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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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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Glensheen - A community space for Duluthians to enjoy

Joe Fairbanks

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.”

Please note: visiting hours and new initiatives are all dependent on the progression of COVID-19, so please be sure to call or check the Glensheen website prior to your visit. 

 

 

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A cozy inn, smoked fish & more on the Shore

Joe Fairbanks

Lou’s Fish House

The North Shore’s Choice for

Smoked Fish, Artisanal Cheese, and Ice Cream

By Andrea Busche  - Video by Joe Fairbanks

At the tender age of 16, many of us are preoccupied with fun, but arguably frivolous pursuits, such as cars, sports and dating. Ashleigh Swanson, however, opened a business.

“I started a business before I had a driver’s license,” said Swanson, now 18 and the owner and general manager of Two Harbors-based business Lou’s Fish House. On the occasions when Swanson reveals that she is the owner of the business, customer reactions range from positive, to a little bit of disbelief.

“I’ve always been my own boss,” she said. “Starting with lemonade stands when I was 10. Entrepreneurship has been a large focus of the Swanson family for the last three generations.”

“Ashleigh was an amazing child,” her mother, Rebecca Swanson, said. “As soon as she was mobile, she was chasing and running. She started talking at just a year old.”

“Ashleigh cares about and understands people,” Rebecca added. “She has a big heart. She’s very self-motivated and very responsible.”

For the entire Swanson family, entrepreneurship is second nature. Swanson’s father, Chris Swanson, is the mayor of Two Harbors and a local business owner. And her mother, Rebecca, owns the building where Lou’s is housed, and is the owner-operator of the adjacent property, Vine and Branches Inn.

It started with the Inn

The Swanson family’s involvement with Lou’s all started when Rebecca Swanson wanted to open an Inn. “The Inn was the reason for buying the property,” Rebecca said of her business, located at 1319 Highway 61.

The retail space located next door had operated under the name Lou’s Fish House for generations but had been closed for four years. A family brainstorming session was in order, to decide the future of the space.

“Ashleigh suggested an ice cream shop, which evolved to the idea of a smoked fish and ice cream shop,” Rebecca said. It made sense; the existing infrastructure, including a cinder block smoke room, was already in place. And Lou’s reputation for quality smoked fish was already well-established.

The products

After some renovations, Lou’s opened its doors under new ownership on June 26th, 2018. Ashleigh Swanson explained a bit about her business.

“We have four types of fish: Sockeye salmon, whitefish, herring, and Lake trout. We also have jumbo smoked shrimp.”

“Our whitefish, Lake trout and herring are all caught from Lake Superior, and we purchase it directly from local fishermen. And our spices come from a local spice shop in downtown Two Harbors – McQuade’s Herbs, Spices, and More.”

In addition to smoked fish, Lou’s sells artisanal cheeses, crackers, and twelve “crazy flavors” of hand-scooped ice cream. “Our one cardinal rule is that we will never serve plain vanilla,” Swanson said, perhaps exposing a hint of her youthfulness. “That’s boring.”

The most popular menu item at Lou’s is the smoked sugar salmon. “It’s a balance of salty and sweet,” Swanson said.

Most of Lou’s clientele are tourists and visitors from southern Minnesota, but Lou’s is also known to locals as a great place for delicious ice cream. Lou’s offers online and in-store purchasing, as well as delivery to neighboring business Castle Danger Brewery.

Teen-owned, teen-operated

While Swanson is the owner and GM at Lou’s, unbelievably, every last one of its employees are also teens. This includes two of Ashleigh Swanson’s siblings, Natalie – 15, and Micah – 12, along with five employees who smoke the fish and two staff members working as cashiers.

The only person old enough to order a beer is Swanson’s Grandma Kay, who comes in to help on occasion.

Vine and Branches

Concurrent to getting Lou’s up and running, big things were also happening next door. Rebecca Swanson, along with her entire family, lovingly renovated Vine and Branches Inn to what it is today: a beautiful, comfortable place to stay in Two Harbors.

The Inn was already there, however, Swanson installed new flooring, windows, plumbing, electrical, a new roof and fresh paint. And with her keen eye for design, Swanson styled each room with tasteful décor and furnishings.

