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


Hansi Johnson


Destination Duluth’s purpose is to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’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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Make your move to #befromDuluth

Make your move to #befromDuluth

Video by Joe Fairbanks

If you’re in the market to buy a house, we have great news!

As of this writing, interest rates for home mortgages continue to hover near historic lows.[1] And, if you’re looking to relocate (hint: #befromduluth), in many cases you don’t even have to find a new job. More businesses than ever are offering work-from-home options.

So, in a nutshell, it’s a great time to:

  1. Buy a house, and
  2. Move to Duluth!

Sound overwhelming? We can help! Destination Duluth visited with two individuals who would love to help you achieve all of your Duluth dreams.

Real Estate Agents: One Local; One Transplant

Brok Hansmeyer with RE/MAX Results and Dana Morrison with Results Support Services are real estate agents from The Zenith City Group, based right here in Duluth. Interestingly, Hansmeyer has spent much of his life in Duluth, while Morrison moved here from the San Francisco bay area in 2015. Together, they provide unique perspectives on life in Duluth.

“I grew up in Esko, Minnesota, and attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth,” Hansmeyer said. “I’ve lived in Denver; I’ve lived in Dallas, but my family and I have always come back to Duluth. This is our home.”

Morrison explained that when she and her family were looking for a change, Duluth was at the top of their list. “My husband and I had recently started a family. We wanted to live somewhere we could afford to buy a house, and where we could be close to nature,” she said, adding, “We found Duluth! We purchased a home, and are making really deep roots here in the Duluth area.”


While their paths home differed, both Hansmeyer and Morrison are obviously in agreement: Duluth is a pretty cool place. We asked them to provide some specifics, for those who are really thinking about relocating here.

“Duluth is an amazing community,” Morrison said. “Not only are there lots of people who are entrepreneurs, but there are so many things to enjoy with this city. One is the Lincoln Park Craft District – you can go to the Dovetail Café and learn a new folk trade. Or you can go have a beer across the street. Our family also enjoys seeing old films or plays done at the Duluth Playhouse. It’s really a spectacular place to be.” Morrison also noted that her family enjoys the plethora of outdoor activities Duluth has to offer, such as camping and the area’s beaches.

For Hansmeyer, nature - along with Duluth’s “small-town feel” - is a big part of what keeps him here. “When I think of Duluth, it’s a ‘big, small-town,’” he said. “It doesn’t take that long to get to know a lot of people, and I love the outdoors. I love living close to Lake Superior, and going for walks and skipping rocks with the kids. It makes my heart feel alive being right by Lake Superior.”

“With Duluth,” he added, “You’re never far from nature. When you look at the different neighborhoods – East, West, or on the Hill, you’re never very far from the woods or trails. We have a good quality of life. There’s a lack of traffic, plenty of job opportunities, and access to the outdoors, such as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, lake activities, hunting and fishing.”

Duluth also boasts some great opportunities when it comes to education. “People with kids have great options for schools, whether it’s public, private, or charter schools,” Hansmeyer said. “Duluth is a big enough city where there are lots of options for schooling.” Hansmeyer also mentioned the many post-secondary options here, including the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Lake Superior College, The College of Saint Scholastica, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Duluth is also known for being home to many large employers, and as a great place to receive top-notch health care. “We also have lots of big employers, such as Amsoil, Enbridge, or Cirrus,” Hansmeyer said. “And Duluth offers excellent health care with Essentia Health and St. Luke’s.”

Housing stock

Between its large range of unique neighborhoods and diversity of housing stock, Duluth has something for everyone. “When you’re looking at houses in Duluth, you really have a wide range of options,” Morrison shared. “You can start at $110,000 for a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom starter home, or you can look up to $1.5 million, where you have the 7,000 square foot home with all the bells and whistles. So, there are really options for any person looking to move to Duluth.”

“When you look at Duluth versus a bigger city, say Seattle, a $600,000 house in Seattle would be about half the price in Duluth,” Hansmeyer said. “So, it’s a little bit more cost-effective. Your income isn’t going to drop by half by moving to Duluth, but your housing is certainly going to be cheaper if you’re moving here from most big cities in the U.S.”


When considering neighborhoods, how could 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.

For questions about Duluth or any of its unique neighborhoods, Hansmeyer and the rest of the Zenith City Group would be happy to share what they know. “Our team is knowledgeable about the different neighborhoods, and what’s happening in each one,” he said. “We know where home values are, versus where they were two years ago. This knowledge of the area we provide can be very helpful.”

No matter the neighborhood, Duluth has so much to offer, said Morrison, the recent Duluth “transplant.” “If you’re looking for a place to call home that has the small-town feel but all the big city amenities, along with health care and education, Duluth is your place,” she said.

