Another Opening, Another Show!

Achter Productions

For over 100 years, starting with its humble beginnings in a small church in 1914, the Duluth Playhouse in all its various reincarnations and venue changes has been entertaining local audiences. The hundreds of shows since its modest start have been at the heart of the city’s cultural identity.


The Playhouse takes one of its most gigantic leaps forward with the February 1 opening of the smash Broadway musical hit “Mamma Mia” in their new home in the renovated NorShor theater.


On the occasion of the Playhouse 100th anniversary, I wrote their commemorative booklet as part of the anniversary events. The voices of those who love the Playhouse still resonate with me, as each person I chatted with and included in the booklet had their own take on the meaning of community theater in Duluth.


Playhouse veteran actors Bob and Selma Goldish, who sadly both passed away this past year, shared, “Meeting everyone in each production, terrific people of all stripes and levels and ages whom we would probably never have met otherwise, tightening old friendships, sharing meaningful memories . . .Personally finding a welcome common interest and activity we could do together was wonderful.”


“Some of the happiest moments of my life have been in this place,” said actress and director Julie Ahasay


Former Mayor Don Ness said, “For a century, the Playhouse has grown and evolved with the city, and it will forever be a center for community engagement and exploration.”


Now, that growth and evolution will blend the historical roots of downtown Duluth’s past on the site with all the up to date theatrical bells and whistles, to become the city’s theatrical hub in the totally renovated NorShor theater.


The different uses of the building have seen some highlights, lowlights, and then it became an empty blight on Superior Street. After the 30 million dollar, sixteen month project, the NorShor will be a glorious venue for a generation of new audiences.


The building will be home to the Duluth Playhouse productions, as well national theatrical touring shows and musical acts, local music, opera, and theater groups and will even serve as a rental space for private parties and events.


“Our new NorShor home will once again be a source of pride for our community," says Christine Seitz,” Playhouse Executive and Artistic Director.


The first Playhouse production in the new space, “Mamma Mia,” will star Broadway actress Jen Burleigh-Bentz, playing the leading role of Donna Sheridan. She was in the Broadway production for four years.


“Not only am I just tickled pink to play Donna again, but I am really thrilled to be part of the opening show for the newly renovated and recovered NorShor for the Duluth Playhouse - it's IMPRESSIVE - So much history, what a treat!” says Burleigh-Bentz.


In his first role in the Playhouse with “Mamma Mia,” actor Derek Bromme says, “I can't adequately describe to you what it feels like to be part of something this momentous for the Duluth community. We as the cast really feel a responsibility to give the audiences something special. We want this new theater to be a beacon of excellence and a heart for the arts community . . .”



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Instilling Values; Creating Community

Commitment. Courage. Honor. Hard Work. Integrity. Sportsmanship. Team Work. Dedication.

These eight values, combined with compelling images of athletes in motion, are proudly displayed on eight brand-new banners at the Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Sports Center (EHDHSC). The banners, commissioned from brilliant local artist Tim Cortes, represent the standards of conduct that went into building the facility ten years ago, as well as the much hoped-for end goal intended for the kids who play here.

“These eight beliefs aren’t just words on a page,” says Patrick Francisco, Chairman of the DHSC Foundation. “They are truly the values that drive the people living in this community.”

It Began with a Vision

While the EHDHSC is the proud home for three Duluth high school hockey teams, it is so much more. Here, you can play soccer, lacrosse, take a yoga class, or even rent the facility for a birthday party. “This is a community place,” Francisco shares.

It all started when Duluth’s Peterson Arena burned down in 2004. While this left a huge hole in the community, and one less place to get out on the ice, Francisco and others knew that if it was to be rebuilt, the community deserved something more than simply a replacement.

The result of a $20 million-dollar investment, completed with a shocking 70% of its construction costs handled by private funding, the facility opened its doors in 2007. Today, this multi-use community facility is home to the Dave Goldberg branch of the Boys & Girls Club, Duluth Area Hockey Association (DAHA), two 200 X 85’ hockey rinks (Sill & Seitz Arenas), Giuliani Hall, the City of Duluth’s Recreation Program, and more.

A Healthy Partnership

In June 2016, Essentia Health, a health system serving patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho, and headquartered in Duluth, became a major community partner with the Duluth Heritage Sports Center and the health system’s name was added to the facility name.

This partnership opened the door to many more programming options at the EHDHSC, including multi-generational, community wellness education programs to foster youth development, family education, senior health, healthy living, and social responsibility.

For instance, free community yoga classes are now held at the EHDHSC. It also hosts health and wellness activities like concussion prevention, smoking cessation, and flu shot booths.

