Duluth with Kids Featured

Welcome, travelers, to Duluth, MN! You’re in for a treat. This vibrant port city is situated on the western tip of Lake Superior’s sparkling shores and makes an excellent vacation destination for families with kids of all ages, offering everything from historical landmarks to natural beauty and exciting adventures. Let’s take a closer look at the top things to do in Duluth with kids that will make your family vacation truly unforgettable.

Great Lakes Aquarium

The three-story waterfront structure houses a multitude of exhibits, each meticulously designed to replicate natural habitats. From the mesmerizing ‘Otter Cove’ where playful otters frolic, to the ‘Isle Royale’ featuring a stunning 85,000-gallon tank teeming with lake sturgeon, burbot and more, there are countless species to discover.

My personal favorite was the “Baptism River” where the exbibit was built to mimic a cold rushing rapid down a steep slope where trout would thrive.

Children can engage in interactive activities such as touch pools (even jellyfish!) and feeding demonstrations, making learning about aquatic ecosystems both fun and educational. Don’t miss the ‘Amazing Amazon’ exhibit, which showcases vibrant tropical fish species and offers an intriguing contrast to the local freshwater displays.

When kids are ready to burn some energy, head to the slide on the 2nd floor!

Insider tips: Save $10 on parking by using the lot attached to the Outdoor Playground, next door to the Aquarium. It offers 2 hours of free parking. Check the weather on your trip to Duluth with Kids and save the Aquarium as a rainy day option.

Duluth with Kids Great Lakes Aquarium

Playfront Park Playground

The outdoor play structures and picnic facilities of Playfront Park are adjacent to the Aquarium. Burn some energy before or after your Aquarium visit and take advantage of the free parking (except during events at the Bayfront Festival Park)!

Duluth with Kids Playground

Children’s Museum of Duluth

The Children’s Museum of Duluth is the perfect place to unleash your kids’ creativity and imagination. This hands-on experience museum offers several interactive exhibits that celebrate learning through play.  Let your kids’ curiosity run wild with the many interactive exhibits that offer hours of educational and imaginative fun in Duluth with kids.

Cost: $9, free for 2 and under, free with membership or ASTC reciprocity.

Duluth with Kids Children's Museum

Canal Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park is a must-visit spot in Duluth and an excellent place to spend a few hours with your kids. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, shopping, and attractions, not to mention the shoreline full of rocks to thrill the kids.

The most iconic attraction is the aerial lift bridge, which rises to allow large boats to pass through the canal. Kids will love the excitement of seeing this massive bridge in action and exploring the lighthouse keeper’s house museum to learn about the bridge’s history.

Duluth with Kids Canal Park

Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

The highlight of our visit to Spirit Mountain Adventure Park was undoubtedly the Alpine Coaster. As you grip the handles of your coaster car, your heart skips a beat. Then you’re off, zipping down the mountainside, banking around turns, and whooshing over dips. It’s a rush of adrenaline that’s hard to beat.

The best part? You control the speed! Whether you’re a daredevil aiming for maximum velocity or prefer a leisurely descent, it’s entirely up to you.

Double rides are allowed with small children at least 3 years of age. A double ride cost $24 per pair.

The park also offers zipline rides, a scenic chairlift, a jumping pillow, and even mini-golf. There’s something for everyone, making it a perfect destination for families.

Duluth with Kids Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

Lester Park Trails & Playground

For those looking to explore nature, Lester Park Trails and Playground are a must-visit and in close proximity to the city.

This park offers over 9 miles of hiking trails and a beautiful playground area for kids. You can hike through the magnificent forest, cross a wooden suspension bridge, and see the stunning creek waterfalls. My cousin, a Duluth local, said that just about every public park has a waterfall feature running through it. The benefit of being a city perched on a hill I suppose!

The creek was fun to splash in, throw rocks, and attempt to catch elusive crawfish.

Duluth with Kids Lester Park and Playground

Glensheen Mansion and Gardens

Glensheen Mansion, also known as the Historic Congdon Estate, is a 39-room mansion nestled on a 12-acre estate along the breathtaking shores of Lake Superior.

Built during the early 20th century, this architectural marvel was the home of the affluent Congdon family and stands today as a testament to the grandeur of a bygone era.