Call the Pros

Well, there you have it: glowing testimonials from real estate professionals: one Duluth native, and one Duluth transplant. Are you ready to finally make the leap, and #befromDuluth? If so, Morrison, Hansmeyer, and the rest of their team would love to help.

“When you work with a member of our team, you’ll find that they’re friendly and want to be helpful, whether you’re in the process of buying or selling a home; whether you’re on day one, just thinking about it; or you’re on closing day and excited to buy a house,” Hansmeyer said.

“We pay attention to details and will help you make wise decisions through the process of buying or selling,” he added. “We’d love to help you find your place to call home in Duluth.”

For more information, please visit livinginduluth.com – a website run by the Re/Max Zenith City Group.


[1] Current Mortgage Rates: Compare today’s rates | NerdWallet

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Find a job using NORTHFORCE

Video by Joe Fairbanks

NORTHFORCE – Your Talent Community

In Duluth and the Surrounding Region

In a world where social media is king, many look to well-established websites like Indeed or Monster to recruit talent or search for their next job. But these conglomerates simply can’t – and don’t - offer that personal touch.

But this is Duluth. We are “Minnesota nice,” after all. Things are done a little differently here.

Enter NORTHFORCE. According to Cara Overland, the group’s Twin Ports and Northwestern Wisconsin Strategy & Development Consultant, NORTHFORCE is “A community-supported program that helps retain and recruit talent in the Northland. This includes a ten-county area including the Twin Ports, Iron Range, and Northwestern Wisconsin.”

The organization was founded in 2014, and is based in Duluth. It is a program of Northspan, an economic development organization.

Highly Personal Service

Each person who reaches out to NORTHFORCE, whether a human resources professional, business owner, or job-seeker, will receive a personal e-mail from Overland. She will ask personal, individualized questions about the person’s goals, including a friendly offer to help.

Overland is no doubt an expert in her field. After all, she is a success story herself. “I found this very position on NORTHFORCE,” she shared. “So, I’m a case study and a testimonial myself.”

Options for Job Seekers and Employers Alike

Overland gave a bit more insight into what NORTHFORCE has to offer. “NORTHFORCE helps employers post positions on our job board, and also helps candidates register and create a profile, upload their resume, and get connected with available positions in our area,” she said. “We bridge the gap between employers and candidates.”

Each of the consultants on the NORTHFORCE team are highly familiar with the region and all it has to offer. As such, NORTHFORCE consultants are some of the area’s biggest cheerleaders.

“One of the unique things about NORTHFORCE and our consultants is that we are from the communities we represent,” Overland, who is from Duluth, said. “Duluth is magical,” she added. “It’s a fantastic-sized city. We have incredible employers here, along with our green spaces and natural landscape. People come here on vacation and fall in love with it, and I’m here to help them move here if that’s what they want to do.”

Any Job; Any Company Size

NORTHFORCE can assist people who are seeking any sort of work, whether full-time, part-time, seasonal work, an internship, or freelance gigs. All fields and business segments are represented, too; including health care, hospitality, manufacturing, and many more.

“Whether you’re a big, small, or mid-size business, you get the same attention from me as a consultant, and NORTHFORCE as an organization,” Overland said, adding, “Whether you need a line-level employee or a CEO, we can help you find those people.”

Key Partnerships

One of the ways NORTHFORCE makes successful employer-employee “matches” is through their partnerships with local colleges, universities, and technical schools – in what they call their “Student Connect” program.

For instance, Andrea Chartier is a Career Counselor at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), and regularly relies on NORTHFORCE services to help her students find employment or internships. “Our partnership with NORTHFORCE has allowed us to really be intentional in supporting the students who want Duluth to be their home, or who want Duluth to be their next step, and need some help building those bridges and connections to employers,” she said.

Chartier also works with CSS alumni, too; many of whom have moved away and are looking to return.

Coming Home

Along with Overland, Chartier is also a huge cheerleader for living – and working – in Duluth and the surrounding region. “I call myself a ‘boomerang Duluthian,’” she said with a laugh. “I grew up in Duluth, and have lived in California, Utah, and Minneapolis, but ultimately decided to come back.”

“It’s an ideal place to raise kids,” she said. “You can be at a park, beach, or forest every day, and you’re not surrounded by hordes of people.”

“You can be a big fish in a small pond here in Duluth,” she added. “I felt I could really make some magic happen here in a way I never felt I could in a big city. It’s such a special, magical place in so many ways. There are a lot of opportunities, a lot of internships, and amazing possibilities.”

Whether you are a job-seeker, or need to find the perfect candidate to fill a role at your business, NORTHFORCE can help. Please visit northforce.org to learn more.

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Photographers are key to the success of Destination Duluth

Nathan Klok

Photographers who attended the the second annual "Celebration of Photographers". There are over 250 contributing photographers. Photo by Nathan Klok.

