Minnesota’s scenic North Shore is full of exciting locales and incredible views. Visitors will find something for everyone along this 154-mile stretch of the scenic byway.
There are plenty of state parks, beautiful vistas, small towns, and local events to attend while visiting Minnesota’s North Shore.
You can also find plenty of sights, sports, and adventure activities along the way. Keep reading to discover the top things to do in North Shore, Minnesota.
This one-of-a-kind destination is located on 50 acres of wooded property on Rock Lake in central Minnesota. The lighthouse itself is a massive 2,000 square foot structure with seven levels, including a crows nest that's over 50 feet high. From this vantage point you can see for miles over the canopy of the trees. Inside, the lighthouse is beautifully appointed with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
Situated 18 feet off the ground on a ridge overlooking Rock Lake, this tree house is surrounded by 50 acres of private land and 500 acres of state land. This makes for great opportunities to see all sorts of wildlife in their natural habitat. There are also plenty of trails for walking, canoeing, and kayaking in the summer months. In the winter, you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. This is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax in peace and quiet.
This is your chance to stay on a piece of history and live in the true home of Radagast the Brown. The cottage has been beautifully crafted and decorated with only the finest materials. It features a soaring loft area, cozy living space with fireplace, and two acres of private land to roam. The wooded areas surrounding the property are perfect for exploring and the paved roads and low traffic make for great bicycling.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to Do in North Shore, Minnesota
- 1. Banning State Park
- 2. Castle Danger Brewery
- 3. Gooseberry Falls State Park
- 4. Red Beaches at Iona’s Beach
- 5. Split Rock Lighthouse
- 6. Pier B Resort
- 7. Great Lakes Aquarium
- 8. Bayfront Festival Park
- 9. Duluth Children’s Museum
- 10. Leif Erikson Park
- 11. Glensheen Mansion and the Congdon Estate
- 12. Lake Superior Zoo
- 13. North Shore Winery
- 14. Bentleyville Tour of Lights
- 15. The Duluth Lakewalk
- 16. AMSOIL Arena
- 17. Adventure Zone
- 18. Tettegouche State Park
- 19. North Shore Adventure Park
- 20. Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark
- 21. Temperance River Gorge
- 22. Devil’s Kettle in Judge C.R. Magney State Park
- 23. Grand Portage State Park
- 24. Spirit Mountain Recreation Area
- 25. Aerial Lift Bridge
- 26. Isle Royale National Park
- 27. Lake Superior Railroad Museum
- 28. S.S. William A. Irvin Ship Museum
- 29. Sightseeing Boat Cruises on Lake Superior
- 30. Visit Grand Marais
Fun & Best Things to Do in North Shore, Minnesota
1. Banning State Park
Banning State Park sits 10 miles of the Kettle River in Pine County. Inside the park, there are 36 drive-in and two hike-in campsites.
While camping, visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and more while in the park. There are also historical sites and buildings left over from the original sandstone quarry in the park.
About 90 miles from Minneapolis, the North Shore’s Banning State Park makes a great weekend getaway.
2. Castle Danger Brewery
A trip to Castle Danger Brewery should be at the top of your list of things to do on the North Shore if you are a beer lover.
This brewery and taproom have been operating since 2011 in Two Harbors. The taproom features 22 rotating craft beer choices that are sure to keep your taste buds happy.
The brewery has a selection of year-round brews and seasonal beers. From traditional IPAs to maple syrup-infused beers, there is something for everyone on tap at Castle Danger Brewery.
Castle Danger Brewery does not serve food on its premises. Luckily, the brewery schedules local food trucks and encourages ordering takeout.
3. Gooseberry Falls State Park
The Minnesota North Shore has no shortage of state parks, but Gooseberry Falls is one of the best. Gooseberry Falls State Park is incredibly scenic. Just off Scenic Highway 61, the park also features a diverse trail selection for beginner and experienced hikers.
The highlight of the park is Gooseberry Falls which is a must-see while visiting the park. You can also find views of the Gooseberry River while hiking through the park.
Gooseberry Falls is ideal for visitors looking for adventure. The park features 20 miles of hiking trails and 12 miles of cross-country skiing trails. Mountain bikers are also welcome on the trails. Gooseberry Falls is ideal for visitors looking for adventure.
Gooseberry Falls State Park also has limited camping space, picnic areas, and bathroom facilities.
4. Red Beaches at Iona’s Beach
Looking for a different kind of beach? How about a pebble beach? How about a pink beach? No?
How about a pink pebble beach?
While most beaches have white sand, Iona’s Beach has unique pink rocks covering the shore. This unique touch gives the beach its distinct color and ambiance.
