If Duluth feels like home,
it's because it could be.

#befromDuluth

Hansi Johnson

Mission

Destination Duluth is a collaborative online resource dedicated to educating and inspiring the
public about the beauty of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the City's positive growth.

Destination Duluth: Accomplishing our mission

Dennis O'Hara

 

At Destination Duluth, our mission is simple:

We want to grow Duluth.

Many folks, “weekend warriors” if you will, travel to our fine city to escape long commutes, rush hour traffic, and suburban sprawl. They arrive as tourists, spending a weekend or two hiking our magnificent trails, catching a live musical performance, or sipping one of Duluth’s locally crafted beers or spirits.

Perhaps over the course of a single weekend they intuit what we locals have always known --- that Duluth is a treasure, a sparkling jewel in the crown of Minnesota’s Great Northwoods. From the deep azure mystery and inherent adventure found in Lake Superior to our world class arts and cultural scene, Duluth simply has it all.

Fully rested and rejuvenated, many visitors discover that their hearts belong in Duluth, and never want to leave this magical place. Have you had this feeling? Have you felt drawn to our city? Have you considered making Duluth your home?

Our goal is to help you do that.

Enter Destination Duluth

Co-founded in 2013 by resident Duluthians Branden Robinson, Christopher Swanson, and Tom Livingston, “Destination Duluth was created to fill the need of educating the public about the qualities of Duluth as a ‘destination for life,’” Livingston shares.

Robinson echoes this intent, adding, “We believe Duluth to be a world-class community, thanks to its natural, social and economic assets.”

Simply put, Destination Duluth is here to showcase all of the amazing things that make Duluth … well, Duluth. It's a phenomenal place to live, and we want to share it with the world. Through a wealth of stories written by local residents and accompanied by amazing photography, we hope to inspire you to become a Duluthian yourself.

How Destination Duluth Can Help You Come Home

With an abundance of great jobs, a healthy work-life balance, and natural beauty to spare, we are ready to achieve our mission of recruiting the next generation of Duluthians --- which could include you. Here are three ways we can help as you contemplate following your heart home to Duluth.

Step 1 Spend some time perusing this website and our Facebook pageDestination Duluth is chock full of stories such as “Why We Live Here,” along with insider information about Duluth’s parks and recreational opportunities, thriving arts scene, burgeoning reputation as a craft beer mecca, and more. Here, you’ll find many reasons why we love living here, and think you will, too.

We’ll also share event details, tips for navigating the city, and secrets only a local could tell you. And, there are photos, loads of spectacular photos, highlighting Duluth in all its glory.

Step 2 Wondering if a life-changing move is really viable? We share success stories, proving that it is definitely possible to take the plunge and relocate. We hope to inspire you through features like “Coming Home,” which highlight stories of people who have already taken the leap and relocated to Duluth, and are living a life they love.

Step 3 And when you are ready to make your move, you’ll find here at Destination Duluth great local resources. This is where you’ll find guidance on the nitty-gritty details of moving here, including job-hunting, home-buying, outdoor adventures, activities for kids, and plenty more.

Duluth’s Future and You

We at Destination Duluth truly believe that Duluth’s best and brightest days are ahead. And we want you to join us here while the rest of the world catches up.   

“Duluth has a wonderful history which must be remembered and celebrated,” Robinson shares. “But there is a new chapter unfolding before us, one that celebrates the past, yet embraces opportunities for the future. The first step is welcoming and encouraging people to plant their roots right here in the Zenith City.”

Duluth can definitely be a destination for life --- YOUR destination for life.

Are you ready to #befromDuluth?

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Whatever Your Career Aspirations, This Organization Can Help

https://www.northforce.org/

 

Ah, work. Whether you love it or loathe it, earning money is just one of those things you gotta do. While many of us dread the daily grind, work becomes much more bearable when you’re doing something you’re good at, or, dare I say, actually enjoy.

Today, we’ll introduce you to NORTHFORCE – a regional workforce development organization helping people become happily employed in the Northland. Whether you’re relocating to Duluth, or are a long-time resident looking for a new gig, NORTHFORCE can help match you with your perfect career.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Developed and managed by APEX and Northspan economic development groups, NORTHFORCE is a regional workforce development initiative that officially launched in February 2014. Ian Vincent - Marketing Coordinator for NORTHFORCE, shares, “With our aging population and growing economy, it was apparent that our communities needed help filling the 25,000 new jobs that will exist here over the next decade.”

NORTHFORCE tracks and posts career and internship opportunities in the region, including the North Shore of Minnesota, the Iron Range, the Twin Ports, and Northwestern Wisconsin. Along with hosting these career opportunities, they also match candidates in their database with these jobs.

Since its inception, NORTHFORCE has attracted 4,200 users, and celebrated 120 successful job placements. Individuals interested in being matched or kept up-to-date with opportunities in their desired field can create free profiles and upload resumes at northforce.org.