The second annual Destination Duluth “Photomeet & Celebration of Photographers” was held at Spirit Mountain on Monday, Jan 17, 2022. Following the afternoon Photomeet, photographers, guests and sponsors gathered in the chalet Moosehead Saloon for appetizers during the social hour, followed by a presentation and awards ceremony.

After attending the launch party in 2013, John Heino became one of the first contributing photographers. –Photo by Nathan Klok


The presentation included the history of Destination Duluth, going back to 2006 when co-founder Branden Robinson purchased the DestinationDuluth.org domain. Branden, Chris Swanson and Tom Livingston began meeting in 2012 and formed the non-profit organization. On May 23, 2013, about 40 content creators met at Zeitgeist, each offering to donate content for Destination Duluths Facebook page. The support of the creative community was and always has been the reason for its success.

Co-founder Branden Robinson at the Celebration of Photographers event. –Photo by Nathan Klok

Following its launch, Destination Duluth saw remarkable growth, topping over 2,000 in just 20 days, hitting 5,000 on day 50, continuing to add 100 fans a day, and reaching 50,000 on day 500. Today, there are over 225,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram @destination_duluth.

At the gathering, Managing Director Jerry Thoreson shared the mission of Destination Duluth: “to educate and inspire people about the quality of place of Duluth, Minnesota, thereby shaping the city and region’s positive growth.”

Jerry Thoreson, Destination Duluth's managing director sharing photos from leading photographers. –Photo by Nathan Klok

Destination Duluth’s mission focuses on three qualities of place:

  1. Lake – Taking inspiration from the largest fresh-water lake in the world by volume, Destination Duluth covers Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage on the North Shore, and to Bayfield, WI on the South Shore through photography, videos and stories.
  2. Life – By sharing the life-giving qualities of Duluth, we are educating and inspiring people to visit and #befromDuluth.
  3. Light – Photographers know “it’s all about the light.” Our goal is to put a spotlight on this amazing place we call home. Through social media, we do this by showcasing amazing photos and videos. On our website we share stories of people of Duluth who weave the fabric of our culture.

Thoreson shared achievements from 2021, including 52,000,000 impressions, along with 2,400,000 engagements. That averages to 142,000 views a day, with 6,500 clicks of engagements. The engagement rate is so remarkable that Destination Duluth was ranked third in the nation in social media engagement in the tourism category, according to shareablee.com for three consecutive months in August-October, 2021.

Forty-seven photographers were recognized for their photos exceeding 200,000 impressions on the Destination Duluth’s Facebook page. Twenty-one had over a million impressions and were recognized as a Top Photographer. Award certificates were presented along with DLH decals.

This photo by Jeff Doty was viewed over 500,000 times on Destination Duluth

In 2022 Destination Duluth seeks to substantially develop their website by sharing a Photographer Profile series and “Life in Duluth” stories.

Destination Duluth’s upcoming events are the “9thAversary Photomeet and Party” on May, 23, 2022, tentatively scheduled at The Depot; a fall “Photomeet” at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum/North Shore Scenic Railroad, and the third annual Celebration of Photographers to be held as a gala at the DECC on January 16, 2023.

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Native Duluthian Returns Home at Last

Charles Howard Smith

Destination Duluth's
Photographer Profile Series - #1
Charlie Smith

After being born in Duluth in 1983 and residing here until 1989, the twists and turns of life brought Charlie Smith elsewhere.

After his parents’ divorce, Smith, along with his mother, Linda Popkes, and his brother, Tim, moved to South Dakota – the home of the boys’ new stepfather. Later, college, followed by a few career hops, kept him away as he matured into adulthood.

But his beloved hometown was never far from his mind - and heart. “Growing up, Duluth was always our vacation spot,” he said. “Duluth has always been a staple in my life. Going over Thompson Hill was, and still is, a thrill for me.”

Smith finally moved back home to Duluth in 2014, which brought him a sense of peace, and the comforting feeling of home. Since then, he has experienced success in all areas of his life. Today, he is a photographer (many of his compelling images have been featured with Destination Duluth); a Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) bus driver; a homeowner; a dog dad; a volunteer; and is even engaged to be married.

Charlie proposed to his girlfriend Britney at the Glensheen 2021 Fall Photomeet. –Photo by Glen Blaszkiewicz

Smith recently opened up about his journey and shared his story with Destination Duluth.

Returning Home

After graduating from high school in Estelline, South Dakota, Smith attended a year of college at South Dakota State University. As a young man, he struggled to find his niche.

“I bounced around on the eastern side of South Dakota until I turned 30. There was just no stability,” he said. “I was living out my 20s, trying to figure out my life. During that time, I changed oil, was a bouncer at a bar, sold cars, changed tires, and built kitchen cabinets.”

He continued, “While selling cars, I landed a job at a wholesale driving company where I’d be driving a semi-truck, and I came to Duluth for a vacation. But, when I returned to South Dakota, I found out the job had been given to someone else, and my roommate was selling his house and moving. So, I was basically going to be both homeless and unemployed.”

