Before I’d ever visited Superior, Wisconsin, I pictured the city as cold and probably rather dull.
Wow, was I ever wrong! Superior is a beautiful, vibrant town packed with fun activities throughout the year. This former shipping center on Lake Superior is now home to national parks, campgrounds, notable history museums and historic sites, mini-golf courses, and more.
The city of Superior is located in northern Wisconsin and on the west side of Lake Superior. It’s about a 10-minute drive from Duluth, Minnesota and you can even enjoy some biking and hiking trails between the two. Here’s a closer look at the best fun things to do in Superior, Wisconsin.
Fun & Best Things to Do in Superior, WI
1. Wisconsin Point
Wisconsin Point is a great spot to visit if you want to hang out, breathe in the fresh air, and check out some beautiful views of Lake Superior. It’s one of the largest freshwater sandbars in the world (another is right across the state line in Minnesota).
The Point is a 229-acre natural peninsula with almost three miles of beach. It’s a fantastic beach for strolling and swimming, and you’ll spot all kinds of birds and waterfowl.
Have you ever seen a working lighthouse before? The Wisconsin Point Lighthouse sits on a 10-mile sandbar where it guides water traffic safely through a split in the sandbar connecting Wisconsin Point with Minnesota Point on the other side.
You’ll also find a historical marker designated a sacred Chippewa burial ground. In the 17th Century, the Fond du Lac Tribe (of Chippewa) used the site as a burial ground.
Today, the site is covered in feathers, beads, cigarettes, and other small valuables – but it’s not litter – the items are a tribute to the ancient people.
2. Pattison State Park
Pattison State Park is another place in Superior to experience the Great Outdoors. It’s a 1,400-acre park with a bit of everything – a lake, beach, hiking trails, camping spots, and several towering waterfalls. Big Manitou Falls is 165 feet high, and Twin Little Manitou Falls is 31 feet tall.
The park has some of the most “superior” camping around. There are 58 standard campsites, including 18 with electrical hookups. You can find tables, fire pits, and bathroom facilities on most standard sites. If you want to camp somewhere more private, you can find a few backpacking sites about a mile from a parking lot.
No matter what time of year you visit Pattison, you’ll find plenty of fun. In the winter, you can ski along five and a half miles of cross-country trails. They also have an informal network of snowshoeing trails.
When the weather’s warmer, you can hunt, hike, picnic, and swim. The main swimming area is Interfalls Lake, a 27-acre lake with a mean depth of seven feet. The 300-foot sand beach has a bathhouse, picnic area, and plenty of places to soak in the sun.
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3. SS Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum
Come tour the SS Meteor, which is the last existing Whaleback ship in the world. A Whaleback is a cargo steamship formerly used to carry grain and ore throughout the Great Lakes, recognizable for its unusual, curved hulls.
The SS Meteor was built in Superior and designed by Captain Alexander McDougall. It sailed under three names before land-berthing on Barker’s Island in 1972.
Guided tours take you throughout the entire ship, from the pilothouse to the cargo holds. You’ll learn about its unique features and the role it played in the history of the Lake Superior area. Note that the ship isn’t necessarily for easy access. You’ll need to climb ladders and navigate tight stairways. Shoes and pants (as opposed to sandals and dresses) are strongly encouraged!
Aside from the guided tours, an exhibit is also available with displays on Great Lakes shipwrecks and shipbuilding. Tickets for the tour and exhibit together are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6 for kids.
If you’re not interested in the tour, tickets for the exhibit only are $5 for each person.
See Related: Best Things to do in Duluth, MN
4. World of Wheels Skate Center
The World of Wheels Skate Center is a roller rink, video arcade, and family-fun center. It’s in the city of Superior on Oakes Avenue, just a few blocks west of the University of Wisconsin – Superior.
I recommend the Wow Skate Center for all-ages family activities such as birthdays, graduations, and other get-togethers. The place has a fun, old-fashioned style while still looking clean and modern.
Head over on Friday night between five and eight for the Super Glow Skate Party. You’re encouraged to wear your brightest neon clothing, and all guests receive a free glow-in-the-dark light stick.
They regularly hold other theme nights, including Christian Music Family Skate, Home School Skate Night, and even a Noon Year’s Eve Skate Party for the kids. Child-free folks can enjoy the rink for 18+ Adult Skate every Wednesday and Friday evening.
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5. Capt’n J’s Miniature Golf
Hit the links at Capt’n J’s Miniature Golf, a fun and family-friendly mini-golf course beloved by locals and visitors alike since 1982. It’s an 18-hole course located on Barker’s Island, a small island off the city’s east side (near Fairlawn Mansion). As you golf, you’ll enjoy beautiful Lake Superior and Superior Bay views.