Help for Duluth Transplants

NORTHFORCE offers a wide range of services for anyone looking to live and work in Duluth and the surrounding region. Communication Specialist Josie Strom shares, “Some people hop on our website to create a profile, upload their resume, and find the perfect job for them based on factors such as their areas of interest or how far they want to commute each day.”

“Others,” she continues, “Would like a second set of eyes to glance over their resume, or are new to the area and need an introduction to a specific Duluth company. No matter what a job seeker’s needs are, we can help them - or at least point them in the right direction.”

Partnerships with Local Colleges

NORTH FORCE is also dedicated to recent graduates and young professional placement and retention. While maintaining close relationships with regional college and university career service counselors, the team has played a key role in the Lake Superior College Strategic Planning sessions, regularly presented to college classes, and continued to advocate for internship opportunities for regional students and grads.

NORTHFORCE’s latest endeavor, Mentor Connection, has been among its most successful. A partnership with the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica, the program is flourishing. With over 55 industry-specific pairs of college students matched with local professionals, these mentees and mentors participate in events dedicated to building the mentees’ professional networking skills and personal connections to the community. Mentors also gain coaching and leadership skills along the way.

Tips for Landing Your Perfect Job

“When we hear about success stories,” Strom says, “A common thread seems to be that the person landed the job because they really researched the place where they wanted to work before they applied. Make it clear during the interview why you ARE (not would be, not might be) a great fit for that specific organization. If you’re enthusiastic and can really visualize yourself in a specific role, your interviewer will have a hard time giving the job to anyone else.”

“And, when it comes to landing that interview in the first place, be sure your resume is tailored and flawless (especially spelling and grammar) before you apply. A simple oversight can cost you the job, even if you’re completely qualified.”

Whether your perfect job is a 9-5 with full bennies, or a freelance gig with funky perks, consider checking out NORTHFORCE - Duluth’s matchmaker for jobs!

To learn more, create a free profile, or upload your resume, please visit northforce.org.

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Glensheen - A community space for Duluthians to enjoy

Joe Fairbanks

 

Video by joefairbanks.com

Glensheen Mansion 

Keeping it Fresh 

for Visitors and Residents Alike

By Andrea Busche - Video by Joe Fairbanks

Glensheen Mansion, located at 3300 London Road in Duluth, is truly a sight to behold. Constructed in the Jacobean revival architectural style - a type of English Tudor - the house was built over the span of three years: from 1905 – 1908. Upon its completion, Glensheen became home to one of Minnesota’s, and certainly Duluth’s, wealthiest men – attorney and capitalist, Chester Congdon.

Although today it is known as a “historic house museum,” Glensheen was the private home to Chester and Clara Congdon and their family for many years, until it was donated to the University of Minnesota in 1979. The home is available year-round to the public for tours and other events.

While Glensheen has been a tourist destination for many decades, a primary goal of current leadership is to continue drawing in local residents, too. To accomplish this goal, there are many fresh initiatives at Glensheen, including outdoor concerts, dining adventures, hiking, a new bar, botanical gardens, and more – all to help remind native Duluthians of this amazing gem, located right in our own backyard.

Not Just for Grandmas!

Glensheen features 27,000 square feet of living space, a gardener’s cottage, a boathouse, and many stunning gardens - all set on twelve gorgeous acres. “Glensheen is a 12-acre estate on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s the nicest piece of property on the Lake in Duluth,” said Dan Hartman, Glensheen’s Director.

It also contains many beautiful and interesting antiques, which were privately owned and used by the Congdons while they lived in the home. “We are fortunate that more than 95% of the collection is from the family and most is from when the house was built over a hundred years ago,” Hartman said.

With all of these amazing amenities to see and explore, Glensheen has never had trouble attracting tourists. But many Duluthians believe that if they’ve visited once, they’ve seen it all.

“There’s something built into the brand of House Museums that make them sound immediately - like something for your grandmother,” Hartman admitted. “But we are trying to fight back on that notion – this is an amazing place, and I’m excited for us at Glensheen to continue to find new ways to flip that idea on people.”

Food and Drink

To achieve this goal, Hartman and his crew have plenty of ideas. Primarily, they include leveraging Glensheen’s amazing grounds.

Nestled between Tischer Creek, Bent Brook, and Lake Superior, Glensheen is an amazing place to simply hang out. Their Concerts on the Pier series, where visitors can chill on the Lake’s edge while enjoying a local beer and listening to live tunes, is a fun, newer initiative which is very popular.

Hartman also revealed plans to open a bar on-site, to be called Shark on the Lake. And, “Chef in the Garden,” an event where local chefs pluck and cook up fresh produce right from Glensheen’s grounds, is about as farm-to-table as it gets.

Flora and Fauna

If music and beer aren’t your speed, perhaps the flora and fauna will draw you in. Currently, the French and English-style gardens on Glensheen’s grounds feature a wide variety of plants, featuring many local varietals, but a bit of global-inspired greenery, too, such as Japanese and Chinese Lilac. But Hartman hopes to add even more.

