7 free and affordable things to do in Duluth


Situated on the picturesque banks of Lake Superior, enjoying a dramatic backdrop of rocky cliffs and verdant forests, Duluth is a jewel in Minnesota’s crown. An outdoor lover’s paradise, the activities you can enjoy in and around the city are almost endless, with exceptional watersports, top class angling and challenging hiking trails ensuring there’s something to suit every taste, from the sedate to the action-packed.

A beautiful sunrise over Duluth and Lake Superior (Photo: Sharon Mollerus via Flickr)

One of the main benefits of Duluth being such an ‘outdoorsey’ place is that it’s very easy to spend time here without spending much at all. If you’re planning a visit and are keen to be careful with the pennies, we’ve compiled a list of some of the cheapest and most affordable things to see and do in Duluth.

Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum

Perched close to the Duluth shoreline on Lake Superior, the true provenance of this eye-catching concrete structure has been the source of great debate down the years. The most probable version of events is that it served as the foundation of an unloading dock built by a local entrepreneur in the early 20th century, but that an abandoned project to build an adjoining harbour led to it becoming obsolete. Whatever it’s real origins, it remains a prominent fixture on Duluth’s topography and during the summer months is a beacon for swimmers who use it to sunbath or as a makeshift diving post.

LOCATION The Lake Walk HOURS Mon-Sun All day

Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum

The old sand and gravel hopper known as Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum (Photo: sawdust_media via Flickr)

S.S. William A. Irvin

Another notable local landmark with an intriguing story behind it is this large vessel that once served as the flagship of the U.S. Steel company’s Great Lakes fleet. Called the S.S. William A. Irvin, as well as its trading and commercial endeavours, it was also used as a high-end transport ship for company guests who ate gourmet dinners in the opulent dining room. In the late 1970s the ship was put out to pasture and now resides in Duluth Bay as a part of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, where it combines the roles of museum, haunted attraction and theatre venue.

LOCATION 2600, 350 Harbor Drive

Bent Paddle Brewing

The number of independent breweries in Duluth have sky-rocketed in recent years and at the vanguard of this trend has been Bent Paddle Brewing. A 30-barrel production craft brewery, Bent Paddle produce a range of flagship beers as well as speciality seasonal offerings, all available to sample in the on-site taproom. The venue also hosts tours of its premises each Saturday morning for just $5 per person, offerings visitors the chance to see close up how craft beer production works as well as speak and engage with the talented masterbrewers themselves.

LOCATION 1832 West Michigan Street HOURS Tues-Sat 12pm-10pm

Bent Paddle Brewing

The bar area at Bent Paddle Brewing (Photo: Bent Paddle Brewing)

Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival

Perhaps the stand-out music event on Duluth’s cultural calendar, Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival attracts an impressive mix of local and international performers who entertain revellers against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Superior, with affordable ticket prices. Notable musicians to have appeared in recent years include Jamaican dancehall artist Konshens, South African roots reggae star NKulee Dube, and DJ Sound of Fujun. The 2019 line-up includes Kymani Marley, the son of Bob Marley, dancehall artist Demarco, Jamaican recording artist Kabaka Pyramid, and X Factor Trinidadian soca artist Olatunji. There’s also plenty of ethnic food, drinks and artisanal crafts to enjoy. Visitors can camp a few miles away if they wish.

LOCATION Bayfront Festival Park. 5th Avenue West and Railroad Street DATES 20 July m

Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival

Kymani Marley, the son of Bob Marley, one of the headliners at the 2019 Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival (Photo: Bayfront Reggae & World Music Festival)

Park Point Art Fair

Nestled between Lake Superior and the Superior Bay each summer is this hugely popular annual arts fair. Now in its 49th year, the event has grown into one of Minnesota’s most loved cultural events, taking place across a full weekend and in the open air to make the most of the idyllic, picturesque surroundings. The event attracts art lovers from across the state and beyond, with an impressive 120 juried artists working in in clay, photography, painting, printmaking, mixed media, sculpture, fibre, jewellery, wood and glass and more gathering to showcase their creative wares. Visitors can simply admire or even purchase the exhibits on show, making it a great place for gift or souvenir hunting. There are also arts demonstrations and workshops, live music and entertainment, plus a wide range of food vendors.

LOCATION Park Point Recreation Area DATES 29-30 June 2019

Park Point Art Fair

Artworks for sale at the Park Point Art Fair (Photo: Park Point Art Fair)

Grandma’s Marathon

Whether you’d like to participate or simply spectate, this marathon – the 11th largest in America, no less – is one of the best Duluth events that’s easy on the wallet. First held over four decades ago, the marathon has grown and grown and now takes place over a full three-day festive weekend, comprising a variety of race events, including free kids’ races, plus live entertainment and plenty more, bringing the whole Duluth community together for a fun and action-packed occasion.

LOCATION Two Harbors to Duluth DATES June each year

Grandma's Marathon

Children offer refreshments to runners during Grandma’s Marathon (Photo: Sharon Mollerus via Flickr)

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

The world’s biggest private collection of original manuscripts and documents resides at this impressive museum, which has venues across America, including one in Duluth. At the Duluth site visitors can peruse a goldmine of esoteric treasures, including Egyptian sandstone carvings and ship models, Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics, and the world’s first ever baseball card. The museum also stages a regular programme of music concerts and other events.

LOCATION 902 East 1st Street HOURS Tues-Fri 10am-4pm; Sat-Sun 11am-4pm; Closed Mon

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

An exterior shot of Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (Photo: cmh2315fl via Flickr)

By Paul Joseph