Want to take a trip with the family but worried about the expense? To get the most bang for your buck, there are tons of free activities and attractions to explore in Duluth, Minnesota.
Duluth is known for its proximity to Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and a sight to behold. It’s large enough to contain all the other Great Lakes inside it, and is known for its clear, cold water and agate beaches.
Here are eight fun options for exploring Duluth with your family — free of charge.
1. Parks and rec
Duluth boasts over 129 municipal parks, with something for everyone — including skate parks and dog parks. Whether you want a playground, a beach or a spot for a relaxing picnic, Duluth has you covered.
Brighton Beach Park has a popular stone-covered beach, swingset, picnic area with tables and barbecue grills, carry-in canoe area and public fruit trees — plus stunning views of Lake Superior. Bayfront Festival Park is located along the Downtown Waterfront in Duluth, and hosts events and concerts throughout the year. The park features a large, all-ages playground, with free use of recreational equipment. Hartley Park is for true nature lovers. The 660-acre park is home to hiking trails, wildlife, ponds and streams. The park features the Hartley Nature Center, which offers environmental education programming. Lester Park has over nine miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. The Lester Park Rendezvous is held there every September, with lots of food, crafts and entertainment.
2. Bird watching
Many parks in Duluth offer bird watching opportunities, but if you’re enraptured by raptors, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is for you. The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is open year-round, with over four miles of hiking trails. Hawk migration runs mid-August through November, but the peak of migration happens September through October. Mid-September sees tens of thousands of broad-winged hawks flying overhead. Staff are available during the migration season, but there's no building on-site, so dress appropriately for the weather and hiking — and bring binoculars.
3. Ship watching
If you're fascinated by ships, the Port of Duluth-Superior hosts around 900 vessels each year. Visit Canal Park to watch the ships go by, timing your visit with the shipping schedule. It’s exciting to watch ships travel beneath the impressive Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, a movable lift bridge built in 1901-05 and modified in 1929. Canal Park also offers quaint shops with books, toys, outdoor clothing, gourmet items, candy and more.
For a deep dive into maritime culture, visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center to see exhibits about the history of the Great Lakes. Learn about the people, ships and industries built around the lake, plus its famous tragic shipwrecks, like the Edmund Fitzgerald. Admission is free.
4. Duluth watching
For an amazing view over Duluth Harbor and St. Louis Bay, climb historic Enger Tower, dedicated by Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha of Norway in 1939.
5. Movie watching
Bring the kids to Leif Erikson Park on Friday nights starting July 12 for free Movies in the Park through Aug. 30. The first movie will be “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Movies are shown on a giant outdoor screen, with popcorn and beverage concessions available.
6. Rollin' down the river
Explore the St. Louis River by hiking or biking along the Western Waterfront Trail. If you like fishing, the river is popular with anglers fishing for walleye. If you’re interested in paddling or boating on the river, you can pick up an On-the-Water Guide.
7. Go jump in the lake
Park Point is the world's largest sandbar, stretching for 7 miles along Superior Bay. Park Point offers swimming, sand volleyball courts, picnic tables, barbecue grills, hiking trails, a playground and more. The grounds include a community center and public restroom access. There’s also a boat launch and carry-in area for canoes.
8. Treat yourself to music and theater
Take in the Bard’s classic tale in a 70-minute re-telling of Romeo & Juliet, set on the beautiful grounds of Duluth’s historic Glensheen Mansion. The play will be performed every Tuesday and Friday night, 7–8:30 p.m. Admission is FREE! However, donations to Stage 2 are greatly appreciated.
Enjoy free live music and entertainment with the Chester Creek Concert Series held at Chester Bowl starting June 11 and running each Tuesday through Aug. 13 (with rain date on Aug. 20 if needed).
In addition to these opportunities, there are many kid-friendly venues that charge an admission fee you may also want to visit. The Duluth Discount Pass offers significantly reduced admissions to these eight local attractions: the Duluth Children’s Museum, Glensheen, Lake Superior Zoo, Edgewater Waterpark, Planet 3, Spirit Mountain, Solve Entertainment and the Depot.
Check out visitduluth.com/ways-to-save for additional ways to save money on popular attractions, with coupons, online Hot Deal offers and midweek specials.
Find all your vacation fun at visitduluth.com.