After doing some soul-searching, Smith said a bittersweet goodbye to his family in South Dakota and returned to Duluth in 2014. Thankfully, his father, Dale Smith, still resided in Duluth, along with much of Smith’s extended family, providing Smith with a built-in support system in his old hometown.


After settling in, Smith found work building cabinets and later worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). He soon discovered, however, that his real passion was in the world of photography.

“The invention of the smartphone with a camera was really what sparked photography for me,” he shared. “I started out with a Blackberry Flip Pearl, and seemed to have an artistic eye, along with an eye for lighting and angles. I could make a simple cell phone shot unique.”

A wall of sea smoke made for a dramatic arrival of the Edgar B. Speer to Two Harbors. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography

Smith’s photography, along with his small business (professionally, he uses the name Charles Howard Smith Photography, in homage to his heritage; Smith was named after his grandfathers, who were both WWII veterans), continued to improve and grow.

Today, Smith’s specialties include images of landscapes, wildlife, and the northern lights. He often travels up the North Shore, chasing down the perfect shot; often requiring a rope and cleats to reach his destination.

Aurora display from just outside Charlie's home in Morgan Park. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography

While Smith is happy to share the details of his current equipment (he has upgraded to a Nikon D850, and a Nikon D500 for wildlife shots), he is reluctant to give out his secret locations. “I would just say that the Arrowhead Region of northern Minnesota is good, and Boulder Lake Reservoir is a good place to start,” Smith said with a chuckle.

Smith sells his photography through the website SmugMug, which is linked from his Facebook page. Recently, he sold over 100 calendars, which feature Smith’s images of a moose in a pond, the northern lights, Bentleyville, and other unique photos.

His photography has been a great addition to Destination Duluth’s online presence, too; he has had over 100 images featured on their social media platforms since 2016, with over five million impressions.

Lake Superior Sunrise in Tofte, MN. –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography.


When it comes to advise for other budding photographers, Smith likes to keep it simple.

“The best camera is the one you have on you,” he shared. “You don’t need all the fancy equipment to get started. Use a cell phone. Just capture the moment.”

Career and Family

In addition to his photography, Smith works full-time as a bus driver for the DTA. His routes take him all over Duluth; from downtown to UMD; from the mall area to Lakeside and Gary.

Another special interest is his volunteer work. Smith volunteers time around the holidays to dress up as Santa Claus for the residents at Viewcrest Health Center. “I just love doing it,” he said. “There are some folks there with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and you can just see the memories flooding back.”

Charlie loves playing Santa. –Photo by Glen Blaszkiewicz

Smith and his fiancée, Brittney Russ, own a home in Duluth’s Morgan Park neighborhood, which they share with their three dogs. The couple will be getting married in October 2022 at Gooseberry Falls, which is a site sure to provide some captivating images.

Eventually, the couple hopes to purchase some acreage near Two Harbors and add children to their family.

The Draw of Duluth

After several years away from his hometown, Smith is glad to be home. “The Lake, along with the beautiful views, were my biggest appeal to coming home,” he said. “It just becomes part of your soul; who you are. I love how you can drive while staying in Duluth, and see trees, waterfalls, wildlife, and hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. And, the people here are so nice and really embrace winter.”

The South Pier Lighthouse is surrounded by Lake Superior "Sea Smoke" –Photo by Charles Howard Smith Photography

Speaking of people, Smith also noted his gratitude for the good friends he’s met through the pursuit of photography in Duluth, including Randy Wolf and Jeff Doty.

Ultimately, Smith hopes to continue honing his photography and growing his business. He shared, “My goals and dreams are to build my photography enough so I can retire early and go exploring.”

To see more of Charlie's photographs and order prints, go to his Smugmug site or Charles Howard Smith Photography on Facebook 




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It’s All Connected At the St. Louis County Duluth Depot

St. Louis County’s Duluth Depot building has an amazing history from being the “Ellis Island” of this region to serving as community refuge during the 1918 Fires, to even recently serving as a vaccination site in early 2021. “Beyond the history, it is a space today where all are welcome,” said Kristin Johnson, in charge of Depot Marketing and Events, for St. Louis County.


Offering a potpourri of programming, exhibits, events and educational opportunities to the region and state, the Depot is a regional cultural center and on the National Register of Historic Places. Their vision is to serve as a cornerstone of arts and cultural organizations and to entertain, educate, inspire and provide space for a diverse group of guests.


Mary K. Tennis, Director of the Depot and Extension Services, said, “The Depot is many things to our community: a historic building, a contemporary art gallery, a performance center, an educational resource and a welcoming event space. We connect culture with curiosity and creativity blossoms!”


