Planning a visit to Duluth, Minnesota? Here are my tips for a budget-friendly visit!
Since I grew up in Duluth and visit family and friends there many times each year, I thought I’d write up a list of ways to enjoy Duluth for less money, especially since many people I know visit there regularly, too. These are the things we do when visiting Duluth to enjoy the northland to the fullest without going broke!
1. Check out Groupon for deals!
To start your visit to Duluth for less money, get coupons!
2. Find low-cost lodging.
Canal Park has some beautiful hotels, but they can be pricey. The Edge Waterpark Hotel on London Road is great for kids (I used to be a housekeeper there, before it had a waterpark) but is more expensive. However, you can buy tickets to local attractions for discounted rates at the front desk if you’re a guest.
Other scenic but lower-cost options include cabins (with amenities) on the North Shore drive (I used to work at some there, too!). You’ll get a beautiful view, and be away from all the hustle and bustle. Or if you like being close to all the action, stay at a hotel or motel near the mall area which can be more reasonably priced. Read our review of the Inn on Lake Superior (pictured above) and the AmericInn in Proctor (near Spirit Mountain). These are two of our favorites!
To save on lodging I recommend staying on weekdays (not weekends) and going off-season. Plus subscribe to their email lists for great deals.
The Visit Duluth website lists lodging options by region.
Also, check out my guide 3 Ways to Get FREE Hotel Stays!
For example, I recommend signing up for a Wyndham Rewards credit card to get FREE hotel stays at hotels like the AmericInn above! We’ve gotten many FREE stays thanks to my card. You can get up to 6 FREE nights just for signing up!
3. Enjoy a few hours in Canal Park.
Walk along the lakewalk (which was updated in 2021 and goes all the way to 60th Avenue East!!! Great for bike-riding!). Tour the Maritime Museum (it’s free!). Get some pictures in front of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Rent a unique bike from Wheel Fun Rentals (next to Comfort Suites). Browse in the unique shops. Have a coffee at Caribou Coffee, enjoy a treat at Cold Stone Creamery or Dairy Queen, eat a meal at Grandma’s or Little Angie’s Cantina (use your coupons!). Tour the William A. Irvin ship (Kids 10 & Under are FREE with a paid adult).
Also, check out Bayfront park! There’s a fantastic playground here that’s free for kids.
4. Visit Park Point and Minnesota Point.
If it’s a hot summer day, enjoy the public beach. If it’s cooler, bring your kids to the neat play area. Or walk the beautiful trail through the woods that goes from Park Point (from the airport there) to Minnesota Point (allow for a couple hours to go to the end and back).
The trail going to Minnesota Point, and the abandoned lighthouse and other sights there, make for a unique visit.
5. Visit Enger Tower.
Best way to visit Duluth for less money? Enger Tower offers a great free, photographic opportunity! See all (or most) of Duluth from the top of the hill along Skyline Drive. There are lovely gardens here, too.
6. Visit Brighton Beach and Lester Park in East Duluth.
I grew up in East Duluth so I visited these all the time. There are miles of trails for walking or cross-country skiing in Lester Park, making it enjoyable all year round, plus people swim in Lester River, and there’s a play area for kids. It’s located at 60th Avenue E. and Superior St. (where the lakewalk ends). Brighton Beach, now called Gitche Gumme Park, is a quieter place to wade in the water of Lake Superior or have a picnic. It’s where the North Shore drive begins past 60th Avenue East just off of London Road.
7. Drive up the North Shore Drive to Two Harbors
You can either go along the lake or take the highway north – stay along the lake! The scenery is beautiful, and there are many restaurants and gift shops along the way. Visit Tom’s Logging Camp between Duluth and Two Harbors (watch for signs). Open from May to October. Kids love it! There are animals to feed, and you can tour their authentic duplicate of a typical Northern Minnesota Logging Camp (check out their old artifacts!). Plus they now have a sandwich shop.
In Two Harbors, there are many tourist-friendly places to visit. But be sure to go to the lake. There’s a pier you can walk out on.
This drive is GREAT in the fall when you can enjoy the fall colors!
These next few things do cost money but I think they’re worth it, and include ways to save where I can!
8. Visit the Lake Superior Zoo.
Plan on a few hours here! There are many animals to see both indoors and outdoors. There’s a cafe where you can get good, cheap ice cream. There’s also a kiddie train that goes around the zoo (adults can ride, too!).
NOTE: I’ve heard that if you have a Minnesota Zoo membership, you can get FREE admission at the Lake Superior Zoo! Check it out.
9. You’ve got to check out Spirit Mountain Adventure Park.
Spirit Mountain is known for skiing fun, so if you love to ski it’s great, but a few years ago they added new attractions for spring, summer and fall including an Alpine Coaster (Timber Twister), Zip Line and mini golf! Our kids love the Alpine Coaster and Zip Line so it’s great for all ages (if you’re not afraid of heights!).
Your picture is taken on the Alpine Coaster so be prepared to be tempted to buy pictures, framed or as key chains. Read our review of our visit!
Though you can pay for each attraction separately, the all-day wristband is the best deal if you want to do multiple attractions. Go on a weekday instead of a weekend to save money.
And check out Groupon for a possible deal!
10. Go for a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.
In the summer they operate every day; otherwise, they’re on weekends only. Check out their website for seasonal or themed rides. To save money, go for a standard excursion, and get 50% off admission to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum with your train ticket. Coach seats are the cheapest and are just fine! And kids 2 and under are free.
Bonus idea for during the holidays…
11. Visit Bentleyville!
At Christmastime I recommend visiting Bentleyville! It’s FREE – just pay for parking. There are tons of lights and you can walk through it, plus get free cookies and hot chocolate and more. The only downside is that it can get crowded. Go on a weekday if you can!
(And join my “Minnesota Holiday Lights” Facebook group for more holiday lights including in Duluth!)
Of course, there are MANY more things to do in Duluth and in the area…in my experience, these are some of the best, cost-effective ways to spend your time. But if you’re looking for more to do, check out visitduluth.com.
For more free things to do outdoors, there’s:
- Leif Erikson park
- the Rose Garden (which is in Leif Erikson park)
- Hawk Ridge
- William Munger State Trail
- Superior Hiking Trail
For ticketed attractions, there’s the Depot, the Great Lakes Aquarium, Glensheen Mansion on London Road, and much more (read about our experiences with all of these!). It can get pricey to try to visit them all, which is why this list mixes up great free activities with some of the best that cost money.
If you have ideas to add to this list, please share!
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you. All opinions are 100% mine.)