With its expansive gardens, charming carriage house, and fascinating interiors, Glensheen Mansion provides an immersive historical experience for the whole family.

Begin your day with a self-guided tour of the mansion. As you wander through the beautifully preserved rooms, children can marvel at the intricate woodwork, vintage toys, and antique furniture. Each room tells a unique story about the lives of the Congdon family, providing a wonderful educational experience.

Insider tip: The estate has two scavenger hunts available for kids. Pickup a printed scavenger hunt for features of the grounds and inside the mansion kids should try to spot 13 fans prominently displayed in various rooms.

Cost: $20 for the partial mansion tour (the part that is most interesting), Kids 5 and under are free. Visitors can access the grounds for free with American Horticultural Society reciprocity.

For big kids/adults: It wasn’t until our Pizza Train ride (covered below) that I learned of the murders that took place at the estate in the late 1970s. If this was mentioned on the self guided mansion tour, I missed it! Find some spooky history here as well with one of their Flashlight tours..

Duluth with Kids Gleansheen Mansion

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Ah, Gooseberry Falls State Park. Just thinking about it brings me back to that crisp, Minnesotan air. If you’re venturing to Duluth with kids, this natural wonder is an absolute must-see.

The highlight of the park is its five glorious waterfalls cascading down into a rocky gorge, surrounded by lush greenery and crisscrossed by winding trails. It’s like stepping into a postcard; a 3D, sensory overload kind of postcard that makes you swoon over Mother Nature.

For some reason this is no charge to park and explore the main waterfalls which are a brief 1/4 mile hike from the parking lot and visitor center.

While driving down to the shore of Lake Superior, be aware that there is a daily park fee of $8. However, I highly recommend making the trip to the shore and indulging in the search for agates, all while basking in the magnificent view. Don’t forget to bring along a picnic and a sweater to enjoy your time at the beach.

Insider Tip: Do Split Rock and Gooseberry Falls in the same day to et the most out of your daily state park pass. They are only 7 miles apart.

Duluth with Kids Gooseberry Falls State Park

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Another iconic sight of the North Shore and a must-visit destination for families is the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. This particular lighthouse was built back in 1910 and served the region until 1969 when it was decommissioned. Since then, it has been renovated and turned into a museum. You and your family will learn about the history of lighthouses, the maritime industry, and the role they play in today’s world. The lighthouse also features beautiful views of Lake Superior and offers stunning photography opportunities.

Of course you can drive right up to the lighthouse and explore it up close, but we wanted to find some a great spot for landscape shots.

It took us quite awhile to find the optimal viewpoint of the lighthouse dominating its peninsula, so I’m going to share our “trail less traveled” route. 

  1. Park at the Trail Center (Not the main visitor center/ranger station)
  2. Walk behind the building and follow the main trail to the right (towards the water) only until you see a small unmarked trail to your left.
  3. It looks like it’ll just take you to the edge of the bluff, but you can continue to walk along the shoreline to the left.
  4. From here the trail opens up to a rocky beach and wonderful views of the Split Rock Lighthouse.
Duluth with Kids Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Enger Tower

The tower is surrounded by green spaces, benches, and picnic tables, so it’s a comfortable and relaxing place to spend a few hours with your family.

Lake Superior Zoo

If you have a half day to spare, consider exploring the the Lake Superior Zoo. This zoo sprawls across 16-acres, and features over 450 animals and 200 species.

William A. Irvin Floating Ship Museum & Boat Tours

More than just a ship, this entire space is accessible and offers a glimpse into the past, and what shipping was like on Lake Superior during its peak days. You’ll see the cabins, the kitchen, the mess hall, and the areas where the crew spent most of their time. There is also a cargo hold, where you can see what’s happening below the waterline. Several exhibits are also shown, including what a trip on the ship was like.

Duluth with Kids Irvine Boat Museum

Coffee from Portage Coffee Camper

Portage Coffee Camper is a beloved stop among tourists and locals alike. This charming wooden camper serves up delicious locally roasted coffee. They buy directly from farmers who practice sustainable coffee-growing techniques, supporting fair trade and ethical coffee bean growing.