“The facility has breathed new life into the neighborhood and surrounding community,” says Essentia Health CEO David Herman, MD. “At Essentia Health, our mission is to make a healthy difference in the lives of the people we serve and that commitment is shared by those who lead the EHDHSC. Because of that, the partnership is a perfect fit for Essentia.”

Focus on the Athletes

The health and safety of the athletes who play at EHDHSC are the top priority of everyone involved. “We’re privileged to work with 250 Northland teams and 25,000 student-athletes as the Official Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team for four local universities and 15 area high schools,” says Kristi Schmidt, Essentia Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.

“We provide care before, during and after both practices and games. Working together, we prevent, diagnose and treat everything from minor sprains to injuries that could end a student-athlete’s season. We’re committed to keeping student athletes like the Duluth East Greyhounds, the Proctor Rails, the Denfeld Hunters, the Hermantown Hawks and the Superior Spartans, just to name a few, healthy and in the game.”

Hockey and So Much More

Beyond hockey and the community education programming offered through Essentia, there is something for everyone at the EHDHSC. Summer sports programs, soccer, lacrosse, and open skating are all part of the fun. Dog shows, flea markets, auto shows, and activities for ISD 709 have all taken place inside the facility. And, of course, the Clyde Iron restaurant is directly next door; a convenient option for hungry hockey players and their parents.

But, above all, the EHDHSC is a place where a child, no matter their socioeconomic status or background, is welcomed and accepted. Here, while they play, they learn the bedrock of Duluth’s values, including commitment, courage, honor, hard work, integrity, sportsmanship, team work, and dedication. “The EHDHSC is simply Duluth’s heart on display,” Francisco says.

For more information, please visit


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Stable Job or Side Hustle

Whatever your Career Aspirations, NORTHFORCE Can Help

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

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

NORTHFORCE is 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

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Spirit Mountain: Duluth's Year-Round Recreation Destination

The name Spirit Mountain has become synonymous with great skiing.

Since 1974, Spirit has helped Duluth grow its reputation as a hub for skiing – including downhill, cross-country and snowboarding. As a result, Spirit Mountain recently opted to toot their own horn just a bit, proclaiming Duluth Minnesota’s Best Ski Town. We at Destination Duluth couldn’t agree more!

But, while there’s no doubt the skiing is amazing, Spirit Mountain offers so much more. With activities ranging from mini-golf and fat-tire biking to an alpine coaster and zip line, Spirit Mountain is Duluth’s year-round recreation destination.

Amazing Views

If you like a side of scenery while you ski, you’ve come to the right place. Spirit Mountain Recreation Area is perched atop a glorious hill overlooking the city of Duluth, the St. Louis River, and Lake Superior.

Featuring everything from bunny hills to black diamonds, skiers at any age can conquer their own unique challenges at Spirit.

A Positive Impact on DLH’s Economy

Spirit Mountain was founded in 1974 by the Minnesota Legislature. With a mission of providing recreational activities to promote tourism and preserve the environment, Spirit Mountain is now a top destination for both winter and summer recreation.

44 years later, the “ski economy” now makes up a good chunk of Duluth’s economy. We have several unique stores that specialize in selling and repairing ski and snowboard gear. Even our thrift shops are full of ski equipment.

So, even if your budget is a little tight, you have no excuse not to hit the slopes!


Brandy Ream, Executive Director - Spirit Mountain Recreation Area, shares, “If you are lucky enough to call yourself a local or are aspiring to be a ‘weekend local,’ you have come to the right place. Spirit Mountain has contributed to making Duluth Minnesota’s Best Ski Town by offering the 2nd highest vertical in the state. With over 700 acres of skiable terrain, Spirit Mountain has been voted the Midwest’s Best Terrain Park two years running. We also feature 22 km of Nordic trails, and are a trail head for the Superior Hiking Trail.”

Whether Mother Nature is being stingy with the snow, or a tiny young skier is just getting started, Spirit Mountain can meet any challenge. “We feature a variety of terrain, 100% snowmaking (referring to the skiable area able to have artificial snow applied), two chalets, and extensive learning programs,” Ream says. “We are the perfect place for every skier: beginner to expert.”

Beyond the skiing and snowboarding, winter is also a great option for tubing and fat-tire biking. “Winter also ushers in our snow tubing experience that we kick up a notch on the weekends with our glow tubing,” Ream says. And, Spirit Mountain even offers downhill, lift-served fat biking during the winter months.

Year-Round Activity

Duluth’s splendid summers signify the kickoff to Spirit Mountain’s Adventure Park. Featuring an alpine coaster, zip-line, mini-golf, jumping pillow and scenic chairlift rides, there are plenty of activities to get your adrenaline pumping.