“I wanted to create a different style than perhaps what is considered normal on the North Shore,” she said. “I wanted a classy, boutique feel. Calm and simple, yet elegant. But also, very comfortable and functional.”

Support local

This mother-daughter duo has established themselves and their unique businesses as strong links in the chain of Two Harbors’ small business economy. Both women work incredibly hard at their craft, putting in long hours to get the job done.

One thing is for certain: in their two years of ownership, they have already established a strong reputation. Guests are quickly snapping up reservations at the Inn. In fact, Rebecca noted, they are already beginning to see repeat guests.

And business at Lou’s is hotter than ever. “Our customers frequently mention that our smoked fish is the best on the North Shore,” Ashleigh said.

For more information, please visit Lou’s Fish House or Vine and Branches Inn 

 

 

 

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5 North Shore Trail Running Tips

Peter Frank Edwards

 

Tired of running in the concrete jungle? Yeah, us, too! And I’m sure your joints are as well!

Northern Minnesota offers some of the best trail running routes in the Midwest. The beauty inherent to each of the four seasons will distract you from the burning sensation in your legs, and the bear chasing you will make you run your fastest mile ever! But in all seriousness, trail running is a great way to get your exercise in without the monotonous view of concrete.

Although trail running does bring with it some added danger, by having the proper gear and mapping out your running route, you can be sure to stay safe. Besides, potholes in the road and crazy drivers in the city aren’t any safer than roots in the trail or maybe a moose on the bridge.

Here are 5 tips for anybody wanting to get started:

  1. Trail Shoes

If you're going to start incorporating trail running into your exercise regimen, it is wise to invest in a pair of trail running shoes. They differ from regular road-running shoes in the fact that they have a lower profile (lower to the ground), which will help reduce your chance of rolling an ankle. Trail shoes also offer rugged tread, which will also help you get better traction on muddy, wet trails. To avoid losing your toenails, your shoes should also be about a half size bigger than normal. You want the shoe to remain snug on your heel, but the added room in the toe box will allow for your toes to shift forward without hitting the shoe cap.

2. Be the Hill

When running the trails, take on the mindset that you are mountain and that in certain terrain you have to adjust your running style. When going up steep hills, take short, quick steps and use your arms. This will ensure optimal footing and leverage up the hill. When running down steep hills, it is better to use a stair-stepping motion; move in a similar motion as you would be running down a flight of stairs, keeping your torso tall and letting your legs take all the impact.

3. Know the rules of the trail

On many trails in Duluth and the surrounding area, you will rarely see other runners, as there are so many trails in the area, but when you do, it is good to know the rules. You should yield to other trail users, such as hikers and mountain bikers. Uphill runners should yield to downhill runners. And, apologies in advance to your new pair of shoes, but when there is a puddle, run through it - not around it - to avoid making the trail wider.

4. Keep your eyes on the trail

It is extremely hard not to gaze off into the distance at the beauty of the woods, but it is very important that you focus on looking 3-4 feet ahead, at all times, to create a line of travel. If you want to enjoy the sights, walk it out or stop. As you become more comfortable running on trails, your instincts will kick in, and the focus that comes with trail running will become second nature to you.

5. Keep it safe

When heading out to the trails, be sure to run with a buddy or a dog, tell someone where you will be running, and take your cell phone with you for safety. If you are concerned about wildlife, wearing pepper spray is never a bad option. And, always make sure to always bring fluids and fuel.

Most importantly, have fun on the trails, but be careful!

Looking for location ideas?

Check out this resource, which offers some tips for getting the most of the Superior Hiking Trail; this list if you're looking to try a hike, rather than a run; or this list for trail running tips in, and very close to, Duluth.

“Once you get on the dirt, you never want to go back on the roads”

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South Pier Inn - A Uniquely Duluth Experience

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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Burrito Union Gives Back - Bagged Lunches Distributed Free to Kids during Pandemic

Duluth resident Rod Raymond is perhaps most well-known for his ambition and entrepreneurship. With a larger-than-life personality and energy to spare, Raymond is the owner of lively Duluth hotspots Fitger’s Brewhouse and Burrito Union restaurant. But he is quickly becoming equally well-known for his philanthropy.

