Ten Family (and Budget!) Friendly Things to Do in Duluth This Winter and Spring

Lift Bridge at sunset. Photo credit is John Heino/Explore Minnesota.
Photo Credit: John Heino/Explore Minnesota

With countless free and budget-friendly activities, plus a wide variety of places to stay, Duluth is sure to keep you returning year-round. Here are ten family-friendly options for all types of interests and ages to enjoy Duluth in the winter and spring. For summer and fall ideas, check out this page. As always, remember to check each destination’s hours of operation ahead of your visit. 

OUTSIDE AND BUDGET-FRIENDLY

Duluth is hard to beat for those who love outdoor adventure. And if you’re prepared with the right gear, winter and spring are great times to check out the local scenery.

1. Take a walk or hike

A family hiking through snow

The Lakewalk is a nearly eight-mile paved (and in the winter, plowed) walking path right alongside beautiful Lake Superior. This happens to be an “in-the-city” section of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which is more than 300 miles long, so you can feel outdoorsy, while still being close to the creature comforts of Canal Park, Downtown Duluth and the Fitger’s Complex.

For a unique adventure hike, cross over Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge and follow the road until it ends at Sky Harbor Airport. There, you’ll find the Park Point Trailhead where you can hike to the end of the world’s longest freshwater sandbar to find the ruins of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse. In the winter, snowshoes are recommended but not required!

2. Snowshoe on the grounds of the Glensheen Mansion

For just $5, you can explore the 12-acre grounds and Lake Superior shoreline of the historic Glensheen Mansion, and kids under 16 are free with a paid adult. Bonus: snowshoe rental is included free of charge in the winter!

3. Go ice skating

Two children ice skating

Free ice skating is offered daily (weather permitting) at Bayfront Festival Park, with a limited number of free ice skates available to use during warming house hours, or check out the new and free lighted rink at the base of Spirit Mountain.

4. Glide through the trees while Nordic skiing

Want to do some Nordic skiing? Grab a ski pass and head to any of Duluth’s in-city trails. Need gear? Hartley Nature Center offers low-cost rentals on skis, snowshoes, and kicksleds on weekends, so you can try them out on the trails within the park.

5. Try a new outdoor activity (without having to buy gear)

If you need gear for ice fishing or biking (a year-round activity here!), check out University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD) or St. Scholastica for rental options.

INSIDE AND BUDGET-FRIENDLY

When you want to warm up, get out of the snow or rain, or if you just prefer inside activities, there’s plenty to do throughout the city. Duluth offers several museums and historical sites – from art to history to trains and more – with free or low admission costs.

6. Learn about shipping on Great Lake Superior

It can be a bit quiet near the Aerial lift bridge in the winter, since you won’t see many boats moving until late March or early April, but you can still catch some history at the Lake Superior Maritime Museum.

If you’re visiting in late-March or early-April, you might just catch “The First Ship” and have a chance to see the first “saltie” of the year coming into port!

7. Enjoy hands-on activities

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Lake Superior Railroad Museum

The Duluth Children’s Museum in the Lincoln Park Craft District is just $7 per person, and kids under 2 are free. The Lake Superior Railroad Museum isn’t free, but it is open every day, and it’s a “can’t miss” attraction for kids and train-lovers alike! The Great Lakes Aquarium and Lake Superior Zoo are also great family-friendly options. A cost saving tip: Many attractions in Duluth offer reciprocal memberships to other attractions (in Duluth and beyond), so if you’re traveling on a budget, be sure to check ahead and see if there’s a way you can save through a membership you may already hold!

8. Shop ‘til you drop

Whether you want to window shop or are searching for a perfect souvenir, Duluth has the spot for you. From unique small businesses to places like Indigenous First Art & Gift Shop, a place offering a wide variety of goods from Indigenous artists, to the Miller Hill Mall, there’s a spot to peruse for every taste and budget.  

9. Check out a new art exhibit

The Tweed Museum of Art is a free museum on the UMD campus which has frequently changing exhibits, so you’ll find something new with every visit. The Duluth Art Institute, located in the historic St. Louis County Depot, also features free rotating exhibits.

10. Explore a unique library

Here’s a free stop that might not be on your list, but is definitely worth checking out. The Karpeles Manuscript Library is one of several Karpeles libraries around the country, which hold original manuscripts from literature, science, politics, religion and art.

Posted on March 17, 2022