Housing a number of tenants/collaborators devoted to arts, cultural, and educational opportunities, the building has become the regional hub for the programming they offer.  These organizations include the Arrowhead Chorale, Duluth Art Institute, Minnesota Ballet, St. Louis County Historical Society, Duluth Playhouse, and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum/North Shore Scenic Railroad.


Admittance to The Depot is free, as are most of the community events hosted here. Three floors of the Depot are free to experience with donations suggested and appreciated. Many tenants offer shows, camps and workshops at a ticketed price.


Hailey Eidenschink, the Depot’s Tours & Program Coordinator, said, “The Depot is uniquely positioned in that we are a St. Louis County asset. Therefore, we can provide services that uplift community members.”


The Arrowhead Chorale is an auditioned symphonic choir whose vast repertoire includes Medieval music, to world premiers – sacred and secular, folksong and art song, opera chorus and jazz – as well as music traditions from across the world.


“We love being part of the arts community at the Depot, and one of our favorite things is our annual Holiday Traditions and Jubilations concert, which takes place in the Great Hall every December,” said Rachel Bartell, Business Manager for the Chorale. They also host The Great Hall Marketplace during the holiday season where over 60 local and regional vendors set up their craft goods in the Great Hall and other areas.


The Duluth Arts Institute (DAI) is a fine arts organization serving artists, art enthusiasts and art learners. They offer art classes and camps in painting, pottery making, tapestry, and open studio time. The DAI is home to three galleries. They also host exhibitions in the St. Louis Depot Great Hall, and select works displayed in the Depot entry and in the Duluth City Hall.


Christina Woods, DAI Executive Director, noted, “The Depot is the only community collaborative providing arts, culture and history under on roof. The humanities are the cornerstone to the understanding of complex issues we face as a community.”


The Minnesota Ballet is the premier classical ballet company and dance education organization in the upper Midwest region, providing high-quality performances, pre-professional ballet training and outreach programs. The School of the Minnesota Ballet offers fine ballet training and performance opportunities for children, young people and adults.


“The Depot is such a community asset providing a stream of people coming through the doors that benefits all of the organization,’ said Kelli Latuska, Executive Director for the Minnesota Ballet. “We love having our rehearsal space here for our company, having classes here and holding staged performances and fundraisers in the Great Hall.”


Since its inception in 1922, the St. Louis County Historical Society has sought to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge about the history, and prehistory, of St. Louis County as well as the state of Minnesota. The Society maintains and operates a museum as well as participates in the collections and operations of a historical research center.


JoAnne Coombe, the Historical Society’s Executive Director, said, “We are proud to be home in the Depot. We offer visitors an opportunity to see our permanent exhibits including the immigrants waiting room, the Depot Square shops, temporary and traveling exhibits and the Veterans Memorial Hall.”


The Duluth Playhouse has two Depot theaters, one houses their Family Theater, and the other is the Underground. The Family Theater is a place for the entire family to enjoy the magic of live theater together with plays and musicals.  The Underground is a one-of-a-kind performance space, located in the lower level of the Depot, presenting cutting-edge plays and musicals.


Amber Burns, Family Theater Artistic Director, explained, “In addition to our performances, we offer classes year-round and summer camps. We are very happy to be in the great artistic community that the Depot provides. The County has offered several building-wide community events and the collaborative energy here is wonderful, all in a beautiful space where people can experience art and culture.”


The Lake Superior Railroad Museum and North Shore Scenic Railroad are both exciting draws to the Depot. They house a collection of several hundred major artifacts including the world's most powerful steam engine, the first steam locomotive ever in Minnesota, a rare box cab electric motor and beautiful private railcars. There is a charge for the Museum and for the various train excursions.

According to Executive Director and General Manager, Ken Buehler, “The North Shore Scenic Railroad safely carries over 110,000 passengers a year and is a major tourist destination in the Northland. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine picked our railroad as ‘One of the 10 Best Family-Friendly Scenic Train Rides in North America.’ USA Today rated our Fall Color Trains ‘One of the Five Best in America.’”


“For 130 years (our birthday is in March), the St. Louis County Depot has acted as a hub for the region. Our team is now striving to continue to honor that history by creating future opportunities for the people of our area to make connections with this amazing building,” said Johnson.


“It's more than what meets the eye! No one expects to walk into an old, gorgeous train station, see a play, view beautiful art, or learn the history of the area all in one place. There’s so much to do at the Depot - always something exciting going on,” added Bartell.

Go to experiencethedepot.org to learn more about the St. Louis County Depot.




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Duluth Flower Farm Grown, not Flown

Locally-Grown Flower Farm and Florist Offers Nature-Inspired Products that are “Grown, not Flown”

Brook and Derek Hoffbauer, co-owners of rural Duluth-based Duluth Flower Farm, are your typical hard-working farmers. Together, this married couple, along with their four children – Donna (16), Deegan (14), Dane (12), and Dottie (7) - operates five greenhouses and two farms, which are spread across five acres.

