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Minnesota’s scenic North Shore is full of exciting locales and incredible views. Visitors will find plenty of places to visit and things to do along this 154-mile stretch of the scenic byway. These are our favorite things to do on the North Shore.
There are plenty of state parks, beautiful vistas, small towns, and local events to attend while visiting Minnesota’s North Shore.
The North Shore Scenic Drive is a picturesque route that commences in Duluth, Minnesota, and culminates at the Canadian border. To embark on this journey, begin at Canal Park in Duluth and proceed along Highway 61, which meanders beside Lake Superior’s shores. This drive offers a tapestry of quaint towns, pristine state parks, and remarkable lake vistas.
You can also find many sights, sports, and adventure activities. 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.
- 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
Things to Do in North Shore, Minnesota
1. Banning State Park
Address: 61101 Banning Park Rd, Sandstone, MN 55072, United States
Banning State Park sits 10 miles from 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.
See Related: Best Indoor Activities in Minnesota
2. Castle Danger Brewery
Address: 17 7th St, Two Harbors, MN 55616, United States
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 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, Castle Danger Brewery will quickly become a staple on your North Shore road trips.
Castle Danger Brewery does not serve food on its premises. Luckily, the brewery schedules local food trucks and encourages ordering takeout.
See Related: Best Lakes in Minnesota (Ranked!)
3. Gooseberry Falls State Park
Address: 3206 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, United States
The Minnesota North Shore has no shortage of amazing 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 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 has limited camping space, picnic areas, and bathroom facilities.
4. Red Beaches at Iona’s Beach
Address: 3548 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, United States
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 while hiking or snowshoeing along the beach.
See Related: Best Beaches in Minnesota to Visit
5. Split Rock Lighthouse
Address: 3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616, United States
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 Split Rock Lighthouse was constructed 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 historic buildings 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 every season.
See Related: Best Cabin Rentas in Lake Superior
6. Pier B Resort
Address: 800 W Railroad St, Duluth, MN 55802, United States
Located at the edge of Lake Superior, Pier B Resort Hotel is a fun and exciting vacation spot. The resort features many activities that will keep you and your family busy.
Some activities include paddleboards, biking, sports courts, boat rentals, and more. While staying at Pier B, you can access 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 while visiting Pier B Resort.
See Related: Cascade River State Park Travel Guide
7. Great Lakes Aquarium
Address: 353 Harbor Dr, Duluth, MN 55802, United States
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.
Our favorite exhibits include the Amazing Amazon, Critter Corner, and Freshwater Forest. Do not forget to spend time enjoying the Isle Royal aquarium. 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 local field trip option. 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
Address: 350 Harbor Dr, Duluth, MN 55802, United States
If 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. 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
Address: 2125 W Superior St, Duluth, MN 55806, United States
The Duluth Children’s Museum is a stellar option for Minnesota family vacations along the North Shore. The museum features exhibits in Duluth 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
Address: 1301 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55805, United States
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.
An amphitheater stage also 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
Address: 3300 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55804, United States
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.
Many historic buildings exist, 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 the Glensheen Mansion.
See Related: Best Iowa Family Vacation Ideas
12. Lake Superior Zoo
Address: 7210 Fremont St, Duluth, MN 55807, United States
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 a.m.
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
Address: 202 Ski Hill Rd, Lutsen, MN 55612, United States
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 must check out the winery’s tours and tasting packages. 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 the 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 if you visit North Shore during the winter holiday. 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
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 more to enjoy.
16. AMSOIL Arena
Address: 350 Harbor Dr, Duluth, MN 55802, United States
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 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, kids will surely have no problem finding something to do here. You’ll also find countless video games, virtual reality experiences, and other fun things throughout the arcade complex.
One of the most exciting experiences at Adventure Zone is the climbing park. You can test your skills and athleticism here, 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
Address: 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614, United States
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 year-round 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
Address: 42 Outer Dr, Silver Bay, MN 55614, United States
Are you looking to test yourself? Don’t miss the North Shore Adventure Park. The park features zip lines and rope climbing courses in Silver Bay, Minnesota.
You can experience ax throwing, ten different zip lines, and five rope courses with 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.
Address: 2400 London Rd, Duluth, MN 55812, United States
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 also visit the rest of North Shore 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.
This premium resort also features some of Duluth’s nicest rooms and accommodations. During your stay, you can access a fitness center, 40-game arcade, coffee shop, and outdoor pool.
See Related: Things to Do in Northern Minnesota
21. Temperance River Gorge
You’ll find Temperance River Gorge on your way from Schroeder to Lutsen. Once in the park, you can take a short stroll down to the footbridge to enjoy the views of the gorge. You can check out the Temperance River before it flows into Lake Superior.
Around the river, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and rock climbing spots. There are also hike-in camping spots available along the trails and river. 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
Address: 4051 MN-61, Grand Marais, MN 55604, United States
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 have tried to solve the mystery of where the water flows.
While the mystery remains, a study in 2017 suggested the water returned to 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
Address: 9393 E MN-61, Grand Portage, MN 55605, United States
Located close to the Canadian Border, Grand Portage State Park is an ideal last stop across North Shore. The park features Minnesota’s tallest waterfall. You can enjoy the view from three 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, and the town of Grand Portage isn’t too shabby to visit either.
Check out the Grand Portage National 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.
See Related: National Monuments
24. Spirit Mountain Recreation Area
Address: 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl, Duluth, MN 55810, United States
Spirit Mountain is my go-to for skiing in the North Shore region. It’s a short ride to the slopes close to Duluth. 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
Address: 601 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802, United States
The Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth has stood since 1905. The bridge’s unique design 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 to depart 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 it’s 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, 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. This is one of the best adventure outings available on the North Shore.
27. Lake Superior Railroad Museum
Address: 506 W Michigan St, Duluth, MN 55802, USA
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 among the best days to visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. The museum hosts ‘Jazz in the Museum,’ where local musicians take to the stage each week. During the event, local food merchants are also available.
28. S.S. William A. Irvin Ship Museum
Address: 350 Harbor Dr, Duluth, MN 55802, USA
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 other holiday. Vista Fleet can also accommodate large parties, including weddings.
30. Visit Grand Marais
Address: Grand Marais, Minnesota 55604, USA
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 country’s largest concentration of Ph.D. holders and has much to live up to.
Luckily, this quaint North Shore town delivers in spades. Grand Marais sits on the Lake Superior shoreline near the end of the North Shore scenic drive. In town, you’ll find an exciting art community, traditional crafts, and local restaurants.
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 scenic attractions is the Grand Marais Lighthouse in Grand Marais Harbor. You can access miles of hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing trails outside the town.
Of course, there are plenty of water-based activities in Grand Marais, 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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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.