“Chester Congdon gave land to the City to create Congdon Park,” Hartman said. “My vision is to someday bring back the old hiking trail that was on both sides of Tischer Creek and have it directly connect to Congdon Park. That way, the community of Duluth could go right into the park and be able to hike to the mouth of the Tischer Creek, right on the property of Glensheen.”

“The second phase would be to create a botanical garden,” he added. “So, when people walk that trail, there would be a wide variety of flora and fauna that we would maintain and plant. Maybe a stand of lady slippers, and some yellow orchids. Just a wide variety of northern climate flowers and plants that we would ID and tag – it would feel like a botanical space that is open to the public to enjoy and be educated by.”

Brand-New Tour

Other initiatives, perhaps appealing more to Glensheen traditionalists (or your grandmother), will include a “New Spaces Tour”. This guided journey will offer access to previously-unseen nooks within Glensheen, such as Clara’s balcony, the carriage house attic, and the boathouse.

Welcome, Duluthians

While Hartman gladly welcomes tourists, and is grateful for their continued patronage of Glensheen, he also has a direct message to share with his fellow Duluthians:

“This is your space – this is your community space,” he said. “It used to be owned by the wealthiest family in Duluth, if not Minnesota, and now it’s yours. Come and enjoy it.”

 

 

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Home Buying, Duluth-Style

Anna Hansmeyer

 

So, you’ve finally decided to join us, and #befromDuluth? Excellent choice! Buying a home here automatically gives you some skin in the game, ensuring a deep personal and financial investment in this amazing community.

Today, we talk to local Re/Max real estate agent Brok Hansmeyer. With over ten years’ experience as an agent and a Duluthian himself, Hansmeyer is a great resource for home buying in the Zenith City. He fills us in on some unique facts and figures to keep in mind when purchasing your own little slice of paradise … right here in Duluth!

Old Stock

Hansmeyer shares that many of Duluth’s homes are old. We’re talking early 1900’s, and sometimes even late 1800’s. But, that’s one of the things Duluthians love most.

“Duluth has a super old housing stock,” Hansmeyer says. “Most of the houses here are three bedroom traditionals, with hardwood floors and loads of character. There are certainly brand-new homes, but that generally means a price tag of $300,000+, which is on the higher side of sale prices for this area.”

While this vintage aesthetic often clashes with the modern trends shown on HGTV, such as open floor plans and massive kitchens, it’s classic Duluth. If you’re into old-school character and charm, Duluth is a goldmine of opportunity. You can snap up a fixer upper special on the cheap, renovate it up yourself, and live happily ever after in your neighborhood of choice. 

And, speaking of neighborhoods …

East Side, West Side, Lakeside, Hillside

Duluth has an interesting layout, with each part of town offering its own unique appeal. Stretching from Fond du Lac and Gary out west to Lakeside and Lester Park in the east, Duluth also spans both up and downhill.

The hillside is sprinkled with Piedmont and the Heights, cascading sharply downtown, finally landing on the sandy shores of Park Point. Our city has even been referred to as the “San Francisco of the Midwest” due to its unique water-to-hilltop topography.

While Lakeside, Woodland, Chester Park, Congdon, Hunter’s Park and Kenwood are pretty much always booming, there are plenty of other cool neighborhoods on the rise. “Right now, there is a lot of buzz about Lincoln Park, with its new craft district,” Hansmeyer says. “If I were to bet on the most revitalization and potential for increase in value over the next ten years, it’d be Lincoln Park.”

Neighborhood Attractions

How can you possibly pick a favorite, when they’re ALL so amazing?! At Destination Duluth, we love them all, but here are some specific enticements to keep in mind.

Duluth’s Far West neighborhoods (Norton Park, Gary, Smithville, and Fond du Lac) are attractive due to their accessibility to the St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park, and the Munger Trail. The Lake Superior Zoo is also found on the West side.

Lakeside, Lester Park and Congdon out East all provide super convenient access to the Lakewalk, Brighton Beach, Seven Bridges Road, Tischer Creek and Lester Park.

Piedmont and the Heights are known for their amazing views of the hillside and the Big Lake. Think amazing sunrises and sunsets.

And on Park Point, life is literally a beach! Enough said.

All provide quick access to the excitement of downtown or a spin up the hill to run some errands.

Prices

As of this writing, you can buy a quality home in Duluth for anywhere from $100k to well over a million bucks. Lakeside homes, for instance, range from about $125,000 to $240,000, with higher price points in the Hawk Ridge development.

In Chester Park, $110,000 to $160,000 will get you a solid three bedroom, one bath traditional. And, in Woodland, the range is about $150,000 - $225,000.

Resources

Hansmeyer shares that his favorite resources for Duluth real estate include Realtor.com, Trulia.com, and Zillow, featuring the trendy value-tracking “Zillow Zestimate.” Agentfinder.com is a great referral-based site to help you find an agent.

