Duluth holds lead over Minneapolis in 'best outdoors town' contest

It's an all-Minnesota battle in the latest round of voting in Outside magazine's annual "Best Towns" contest: Duluth vs. Minneapolis. Which one is the better outdoors town? Thousands of online voters will decide in the final showdown in the compe...

Biking on Spirit Mountain
Eric Peterson (from left), Ryan Mallek and Cary Bitzer, all of Duluth, ride mountain bikes down Spirit Mountain after exiting from the main biking trail Friday morning. The bikers showcased the city’s recreational trails as part of Outside Magazine’s best “outside” town contest. (Bob King /

It’s an all-Minnesota battle in the latest round of voting in Outside magazine’s annual “Best Towns” contest: Duluth vs. Minneapolis.
Which one is the better outdoors town? Thousands of online voters will decide in the final showdown in the competition’s Midwest Division, with balloting set to close Tuesday at 10:59 p.m. Central time. The winner will advance to the final four.
For those involved in outdoors activities in the Northland, the choice is clear.
“I love Minneapolis, it’s a great metro area and there is so much to do in their downtown. But this contest isn’t about tall buildings and professional sports, it’s about outdoor recreation and amazing natural areas,” said Duluth Mayor Don Ness. “I’ve had a lot of friends from Minneapolis who are voting for Duluth. They love Minneapolis, but they understand that Duluth is the better choice for outdoor living.”
Those gathered at Spirit Mountain for a Friday media event touting Duluth’s expanding hiking and mountain biking opportunities shared similar sentiments.
“There are clearly benefits to living in the Twin Cities, but when it comes to an (outdoors) lifestyle, doing these things on a daily basis, living in Duluth is where it’s at,” said Briana Johnson, director of marketing of Spirit Mountain. “It can be such an easy part of your everyday lifestyle. It’s not, ‘I’m going to go biking next weekend.’ It’s, ‘I’m going to go biking every day.’ “
Several mountain bikers showed off Spirit Mountain’s lift-served trails under bright sunshine and blue skies Friday morning, while a group of hikers gathered at the recreation area’s trailhead to the Superior Hiking Trail.
“We have this terrain, a lot of big hills, the awesome lake, some amazing rivers … out our doors, literally in city limits,” said Hansi Johnson, Upper Midwest regional director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “Here you ride to your ride, hike to your hike.”
Duluth crushed La Crosse, Wis., in Round 3 of voting, which ended late Thursday night. Duluth was again the top vote-getter of any city left in the contest, receiving 26,958 votes to La Crosse’s 14,867. Minneapolis trounced Houghton, Mich., 24,528 votes to 10,802.
Duluth built a large early lead in Round 4 thanks in large part to an active social media campaign, with a “VoteDuluth” tag being used on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Minneapolis overtook Duluth for a time on Saturday; as of 10 p.m. Saturday, Minneapolis was ahead by about 800 votes out of more than 50,000 cast. 

But Duluth reclaimed the lead overnight. As of 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Duluth had about 38,000 votes to about 33,300 for Minneapolis. To vote and to see the current standings, go to , which directs people to the Outside magazine ballot.

The outdoors and adventure-oriented magazine’s annual “best place to live in America” winner is being chosen by online voting this year, with 64 communities starting head-to-head competition earlier this month. Duluth knocked off Columbia, Mo., in the first round; then Athens, Ohio; and now La Crosse.
If Duluth continues to prevail in the competition, Hansi Johnson said he hopes it can serve as a springboard for additional investment in outdoors infrastructure and opportunities in the city.
After Round 4 ends, there will be one more five-day round of voting before the two remaining towns go head-to-head in a weeklong showdown ending June 15.
The other towns remaining are:
* South Division: Louisville, Ky., and Asheville, N.C.
* East Division: Ithaca, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt.
* West Division: Provo, Utah, and Anchorage, Alaska

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