It’s Father’s Day weekend and if you are looking for something cool to do with dad and the family then we have the place for you. Located at the westernmost tip of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, Duluth is a city that welcomes families with open arms. If you’re looking for a variety of things to see and do, yet enjoy a relaxed pace, then this might just be your next adventure. Here are a few highlights from this scenic city on the shore, sure to make the whole family happy.
Lake Superior Railroad Museum and The North Shore Scenic Railroad
We all know dads love trains, so why not take him to one of coolest places to explore them in the state. The Historic Union Depot is home to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which works in conjunction with the North Shore Scenic Railroad. This beautiful building once witnessed the hustle and bustle of over 50 trains a day, with the last train pulling out of the station in 1969. Now the space holds a collection of equipment fine enough for any railroad enthusiast or curious child to get lost in its rich history. Along with hands-on exhibits, you’ll find steam, diesel, and electronic locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, dining cars, and specialty equipment used by logging and mining industries. And if you want to actually ride on a train, well, you can do that, too! During the summer months, several trains a day depart the depot. Choose a longer trip to Two Harbors along the historic Lakefront Line, or a shorter trip through downtown and up the shore to the picturesque Lester River. The Family Pizza Train is a popular ride, too, featuring a 2-1/2 hour trip up the North Shore with pizza and fun for everyone!
Duluth Children’s Museum
506 West Michigan Street
Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Ages 3-13: $6
Ages 13+: $12
Duluth Children’s Museum Website
Founded in 1930 and also housed in the Historic Union Depot, the Duluth Children’s Museum is the fifth oldest Children’s Museum in the United States. It’s mission is to spark children’s curiosity by simultaneously engaging learning and imaginative play. You’ll find The Body Shop, an introduction to the human body with interactive learning stations, plus room for the kids to explore in a medieval castle and a campsite adventure.
Lake Superior Maritime Museum
600 South Lake Avenue
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m./Daily
Lake Superior Maritime Museum Website
Also located in Canal Park is a small museum that’s big on preserving the maritime heritage of Lake Superior. It was an unexpected highlight (with free admission!) of my family’s last visit to Duluth. We especially liked learning about the hundreds of shipwrecks claimed by this massive Great Lake, and the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. And the pilot house, overlooking the canal from up high, afforded another spectacular vantage point of the ships passing through. It was a favorite spot for our kids as they pretended to command the wheel of a mighty ship. Be sure to also check out the museum’s current list of ship arrivals and departures. It was great fun to read about what goods each ship was carrying, when it was built, its length, and from what country it came from.
61st Avenue East & Superior Street
Lester Park Website
For those of you looking to be captivated by the beautiful natural side of Duluth, there are many parks and trails to explore, with the Lester Park Trail being a long time favorite for families. This recreation area is located on the eastern end of the city and sports a winding trail along Amity Creek and the Lester River, taking you over a number of footbridges. You will also see a concrete dam, a waterfall, the popular swimming hole known as “The Deeps,” and the Lester River Bridge, which is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Remember to take your camera. The scenery is spectacular!
Canal Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge
If Canal Park is the epicenter of Duluth, then the Aerial Lift Bridge is its iconic shining star. Completed in 1905, this mammoth structure’s span is raised and lowered for iron ore and grain ships, sailboats, and excursion boats. Spend some time along Canal Park’s pier to watch freighters from around the globe travel under the bridge. It’s really a sight to behold as those larger than life vessels maneuver gracefully through the canal. Also be sure to walk out towards Lake Superior, to the lighthouse poised at the end of the pier. There’s just something wonderful about standing at the water’s edge with a lighthouse looming overhead.
Brenda Score is the Minnesota blog author of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles, where she shares stories of family and fabulous food. You can find Brenda at on Facebook at A Farmgirl’s Dabbles and on Twitter as @farmgirlsdabble.