These stones also give the beach a unique ability. At certain times during the day, you can hear a high-pitched singing sound across this rocky beach. The sound comes from the waves forcing the rocks to move against each other.
While visiting Iona’s Beach, do not forget to take in the wildlife. There is plenty of birdwatching to do while hiking or snowshoeing along the beach.
See Related: Best Beaches in Minnesota to Visit
5. Split Rock Lighthouse
Built after one of the worst maritime disasters on Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most visited landmarks in Minnesota.
The Mataafa Storm of 1905 damaged 29 vessels and killed 36 sailors. The town commissioned a lighthouse, and the construction of Split Rock Lighthouse finished in 1910. Since then, it has lit the way for sailors on Lake Superior.
You’ll have ample photo opportunities while visiting this historic lighthouse. There are several historical buildings to visit on the site, including the lighthouse keeper’s house and the fog signal building.
Split Rock Lighthouse is open year-round and hosts different events during every season.
See Related: Best Cabin Rentas in Lake Superior
6. Pier B Resort
Some activities include paddleboards, biking, sports court, boat rentals, and more. While staying at Pier B, you also have access to plenty of fun and exciting adventures in Duluth.
Pier B also features world-class dining at its signature restaurant, Silos. Of course, you’re only a short walk or ride to local dining in Duluth as well while visiting Pier B Resort.
See Related: Cascade River State Park Travel Guide
7. Great Lakes Aquarium
Located in Duluth, the Great Lakes Aquarium is a great day trip for anyone visiting North Shore. Inside the aquarium, you’ll find a diverse selection of exhibits where you can learn more about the world under the sea.
This 85,000-gallon tank features fish and plants from the Great Lakes and is the highlight of the aquarium.
The aquarium is always available for educational purposes and is an excellent option for a local field trip. Great Lakes Aquarium also has space for private events, weddings, and birthday celebrations.
If you are looking for a hotel within walking distance of the aquarium, consider checking out The South Pier Inn.
8. Bayfront Festival Park
If you’re planning a trip to the North Shores of Minnesota, you should check the calendar for events at Bayfront Festival Park.
Bayfront Festival Park is home to events, concerts, and festivals all year long. You can find them along the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth.
Highlights of the yearly schedule include Bayfront Country Jam in July and Duluth Oktoberfestival in October. They also host art shows, jazz concerts, food festivals, and more at Bayfront Festival Park.
The Hampton Inn is close to Bayfront Festival Park and is a great option for families or couples visiting Bayfront Festival Park.
9. Duluth Children’s Museum
The Duluth Children’s Museum is a stellar option for Minnesota family vacations along the North Shore. Located in Duluth, the museum features exhibits that help kids explore, discover, and play. It is among the best museums in Duluth to visit.
Ideal for kids of all ages, your kids can learn how to adventure and solve problems while they play at the Duluth Children’s Museum.
There is also a collection of over 10,000 local artifacts in the museum. Many of the artifacts originate from local Native American tribes and the early settlers of the North Shore region.
10. Leif Erikson Park
Leif Erikson Park lies along the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth. This park is perfect for families and active individuals since it features biking and hiking trails, beach access, and picnic areas.
There’s also an amphitheater stage that hosts concerts and events in the park. If you are wandering through Lakewalk, Leif Erikson Park is a must-stop.
The park is also home to Duluth’s Rose Garden. This 4.5-acre plot features over 3,000 rose bushes and other flowering plants.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Hibbing, Minnesota
11. Glensheen Mansion and the Congdon Estate
Glensheen Mansion is a must-see for anyone visiting Duluth or North Shore, MN. This 12-acre estate features gardens, bridges, and a 20th-century mansion. Built between 1905 and 1908, the Congdon family donated the estate to the University of Minnesota in 1979.
Today, it is the most visited historical museum in Minnesota. The landscape and gardens throughout this property are stunning. You can spend hours wandering the local gardens on Congdon Estate.
There are many historic buildings, but the 39-room mansion is the tour’s highlight.
You can choose from self-guided tours or full mansion tours, where you can learn more about the history of the Congdon family and Glensheen Mansion.
See Related: Best Iowa Family Vacation Ideas
12. Lake Superior Zoo
The Lake Superior Zoo features over 140 species in an indoor and outdoor habitat. The zoo is a must-see North Shore attraction and is open from 10 am.
Some of our favorite attractions include the bear exhibit and the nocturnal building, where you can meet a two-toed sloth. Don’t forget to stop by and say hi to the African lions and Asian Tigers while visiting Lake Superior Zoo.
