On a Canal Park walkabout...
Note: This article was originally published in Canal Park Times, a special supplement to the Duluth Budgeteer News. The sheer amount of things to do in Canal Park can be intimidating for infrequent visitors, but have no fear, the Budgeteer is her...
Note: This article was originally published in Canal Park Times, a special supplement to the Duluth Budgeteer News.
The sheer amount of things to do in Canal Park can be intimidating for infrequent visitors, but have no fear, the Budgeteer is here to help: Follow this walking tour of Duluth's tourism district and you'll hit just about everything worthwhile it has to offer.
Our adventure starts at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, both for its convenient and inexpensive parking and its proximity to the city's handy Skywalk System.
Heading toward the lake, the east exit of the DECC's parking lot will spit you out at the entrance to the S.S. William A. Irvin -- aka the first must-see stop on this Canal Park "walkabout." Guided tours of this
Harbor Drive landmark are available daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a nominal fee ($9 for adults, children 10 and younger free with adult admission), allowing you to better understand and appreciate the Zenith City's most recognizable industry.
From the Irvin, head south (toward the harbor) less than a block to the headquarters of the Vista Fleet.
A number of different harbor cruises are offered, so check for times and prices. (To get the most for your money, inquire about the "Must-See Duluth" sightseeing pass, which includes admission to the Vista Fleet and two nearby attractions, Great Lakes Aquarium and North Shore Scenic Railroad at the Depot, at a reduced rate.)
Or, to continue with your Canal Park tour, cross over the Minnesota Slip Bridge.
To your left, you will see the Sundew, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. Tour hours mirror that of the Irvin, as the two are a package deal.
If you've had enough of ship tours -- or, in case you're just too busy, Don Hermanson has produced a fine DVD detailing the inner workings of the Sundew -- keep walking straight toward the lake until you come across the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory: you might need snacks for the next stretch.
Just a few more steps and you'll hit South Lake Avenue. Hang right and head toward the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge.
Before you get there, however, you'll come across three Duluth originals -- all of which belong to the Grandma's family of restaurants: Bellisio's (Italian restaurant and wine bar), Grandma's Sports Garden and the original, three-decades-strong Grandma's Saloon & Grill.
The Sports Garden, in particular, is a great place for casual dining, as its house specialty is a very-affordable $8.99 16-inch cheese pizza. (And, for those of age, you will find its similarly priced Long Island iced tea pitchers a refreshing change of pace from the blistering sun outside.)
After enjoying the "hospitality" of the Grandma's establishments, head toward the bridge for another Duluth must-do: You're gonna cross it. (Don't worry; safety regulations prevent you from getting an unexpected "lift.")
On the other side, Minnesota Point (aka Park Point), check out the Blue Iris Gallery behind South Pier Inn before heading across the road to get to the beach -- and, if you value your life, be very careful here as it is an extremely busy stretch of pavement.
The beaches just below the south pier lighthouse provide a great taste of what the rest of Park Point has to offer without wasting any unnecessary gas.
Unless you get "bridged" by a passing ship, continue your walkabout back over in Canal Park at the Lake Superior
Maritime Visitor Center. Besides being a beloved museum that can easily keep you busy for an afternoon (great for those "rare" rainy days), the visitor center also offers up free access to bathrooms and water fountains and, best of all, there's a kiosk inside that will clue you in to the day's ship traffic.
If you're never experienced the arrival or departure of a Great Lakes 1,000-footer (a personal favorite being the American Century), do yourself a favor and find out when the next one is coming in. (In case luck is not on your side, sites like BoatNerd.com feature thousands of photos of these mechanical marvels.)
While you're waiting for a ship to pass through, walk the pier and check out the lighthouse -- or simply enjoy some fine cuisine: popcorn, ice cream and mini-donut stands are clustered around the maritime museum.
The next section of the Canal Park walkabout is kind of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" choice: You can either follow Lakewalk all the way to the east end of town (Lakeside) or head toward downtown on Canal Park Drive for more shopping and eating.
Continuing the shopping and eating walking tour, you'll want to get on the west side of the street, as its east side is basically a wall of hotels and motels.
The first eatery you'll encounter is another Grandma's property, Little Angie's, which specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine.
Before you move on, make sure to check what's painted on the road: Little Angie's is situated next to the finishing line of Duluth's world-famous Grandma's Marathon, which is held every June. (In case you haven't already heard, this year's race, No. 32, will be held June 21. So, if you don't like large crowds and you're going to be in town that weekend, prepare to find something to do outside of Canal Park for most of the day.)
Heading down the sidewalk, you'll come across another Zenith City original, Duluth Pack, and another art option to balance out all this consumerism, Sivertson Gallery.
After a couple of gift shops and antique stores is a string of unique and/or popular sites: the Blue Note Café, the Grandma's Marathon office, Cold Stone Creamery and Toys for Keeps. (And ... only in Duluth: This unique toy store is right next door to Club Saratoga, an adult entertainment night club.)
From there, yet another string of hot spots: Caribou Coffee, Northern Lights Books & Gifts and, always a summer favorite, a locally owned Dairy Queen.
At DQ, hang left and head on over to South Lake Avenue for the last leg of our tour.
Moving your way back toward the Aerial Lift Bridge you'll encounter a plethora of eating options.
Outside of the standard "name brands" (Red Lobster, Old Chicago and Famous Dave's, just to name a few), this stretch houses three more revered Duluth or Minnesota originals: Lake Avenue Café, Amazing Grace Bakery & Café and Hell's Kitchen -- of which there are only two in the state.
South Lake Avenue is also home to unique shopping -- Thee Teeny Weeny Miniature Cottage and a Harley-Davidson merchandise shop recently opened -- as well as entertainment opportunities: With Laser Tag, a roller coaster (and other assorted carnival rides), a climbing wall, mini golf, Go Karts and arcade video game machines galore, Carnival Thrillz is easily northern Minnesota's largest indoor family entertainment
center. Then, before heading back over the Minnesota Slip Bridge to get back to the DECC -- where you may decide to enjoy a movie at Duluth 10 or the adjoining Omnimax Theatre -- make sure to check out the photographs of Moose Lake great Craig Blacklock on display at Waters of Superior, which is right next door to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory mentioned earlier.
That's it. You're done ... exhausted yet?