Here, the Hoffbauers grow a wide variety of dahlias, peonies, and many other flowers, along with plants, fresh fruits, and veggies. Come November, they use fresh evergreens to create nature-inspired products from what is local and in-season.

Farmer Doug

Derek’s father, “Farmer Doug” Hoffbauer, a long-time farmer and well-known vendor at local farmer’s markets, has been an astute mentor for the couple. “Doug has taught us everything we know,” Brook shared, adding that Derek’s mom, Lois, also inspires her about farming and family.

Educating his family and the community is a big part of Doug’s legacy. “It’s important to him that the kids know where food comes from,” said Brook. “Our kids participate in farmer’s markets, and with planting, harvesting and production. And Donna, our new driver, can now deliver local freshness. The kids have been selling since they could see over the counter. They’re learning both math and business skills.”

Together, multiple generations of Hoffbauers share the load of growing, harvesting, and selling their products. And, the philosophies behind how they farm – including using ethical, sustainable growing practices, selling products that grow well in our local soil and climate, and abiding by the phrase “grown, not flown,” also continue the legacy Farmer Doug started over 35 years ago.

Year-Round Operation

As any good farmer knows, there is a season for everything. While Duluth Flower Farm operates year-round, they strive to use what is local and in-season. If they cannot grow it themselves, they support other farmers when possible.

Spring on the farm brings annuals, veggie starts, hanging baskets, blueberry plants, strawberry plants, potted arrangements, and the kids help with collecting Farmer Doug’s maple syrup.

With summer comes a wide assortment of fresh veggies, along with Duluth Flower Farm’s highly-popular dahlias and peonies, and about 100 other flower varieties.

Fall is the season for pumpkins, squash, gourds, apples, and Farmer Doug’s pick-your-own pumpkin patch. The Farm has a presence at a variety of local fall festivals and harvest fests.

Winter is when the evergreen business picks up. Balsam Fir is the most popular tree species used for Christmas trees and wreaths. Duluth Flower Farm’s hard-working designers create many wreaths, winter porch pots, kissing balls, gnomes, garlands, and more. They also ship their balsam wreaths from Balsamwreath.com, a website Derek created in college.

Besides the family, Duluth Flower Farm also employs several people. In the summer, they usually have four designers and two harvesters. During winter, they maintain a crew of about 20 people, who handle designing, shipping, harvesting, and other tasks.

Weddings, Funerals and Everyday Flowers

Duluth Flower Farm provides full floral services for funerals and weddings and also offers “just because” bouquets. “We offer a full design or a DIY option – we can pick the flowers with your event in mind and you can create your own wedding or event flower arrangements,” Brook shared. The design team is available and ready to work with couples and special event requests to bring their vision to life.

When it comes to weddings, they believe your wedding florals should be an experience that includes what is local and in-season at the time of your celebration. “We always start with what we grow,” Brook added. “We try to use what is fresh and in-season. If we don’t have it, then we partner with other farms. And if we can’t get our items locally, then we will use our full florist capabilities.”

Where to Purchase

While the Duluth Flower Farm is open by appointment only, there are plenty of other places their products can be purchased. “Most people call and pick up their order, or visit our website to place an order for delivery,” Brook said, noting that delivery services are available for the greater Twin Ports area. In the winter, balsam wreaths can be shipped nationwide.

However, Duluth Flower Farm also grows for many florists who support local farms, and they enjoy selling their products at Duluth’s Whole Foods Co-op stores. They also maintain a presence at the Duluth Farmers Market, located at 1324 East 3rd Street, throughout the spring and summer.

From October through December, Duluth Flower Farm rents a space at the Dan’s Feed Bin Garden Center, at 821 Hammond Avenue in Superior, where they sell wreaths, Christmas trees, kissing balls, evergreens, and centerpieces, along with decorative gnomes and garland. Their shipping crew will ship many wreaths nationwide, from Balsamwreath.com. Duluth Flower Farm still has plenty of fresh centerpieces for the holiday season, available now.

And, a country farm stand held at Farmer Doug’s (3361 Lindahl Road), is open through much of the growing season, selling flowers, veggies, and more. The farm stand successfully operates using the “honor system.”

Most Rewarding

Being a farmer is incredibly hard work, but it isn’t without its rewards. Brook shared a story about a customer with a unique request, and a bittersweet backstory.

“We had one customer come in with a request for a uniquely-shaped Christmas tree to remember her late son by, and she shared their memories together around that tree. Each year we bring that tradition to life for his mother. We are honored to be invited into the stories our customers share with us, and it brings us such joy to be able to design with their stories in mind.”

“It’s also rewarding for us to teach the next generation about what’s local and in-season,” she added. “We want people to know what’s available locally, and to be inspired by nature.”