Lake Superior Zoo also features birthday parties where you can enjoy a private experience at the zoo with your closest friends.
13. North Shore Winery
If you’re a wine connoisseur, you’ll want to stop at North Shore Winery in Lutsen. The Corliss and Hanson families started this quaint winery on the shores of Lake Superior in 2016.
While visiting, you have to check out the tours and tasting packages that the winery offers. You’ll receive a tasting flight of four of their wines and snacks. North Shore Winery’s wine club offers wine shipping to your home based on your tastes.
Since the winery is close to Lutsen Mountains, a stop at the North Shore Winery is a great option for skiers visiting.
14. Bentleyville Tour of Lights
The Bentleyville Tour of Lights is a must-see attraction if you are vising North Shore during the winter holiday season. Located in downtown Duluth, this North Shore attraction is close and within walking distance of many hotels and businesses.
The Tour of Lights features over 5 million lights, fire pits, pedal cart rides, Santa visits, roasted marshmallows, and more.
Visiting Bentleyville is free for all guests. There’s also plenty of free hot cocoa, coffee, cookies, and snacks for guests while visiting. Of course, don’t forget to dress warmly for this event. Temperatures often drop below freezing in North Shore.
See Related: Best Things to do in Owatonna, Minnesota
15. The Duluth Lakewalk
Just a short walk from the Park Point Marina Inn, The Duluth Lakewalk is an eight-mile pedestrian and bike trail that offers stunning scenery and amazing views of Lake Superior.
This paved trail goes from Bayfront Park to Brighton Beach. Along with the scenery of the stunning Duluth Rose Garden, ample picnic areas, public parking, and public restrooms are available.
You’ll also find the Duluth’s Canal Park Boardwalk along the trail. At Canal Park, you’ll find unique local shops, cafes, bars, pubs, fine dining, and even more to enjoy.
16. AMSOIL Arena
Are you interested in watching a local hockey game or concert?
AMSOIL arena is the best option along North Shore. The arena is home to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s hockey teams. Here you can find both the men’s and women’s teams battling other Division I hockey teams.
The arena also hosts the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Ballet, and many different trade expos. Don’t forget to check the calendar while in town if you are looking for a particular event.
17. Adventure Zone
Adventure Zone boasts over 50,000 square feet of fun and excitement for kids and adults. From batting cages to laser tag, there is something for everyone here.
You’ll also find countless videogames, virtual reality experiences, and other fun things throughout the arcade complex.
One of the most exciting experiences at Adventure Zone is the climbing park. Here you can test your skills and athleticism while climbing over 14,000 square feet of walls. Get ready for a challenging but exciting workout if you plan on trying the climbing walls.
18. Tettegouche State Park
Located in Silver Bay, Minnesota, Tettegouche State Park has some of the most majestic views in Minnesota. In Tettegouche State Park, you’ll find a stunning scenic overlook at Palisade Head. From Palisade Head you can witness jaw-dropping sunsets that rival anywhere in the world.
The park is open all year long and features waterfalls, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and cross-country skiing. Check out this video tour of Tettegouche from our YouTube channel.
See Related: How to Pack For a Camping Trip
Are you looking to test yourself?
Don’t miss the North Shore Adventure Park. Located in Silver Bay, MN, the park features zip lines and rope climbing courses.
You can experience ax throwing, ten different zip lines, and five rope courses that feature varying difficulties. North Shore Adventure Park is kid-friendly and offers a Lil’ Rascals Playground for kids ages 3 to 6.
The adventure park is also great for group trips, business outings, and birthday parties.
This all-in-one resort, hotel, and waterpark is a great option for any family looking to get away for a few days. Located in downtown Duluth, you can visit the rest of North Shore as well while visiting the park.
The indoor waterpark features several attractions and is open all year long. You’ll find thrilling rides and lazy rivers at the park.
Edgewater hotel also features an outdoor pool, hot tub, and mini-golf during warmer months. It’s easy to enjoy a weekend visiting this 35,000 square foot waterpark and entertainment complex.
See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Northern, Minnesota
21. Temperance River Gorge
On your way from Schroeder to Lutsen, you’ll find Temperance River Gorge. Once in the park, you can take a short stroll down to the footbridge to enjoy the views of the gorge. Here you can check out the Temperance River before it flows into Lake Superior.
The Temperance River is a great spot to find smallmouth bass, pink salmon, and brook trout if you’re a fisherman.
22. Devil’s Kettle in Judge C.R. Magney State Park
Located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, the Devil’s Kettle is a unique and mysterious waterfall. About 1.5 miles from the mouth of the Brule River, the river splits. To the east, the river follows over a 50-foot waterfall and continues.
