Romantic Things to Do in Duluth, MN

by Lynda Wilson
Duluth has 129 parks in its city limits, totaling 3,264 acres.

Duluth has 129 parks in its city limits, totaling 3,264 acres.

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Located along the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, Duluth hosts more than three million visitors per year. The city is built into the side of a steep cliff that overlooks the lake, and with its historic architecture and steep streets, it is sometimes called "the San Francisco of the North." Duluth boasts idyllic romantic getaways, providing activities that couples can enjoy together -- scenic drives, hiking, museums, historic sites, shopping and dining -- topped off with a stay in a romantic Victorian-era bed-and-breakfast or lakefront lodge.

Lake Superior and the North Shore

Duluth sits along the shores of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. At more than 30,000-square surface miles, it is the largest freshwater lake in the world and the site of more than 350 shipwrecks, including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald. Drive along the North Shore Scenic Byway -- a highway that runs 150 miles from Duluth to Canada along the shores of Lake Superior -- and take in the spectacular scenery. Be sure to stop at Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Light House for stunning views. If you prefer that someone else does the driving, take a tour along the north shore by rail on the North Shore Scenic Railroad (northshorescenicrailroad.org). Trains depart from the historic Union Depot and the trip offers scenic views of the Duluth, Lake Superior and the surrounding forests. Back in town, Lakewalk is a boardwalk running along the waterfront in downtown Duluth where you can stroll, bike, jog or take a carriage ride along the water's edge. You will find romantic lodging options of all kinds along Lake Superior and the North Shore, from quaint bed and breakfasts to luxurious lake-front cabins. Grand Superior Lodge (grandsuperior.com), located less than 30 miles north of Duluth along the North Shore Drive, offers private log cabins with fireplaces, Whirlpool tubs and lake views.

Duluth Harbor and Canal Park

Duluth showcases its status as a port city at its waterfront Canal Park. Explore the art galleries and shops housed in restored warehouses that line Canal Park's cobblestone streets. Enjoy a meal with lake views in one of the area's many restaurants. Canal Park is a popular spot to watch the massive freighters from around the globe pass under Duluth's unique aerial lift bridge, rising more than 40 times per day to let ships enter and exit the harbor. Tour the harbor on the William A. Irvin, a retired ore freighter, then sail under the lift bridge on a sightseeing cruise of Lake Superior. Immerse yourselves in the history of Great Lakes shipping at the Superior Maritime Visitor Center (lsmma.com). Don't miss the Great Lakes Aquarium (glaquarium.org), where animals from the Great Lakes and other freshwater lakes and rivers around the globe are on display. And after a day of sightseeing, spend the night in a romantic lakeside hotel in Canal Park. The Inn on Lake Superior (theinnonlakesuperior.com) offers romantic getaways in luxurious rooms with Whirlpool suites and private lake-side balconies.

Downtown Duluth

Downtown Duluth is the cultural and commercial hub of the city. For shopping and entertainment, visit Fitger's Brewery (fitgers.com), a renovated 1885 brewery with shops, restaurants, nightclubs and the Fitger's Inn, a historic hotel offering romantic lakefront rooms and suites. Try your luck at the Fond-du-Luth casino (fondduluthcasino.com), owned and operated by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, that offers a wide array of gaming and entertainment choices in the heart of downtown. If you enjoy the arts and history, don't miss Duluth's Historic Union Depot (duluthdepot.org), an 1892 train station that has been converted to the headquarters of the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center. It houses the Duluth Art Institute, the Children's Museum, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and the County Historical Society. Duluth's east side is lined with grand manor homes and elegant Victorians dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Take a step back in time and visit the historic Gleensheen Estate, a 39-room Jacobean Revival mansion, now owned by the University of Minnesota and open to the public. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion gives visitors a fascinating look at the life of affluent families at the turn of the last century. Other historic homes in Duluth have been turned into romantic bed-and-breakfasts. The Cotton Mansion (cottonmansion.com) is a 16,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance mansion built in 1908. Suites are lavishly furnished with fireplaces, two-person whirlpools and Italian-tiled bathrooms.

Parks and Nature

With more than 3,000 acres of parks, dozens of rivers and creeks, cascading waterfalls, an abundance of wildlife -- including bear, deer and moose within the city limits -- and the gateway to Lake Superior's scenic North Shore, Duluth is four-season outdoor enthusiast's dream. The area has dozens of hiking trails within the city or you can stop at one of the trail heads of the Superior Hiking Trail, a 277-mile footpath that follows the ridge line above Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border. If you visit during the winter months, the area has top-notch cross-country ski trails with breathtaking views of Lake Superior. Duluth has five trails within the city limits, or enjoy the cross-country ski trails and downhill skiing at Spirit Mountain (spiritmt.com). If you enjoy rock climbing, camping, babbling brooks and cascading waterfalls, you can find any of these within the city limits or at numerous points along the North Shore Scenic Byway. Adventure enthusiasts will enjoy whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River with Superior Whitewater Rafting (minnesotawhitewater.com), located 15 miles south of Duluth. For bird watchers, the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (hawkridge.org) is a birdwatcher's paradise. The observatory serves as a funnel for tens of thousands of migratory hawks, eagles and other migrating birds who avoid flying over Lake Superior and follow the shoreline into the observatory.

About the Author

Lynda Wilson has been sharing her knowledge with web readers for over 10 years. She currently owns and operates online travel websites covering travel to Mexico. Her past experience includes operating a Spanish school in Mexico, as well as directing graduate admissions at a major U.S. university. Lynda holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Minnesota.

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