My Duluth

June 30, 2016

When I go out of town, you’ll most likely find me in Duluth or its nearby neighbors. I have relatives who live in Cloquet and Carlton, as well as a brother and best pal who reside in Duluth. I spent a year as a resident and the rest as a visitor. Yet, over these years I’ve developed a great fondness for the “up north” experience. Duluth isn’t my hometown, but it’s where I feel most at home. I’ve have done a lot of growing up there and it will always be a very special place for me.

I miss it always, so I try to absorb as much as I can before returning to the Cities making sure I don’t waste a minute. Below is a brief look into how I spend my time while I’m there. This may even encourage and help you plan a trip to Duluth. See you guys there!?


Tobies. Unless you are running dangerously low on gas or suffering from a full bladder, ya gotta stop at the Hinckley exit. There you will find Tobies Restaurant, which deems itself “Minnesota’s Famous Half Way Stop.” It has an insane bake case that includes my favorite treat: the Oreo muffin. Even when I had food poisoning and threw up in my passenger seat — I told myself to forget Pine City, I’m making it to Hinckley. If I’m going to die, I will die in Tobies. Dedication! After Hinckley, there is about an hour left before the speed limit drops to 55 and you approach the hill that overlooks the Lift Bridge, Lake Superior and the vast amount of trees and hilltop homes on the left. And that is when nothing matters but me being there.

Annual pumpkin patch ride on the North Shore Scenic train.

The Lakewalk. I’m not a fan of driving. Actually, I hate it. I try to walk everywhere in Duluth, even in the winter. It’s the best way to get to your destination while you venture around town.  The best part is that everyone’s at ease: the tourists, the locals and the frequent visitors. There are those who are experiencing it all for the first time, strolling around with family and friends with big smiles on their faces, those who use it for daily exercise, or even the Canal Park employees who are hustling to work but taking in the lake before the start of their shift. The train zooms by with people who are waving with excitement, and the large cargo ships slowly pass by toot-tooting on their horns. You can’t help but watch as if you haven’t seen it before. Senior photos are taken in the Rose Garden and weddings at Leif Erikson Park. It’s a very happy place all around. 

Grandma’s Saloon & Grill. My brother has worked at the famous Grandma’s restaurant in Canal Park since college. Not to brag, but people know me… as Zach’s little sister, that is. You could say this place has been my own version of “Cheers.” This means I’m allowed to be the boozy regular at the bar who is eavesdropping and providing wisdom (loudly) to strangers and coworkers. You never know who will show up, but it’s never boring at the up-bar on the weekend. Trust me on that.

Northern Waters Smokehaus. Order: Northern Bagel. Description: “Haus-smoked Traditional Atlantic Salmon is layered with a very healthy dose of green onion cream cheese and served on a crisp, toasted, locally made Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel.” Locations: Deli-style shop in Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace in Canal Park and a newly opened restaurant near UMD campus. Go!

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Congdon Trail.

Congdon Trail and Hartley Park. Occasionally, my siblings and I will do a family trip to Gooseberry Falls. In the summer, it becomes too crowded for me. I prefer the Congdon Trail and Hartley Park for hiking within the city. Both of these are sure to be missed by newcomers. Congdon Trail path follows Tischer Creek and rewards you with a surprisingly beautiful waterfall (or more of a water drop?) near the middle. If you so choose, you can continue through the wooded area and follow the bridge that leads to the bottom of the falls’ stream. It’s perfect for a hot summer day — yes, those do exist there — because the path is in the shade of tall trees and cool from the creek. On the other hand, Hartley Park is full of breathtaking fields and forests with trails ideal for hiking, biking, walking and plenty of picnicking locations. It’s easy to get carried away and get lost, so my advice is to dedicate time to it.

Va Bene Caffe. This Italian restaurant is along Superior Street and has a quaint deck for dining. It overlooks the Lakewalk, which is perfect for people-watching. This is where I stop for lattes and appetizers. It’s a quiet place to regroup and refuel. 

Zinema – Version 2

The cinema advertising for my hangover brunch.

Zeitgeist Arts. Also along Superior Street is the Zeitgeist Arts building that includes the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe, the theatre, Teatro Zuccone and Zinema 2. The Zinema 2 is the two-screen cinema tucked away on the bottom level. They sell booze (yippee!) and play records in the lobby so you can jam out while you wait for the show to start. After a night of drinking, I find myself at the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe eating my hangover breakfast. Thank you for reviving me time and time again, Zeitgeist.

Fitger’s Complex. There is a lot one could do in this building. It’s best to check out the map before you go in because you will get confused easily. For me, I make sure to stop at the Duluth Kitchen Store and The Market to stock up on jams, sauce, coffee and chocolate! Then there’s Fitger’s Brewhouse for burgers, beer and sweet potato fries. As I head back to the Lakewalk, I pass through the courtyard and stop for a quick lawn game. It’s the cat’s pajamas.

Old Town Antiques & Books. There are a slew of antique shops in the area. It’s insane. Old Town Antiques & Books is my first choice. It’s cheap and has two levels of exactly what it says in the name: antiques and books. It’s a fun treasure hunt and great for seeking materials for DIY-ing. 


There are so many other aspects about the city I wish I could share. No matter where you travel, or where you feel at home, your adventure is your own. I’m happy to have shared mine and to continue to.

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Auntie Hannie showing her nephew what Duluth is all about.