Monday, September 17, 2012

our stay in Duluth, MN

During Rassie's stay earlier in the summer, we decided to take a joy trip and head North for a few days to the town of Duluth and its surrounding areas. Clay and I went up to this fabulous tourist town back in 2008 with two of Clay's sisters and had a wonderful weekend. Though Parker was just nine months old at the time, his little eyes shone with excitement at the nature that surrounded him. That trip left us wanting more from the North Shores region and since the visit, we had said we would get back to further explore. Fast forward to June 2012...we decided we needed a break from all the boxes and clutter that had surrounded us these last couple of months. Meltdowns were starting to happen on a more than desired basis. ;)

North Shores, here we come!
Duluth has a fabulously easy website where one can go on and literally plan their stay in a matter of minutes. (plus, it did not hurt that we had been there before and had an idea of where we wanted to stay and what we wanted to see!) The two websites I viewed to help with the planning of our stays:

I immediately called the friendly people at Canal Park Lodge and booked reservations right off of the boardwalk and Lake Superior. Now all we had to do was pack and go.

Luckily, both of our boys travel really well...usually. They are easily entertained by all the activity, sights and colors of the passing landscape. Of course, no matter how travel friendly a child is, if you are a parent, you know how interesting and amusing it can be to be in a car for an extended period of time with kids. We left the cities right at naptime, stopped for gas just down the road aways when Parker asked if we were there yet. Ha! Oh little man, we've got a waaaays to go...better settle in. This was at 2:16pm. Here is a breakdown of our drive over the next hour and 12 minutes:
2:20 - passing downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi River
2:23 - Parker asked if we were there yet
2:29 - Parker has to go potty
2:35 - Parker tells Daddy he REALLY has to go potty now
2:36 - Clay pulls over at Exxon station at next exit
Cooper falls asleep at some point before our 3:28 stop.
3:28 - Parker has to go potty again. Clay pulls over at rest stop. Cooper sleeps.
After this stop, we drove straight through until we hit Duluth. Approximately 34 miles prior to the little town, the beauty around us set in. A glamorous view of a crystal lake on our right; thousands of blue spruce, birch, red pines and cottonwood on the left. Aaahhh...
Duluth, we have arrived.

Just after arriving at the Canal Park Lodge in the early evening and grabbing dinner we took a walk down the Lakewalk to admire Lake Superior and to see if we might catch the last ship coming in for the day. (this was after we realized that I had not packed properly for a stay off of this Great Lake. Why I did not think about the fact that the temps on a warm day here would run about 70 degrees, I am not quite sure. All was well however. This sweet town does indeed have a mall complete with an Old Navy, to which Rassie immediately requested a visit where she loaded her arms with blue jeans and other fun goods for each of the boys. :) We also managed to pick up a  sweatshirt for everyone which made for more comfy evenings. Thank you Rassie for coming to the rescue!!)

This little mr. mr. loved every second of the brisk evening and took every opportunity to walk, run and climb on the boardwalk.
The Canal Park Boardwalk can be explored via foot, bike or carriage. We obviously prefer foot where the munchkins can run, jump and play. :) The stretch is an over 7 mile path that not only allows the breathtaking view of Lake Superior and the nearby shops and restaurants, but also boasts prized sculptures that reflect Duluth's history and culture through the years. It has been mentioned to be an "outdoor gallery of international art."

None of this of course mattered to my boys. They just wanted to climb and sit on the works of art. :)

The famous "cribs" from 1922.

And that would be the expression on my child of seeing the last passing ship coming in to dock for the day.

One of the best reasons to visit Duluth...
The Aerial Lift Bridge, built in 1905, welcomes sailing vessels and visitors from all over the world each day. It rises dozens of times each day during peak shipping season. We were excited to get to see a number of ships cross under the bridge during our short stay. We ended our first evening in Duluth with this view.

The following day we awoke bright and early to drive Old Highway 61 to Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls. (more on each of those attractions in the following posts.)

That same evening after arriving back in Duluth from our excursions, we enjoyed a picturesque view while enjoying our dinner at JJ Astor, the downtown, 16th story high revolving restaurant. While savoring every bite of my grilled pork tenderloin, (to which mama and I both agreed was the best pork tenderloin we had every tasted) I watched passing ships and sailboats make their way through the blue waters of Superior. We looked upon the timely buildings, the age-old shipping docks, and all the beauty that this hardworking town had to offer its eager tourists.

