With temperatures in the sub-zero during the winter months, you might not think of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior as an outdoor kind of place. But, if you wrote off the great outdoors, you would be missing out on prime Northland experiences. What follows is our Top Five Best Outdoor Activities in the Northland; Listed in no particular order are outdoor destinations that no visit to the Twin Ports should be without. (And if you’re a native, you should play “tourist” once and a while. You might discover something new!

  • Robert Goodwin - flickr
    Robert Goodwin - flickr


    Recently refurbished and decked-out in night-lights for the first time in its history, ENGER TOWER is a genuine landmark that sits high above the Duluth skyline. Opened in 1939, Enger Tower might make an out-of-town tourist ponder at first what it’s real purpose is; The tower doesn’t house offices or apartments – in fact, there aren’t any windows in the structure. But, once you climb the 80 feet of stairs to the top and see the undisturbed view from 451 feet above Lake Superior – you’ll understand. Enger Tower is a prime picture-taking site and the park that surrounds it at ground level allows for an enjoyable place to have a picnic.

  • Wenabel - flickr
    Wenabel - flickr

    Rose Garden / Lakewalk / Canal Park / Aerial Lift Bridge / Park Point

    • Five distinct points of interest – but one common theme: They’re all located on the shores of Lake Superior – and right in the Duluth city limits.
    • The Rose Garden’s origins date back to 1965. Ausma Klints originally designed the Rose Garden to mimic those she had seen in her native Europe. With over 3,000 roses on a 6 acre plot and more than 12,000 other plants to see – the Rose Garden is a present-day popular outdoor wedding site, especially with the view of the lake in the background. Benches provide a place to sit and there are lots of opportunities for picture taking.
    • The Lakewalk offers the opportunity to experience Lake Superior with all of your senses; As you walk the 4.2-mile trail that weaves its way from Bayfront Festival Park to Lakeside, you can truly hear, see, touch, smell, and taste our giant body of water. Originally designed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, recent expansions have added to the experience. Make it your destination for a running workout or a leisurely stroll; Just make sure you bring your camera.
    • Once an industrial site, Canal Park was re-visioned in the mid 1970’s by the Paulucci family – who located their iconic Grandma’s Restaurant there. As the 80’s and 90’s went by, a transformation happened and today Canal Park is a shopping and dining Mecca. Visit the Lake Superior Maritime Museum to learn more about the Great Lakes, save room for a delicious meal in one of the many restaurants, and make sure you save time for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or the trolley.  
    • Located within the heart of Canal Park is the Aerial Lift Bridge. Perhaps the image most-synonymous with the City of Duluth, the Aerial Lift Bridge dates back to 1905 – and still serves an integral part in the shipping trade. In order for large ships to enter the Port of Duluth, they need to pass under the Aerial Life Bridge – which provides a link between the Duluth Harbor and Lake Superior. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Aerial Lift Bridge is a favorite spot for tourists and locals to watch the Great Lakes vessels come and go.
    •  All the way through Canal Park and just over the Aerial Lift Bridge resides a seven mile stretch of land called Park Point. Not truly an island – but a sand bar, Park Point is flanked by water on both sides of Minnesota Avenue – the roadway that runs the length of it. Along the way are residential homes. At the very tip is a public beach that includes approximately 18 acres of old-growth red and white pine forest.
  • John Lustig - flickr
    John Lustig - flickr

    Iron Range Mines

    Just a short drive north up Highway 53 from the Twin Ports is the area known colloquially as the Iron Range. Its name derives from the geologic formation of iron ore that exists under the area that runs approximately from Grand Rapids to Ely, Cherry to Cook. Since the late 1800’s, companies like U.S. Steel have operated open and underground mines to reap the benefits and harvest this natural resource. Some of these mines are still in operation, but even the shuttered ones offer spectacular views that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Research the Hill-Annex Mine State Park, Soudan Underground Mine, the Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine, Minntac, or even Ironworld for more information.

  • Randen Peterson - flickr
    Randen Peterson - flickr

    State Parks

    Like many other regions of the country, the Twin Ports offers beautiful state parks to take advantage of. As a border community, the region is ripe with destinations in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. From Jay Cooke State Park at the southern tip of Duluth to Gooseberry Falls State Park along the North Shore....or even Pattison State Park or Amnicon State Park just outside of Superior, Wisconsin, there’s something for every family and every interest. Gooseberry holds a special place nestled just off the highway up the North Shore, but Pattison offers the highest waterfall in the state of Wisconsin.

  • Maggie Tacheny - flickr
    Maggie Tacheny - flickr

    Lake Superior

    No list of outdoor activities in the Twin Ports would be complete without mentioning Lake Superior. As the second largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior looms large over the Twin Ports area – both for fun and for business. Located at the very tip of Lake Superior, the Port Of Duluth represents the largest farthest inland port – with a direct waterway link to the Atlantic Ocean. With the aid of ice cutter boats, the shipping season runs almost year-round, and Duluth sees an average of 1,100 commercial vessels per year. For pleasure, nothing beats Lake Superior. From swimming and boating in the summer season to year-round opportunities to fish, it’s the perfect destination. If you’ve never “ice-fished”, make sure you check it out and make sure you layer! Travel up the North Shore and you’ll get the chance to see wondrous views along the lakes shoreline. Look out and the water goes as far in the horizon as the eye can see. You also get the chance to witness a look back to the very beginning of our planet; Visible rock formations date back to the Precambrian era (Somewhere between 4.5- billion and 540-million years ago).

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