Tall Ships Festival

What to see and do during one of Duluth’s biggest events of the year

Canal Park, Duluth

Duluth’s annual Tall Ships Festival is this weekend in Bayfront Park with live music, food, and some pretty big boats. Attendees won’t be able to miss the World’s Largest Rubber Duck either, which will be floating in Lake Superior all weekend. But for the moments in which festivalgoers aren’t gawking at galleons and schooners, Duluth has much to explore. It’s often cited as Minnesotans’ favorite town to visit, after all, with its mix of urban eateries, historical sites, and natural beauty.

Art in Bayfront Park: The Tall Ships Festival is pairing up this year with the city’s annual art fair. Take classes and see artists perform their crafts up close, or view and purchase work from about 180 local artisans.

Eat Like a Local: Earlier this summer, MnMo food critic Joy Summers recommended her top three places to eat in Duluth. Sip coffee from Perk Place as you watch the ships, start the day with breakfast at Uncle Loui’s, or see how Duluth’s ramen compares to Twin Cities fare at Lake Avenue Café. And MnMo Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hutton recently spoke with MPR Classical’s John Birge about her favorite Duluth delicacies including deli sandwiches at Northern Waters Smokehouse, the carefully crafted cocktails at Vikre Distillery, and steaming cups of joe at Duluth Coffee Company.

Look Around: Duluth’s hillside location provides great sightseeing opportunities. See how tiny Mama Duck looks from Enger Tower, or go on a rock climbing tour at Ely’s Peak to see the St. Louis River valley from new heights. Get on the tracks for a ride with the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Or view the town from the water by booking a scenic, dinner or lunch cruise with Vista Fleet. For a peek below the surface of Lake Superior, the Great Lakes Aquarium is home to fish found in the St. Louis River and Baptism River, as well as other animals such as snakes, birds, and otters. Take a look at Duluth from a historical lens at the stunning Glensheen Mansion.

Get Out: You can’t visit Duluth without spending some time outdoors, especially next to the gargantuan lake (which holds 10 percent of the world’s fresh surface water that isn’t frozen in glaciers or polar ice caps!). Canal Park, where most of this weekend’s festivities will be held, is the most popular destination for out-of-towners, but many forget to admire it at night. After the sun sets, grab a drink on the rooftop at Grandma’s and then take a romantic stroll on the Lakewalk, passing the glowing lift bridge. During the day, visit the Hartley Nature Center for learning opportunities or to hop on the trail. If you’re feeling ambitious, the Superior Hiking Trail runs through Duluth. Several hikes, from 2-6 miles, are mapped out here.

Can’t get enough Lake Superior? Neither can we. That’s why our vacation of the year is the Lake Superior Circle Tour, a 1,200-mile drive that crosses three states and Canada. Along the way, discover new towns, camp, hike, canoe, and more.