Follow Portage Coffee on Instagram to check their schedule.

If you’re in the Lincoln Park, Duluth area, a brick and mortar coffee shop worth checking out is 190° Coffee And Tea. It’s immediately across the street from Bent Paddle.

Duluth with Kids Coffee

Pizza Train on the North Shore Scenic Railroad

Your slice of adventure awaits. This isn’t your everyday train ride; it’s an experience that brings together two universal loves for kids and kids at heart– pizza and trains – in one unforgettable adventure.

Your journey begins at the historic Duluth Union Depot, a landmark that harks back to the golden age of rail travel. As the train chugs out of the station, you’ll be greeted with a panoramic view of Duluth’s picturesque North Shore. The trip offers a unique vantage point to take in the region’s natural beauty – think verdant forests, rocky cliffs, and the shimmering expanse of Lake Superior. A narrated recording and music are played throughout the ride describing what you see out the window.

Each ticket comes with a personal Domino’s pizza and a soda. The duration of the train ride was 2.5 hours. I’ll be honest, that was about 40 minutes too long for my little kids who were getting antsy staying in their seats. We were glad we had some activities for them to work on.

Cost: Adults – $34.00, Children (3-13) $22.00, Under 3 ride free, but do not receive food or beverage.

Insider tip: There weren’t any tables in the train cars used for our pizza train, so consider bringing a spill proof cup to pour your child’s drink into as they’ll already be busy balancing their pizza box on their lap.

Duluth with Kids Pizza Train

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

You can explore the museum as a standalone attraction in Duluth with Kids or arrive early to your train ride excursion to explore the award winning museum. It is dedicated to the area’s rich railroad history, stretching back to the 1800s.

Housed in the historic Duluth Union Depot you’ll find yourself transported back in time, surrounded by an impressive collection of meticulously restored locomotives and train cars. But these aren’t just any trains—these are the very machines that helped build Minnesota and our great country.

So if you’re chugging along the North Shore Scenic Railroad or simply exploring downtown Duluth, make sure to schedule a stop at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. It’s a journey through time that your family won’t soon forget.

Duluth with Kids Railroad Museum

Love Creamery Ice Cream 

For dessert, don’t miss out on Love Creamery. Their handmade ice creams, crafted with locally sourced ingredients, are a hit among kids and adults alike. The adventurous flavors like lavender honey or rhubarb sorbet are phenomenal.

They have multiple locations and you can also pick some up while at Ursa Minor Brewery.

Top Restaurants: Northern Waters Smokehouse, OMC, Duluth Grill, Corktown Deli

The city is celebrated for its diverse culinary scene, and a visit here would be incomplete without indulging in some local flavors. For a hearty family meal, head to the Duluth Grill, an iconic establishment famous for its farm-to-table philosophy. Here, you’ll find a menu brimming with wholesome dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Don’t miss the Bibimbap and be sure to snag some smashed potatoes from your kids’ meals.

If you’re craving some authentic Italian cuisine, Va Bene is the place to go. Overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior, this restaurant offers a variety of mouthwatering pastas, pizzas, and gelatos that are sure to satisfy the kids as well.

And if you’re a fan of smoked meats, you won’t want to miss OMC Smokehouse, where you can savor ribs, brisket, and wings smoked to perfection.

Kid Friendly Breweries

But Duluth isn’t just about food; it’s also a haven for craft beer lovers. Ursa Minor Brewing and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. are two kid-friendly breweries that are perfect for families. While parents sample an array of craft beers, kids can indulge in delicious root beer and engage in board games or play on the patio.

Both also host live music performances, adding an extra layer of fun to your visit. Enjoy a crisp, cold beer while listening to a local band, as your kids laugh and play nearby. It’s moments like these that make a trip to Duluth truly memorable.

Duluth with Kids - Breweries

Final Thoughts on Duluth with Kids

Nestled on the westernmost tip of the Great Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota is a hidden gem that holds an array of delightful surprises for families. Known for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant culinary scene, visiting Duluth with kids offers a perfect blend of fun, food, and fascination that can keep both kids and adults entertained.

Don’t miss our guide on driving from Wisconsin to Duluth and hitting some other natural gems along the way.

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