Don’t worry if you’re not a pro, as the course is perfect for all skill levels and ages. Your kids will love the volcano hole. It’s a creative, well-designed prop with four ridges to navigate.
Capt’n J’s is open from May through October. Their hours are from one in the afternoon until nine at night on weekdays and 11 am until 10 pm on Friday. They’re a tourist-based business, which means they sometimes stay open later if the place is busy.
Aside from the golf course, you can also enjoy snacks at Capt’n J’s snack bar. If you go golfing on Wednesdays during the summer, you can enjoy the music of the Bayside Sounds Concert Series while you play.
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6. Barker’s Beach
Capt’n Jack’s isn’t the only attraction on Barker’s Island. Barker’s Beach, also located on the Island, is one of the most popular beaches in Superior. It’s a 6.74-acre recreational area with over 1,400 feet of Lake Superior shoreline.
In 2019, the Barker’s Island Beach Restoration Project was completed, and now the beach looks better than ever. The new additions include vegetation to help keep the water clean and an elevated boardwalk to replace the old asphalt path.
The beach offers plenty of opportunities for fun, including swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. Many people prefer swimming at Barker’s Beach instead of Wisconsin Point, as the water here is generally warmer. However, the undertow at Barker’s can get pretty intense, so children shouldn’t swim unsupervised.
Are you a fan of fishing? Locals recommend heading to the shoreline next to the nearby railroad tracks.
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7. Osaugie Trail
The Osaugie Trail is a five-mile trail that winds along Superior Bay, passing many other notable locations such as the SS Meteor, Barker’s Island, and the Burlington Ore Dock. The Richard I Bong Veterans Hospital Center is on the western end of the trail, and pedestrians and cyclists have access to Wisconsin Point on the east.
The trail has an asphalt surface with wooden bridges built atop old railroad ties. It’s mainly used for walking, running, and biking. Dogs are allowed on the Osaugie as long as they stay on their leash.
If you want to park nearby, a lot is available on Barker’s Island at 18th Avenue East and East 2nd Avenue. I recommend parking in the lot and then using the trail to visit other popular attractions. Make sure to pack some snacks to enjoy along the way!
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8. Old Firehouse and Police Museum
You can find this charming museum at the intersection of East 23rd Avenue and East 4th Street. It’s a two-story brick building that houses fire trucks, buggies, and other fascinating memorabilia. Plus, the museum includes the State of Wisconsin Police and Fire Hall of Fame.
The building was originally a Fire Hall, built in 1898 as an earlier version of a modern fire station. It held five horse-drawn rigs and a steamer, a steam-powered fire engine introduced in the early 1900s.
Today, some of the vehicles you can check out include:
- Horse-drawn buggies from the 19th Century
- A 1906 Ahrens Steam Pumper
- A 1919 LaFrance Ladder Truck
- A 1944 L Model Mack
You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the awesomeness of these old-timey vehicles and the brave professionals who operated them. There’s a self-guided tour with plenty of interesting and informative signage about each exhibit. The tour takes about 45 minutes.
With free admittance (although a small donation is appreciated), the Old Firehouse and Police Museum is a great destination for families, history buffs, and fans of the fire department.
9. Lake Superior Zoo
Lake Superior Zoo is a local favorite! It’s the 19th oldest zoo in the US and the only zoo in Northeastern Minnesota or Northwestern Wisconsin.
The zoo’s size is impressive. It sits on 19 acres of woods, hillsides, and waterways, including Kingsbury Creek. You’ll find a wide variety of remarkable animals, including bears, camels, lambs, goats, and more. They have themed sections. For example, you can explore the Australian Tower and the Primate Conservation Institute.
You’ll never believe how this zoo got its start. Bert Onsgard, a businessman from West Duluth, wanted a space to keep his pet deer, “Billy.” People in town liked the idea and contributed fencing and animals of their own, including two lion cubs that school children raised money to buy.
They also have fun and educational programs of all types. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour that will make you appreciate zoos in a whole new way. They also have field trip programs, virtual tours, and the Zoomobile, which brings animals and entertainment to schools and other group functions.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Green Bay, Wisconsin
10. Fairlawn Museum
People often refer to the Fairlawn Museum as an American Castle. It’s a three-story, 42-room Queen Anne Victorian house. Today, it’s open to public tours, so you can check out what life was like for the crème de crème of Superior society in the 1900s.
Martin Pattison, a lumber and mining baron, built the home for his family in 1891 at the cost of $150,000 (about $3 million today). In 1920, the Pattisons left the mansion, and it became a home for orphans and other less-fortunate children until 1962.