Bottom line: no matter what neighborhood you’re considering, you’re golden. “Duluth is so accessible,” Hansmeyer says. “You can get downtown to work or play within about ten or fifteen minutes, whether you’re coming from Denfeld, Lakeside, or over the hill.” Duluth is filled with great neighborhoods! 

Your New City: By the Numbers 

Your area code: (218)

Your zip code: 55802, 55803, 55804, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55810, 55811, or 55812

Your Mayor: Emily Larson

Your Time Zone: CST

Duluth population: 86,283

Duluth record temps: -41 and 93

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How To Follow Your Passion: Read, Research, and Move to Duluth

Kevin Wood

“Duluth, MN -- America's Best Outdoor City in 2014” was the headline I read in an issue of Outside magazine. Usually, people read these articles and just think, "Oh, that’s nice. There is a city in Minnesota that is number 1. I should think about making a trip up there to visit." You never really think about moving to a new city because of an article you read in a magazine.

Yet the notion of “America’s Best Outdoor City” left an impression on me, as I love spending time outdoors. It is my passion. It is what I love to do.

My name is Kevin Wood, and until September 2015 my wife, Katie, and I were living in Winona, MN. We were both teaching there. I taught career exploration along with health classes at a public high school, and Katie taught 1st grade.  

You Want to Do What?!?! 

Life threw a curve ball at us when I decided I wanted to leave the security of a full-time job as an educator in a school that I enjoyed in order to pursue a career in financial advising. Crazy!!!! I know. 

But, I missed the business world. I used to own an exterior painting business in college and I missed the excitement of growing a business and meeting new people. It is a thrilling experience to be a part of a service that can benefit a community. 

Choosing a Community 

All of a sudden we were faced with an imminent decision: where do we want to make our home?  

We thought critically about this question. What city would be most attractive to live in, to start a family, to find a church and eventually establish us as part of the community? The story from Outside magazine reappeared in my mind. Although I wasn’t completely convinced this was our journey's end just yet. I felt as though I had to do some research to solidify my thoughts.  

So, I did what any good millennial would do and ran a full-fledged Google search on Duluth, MN. I read about the remarkable goal to build 100 miles of continuous trail within city limits known as the Duluth Traverse.  I researched the Duluth school district and learned it ranked higher than most other Minnesota schools.  Last but not least, I learned that Duluth has more green space within city limits than any other city. All three were huge draws to come and live in the Zenith City, and thus finally after much deliberation, we made the decision --- Duluth is the place to be! 

Did We Make the Right Decision? 

Ever since moving in September 2015 we have only questioned our decision one time, and that was when a city squirrel ate the potted avocado tree off the front porch of our central hillside apartment. Inconsiderate city squirrels aside, Duluth has been an amazing city to live in these past few years. We have met incredible people and have participated in various community events such as the Northland Trail SeriesDuluth Farmers Market, and the Christmas City of the North Parade. 

We couldn’t be happier about making the move to Duluth. It is a new life adventure that only seems to get better and better as times goes on.

---Kevin Wood
Edward Jones Financial Advisor

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Living at Split Rock Lighthouse

Dennis O'Hara

Split Rock Lighthouse - Come for the View, Stay for the Story

Video by joefairbanks.com

 

For Hayes Scriven, Split Rock Lighthouse isn’t just where he reports for work. It is also his home.

Scriven, a self-professed “history geek,” considers his new job as site manager to be a dream job. It blends his love of history with his other passion – the enjoyment and appreciation of nature.

“My family loves kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hunting, and now we live in a place where we can do that all the time,” Scriven said. “Tie that in with the history aspect, and add the aura and status of Split Rock, and it’s the perfect dream location.”

In an interesting “full circle” turn of events, Split Rock is also the place where Scriven proposed to his wife, Jenny - years before they would make the site their home. Recently, Scriven moved his family, which now includes Jenny and their two children, Aneliese (12), and Devin (9), directly on-site.

The move has been a good one; highly enjoyable for the entire Scriven family, and a great fit for the management and care of Split Rock Lighthouse.

Previous experience

Prior to his new position, Scriven, who grew up in Nerstrand, Minnesota (just outside of Northfield), served as Executive Director for the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center (BVHC) in Superior. And before that, he was the executive director of the Northfield Historical Society, a job he began at just 22 years old.

But Minnesota’s North Shore has always beckoned. “My wife and I are big outdoor people,” he said. “We’d come up the Shore, and it always had a spot in our hearts.” And, when speaking about Lake Superior, he noted, “There’s this magic behind it. It has this pull you can’t get away from.”

Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse, perched on a ruggedly beautiful 160-foot cliff, is a huge tourist draw, bringing in a whopping 150,000 visitors in a typical year. In addition to the actual lighthouse, the property also includes Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, featuring a lakeshore picnic area, trail center, tent camping, and 14 miles of hiking, biking, snowshoe, and cross-country ski trails.

The history of the lighthouse itself is rich and intriguing, indeed. On November 28, 1905, a single storm-damaged 29 ships on Lake Superior. Soon after, a delegation descended upon Washington, D.C. to lobby for a lighthouse.

