Duluth, Minnesota

Photo: Beacon Pointe

It looks like winter is never going to end along the Great Lakes. Snow continues to appear in the long-term forecast. The sky is gray more than it’s blue. While big chunks of ice aren’t even thinking about melting along the coast yet. It’s hard to imagine spring, much less summer, at this point. But now is the time to plan a trip, during the few precious warm months, to Duluth.

Aside from its very long winter, Duluth is a great small city. The Twin Ports, as it’s known, along with Superior, Wisconsin, sit at the westernmost point of Lake Superior. Though it’s the second-largest city along the lake (beaten only by Thunder Bay, Ontario), Duluth is by no means overwhelming. It’s larger than Bloomington, Illinois, but smaller than Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It’s also one of the busiest ports in the entire country. Huge ships, which transport Midwestern goods through the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean, begin their journeys here. So the harbor is always busy. That’s easy to forget, though. Duluth also has a lot of green space. There are countless parks, many with gorgeous views of the lake. One of the most popular hiking trails in the country, the Superior Hiking Trail, runs through the city. Outdoor activities range from skiing and dog-sled racing to sailing and surfing. Yes, Lake Superior is large enough to have not only waves, but impressive waves at times. While there were enough craft breweries in the city to create the Duluth Beer Trail.

Photo: Beacon Pointe

So now that you’re convinced that you’d love Duluth, it’s time to plan that trip. A lot of new hotels have opened along the waterfront in the last few years. Beacon Pointe, at the beginning of the Duluth Lakewalk (a scenic boardwalk), is one of the best. The condo-style resort features kitchenettes, jacuzzis, and lake views from the balconies—even in the smaller suites. There’s heated underground parking. S’mores are available around a fire pit in the summer. Plus bikes and kayaks are ready for you to set out to explore.

You should start along the water. Minnesota Point, the largest freshwater sand spit in the world, separates Lake Superior from Duluth’s harbor. The Aerial Lift Bridge, a steel transporter bridge, is known as the symbol of the city. The Great Lakes Aquarium is the only freshwater aquarium in the country. Canal Park, a revitalized warehouse district, is now home to interesting restaurants, shops, and art galleries. While Fitger’s Brewhouse, the city’s oldest microbrewery, sits in between the park and your hotel. It sounds like the perfect place to start—once the snow melts, of course.

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