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The Midwest: Nature’s Playground

Courtesy Visit Duluth

Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth sits on the far western tip of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in North America.
Vista Fleet offers narrated sightseeing and dinner cruises on the Vista Star, which can hold up to 300 people, and the smaller, 75-passenger Vista Queen. Cruises showcase the history and scenery of the Duluth Harbor and provide panoramic views of the North Shore. Customized cruises and charters are available, and groups of 20 or more can get discounts.

When skiing and snowboarding aren’t options at Spirit Mountain, visitors can check out year-round attractions at Spirit Mountain Adventure Park, which include the Timber Flyer zip line and the Timber Twister alpine coaster, “which is kind of like a mini roller-coaster cart on rails,” said Gene Shaw, director of public relations for Visit Duluth.

Spirit Mountain also just renovated a chair lift to allow people to bring their mountain bikes with them to the top of the hill, so there’s “none of this pedaling uphill stuff,” he said with a laugh.

Starting this summer, Duluth Glides will offer Segway sightseeing tours along the city’s Lakewalk, and in May, North Shore SUP started stand-up paddle-boarding classes and rentals on Lake Superior.

The city’s charter boat fleet works together to take groups of 20 to 30 people fishing for Lake trout and Coho salmon, Shaw said.

An easy day trip includes visits to Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse state parks. At Gooseberry Falls, tea-colored water cascades down about 500 feet through a series of waterfalls before reaching the lake.

Just six miles north of Gooseberry Falls is Split Rock Lighthouse. A fierce storm in 1905 damaged 29 ships on Lake Superior and prompted construction of the lighthouse, which was completed in 1910. The lighthouse, which has been restored to its 1920s appearance, and the grounds are open for tours. Because the park is part of the Minnesota Historical Society, most of the employees are in period costume.

“If you’re adventurous, you can even pull a rope and blow the foghorn,” Shaw said.