Originally known as Stony Point, the name Split Rock was first used by the lobbyists when describing the location, and, ultimately, the name stuck. In early 1907, Congress appropriated $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal at Split Rock. The U.S. Lighthouse Service completed the construction of the 7.6-acre facility in 1910.

The lighthouse remained operational for many years. But, as new navigational technology, including GPS, began to emerge, the use of the lighthouse as a navigational tool declined. Split Rock Light Station was closed in 1969.

The State of Minnesota obtained the site in 1971 and transferred administrative responsibility to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1976. The Historical Society continues to manage the site, and is also Scriven’s employer.

Future

Similar to many destinations, Split Rock had to alter operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The site was completely shut down from March to July. Today, the site remains affected, as tours remain outdoor-only.

“We offer a fully outdoor experience,” Scriven said. “People can’t enter the tower or lighthouse quarters now, but they can speak to a guide and take in the view, along with a self-guided tour. We are hoping in the next year to get back to normal,” he noted.

Once things return to normal, Scriven has big plans for Split Rock. “Eventually, I want to offer more experiential programming, and giving tours in a different way, such as photographic tours, or a lore and legends tour,” he said. “We’d like people to be more connected with the site.”

Family decision

The Scriven family loves their life at Split Rock, where they can experience wildlife, including eagles and bears, and outdoor activities, like kayaking and canoeing. For them, living on-site was the best choice.

“We had the option on whether or not to live on-site,” Scriven said. “I talked to the previous site manager, Lee Radzak, who raised his family here, and he said I’d never regret doing it. So, I talked to my wife about privacy, and the different type of life we’d have. We decided that if we wanted to do this job right, we needed to live on-site.”

“Our kids thought it was so cool,” Scriven added. “My son said, ‘Can we move there right now?’” Ultimately, the family moved in the day before young Devin’s ninth birthday, and the entire family got to celebrate with a beautiful new view.

An amazing journey

Not everyone gets to say that they have their dream job. Hayes Scriven is well aware of his good fortune and relishes every moment.

“Every day is so different,” Scriven said. “I get to meet so many different people, and the kids love the North Shore. Having that freedom and enjoying nature is so important. Every day is an amazing journey.”

“I feel so fortunate and humbled,” he added. “I’m awestruck all the time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and not many people get to have this experience.”

 

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From Pavement and Heels to Flats and Pine Needle Paths

My loyalty for this cool city was born on a blustery March day in 1990, literally. On March 28th, 1990, I burst into this world at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth. Ultimately, I would grow up in the Twin Cities. But the story doesn’t stop here.

Moving away from Duluth didn’t diminish the warm fuzzies I felt every time the car crested over the hill to reveal the mighty Lake Superior and city below. Like many young families from the Twin Cities, we would make annual summer trips up for family vacations and hockey tournaments.

When it was time for me to choose a college, University of Minnesota Duluth was my top pick. The memories of family vacations and the gigantic body of fresh water comforted me at the thought of the big change. Unfortunately, when graduation rolled around, like many other soon-to-graduate students looking for a job, I was looking outside of Duluth. At the time, I felt I had exhausted Duluth of what it had to offer and was ready to move back to, what seemed like, the greener pastures of the Twin Cities. Little did I know I would wind right back in Duluth in due time.

In Minneapolis, I would spend the next year and a half, hustling companies across the state for copy paper and slinging staplers. Think: the tenured version of The Office’s Pam Beasley. Despite the promise of financial security and excitement of the downtown hustle and bustle, something was missing.

Lake Superior and the relaxed attitude of Duluthians was what I missed the most. Thanks to the relationships I built as a student employee at UMD, I was told about an opportunity at Glensheen Mansion. There was a newly created position that ended up being the golden ticket to make my return to Duluth.

Outside magazine’s Best Town was everything that I remembered but…. better. I am embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until I lived in the city as a young professional that I began to discover all that Duluth had to offer. The countless parks, the short commute, the people, the embrace of creativity, and the slower pace of life all helped me feel right at home.

However, the icing on the cake was Leadership Duluth, a 10-month program put on by the Duluth Area Chamber. I met amazing people who are leaders in the community and learned about the different industries and facets of Duluth. As beneficial as it was to learn about my city and the leaders around me, the intangible gift was that of some truly great friendships. Since moving back, I had met new people and connected with college acquaintances, but still didn’t have a group of friends I could call my own. Leadership Duluth gave me that.

Over the last several years, I’ve watched the city grow economically and blossom into a full-blown outdoor lover’s paradise that many Duluthians enjoy all while sipping on a beer brewed from the waters of Lake Superior. I couldn’t be happier living and working in this great city.

--- Jane Pederson
Glensheen Marketing Manager

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What's New at the Zoo

Joe Fairbanks

Video by joefairbanks.com

Animals First - Always

At Duluth’s Lake Superior Zoo, every day is a thrilling adventure. For instance, at any given moment, the eerily human-sounding voice of Korbel - a 47-year-old double yellow headed Amazon parrot – loudly makes her presence known. Guests can also experience the hilarious antics of primates, the wild roars of bears and big cats, and the adorable curiosity of a two-toed sloth.