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Catalyst Story Institute - Building a Creative Community

JoAnn Jardine

The word “catalyst” is defined as “someone or something that encourages important progress or change,” and "a person whose talk, enthusiasm or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic or energetic.”

The Catalyst Story Institute, based in Duluth since 2019, clearly fits both of these definitions. They are a year-round educational and professional development institute empowering creators to bring their narrative stories to fruition.

With the ever-increasing demand for fresh TV programming and the need to have content across many platforms, Catalyst is not only a showcase for high-quality television pilots and series. They also bring together the next generation of creative talents.

Catalyst’s long-term mission has been “to build a strong creative community that discovers new voices, curates their work and advances their career by lowering the barriers between storytellers, audiences and the industry.”

They have been diligently expanding their network with strong support from WDSE-WRPT here in Duluth, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Korea Foundation, the Upper Midwest Film Office, as well as other local partners and sponsors.

Leadership from Philip Gilpin, Catalyst’s CEO, has brought not only the Catalyst home base here to Duluth,  but also an annual Content Festival that brings hundreds of people in the industry together annually.

Philip Gilpin Jr. (CEO/Executive Director at Catalyst Story Institute) and Riki McManus (Chief Production Officer at Upper Midwest Film Office).

This 2021 Festival included content screenings. workshops, table reads, panels, and presentations on a variety of topics such as the art of pitching and financing for projects. Panelists, speakers and participants featured a wide swath of the industry, with producers, screenwriters, media experts, actors, casting directors, agents, show runners, and many more.

The exciting red carpet gala on the final night, held at the Depot, included an awards ceremony, with awards presented to the best projects and performances in a number of categories.

Ireon Roach, lead actress in "The Come Up,” receiving her award for Catalyst’s Outstanding Drama Actress, presented by Nikki Coble. Photo by JoAnn Jardine

“There is no better way to do include hundreds and hundreds of producers, creators and executives. We have them all in one space. We can talk to them. We can show them our beautiful lake. We can show them our beautiful Lakewalk. We can show them the topography and the things that we have to offer,” said Upper Midwest Film Office Executive Director, Shari Marshik.

Catalyst’s collaboration with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Korea Foundation, and the Innovation Station at the US State Department, is also helping them to expand both in the US and internationally. The Korean’s delegation attending the Festival was especially timely because South Korean entertainment is more popular than ever with their highly popular Netflix show, “Squid Game.”

Chungmin Lee-Director, Korea Foundation Los Angeles Office, Elaine Kim Co-Director of Break Through Now Media, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Michelle McLean-Miss Universe 1992, Global Tourism Ambassador - Namibia. Photo by JoAnn Jardine

An important announcement that came out during the festival is that the group behind the Emmy Awards is partnering with Duluth's Catalyst Story Institute to mentor television and web series creators around the globe.

Gilpin explained, “The National Academy of Arts and Sciences partnership will have an immediate and lasting impact for storytellers and the industry. Creating this kind of trusted pathway is something that has been needed for a long time, and now it runs through Duluth - putting us at the center of the indie TV world. In the months ahead, we will begin connecting creators with industry mentors. I’m very excited to see where those connections lead in the years to come.”

Catalyst works with organizations such as UMFO to create year-round production opportunities for creators in places like Duluth where they can enjoy a high quality of life while working on their stories.

This long-term economic development approach requires a strong state, regional, and local municipal effort — work that is supported by St Louis County with their production tax rebate, and the State of Minnesota with their newly created tax credit.

Building a career in the industry requires hard work and a strong professional network. Catalyst focuses heavily on creating environments where people can develop genuine friendships and lasting partnerships. UMFO is also offering workshops locally on a variety of pertinent topics including jobs available in the industry and what training is needed.

While Catalyst’s outreach is nationally and internationally increasing every day, they are working to make Duluth and the region, a filming hub as well. Key infrastructure elements such as an airport, a number of centralized venues, hotels, restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene including ballet, orchestra, and multiple theatres, are also attractive incentives.

“There are now thousands of people around the world who had never heard of Duluth before Catalyst. They now think of Duluth as being a vibrant arts industry hub in the USA because their first introduction to our town was via Catalyst,” said Gilpin.

Both Gilpin and McManus feel that getting even one important episodic show to film in the region would be a game-changer in both the creation of local jobs and the dramatic impact on the local economy across the spectrum.

“With direct revenue to local businesses, Catalyst brings in far more money to the community than it receives from local sources. We are a money generator for our local economy,” said Gilpin.

While the industry has already made LA in the West, NYC in the East, and Atlanta in the South, hot spots for television content, Catalyst and other organizations are working to make Duluth and the state of Minnesota, the Hollywood of the North.

Learn more about Catalyst Story Institute at catalystories.org


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The DSSO - 91 Years of Symphony

Steve Mattson

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra

Sharing the Power of Music and Musicians’ Artistry for Over Ninety Years

According to Hans Christian Andersen, “Where words fail, music speaks.” The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO)  has been “speaking” to area audiences for over ninety years.

