Ten Family (and Budget!) Friendly Things to Do in Duluth This Summer and Fall

Mom and son on a beach. Photo Credit: Paul Vincent/Explore Minnesota
Photo Credit: Paul Vincent/Explore Minnesota

With countless free and budget-friendly activities, plus a wide variety of places to stay, Duluth is ideal for visitors of all ages. It’s hard to beat for families who love an outdoor adventure, but it also has world-class indoor attractions, including museums and historical sites throughout the city with free or low admission costs. Here are ten family-friendly options for all types of interests and ages to enjoy Duluth in the summer and fall. For winter and spring ideas, check out this page. As always, remember to check each destination’s hours ahead of your visit. 

1. Take a walk or hike

The Lakewalk offers nearly eight miles of paved 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 hike with sweeping views, try Ely’s Peak, and just a few steps away,the Ely Tunnel, which is a 500-foot-long abandoned railroad tunnel through basalt. It’s all part of Duluth’s Magney-Snively Park. There are two parking areas on Beck’s Road. Short Line Park parking will get you to the tunnel fastest, and the Munger trailhead parking will offer you the most direct route to the peak with established trails. HEADS UP: while these are both fun options for families, they are not stroller-friendly trails.

2. Hunt for waterfalls

A hiker kneels next to a waterfall

For a rugged respite that’s easily accessible, the Tischer Creek Falls in Congdon Park offer family-friendly adventure. The series of five waterfalls can be found by heading down the stairs located at the East Superior Street and taking the short trail along the creek.

The picturesque Amity Falls runs through Lester Park and can be accessed via two trails – a 1.5-mile trail from the parking area or directly from the footbridge off Occidental Boulevard.

For a quieter trail, Chester Park is located right off Skyline Drive and offers a quiet 2.5-mile loop with a 260-foot rise giving way to an impressive waterfall.

Miller Creek, located in West Duluth’s in Lincoln Park, (25th Avenue West and 5th Street), offers beautiful cascades you can enjoy while strolling the 1.5 mile walking trail. The park  was home to Duluth’s first playground in 1908.

The Kingsbury Creek waterfall near the Duluth Zoo offers a moderate 1.3 mile trail and some brilliant bird-watching. Pause at the pavilion at Fairmont Park for a gorgeous glimpse of the waterfall – you may even spot a Great Blue Heron fishing in the creek below.

3. Stroll through a garden

A fountain in the middle of a park

Step back in time and tour the lakeside grounds at Glensheen. For just $5, you can explore the 12-acre grounds of the historic mansion on the lake, and kids under 16 are free with a paid adult.

Another great (and free) option is to stop and smell more than 3,000 rose bushes and other plants while strolling through Duluth’s Rose Garden, part of Leif Erikson Park. BONUS: Stop by Leif Erikson Park on Friday nights for the Greater Downtown Council’s free Movies in the Park series. (July 8 through August 26.)

4. Visit a 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 a “can’t miss” attraction for kids. While you’re at The St. Louis County Depot, you’ll also want to check out The Duluth Art Institute, which features free rotating exhibits.

The Tweed Museum of Art is a free museum on the University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD) campus and has frequently changing exhibits, so you’ll find something new with every visit.

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.

5. Plan a beach day

Get up close and personal with Lake Superior at one of the city’s many beaches. Park Point is the world’s largest freshwater sandbar and is a great place for swimming, picnics and even sand volleyball tournaments. Franklin Square/12th Street Beach is the perfect spot for swimming, hiking and bird watching. 

6. Watch and learn about ships on Great Lake Superior

A family watching the ships at the Lift Bridge
Photo Credit: Paul Vincent/Explore Minnesota
Photo Credit: Paul Vincent/Explore Minnesota

As if the lure of the historic Aerial Lift Bridge and breathtaking views of Lake Superior aren’t enough, the free Lake Superior Maritime Museum is icing on the cake. When you visit, take a look at the ship schedule for the day, as to not miss watching the massive watercrafts navigate the canal as the Lift Bridge moves up and down. Then, take a voyage into the history of the Great Lakes inside the most-visited marine museum on the Great Lakes.

7. Go on a mural scavenger hunt

Feast your eyes on Duluth’s impressive art scene with a mural scavenger hunt. Check out a cluster of murals in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, or celebrate reading with the giant book spine mural in front of Duluth Library. Not to miss on West Second Street is a colorful work of art depicting an Ojibwe jingle dress dancer who is watching over Onigamiising (Duluth). Young artists will be inspired by the murals that loom large in downtown: the Rising Phoenix at Life House and the block-long “Duluth” mural behind Dubh-Linn Brew Pub.

8. Indulge in some ice cream

A person scooping ice cream for a customer

It’s always a good time for ice cream, and Duluth’s sweets scene offers some delicious options. Love Creamery churns out handcrafted dairy and vegan ice cream flavors made fresh daily. For frozen treats with a view, step up to the window at Portland Malt Shoppe – located right on the shores of Lake Superior.

9. Climb the stairs of Enger Tower

Standing five stories above Lake Superior is Enger Tower. Each level of the stone structure offers a view of the glimmering lake below. The Tower’s picnic area and lush gardens feature the American-Japanese Peace Bell, a perfect spot to pause and soak up the sunshine.

10. Try something new

If you’re in the mood to try a new activity together, you can rent gear for mountain biking, paddleboarding or sea kayaking at UMD or St. Scholastica.

Posted on August 11, 2022