Here at the Zoo, the care and well-being of the animals is a top priority, along with educating the public about conservation efforts. Its youthful CEO, Haley Cope, at just 30 years old, contributes a fresh infusion of innovative ideas that have helped revitalize this well-loved Duluth landmark.

“I want the Zoo to be a space of education and awareness, where individuals and families can learn more about animals, endangered species, and how they can be good stewards of the environment and nature in general,” Cope explained of the Zoo’s mission.

“Zoos are so different than they were even 30 years ago,” she added. “Back then, they were more for entertainment. The focus today is on conservation and ensuring that endangered animals have a fighting chance.”

This includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits, along with the traveling “Zoomobile,” which brings the Lake Superior Zoo’s educational offerings and message of conservation to group homes, schools, and long-term care facilities across the region.

There’s no doubt about it: Today’s Lake Superior Zoo is a landmark Duluthians can be proud of. “Duluth is very lucky to have the Lake Superior Zoo,” Cope said. “Here, you can see animals from both Minnesota and around the world.”

History

While today, it educates thousands of visitors a year and features a plethora of animals from around the globe, the Zoo had very modest beginnings. It was founded in 1923 as a way for local resident Bert Onsgard to safely house a fawn named Billie, and share her with the community. Today, the Zoo is home to 350 animals, across 140 species.

One fact that many people don’t know is that none of the animals at the Lake Superior Zoo were removed from their native habitats. “All of our animals were either born in protective care or are rescues,” Cope shared. “And, some of our parrots used to be pets. Some animals were orphans, and some faced euthanasia.”

This includes fan favorites Tundra and Banks – brown bears who were orphaned when their mother was hit by a car in Alaska. Additionally, the Zoo’s resident cougars, Olympia and Tacoma, were also orphaned when their mother was illegally shot and killed.

New Initiatives

Cope began working at the Zoo as Director of Marketing three years ago. Since her promotion to CEO, the Zoo has fought back against many challenges – both logistical and financial - posed by COVID-19.

And, local residents will no doubt remember the flood of 2012 and how it devastated the Zoo. It has taken many years to bounce back from that tragic event, where several animals sadly perished, and many exhibits were destroyed, at Mother Nature’s hand.

Cope has responded to these challenges in several ways: by revisiting the Zoo’s mission; by applying significant resources towards the infrastructure of exhibits and animal safety; and by offering fresh content and experiences for visitors.

For instance, a brand-new $4M “Bear Country” exhibit will be completed soon, which will house a variety of species of bears. A new, licensed childcare facility, the Lake Superior Zoo School, is a new, on-site preschool for children aged three to five. “Its mission is to provide close-up experiences with animals that create connections with wildlife and inspire actions to conservation, both here and around the world,” Cope said.

Additionally, Cope has big plans to revitalize the Zoo’s main building. “We are ready to renovate and start fresh,” she said. Cope has dreams of incorporating indoor, parallel play – where kids could safely play amongst the animal exhibits. More summer camps will be added in the future, as well.

And, while families with children are the Zoo’s biggest demographic, Cope hopes to attract individuals and couples without children, too. Future plans include the addition of after-hours events, which could be a fun option for date night, or a solo adult adventure.

“Our biggest demographic is always going to be families,” she noted, “But as we look towards the future, we want to be a place for all – all ages and everyone in our community. We want everyone to feel welcome.”

Help Wanted

Cope certainly can’t complete all of these ambitious projects alone. In addition to the Zoo’s 20-25 full-time, year-round staff, whom she described as “so dedicated to our mission, and compassionate to the animals,” she implored the Duluth community to continue supporting their Zoo. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

“People can support us through membership (which comes with plenty of local, and even nation-wide perks!); by sharing our story on social media; by making donations (either financial or by shopping for our ‘wish list’); volunteering; or even giving us kind words of encouragement,” Cope said. “There is no gift that’s too small. Every gift is meaningful.”

Above all, Cope firmly believes that when we all work together, anything is possible at the Zoo. “We know we can accomplish anything we set out to do with the support of the community, our members, and the region.”

 

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Moving North

Lucie Amundsen

 

I left a good life in the city.

My husband and I had established careers and moved our young family out of our Minneapolis duplex and into our forever house in a first-ring suburb. An Atomic rambler with thick plaster walls, on a corner lot in an award-winning school district, it was lovely. Add in large, southern-exposed windows, a fireplace and a finished basement large enough to raise Shetland ponies, well, it was the “Beige Rambler of my Dreams.” Jason and I planned to watch our children grow up in their award-winning school district, as we grew old in the safety of one-floor living.

And though my husband had truly wanted this house and all its middle-class trappings, our suburban lifestyle had Jason on the verge of a boredom aneurysm.