The Duluth Civic Orchestra was first organized in 1931 and practiced in the carriage house of Alphin Flaaten, a professional music teacher. Their early concerts were held in the Duluth Armory, but in 1966 the Civic Orchestra moved to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Auditorium.

By 1975, the name of the musical organization was changed to the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. They are renowned for their professional level of performance of symphonic music, both classic and new works, and the guest artists they host from around the world.

The DSSO’s symphony orchestra blends a magnificent collection of up to 100 musicians who play instruments from four basic families: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. Each season they feature 6-7 masterwork concerts and 2-3 pops concerts.

They also perform “casual” afternoon concerts in various locales throughout the area where they encourage families to bring even young children to enjoy the music.

German conductor, Dirk Meyer, joined the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra as the Music Director in 2013. Meyer is also Music Director of the Augusta Symphony in Georgia and locally, the Lyric Opera of the North.

Dirk Meyer, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Music Director

He has also been a guest conductor for orchestras throughout the United States and many orchestras in Europe and abroad. His engaging and entertaining conducting style has made him an audience favorite.

“Standing on the podium and working with our great musicians is the most rewarding for me. I am also really proud of the level of cultural offerings in theater, ballet, and opera, as well as from our colleges in our community,” said Meyer.

He added, “We enjoy our community outreach with ensembles in events like our ‘Beerthoven’ appearances in bars and breweries, playing Huskies’ games and for the 4th of July at Bayfront. We love getting music out to more people in different venues.”

Erin Aldridge is the DSSO’s Concertmaster. She also serves as Professor of Violin and Director of Orchestras at UWS.

DSSO’s Concertmaster Erin Aldridge

“The Symphony is not an elitist thing. We want our music to be open and accessible to everyone. I am very passionate about what we do at the DSSO, and I enjoy sharing that passion with our audiences,” Aldridge said.

Like Aldridge many of the DSSO musicians have educational connections in one of the area college or high schools. She said, “I love making music and I love teaching. I think I have the best of both worlds.”

Brandon VanWaeyenberghe was named the DSSO’s Executive Director in September of 2019. Before coming to Duluth, he served as the director of finance for the Charlotte Symphony.

Director Dirk Meyer and Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe

“I take great joy in my job with the DSSO. This is an exciting place to work, with wonderful musicians and a great conductor. We will always be looking for ways to build our audience and to have active conversations about how we fit in as an inspirational form of entertainment in the community,” VanWaeyenberghe said.

Melanie Sever, the administrator for the Duluth Superior Symphony Youth Orchestras (DSSYO), is also a freelance musician, plays with the DSSO, and is a flute instructor at UWS and CSS.

The DSSYO is one of the oldest youth orchestra programs in the country. For more than 80 years, thousands of young musicians throughout the Northland have found inspiration in this program.

The DSSYO gives young musicians the chance to sharpen their music skills through a variety of experiences with DSSO conductors and musicians in rehearsals, sectionals and side-by-side performances with the DSSO.

“I recall my positive experience playing with the DSSYO myself when I was in high school,” says Sever. “It is what propelled me to go into music. This is such a rewarding program for the students and for the music professionals who work with them.”

Competitive auditions are held annually to find new DSSYO members. Membership is open to students aged 10 through high school in their Youth Symphony, Concert Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and Sinfonia.

“The Youth Orchestra is one of the most important things we do. I especially enjoy working with these young talented musicians,” said Meyer.

The DSSO Symphony Chorus has a long history of performances, going back to its founding in 1959. This chorus of dedicated volunteers appears regularly with the DSSO in presentations of choral-orchestral masterworks, operas and pops concerts.

Christabel Grant is a past member of the DSSO Chorus and is a current member of the Board of Directors. Her adult children were part of the DSSYO growing up.

“The DSSO has been an important part of our family for many years. It is a legacy of the love of music that we have been proud to pass down to our children, Grant said.

“Music restores my soul, and the DSSO has been an important part of that,” she said.

When asked why people who may have never been to the Symphony should attend, VanWaeyenberghe said, “It is wonderful to support local artists and support the local economy. The DSSO concerts are not stuffy or formal. You will see people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and people in tuxedos and fancy dresses, all coming together to enjoy music together.”

The communal experience of going to a DSSO concert is summed up in a quote from their website. “Music has the power to transport us in time, space and emotion. Poignant pieces of music can bring us to tears or make us dance with joy. It makes us remember moments we might have forgotten. Music shapes our experiences and brings us together. It moves our hearts and shakes out the cobwebs. Join us at a DSSO concert this season, and share in the joy.”

For more information about the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra, Concert Series, and tickets, visit dsso.com











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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 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. Last year, 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.”


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.

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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