In the time of COVID-19, Raymond, in conjunction with his staff, is handing out bagged lunches, free of charge, to children of the East Hillside neighborhood. Lunches are distributed out of his Burrito Union restaurant, at 1332 East 4th Street. With local schools cancelled for the foreseeable future, many children would be going hungry if not for Raymond’s efforts.

Raymond has retained a crew of about eight staff at the Union. These employees are enhanced by the generous volunteer efforts of Annetta Shaw, a retired nurse, and Matt Evans, a physics professor. The Burrito Union crew distributes between 100 – 150 bagged lunches per day to children (and occasionally, adults) in need.

“There are no questions asked,” Raymond stated firmly. “Anyone can grab a lunch.”

I came from that world

For Raymond, his efforts are deeply personal. “I used to go to the food shelf as a boy,” he said. “We were really poor. I grew up in a trailer and I got free and reduced lunches. So, I came from that world. I know what these kids are going through.”

Daily lunch options vary; sometimes the kids receive a beef burrito prepared fresh at the restaurant. Other days they may receive a ham sandwich, mac and cheese, or a corn dog. Lunches are accompanied by a piece of fruit and a cookie. “I am using up my inventory, and also using donated money to buy other items,” he explained.

When tips come in, whether specifically allocated to help this lunch initiative, or through take-out or curbside orders, Raymond shares every dollar. “I didn’t do this promotion to try to help my business, it was to help the kids,” he said. “But people have been really good about giving nice tips, which we share with our staff. Larger tips go directly to buying more food.”

Bouncing back by giving back

At this time, the Brewhouse is breaking even, financially, while Burrito Union has lost a little bit of revenue. But Raymond believes his businesses will bounce back in the end. “You give, and it comes back to you three-fold. This has been quite the spiritual experience for me. It’s very meaningful.”

Raymond plans to continue to give out free lunches as long as school is out of session. He has started a GoFundMe account to raise money to keep the initiative going. So far, a little over $7,000 has been raised towards a goal of $15,000.

Additionally, Burrito Union has partnered up with CHUM, an entity which operates Duluth's largest food shelf and provides emergency shelter and supportive services for homeless individuals and families, to provide burrito lunches to health care workers. The plan is to distribute 50 lunches two times a week.

While Rod Raymond is considered by many to be a business leader in our community, he firmly believes anyone can step up and help. “You don’t have to be a mayor to lead an initiative,” he noted.

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A Flightless Bird (and a Whole Lot More) Soars

 

The Twin Ports is probably best known for a couple things: undisputed beauty and its postindustrial economic apocalypse. In the 1980s, it once sported the billboard, “Will the last one leaving Duluth please turn out the light?”

But the light remained on and recently you’ve likely heard it buzzing, sparking even.

I’ve long held that the distance between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities isn’t just measured in mileage. There’s something nearly quantifiable in the attitude spread. Perhaps in a place with fewer cubicles to fill, the entrepreneurs and creatives have more space to stretch out; do their thing.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. Writer James Fallows in a recent Atlantic magazine feature highlighted Duluth in his article about rebounding America. He cited industry leaders such as Cirrus Design, Loll, Epicurean and our high quality of life — as noted by our hard fought Outside Magazine award win. (It was worth the callus on our clicking finger, as we’ve been on more  “Top Places to Visit” lists than ever.)

But Duluth is more than jobs and accomplishments. It always has been. There’s a certain forgiveness for late onset adulthood here. Some of us have avoided it altogether, pursuing art, music, sport, a passion — and our city is lucky to have its citizenry recognized for it. Musician Gealynn Lea wowed us by winning the NPR’s  2016 Tiny Desk Contest taking her fiddle to the national stage. Also sharing the spotlight is our own Rachael Kilgour, bringing home 14th Annual NewSong Showcase & Competition Finals to play at Lincoln Center in New York City. And that’s just to mention two.

In Locally Laid, a memoir about starting our so-named egg farm, I write about Duluth like it’s a character, like a friend of mine. And one that’s been vital to our success. It felt like the community saw in us the same “unlikely to succeed” under doggedness as Duluth itself. We became the little chicken that could — the flightless bird that soared.

All these business and artists might have been able to succeed elsewhere, but I’m guessing they wouldn’t want to move to find out.

--- Lucie Amundsen is the author of the book, Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — from Scratch. 

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