That’s when a Duluth headhunter found him; a vulnerable adult constricted by a place where lawn maintenance was competitive sport. Given we lived on the boulevard (a term invoked with a disturbing reverence) there was pressure to perform to Olympic levels with chemical sprays, lawn services and street-long coordinated Christmas light displays. In contrast, curb appeal in the Northland is scarcely an intramural.

But lawns and houses aside, Jason believed that given I would be the most disrupted by a move 150 miles north (I mean, no one was headhunting me), the choice to make the leap was completely mine.

Big life decisions do not come easily, but I’ve developed a non-coping coping strategy. I don’t think about it. Like at all. So for clarity’s sake, I ordered all six seasons of HBO’s Sex and the City from the library. And I watched them on my Mac laptop — propped up on the kids’ step stool — where I could see the screen from the bathtub while drinking a glass of wine.

While deep in my therapeutic media coma, watching the bonus feature commentary, I heard it. A screenwriter asserted that the series had to be in New York because it’s so alive, so vibrant…and (I paraphrase here) “Who would watch a series called Sex and Duluth?

I nearly dropped my wine.

HEY! NO SHOUT OUTS TO THE SAD, INDECISIVE WOMAN IN THE BATHTUB!

Despite the writer’s dim view of my erotic prospects (or maybe to spite them) I got up, threw on a towel and padded my wet feet across our magazine-perfect hardwood floors. Looking at Jason, despondent in his leather chair, I assessed his rate of wither and cocked my head north to better hear its siren song. Maybe it was partly to spite that impertinent writer, but it was then I agreed to put all my worldly possessions on a truck headed to a big lake.

As I exhaled, having finally made the tough decision to leave, we planted our “For Sale” sign in front of our dreamy Beige Rambler. And at that exact moment, just as the post struck dirt, the sub-prime mortgage calamity popped the market.

Our house wasn’t selling. Nothing was selling.

Jason moved North without us to start his new position. I was left with two small children and a big dog living in a real estate staged house, which isn’t really living at all. After nearly seven months and 43 house showings, we started brainstorming ways to reunite our family.

Jason walked through many rough apartments, but was suddenly looking at a house within our rental budget. On the beach of Park Point, no less. He phoned while the children and I were hiding in a PetSmart during another fruitless Realtor walkthrough.

“It’s a three-bedroom rambler! With first-floor laundry! And an attached garage!” he enthused. It was like a suburban housewife mating call. “Clothesline! Fenced-in yard! Master bath!”

“But,” he continued, “Just a couple things.”

I held my breath.

“There’s a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary in the yard.”

“Oh,” I hesitated, “I’m down with Mary.”

“Well, it has this life-size Virgin because it’s… it’s actually a church rectory,” he spit out.

“That’s … really different,” I managed.

“And the church has no running water,” and this is where he started talking fast, “so per the lease agreement, on Sunday mornings from 8:30 to ten in the morning, parishioners can use the bathroom.”

Which gives meaning to the thought, “Holy Shit: The economic downturn is driving us into a semi-public restroom situation.”

But I heard myself say, “That’s okay” and made a mental note to get the really big container of Clorex wipes.

We moved into the rectory, complete with a giant print of the Last Supper in the dining room. Surely, our beautiful Minneapolis home would sell in a few weeks, and we’d join the heady buyer’s market. We lived at that rectory with the Mother of God and her full-bladdered parishioners for nearly two years.

Life on the point, a seven-mile spit of land jutting into the world’s largest freshwater lake, was charmingly peculiar. I kept a marine radio set to channel 16 to gauge when to leave for carpool, lest I get caught on the wrong side of Duluth’s iconic aerial bridge. It’s roadway often lifted for vessels to access the Saint Lawrence Seaway and Superior Bay. And per safety protocol, the bridge would raise a good ten minutes before a freighter could be clearly seen on the horizon. This took time and, for me, planning.

Though if “bridged,” I could always go to our neighborhood market, a place where you put a $20 down in the ledger then send the kids back for milk and eggs as needed.

But it seemed that just as I’d start to relax into this new, off-kilter norm, I’d wake up, amble down the hallway seeking coffee and meet someone not the right size or shape as anyone in my family in our hallway. Then I’d remember. It was open bathroom Sunday at the rectory — and I should find my glasses, probably pants, too.

It seemed this quirky place would never feel like home.

But just shy of our one-year move-a-versary, before school let out that early June, there was a lone hot day that sent the children swimming in the Lake. Off the snow-rimmed beach, they bobbed like otters, passing broken ice chunks to one another. My friend Deb and I scrunched our toes in the sand, Coronas in hand and I remember thinking there should be a word, like a 32-letter German one, for the guilty pleasure of enjoying climate change.

However, my lexigraphic thoughts were interrupted as I looked out at the kids. As numbness and bravery set in, they’d swum further towards the remaining slabs of thick ice. It was then that I bolted up and shouted one of my all-time favorite parenting lines to date: “Hey! Kids! No playing on the ice shelf!”