Visitors can stroll the grounds and explore the fully-restored interior of the mansion. The first floor features the original marble fireplaces and stained glass windows, the second recreates how the house looked during the Pattison residency, and the third is a museum dedicated to the Children’s Home era.
If you’re a bit apprehensive about visiting, don’t be! It’s an incredible experience, just like stepping back into time.
11. Great Northern Classic Rodeo
If you’re in Superior during Labor Day weekend, you’ve got to ride on down to the Great Northern Classic Rodeo. It’s an MRA/URA professional rodeo with fun for the whole family.
If you’ve never been to a professional rodeo before, here’s what you can expect:
- Bareback riding
- Barrel racing
- Steer wrestling
- Bronc riding
- Calf roping
Aside from the events, you’ll find all your favorite fair foods, children’s games, and vendors. The rodeo occurs at the Head of the Lakes Fair, found on Tower Road near the Richard I Bong Airport.
See Related: Best Hotels in Duluth, Minnesota
12. Superior Hiking Trail
Known to locals as the SHT (yes, really, get your mind out of the gutter), the Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile hiking trail that follows the coastline of Lake Superior. Whether you hike the entire length of the trail or just a small part, you’ll be amazed at the natural beauty. You’ll encounter forests, brooks, waterfalls, wildlife, and more.
The trail has two sections. The first 50 miles is referred to as the Duluth Section. It starts at the Minnesota/Wisconsin border and extends northeast to the city’s north side, near Martin Road. The Duluth section is mainly used for day hiking, as it only has one backcountry campground.
The North Shore section is much longer. It’s a 260-mile trail that runs from Duluth through seven state parks, including Gooseberry and Split Rock Lighthouse. Ninety-three backcountry camping sites are available along the North Shore section.
If you really want to push yourself, sign up for the Superior 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon held since 1991.
13. The Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center
Wisconsin natives likely already know the story of Major Richard I Bong, the WWII flying ace who flew over 200 missions and downed 40 enemy planes. The Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center celebrates this local legend and all WWII veterans.
The self-guided tour includes a trove of fascinating information on Bong, WWII aircraft, and more. They also offer guided tours, including a Cool Stuff Tour that takes you behind the scenes to check out all the memorabilia they’re preparing for future displays.
While the museum has loads of great exhibits, there are two clear standouts: the fully restored P-38 Lightning airplane and the M-60 Tank. The P-38 is the type of plane Bong flew in the war. Being able to check out a real plane helped the stories about this heroic pilot really come alive!
Aside from tours for the general public, the Center also offers tours for schools and other groups. If you’re by yourself or with your family, you likely won’t have an issue simply walking in and taking a tour. However, if you’re part of a larger group, you might want to make a reservation.
14. Tri-County Corridor Trail
Locals know the Tri-County Corridor Trail is one of Wisconsin’s best places for UTV/ATV riding. It’s a 60-mile trail that connects the eastern edge of Superior to the Osaugie Trail.
The trail is a former railbed with a crushed limestone surface. Aside from ATV users, the Trail is also popular in the winter among snowmobilers.
You’ll find plenty of attractions and amenities along the way, including Brule River, Iron River, and Amnicon Falls State Park. Many motels, restaurants, and bars are just off the trail.
Be sure to park your trailer in the parking lot at Bear Creek Park near the start of Moccasin Mike Road. It’s a large area where you’re allowed to leave your trailer while you ride your ATV, UTV, or snowmobile.
15. Duluth Children’s Museum
The Duluth Children’s Museum allows you to “give the gift of play.” It’s just north of Saint Louis Bay on West Superior Street near South 29th Avenue. You can’t miss the giant Thomas the Train Engine train that travels around the building.
The museum is full of fun activities for kids up to ten years old. They can climb on the indoor jungle gym, play with art activities, and more. Special on-site programs, facilitated by staff, are also available, including the following:
- NASA Space Curriculum
- Bubbles: Science and Inquiry
- Spiders and Bugs
- Build It With Imagination Playground
They also offer rotating monthly workshops. Each focuses on hands-on learning.
While the museum is definitely educational, it’s also an active environment that’s the perfect place for little ones to burn off some energy. If the weather keeps you from heading outdoors for the day, head here to enjoy some indoor fun.
16. Gooseberry Falls State Park
On the North Shore of Lake Superior, you’ll find Gooseberry Falls State Park, home to abundant wildlife, scenic trails, and the beautiful Upper Gooseberry Falls.
The area was designated an official state park in 1937, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built most of the structures. You’ll instantly recognize them due to their stone construction and red, blue, and brown colors.