I could have sat at that table and made another 360 over the next hour, but the kids were in need of a different view. :) We left and decided to partake in one more adventure before heading back to the hotel and calling it a day.

One has not truly experienced Duluth until you have taken a drive on infamous Skyline Parkway.

Not only do you get to see all the sights from above, but the kids will think that they are on a thrilling roller coaster ride with mama and daddy on the way back down to the shoreline.

It's all about the little things. :)

The red and green building backed up against the water is the Canal Park Lodge.

Along the way, you pass historical markers that are worth reading.

Late that evening, after returning to the hotel and getting the kids to bed, Clay and I ventured out to enjoy a breezy evening view of the town on a nearby resting bench. (Rassie stayed back with our little men.)

We made sure to take the boys to the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, located just by the Duluth Ship Canal at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge while visiting the blooming port. Displays that tell of the current ship traffic and that explain the maritime history, technology and shipwrecks of the past are just a few of the reasons this free museum is one of the most visited in Minnesota.

Parker stood at a real ship's helm while pretending to be captain and watched excitedly as more boats passed by us. Cooper ran around to each of the displays not really knowing what it all was but eager to touch each and every little thing he was allowed to put his hands on. I happily bounced into the museum's store to grab up a few Duluth postcards and memorabilia. Clay and Rassie read about the history of numerous ships that had passed through this very port each year carrying iron ore and other goods. Regardless of age, between the film shows, model ships and exhibits featuring commercial shipping activities on Lake Superior, one can find entertainment at the Lake Superior Maritime Museum.

I don't know about other little boys, but our little men practically fall over with excitement when they get on anything that moves: trucks, trains, planes, BOATS, 4-wheelers, tractors...

For our last tour before leaving Duluth, we made sure to jump on a famed Vista Fleet excursion to get a waterfront view of the busy little town. Cooper and Parker were ecstatic to look overboard into the deep, cold waters and to watch the busyness of the port. A favorite part of the tour, however, was stopping just shy of the bridge to wave to and watch as one of the ships, the American Century, passed by. As we all stood there taking in its massive size and features and waving largely to the crewmen, the friendly ship blew its airhorn to say hello to the passing crowd.

Before jumping on I-35 to head home after our final adventure in Duluth, we did some quick shopping at the local shops and took a drive across the Aerial Bridge over to the Wisconsin side. Even closer than before, we were able to get a good look at the detailed infrastructure of this landmark.

While some might not be drawn to the erratic weather conditions and rough landscape of this Northern Minnesota town, many will cherish the distinct beauty and opportunities that Duluth has to offer and find themselves yearning to return before they have even left.

Thanks for the great memories, Duluth! Until next time...
(Thank you for treating us to this amazing trip, mama!!! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!)

Fun Facts about Duluth:
  • Located in the middle of the North American continent at the westernmost point of the world's largest chain of freshwater seas.
  • Altitude ranges from 605 feet at Lake Superior's shoreline to 1,485 feet at the ridgeline
  • Has more than 11,000 acres of wooded and open land, 20 miles of hiking trails and 23 parks
  • Coastal Living Magazine ranked Duluth a "Top 10 B&B Town" in the U.S. for its historic bed & breakfast inns with lake views and nature-loving amenities.

Here are several fun facts about Lake Superior:
  • Biggest of the Great Lakes at 350 miles long, 160 miles wide and a surface area of 31,700 square miles
  • With the entire surface frozen (which has only happened twice), there would be enough room for every person on earth to spread out a 12'x12' picnic blanket.
  • Contains 10% of the world's fresh water with a volume of 440 trillion cubic feet (that's 12 more zero's!)
  • Average depth is 439 feet with a deepest depth of 1333 feet
  • Average water temp is 42 degrees fahrenheit
  • Stormiest months are October and November
  • Over 350 shipwrecks have occurred with more than 1000 souls lost


valerie said...

Wow!!! I would love to visit Duluth! Did y'all learn about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald? It was a freighter that sunk during a storm on Lake Superior in 1975. All 29 crew members perished. Gordon Lightfoot's song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", was popular in 1976. My favorite pic in this story is the one of he lighthouse :)

carrie said...

We did! Clay and I actually sat up late in the lobby one night to read the history of all the shipwrecks in the area. We found it all fascinating.