downtown. We plan to go to Betty's Pies. We have no idea what else we should do, other than chill out and stare at Lake Superior.

Please tell us about good restaurants, neat shops selling local wares, and other things we should not miss. We are both knitters, so we'd love to know if there is a good yarn shop in the area. Are there any good spots for amateur bird watchers to check out?

Thanks in advance for your advice!
posted by bibliogrrl to Travel & Transportation around Duluth, MN (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Birding, did you say? In Duluth? Which has a splendid hawkwatch that will be underway while you're there? Why yes: Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory!
posted by rtha at 7:44 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]

I loved my much-too-short visit to Duluth. The downtime library is bizarre and worth looking at. I enjoyed the great food and drink at the Lake Avenue Cafe, local foods AND local spirits. There is an Accordion Museum (you heard me) right across the bridge in Superior Wisconsin. Closed when I was there. Also did not get to go to the Railroad Museum, but I would have! I really enjoyed just getting in a car and driving north out of the city and going to some of the lakeside parks and pullouts including Leif Erickson park.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

According to their website, hawks start appearing mid-August at Hawk Ridge. Even if you don't see any, it's got some neat views and trails.
I would recommend getting there via the very scenic Seven Bridges Road from Superior Street and heading west on Skyline Parkway.
More good views from Enger Tower more on the central/west side.
You can't go wrong with the state parks as you probably know from Tettegouche... Gooseberry Falls is the busiest but well worth it. Temperance River and Jay Cooke are fun as well.
The Lakewalk/Canal park is always fun but also the most "touristy." Lots of shops in Canal Park.
Fitger's has shops and restaurants. It is in an old brewery so even just walking around is sort of fun. Try the fish tacos or wild rice burger at Fitger's Brewhouse.
Don't miss Northern Waters Smokehaus for lunch (they also have a restaurant up by UMD).
New Scenic Cafe on "old" Highway 61 is amazing.
Bent Paddle Brewing has a great taproom and is just a few blocks from The Duluth Grill, which is also amazing. (Note that they don't sell alcohol though)
Brighton Beach is great for staring at Lake Superior and looking for cool rocks.
On preview, Leif Erickson Park has free parking and is a nice walk to Canal Park along the Lakewalk.
(Duluth had a high of 64 today.. really wish I were there)
posted by starman at 7:53 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

Definitely get burritos at Burrito Union. Northern Waters Smokehaus is supposed to be great though I haven't been. Bent Paddle and Fitger's make good beers. Do go to Yarn Harbor, which is in a strip mall, but maybe skip Playing with Yarn; it's right on the water but the inventory is a weird jumble and it smells like mildew.
posted by clavicle at 7:53 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

Skip Betty's Pies. It reached that tourist critical mass years ago where they could let the food go to shit and not care because it is still overrun with tourists due to the past praises. The Rustic Inn is right down the road and has killer pies, and you won't have to wait forever to get a table.

Tha Lake Ave recommendation above is also a fantastic choice for dining.
posted by kpraslowicz at 7:56 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]

Seconding Northern Waters and Canal Park. Yeah, it's touristy, but still a nice part of Duluth to stroll around in.

If you're up for a bit of a drive, Highway 61 is lovely. Maybe drive up to Split Rock or even Grand Portage? Or even over to the Apostle Islands via Wisconsin highway 13? If those are too far, I know Grand Marais has a good-sized artist community with some interesting shops and galleries.
posted by Janta at 7:57 PM on July 16

I recommend going to Betty's Pies but getting a pie shake instead of a regular pie/piece of pie. They are pretty good and have a delicious layer of crust chunks at the bottom.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:59 PM on July 16

I'm late to the party - I used to live in Two Harbors up until a few years ago. My two big things were the Hawkwatch and skipping Betty's Pies and going straight on up to the Rustic Inn. My old favorite restaurant - Emily's Lighthouse - closed right around when I left, coincidence?...

My favorite North Shore State Park is Temperance, but that might be a bit of a poke for just a long weekend. If you're up for a hike, I'd recommend either the Split Rock Loop at 5 miles (here is a blog post from one of the times I did that hike); or if you want to go off the beaten trail a favorite "short hike" from Two Harbors was on the Superior Hiking Trail up to Fantasia Overlook (about 2.8 miles). You should have good shoes for both of those hikes.

There is a yarn shop in Knife River called "Playing with Yarn". You can reach it from old Highway 61. It's run by and old Swedish (?) couple out of their house. It's cute and packed to the brim with yarn and old magazines and stuff, but I'm not sure how often the collection gets updated. There's also a chocolate shop right nearby that's good for a treat.

