Guide to Visiting Duluth

Whether you are visiting for the first time, returning to a home away from home, or grew up here, Duluth is an amazing city with something for everyone! Grandma’s Marathon is a favorite for many, not only for all of the events the race puts on (such as Rock the Bayfront, the Spaghetti Dinner, and the Expo), but because Duluth is such an incredible city. 

As the city’s #1 fan and someone who was raised in Duluth, here are my top recommendations for things to do during your stay in the most naturally beautiful city on the planet! Often, visitors’ options are dictated by where they are staying so the following list is separated by the different neighborhoods of Duluth. Many of Duluth’s major attractions are either nature or food based. There are some nature spots throughout the city that are accessible without a car, and some that take a drive to get to. There are plenty of local and locally famous eateries in Duluth that I highly encourage you to try! 

All of the races will finish in Canal. This area is very popular with the locals and has cute stores to shop for Minnesota-made goods. Walking around this area is a perfect place to pick up a marathon souvenir, especially from the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace! The iconic sights are: the Aerial Lift Bridge, a stunning sight and a must-see which will welcome you along the racecourse and guide you to the finish line; the SS William A. Irving, a massive ship which offers tours and sits outside the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (the DECC -the Expo is here); the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center provides a history of the Great Lakes; and the Great Lakes Aquarium is a fun place to take kids and families. Aside from the gifts and goods shops, Canal has a variety of local restaurants including: Grandma’s Saloon and Grill, the titular sponsors of the marathon; Hoops Brewing; Canal Park Brewing (another marathon sponsor); Vitta Pizza, a delicious and fast pizza place; Little Angie’s Cantina; and Love Creamery, which is an ice cream shop with non-dairy options (another location in West Duluth)!

Nearby is downtown Duluth. Downtown Duluth has the Library, which is shaped like a freighter, and the Depot which houses the Lake Superior Railroad Museum! Food choices in this area are many, such as: Pizza Luce’, a Minnesota chain which has gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan options and a bar (my personal favorite pizza place in Duluth); Sammy’s Pizza, a local pizza parlor beloved by the locals; Duluth Coffee; the Rathskeller, a bar which is built in the old jailhouse and has live music; Blacklist Brewing Co.; and the last restaurant I want to note is Zeitgeist Arts Cafe which hosts events, movies, and art alongside its restaurant and bar. 

The Lakewalk takes you from Canal all the way to Brighton Beach (nearly 8 miles away). Alongside the Lakewalk there are some restaurants such as: Fitger’s Inn with a restaurant that has the best vegetarian wild rice burger you will ever have, and they even get pie slices from Betty’s Pies up the North Shore; the Portland Malt Shoppe, a seasonal ice cream and malt shoppe that is worth the wait in line; Va Bene is a nicer italian eatery with a stunning overlook of the lake; Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake (another marathon sponsor); and finally Pickwick Restaurant and Pub is an historic restaurant favored by the locals. As for things to do, the Lakewalk is home to the Rose Garden and Leif Erikson Park!

If you haven’t noticed from the list so far, Duluth has quite a few breweries and cider spots. West Duluth has a concentration of places like that including: Duluth Cider, Wild State Cider; Ursa Minor Brewing; Bent Paddle Brewing; and Clyde Iron Works. Not all of these places have food, but there are often food trucks nearby, or you can go to some of the following: OMC Smokehouse (stands for Oink, Moo, Cluck); Duluth Grill, which has gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan options; Hungry Hippie Tacos; and Love Creamery (also in Canal)!

Lakeside Duluth is further away from Canal, where all the race events are taking place, but if you have a car these places are worth the trip: Sammy’s Pizza (same as in Downtown); Amity Coffee; and Lake Superior Brewing. A major attraction in Lakeside is the Glensheen Mansion, in which you can tour the grounds for free or take a tour of the building! It is a beautiful home from one of the older families in Duluth and has a rich history and even a murder mystery!

The last Duluth neighborhood I will mention is the Chester Creek and UMD neighborhood. If you are staying in the dorms, there are plenty of places to eat, like: Burrito Union, a communist themed mexican restaurant that is very popular with local runners and trail bikers; Chester Creek Cafe, a delicious restaurant with gluten-free/vegetarian/vegan options; Bulldog’s Pizza; and Tavern on the Hill (if you come here, be sure to try one of their moonshine drinks!). 

While these food options and local attractions are all delicious and very fun, Duluth is known for all the nature with which it surrounds itself. Because the city is on a hill, you can see Lake Superior from just about anywhere in the city, but if you want a really great view, you have to go up. Enger Tower is the highest point in Duluth (accessible with a car), and lets you see the entire skyline and city. Enger has some short distance hiking trails. Hawk Ridge and Seven Bridges Rd. are connected and can be a drive-through visit of the forest and gorgeous lake views where you see more nature and less city. In Lakeside, Lester Park is great for both short and long hikes. Near UMD is Chester Bowl. Chester doubles as a ski hill in the winter and has a creek and a playground for the kids! If you have access to a car and some time on your hands, driving up the North Shore is always a delight and you can reach Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls State Park, and Tettegouche State Park all within an hour! Each of these places has hiking and can be adjusted to longer or shorter walks. If you need a shakeout walk after your race, I recommend heading to one of these picturesque forested areas and enjoying the beauty that is Minnesotan nature! 

Duluth has so much to offer and I cannot mention it all in this–possibly already too long–blog post, but the moral of the story is that wherever you are in Duluth, you can find delicious local food, stunning sights, and something fun to do for the whole family! Can’t wait to see you all here!

Elena Stanley

Elena Stanley is a 2024 Grambassador. Meet the other Grambassadors here

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Favorite Grandma’s Marathon Memory: Running towards the finish line at the end of my first marathon in 2023! I could see the end, I heard people cheering. My legs were tired but I started to pick up some speed. Suddenly, I heard the announcers call my name! It gave me the energy to push towards the end! Then I saw some friends who came out to support me. As I ran to give them high fives, it started a chain reaction of strangers and spectators giving high fives right up until I crossed that line and finished the longest distance I’d ever run! It was a uniquely Grandma’s experience!

A song that must be on your running playlist: Man! I feel like a woman! – Shania Twain

The reason you absolutely won’t run outside: Below 10 degrees Fahrenheit

Favorite pre-race meal: Anything with peanut butter!

2024 running goal: Embrace the routine to run stronger and happier! Enjoy the process!