Camping, hiking, and picnicking are popular here. Over 70 campsites are available year-round, along with 18 miles of hiking trails.
There are also eight miles of mountain biking trails, including a newly-paved section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, which means you can now ride a bike from Gooseberry to Silver Bay.
One of the best aspects of Gooseberry Falls State Park is that you don’t have to hike for miles to see the falls. Everything is a quick walk from the visitor center.
Additionally, when the weather outside is dry, you can step onto the dried lava in the riverbeds (of course, only do this where it’s permitted).
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA
17. Superior Skate Park
When you or the kids are in the mood to shred, head over to this excellent skate park. The Superior Skate Park has an impressive collection of ramps, rails, pipes, and more.
It’s not just for skateboarders and in-line skaters. BMX riders are welcome, too, provided they yield to all others.
The park is a source of pride in the community, and all users are requested to keep the place clean and act in a family-friendly way.
Another tip for out-of-towners is to note that the park closes at 10 pm when a timer automatically shuts the gates. While you won’t wind up trapped inside the skatepark all night, motion lights will go off, which could be pretty embarrassing!
18. Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark
Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark is a large indoor family fun center located in Duluth, featuring an indoor water park, arcade, outdoor play area, and more. You also have easy access to the shops and restaurants in the city’s Lakewalk.
The main attraction here is The Edge, their 35,000 square-foot waterpark. It’s got something for everyone, including:
- The Tiki Thriller – A four-and-a-half story body slide with twists, turns, and even moments of total darkness.
- Paradise Playground – A special spot with a slide and a pool suitable for young kids
- The Tiki Tumbler – Two riders can take a tube ride down a giant water slide.
- The Vortex – Minnesota’s first vortex pool allows you to swim with or against a fast-current
When you’re hungry, check out Tiki Tom’s Oasis and Grill, home of family-friendly fare such as burgers, breakfast burritos, pizza, and much more.
You can eat in the dining room or have the food delivered to your room. It is an ideal weekend getaway spot.
19. Enger Tower Park and Gardens
If you’re looking for some of the best views in Duluth and Superior, head over (and up) to the Enger Tower Park and Gardens. The area features several gorgeous botanical gardens plus an 80-foot tower that provides stunning vistas in every direction.
The Gardens include the Peace Bell Tower, a gift from Duluth’s Japanese sister city, plus hundreds of plants and flowers, including over 200 perennials. It’s a popular place for weddings, family get-togethers, or just hanging out.
There are multiple walking paths throughout the park, including ones with wood chips, asphalt, and gravel surfaces. Also, if you’re interested in a longer hike, the Superior Hiking Trail runs through the park. The trail follows the ridge above Skyline Drive, providing more incredible views.
While Enger Tower Park is always beautiful, the best times to visit are in the spring or summer. In spring, the daffodils are in bloom, while in the summer, you’ll see the most diverse range of plants. No matter when you visit, you’ll always find free parking right at the park entrance.
20. A World of Accordions Museum
I had no idea the accordion was so interesting! The World of Accordions Museum is one of the biggest and most comprehensive accordion museums in the world. They have over 130 displays featuring more than 1,300 different accordions.
Of course, what’s an accordion museum if you can’t hear the instrument played live? The Museum also contains the Hanni Strahl Concert Hall, a 1,000-seat performing space that has hosted the world’s greatest accordion players.
There are several types of tours. You can take a self-guided tour ($10), a curator-guided tour ($20), or a tour with musical instrument demonstrations (also $20). Both the curator and instrument tours are well worth the money, especially if you’re not familiar with the accordion.
You’ll find the World of Accordions Museum in downtown Superior near Hammond Avenue and Belknap Street.
21. Superior Dragon Boat Festival
One of the best events in Superior is also one of the most unexpected. The Superior Dragon Boat Festival is an annual fundraising event sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of both Superior and Duluth. Each year draws approximately 100 teams as well as thousands of attendees.
If you’re never seen a Dragon Boat race before, you’re in for a show. They’re long, wooden watercraft powered by a team of 22 paddlers, a drummer, and a steer person. Each race combines loud drums, vibrant decorations, and fast speeds.
Races are divided into heats, so they run throughout the day. Many attendees bring tents, food, and other amenities so they can hang out lakeside. The Festival also has tons of food stalls from local vendors, featuring family-friendly comfort foods like burgers and snacks.
While the Festival is tons of fun, it’s also much more. The money raised by the Rotary Clubs funds essential local causes and charities. Attendance is free if you want to watch the races, as the money raised for charity comes from donations.
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