One of my favorite things to do in Two Harbors was to go out onto the breakwater in Agate Bay and watch the Ore Boats come in. Pick up a copy of the Shipping News (or find it online) and, if you're in the area when a 1,000 foot ore boat comes into dock, it's worth watching.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:12 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

Oh and if you want to hike IN Duluth, Ely's Peak is a lot of fun. You go through an old train tunnel and the view from the top is pretty fantastic.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:15 PM on July 16

I don't drink beer, and there's loads of breweries in town these days. I'd recommend the newest one: Hoops Brewing in Canal Park. (Hoops and his head brewer are previously from Fitger's)... Since I don't drink beer, I go to Vikre Distillery for some awesome cocktails, and they do a tour. If you like history, check out the Duluth Experience--I think they do a kayak tour of the harbor as well. Glensheen is looking spiffy these days, especially if you've never been. I'd vote on planning a hike on a section of the Superior Hiking Trail, especially in town. Or maybe in Jay Cooke Park, which is pretty awesome as well. If you mtn. bike, the Duluth Traverse is supposed to be fun.
posted by RedEmma at 7:34 AM on July 17

The Hibbing library has a Dylan exhibit, but the displays aren't labeled and you have to pay for a booklet.
UMDuluth has a nice museum.
posted by brujita at 8:08 AM on July 17

When my husband and I went to Betty's Pies, it was so bad we spent the next hour yelling about it in the car. It's bad. In fact, right now, just thinking about Betty's Pies is making me angry again, and I know all I'd have to do to get my husband angry would be to mention "Betty's Pies" to him. Don't give that terrible place your money.

But, as others said, Rustic Inn is great. Their 8 (?) layer chocolate pie is amazing. Amazing!
posted by meese at 8:37 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]

I love Duluth. Here are my suggestions:

Seconding Glensheen. Read up on the murder before you go (not sure if they are including that in the tours these days but it was a distinct omission when I went).

Walking around Canal Park...the shops are touristy but the atmosphere is great. You can also tour the William Irvin and the Maritime museum, or just watch the lift bridge go up and down.

Ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

The Duluth Rose Garden should be looking lovely in August.

Drive (or hike) the Duluth Skyline Parkway.

Nearby Cloquet has the only Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station in existence.

I'll also nth Fitger's and driving up the coast to Split Rock Lighthouse.
posted by Preserver at 9:48 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Park Point is lovely and as close to an ocean beach as you can get in Minnesota. I'm always surprised people don't know about it.

If smoked fish is your thing, Russ Kendall's is a good place to go.

Drive up Hwy 61 and enjoy the scenery. Grand Marais is beautiful and has the World's Best Donuts.
posted by Burn.Don't.Freeze at 10:00 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

If like me you come from a place without a planetarium, and are looking for a cool but low key evening event, this is something to consider: sky shows

There is also the mountain slide if you are up for some more adrenaliney activity.

Grand Marais is very cool. It's touristy, but fun. And beautiful. And there is a sailing ship out onto the lake which is a very cool thing to do. North Folk School Sailing

Glensheen estate is also considered a local attraction, and worth a visit.

Have a fun trip!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 11:27 AM on July 17

Also, If you are a fan of the Macaulay Culkin/Elijah Wood movie The Good Son, the end scenes were filmed at Palisade Head in the area.

Worth a stop even if you aren't a fan boy of the movie.
posted by kpraslowicz at 2:05 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

Seconding Russ Kendall's!!

We are also fan's of Gannucci's Italian Deli in West Duluth. As for Betty's Pies, I've heard the food is pretty mediocre, so don't go for a meal. I am a fan of their Lemon Angel pie. (I hadn't heard of the Rustic Inn, but I see they have a gf Lemon Angel Pie as well! We'll be looking them up when we go up this summer!)
posted by BlueBear at 2:08 PM on July 17

You really ought to check out Enger Park, both for the view and because it's just a nice park. can help you plan to see a ship go under the bridge, which is another thing you really ought to do.

Get a malt at the portland malt shop, just up the lakewalk from fitgers. Even if it's an hour wait, which it might be.

Park point beach is very nice and will be moderately swimmable by then.

The scenic cafe is a bit overrated imo. I'd suggest Va Bene, and get patio seating. Under no circumstances should you go to grandma's. The radisson has a rotating restaurant on the top floor with mediocre food but great views; it might be worth a trip.
posted by dbx at 5:22 PM on July 17

Just to agree with others, Betty's Pies is an abomination. It was really great back in 1977, though. Russ Kendell's is great, for further agreement. They had a fire a while back but I think I heard they're on line again.

Park Point is nice and you get hardyhood points for swimming in Lake Superior. It might even not be cripplingly cold near shore in August. Or it might be. For a less-traveled experience, Wisconsin Point in Superior is good in case you want to build a fire or something. There are tour boats you can take around the harbor in case you like that kind of thing.

Enger Tower is one of my favorite places in Duluth if it is a moderately nice day--you can see pretty much to the tip of Florida from up there. Well, quite a ways, anyway. Bring some binoculars if you have them--they'll be handy to look at ships and all sorts of things even if you are down in Canal Park. I guess if you're birders you probably have nice ones.

I didn't notice anyone mentioning my favorite place of all--the railroad museum. There are all kinds of actual trains and other goodness to look at. Turns out if you see an engine that lacks the "don't climb on the train" sign, it's probably because they just pulled it in and they'll still yell at you if you climb up. A ... friend told me.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:49 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]

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