The west side flows into a pothole at least 10 meters deep. For years, visitors tried to solve the mystery of where the water flows. While the mystery remains, a study in 2017 suggested the water simply returned into the Brule river downstream.
Still, the view of the Devil’s Kettle is a sight that you should check out while visiting North Shore, MN.
See Related: Best Places for Fall Colors in the US
23. Grand Portage State Park
Located close to the Canadian Border, Grand Portage State Park is an ideal last stop on your journey across North Shore.
The park features Minnesota’s tallest waterfall. You can enjoy the view from three different viewing points while hiking 4.5 miles of rugged terrain.
You will also come across the U.S.-Canada border landmark, plenty of picnic areas, and a second smaller waterfall during your journey.
You have to check out the Grand Portage State Monument if you’re a history buff. This monument shows the story of the Ojibwe and their fur trade.
Be advised the hiking trail features several hundred feet of elevation change and rugged terrain.
24. Spirit Mountain Recreation Area
Spirit Mountain is my go-to for skiing in the North Shore region. Close to Duluth, it’s a short ride to get to the slopes. The mountain features the second largest vertical drop in the midwest as well as trails for every skill level.
Even if you’re not a skier, there’s plenty to do at Spirit Mountain. Tubing is fun for all ages. For the most fun, you can try the nighttime glow tubing sessions. The entire mountain is lit with RGB lighting, making every ride more exciting.
25. Aerial Lift Bridge
The Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth has stood since 1905. The bridge has a unique design and is a great photo opportunity for anyone visiting the North Shore.
The bridge is open for pedestrians, and you can get a great view of the harbor while visiting. Waiting for a large ship departs under the bridge can be a breathtaking sight.
You also have an uninterrupted view of the city and Canal Park from the Aerial Lift Bridge.
26. Isle Royale National Park
Do you like to enjoy nature alone?
Isle Royale National Park is a must on your trip to North Shore. You can only reach this island by ferry or seaplane. It’s harder to get to than everything else on the list but is well worth the trip.
It’s often an underrated activity on the North Shore because it’s an island and is technically Michigan. But make no mistake; this national park is actually closer to Minnesota than it is to Michigan.
Before heading to the island, make sure you pack everything you’ll need for your stay. You’ll need to be self-sufficient while visiting Isle Royale National Park.
If you’re up for the adventure, there is plenty to do on the island. Besides camping, there are miles of trails, ranger programs, and plenty of fishing spots to check out. This is one of the best adventure outings available on North Shore.
27. Lake Superior Railroad Museum
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum features a diverse collection of railroad equipment. The museum features restored locomotives, railroad history exhibits, and railroad-related events.
Saturdays are one of the best days to visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Each week the museum hosts ‘Jazz in the Museum,’ where local musicians take to the stage.
During the event, local food merchants are also available.
28. S.S. William A. Irvin Ship Museum
Located in Canal Park, you’ll find the flagship of U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Fleet. For over 40 years, the S.S. William Irvin sailed the Great Lakes. Launched in 1937, the vessel shipped ore until 1978.
This steam-based ship is a sight to behold, and anyone who enjoys learning about boating will love a trip to this museum. From the 2,000 horsepower engine to the intricate antique fixtures, touring the S.S William A. Irvin will transport you back in time.
29. Sightseeing Boat Cruises on Lake Superior
Lake Superior is a sight to behold. One of the best ways to experience the lake is on the water. Vista Fleet has the best boating services in Duluth.
They offer sightseeing and dinner cruises through Duluth Superior Harbor and Lake Superior.
Knowledgeable and experienced tour guides head every sightseeing tour on Lake Superior. While on the tours, you have 360-degree views of the lake and learn more about Duluth and the region.
The dinner cruises are great for a romantic holiday, birthday party, or any other holiday. Vista Fleet can also accommodate large parties, including weddings.
30. Visit Grand Marais
Grand Marais shows up often on “best-of” lists – including ours! Named America’s Coolest Small Town and The Next Great Adventure Town, Grand Marais, is also home to the largest concentration of Ph.D. holders in the country and has a lot to live up to.
Luckily, this quaint North Shore town delivers in spades.
This tiny harbor village is picturesque and one of the best places on the North Shore, to stop on a romantic getaway or family vacation.
One of the most picturesque attractions is the Grand Marais Lighthouse in Grand Marais Harbor.
You have access to miles of hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing trails outside the town.
Of course, there are plenty of water-based activities in Grand Marais as well, including canoeing, fishing, and sailing.
While visiting, consider staying at the East Bay Suites if you plan to spend a few days in this lovely town.
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