As the words left my mouth, I started to giggle, hands to my face. Then I bent with a laughter that emanated from deep inside. Something shifted inside me. A slightly urbane, more conventional part of me succumbed to this ridiculous, beautiful, offbeat and liberating place — defined by experiences, if not ceremony. And that day, I became a little more Duluthian.

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South Pier Inn - A Uniquely Duluth Experience

Video by joefairbanks.com

Perched at the very tip of Duluth’s Park Point, just a whisker’s width away from of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the majesty of Lake Superior, is South Pier Inn. This ultra-unique, 29-room hotel features Scandinavian architectural influences, and of course, incomparable views of the Big Lake.

To put it simply, South Pier Inn is one of Duluth’s treasures.

Recognitions

But many others have also taken notice. South Pier Inn has been named the #1 traveler-ranked hotel in Duluth by travel website Trip Advisor for several years running; it was also named “property of the year” by the Minnesota Lodging Association in 2013. South Pier Inn has also garnered attention from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Post.

The majority of South Pier Inn’s guests are repeat customers. The record-holder is a couple who live about two hours south of Duluth, who have stayed there over 200 times.

The owners of the Inn – married couple Dale and Betty Sola, along with Dale’s two adult sons, Rand and Steven – couldn’t be prouder. The family has taken the property from an overgrown, decrepit vacant lot whom nobody wanted, to the special and well-loved hotel it is today.

And, for the Sola family, Park Point isn’t just where they make their living, but it’s also the place they call home.

Park Point

“Duluth, Park Point, and the harbor are all very unique,” Betty Sola said. “But Park Point is the most unique part of Duluth, in my opinion. It’s an island that is seven miles long, and about three or four blocks wide. There’s a small-town feel to it. And, you can hop across the road and be on the beach.”

The Sola family has lived on Duluth’s Park Point for many years. So, when a piece of land just a block away from their home sat vacant and for sale for over twenty years, it caught their eye.

“It looked terrible,” Betty said. “The property had been neglected. There were overgrown shrubs and trees, and there were an old house and garage on it.”

Although the family had no experience in the hospitality industry, the Solas purchased the land, tore down the house and garage, and decided to build an Inn. They knew without a doubt that the location was something special.

South Pier Inn is at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge,” Betty said. “The mechanics of it are fascinating. There are 1,000-foot ships and other vessels that sail underneath the bridge, and people staying at our hotel are perched right there. It’s almost like our guests can reach out and touch the ships.”

In fact, one of South Pier Inn’s most beloved amenities is the “late night ship’s call” – where hotel staff place a call to a guest’s room - by request - at any hour of the day or night, to inform them that a ship is going by. “People just love it,” Betty said.

Another frequent guest comment is how clean the hotel is. “Lucas Trea, our head housekeeper, and his staff, are deep cleaning every day. A dust bunny doesn’t stand a chance at our hotel,” Betty noted with a chuckle.

Betty Sola also credits General Manager Branden Robinson, a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hospitality Management, with much of South Pier Inn’s success. “We have the most outstanding people on staff, most notably Branden, who has been with us for about a dozen years. We credit Branden and his team with helping make our hotel the best it can be.”

Beginnings

Dale Sola, who is also a contractor, was the designer of the South Pier Inn. And, the family hired Kraus-Anderson Construction, based in Duluth, to build the hotel and make Dale’s vision a reality.

“Dale is 100% Finnish,” said Betty. “And, you can really see the crisp, clean Scandinavian design. There are a lot of 45-degree angles, a peaked roof, and no poufy drapes. People really seem to relax here.”

The Solas broke ground on South Pier Inn in November 2001. The hotel opened for business in May 2002.

Small business partners

As the Solas are owners of a small business, they prefer to keep their investments local, and with other small businesses, whenever possible. And this extends to the offerings they provide for their guests.

“For our breakfasts, we offer pastries from Duluth’s Johnson’s Bakery; we serve coffee from Duluth Coffee Company; and we get our granola from Positively 3rd Street Bakery – it’s hand-tossed and delivered fresh,” Betty said. “It’s important for us to give back, and one way we do that is to do business with other small businesses.”

South Pier Inn also supports local non-profits through financial donations, including to Wildwoods and local veteran’s groups. Additionally, South Pier Inn provides funds for an annual scholarship, awarded to one student pursuing a career in hospitality, through the Minnesota Lodging Association.

Future

Looking ahead, South Pier Inn plans to continue providing highly personalized service in a clean, comfortable setting. “In the eighteen years we’ve been open, the hospitality landscape has changed significantly in Duluth,” Robinson said. “But we continue to be very guest-focused, and work to deliver the best possible experience for our guests.”

The Solas look forward to hosting you as guests at their Inn. It gives them great joy to help their guests, some of whom are world travelers, relax and unwind.

“We really, truly enjoy the business that we’re in,” Betty said. “And, if you haven’t been to Duluth, you’re just going to love it. I look forward to welcoming you to South Pier Inn, and having you become part of our story.”

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