And, there are tons of mountain biking opportunities. “Our downhill mountain bike trails are nationally recognized, and offer trails rated from beginner to expert, plus a skills park and pump track,” Ream says.

If you’re just here for a visit, you’ll get the most adventure out of your stay by making your year-round accommodations directly on the property. Spirit offers two on-site lodging options, with its Mountain Villas and a summer campground.

Why Spirit Mountain? 

When it comes to skiing Duluth, Spirit Mountain is simply the bee’s knees. “On any given day at Spirit,” Ream shares, “You’ll see multi-generational families enjoying our activities. We provide a landscape for incredible memories to be made, experiences to be built, and laughter to be heard from all.”

“From enjoying the ski hill after work to shredding the mountain bike trails on the weekends, Spirit Mountain allows one to stay active, focus on time with friends and family, and yet still be able to drive home every night. We truly are your destination for incredible experiences.”






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Skyline Parkway: Your Scenic Byway to Wintertime Magic

Friends of Skyline Parkway

Looking for some big Duluth fun this winter? Take it from a resident, and consider Skyline Parkway!

A gorgeous route starting from West Duluth’s Magney-Snively Natural Area and winding 25 miles east to Brighton Beach, Skyline Parkway is a phenomenal place to kick off your winter adventures. Offering gorgeous opportunities for cross-country skiing along with unparalleled scenic overlooks (great for checking out the Lake Superior sea smoke!), Skyline has it all.

Today, we’ll speak to a local resident who grew up on the western end of Skyline. She shares some great spots along the Parkway for cross-country skiing and phenomenal views.

We’ll also explore the official word on the street with some history and highlights of Skyline, taken from the City of Duluth’s webpage,

A Bit of History

Construction began on Duluth’s Skyline Parkway back in 1889. Ten years later, Duluth mayor Samuel F. Snively began construction of an extension to the Parkway, in what is known today as Seven Bridges Road. Many extensions and connections were added along the way, culminating in Skyline’s designation as a State Scenic Byway in 2001.

Route Highlights

From west to east, there are several popular highlights along Skyline, including:

Magney-Snively Natural Area - Encompasses an 1800-acre old-growth forest popular for hiking, cross-country skiing, and fall colors.

Bardon's Peak - Named after James Bardon of Superior, Wisconsin, this spot offers views of Duluth and the St. Louis River.

The scenic Stewart Creek Bridge was built around 1925. It is listed on the National Register, but its talented engineer remains unknown. It is well-known for its “jagged teeth.”

Spirit Mountain offers year-round recreation, including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, an alpine coaster, mini golf, a zip line, and tubing.

Thompson Hill provides spectacular views of Lake Superior and Duluth. This is a great place to watch the sea smoke rise off the lake, or catch a sunrise or sunset.

Enger Park showcases Enger Tower, a five-story blue stone observation tower, providing panoramic views of the Twin Ports. The park includes a Japanese temple bell, gardens, and picnic areas.

Twin Ponds, part of Buckingham Creek, has long been a popular fishing and swimming destination.

Chester Park follows Chester Creek on both sides of the Parkway and includes hiking and skiing trails, a ski hill, ski jumps, and a playground.

Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is a favorite spot for bird watchers and hikers during Raptor migration, from August through November.

Seven Bridges Road runs from Hawk Ridge to London Road along Amity Creek. Yes, this scenic road really features seven bridges.

Kitchi Gammi Park (Brighton Beach) - This rocky, rugged beach at Skyline's eastern end lets you experience the lake up close; a great option for watching the sun rise over Lake Superior.

Tips from a Local

Duluth’s Laurie Mattson was born and raised on 100th Avenue West, along a lovely section of Skyline Parkway. She offers advice on some must-see spots along the route.

“The Magney-Snively Ski Trail starts at a parking lot going west past 99th and 100th Avenues West, past the Stewart Creek Bridge and the Mayor Snively memorial,” Mattson shares. “The lot is on the left side of Skyline, not far from the bridge. It is stunning, and I would say it is a good choice for intermediate skiers. Of course, Spirit Mountain is a big draw along west Skyline Parkway, and there are cross-country ski trails which begin in the campground area.”

She continues, “Going east along Skyline Parkway when you leave Spirit Mountain, you cross over I-35 on an overpass, and that leads to Thompson Hill, where the view is spectacular. You can see St. Louis Bay, and the Spirit, Clough and Whiteside Islands.”

On the eastern side of town, Skyline offers great cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails at both Chester Park and Lester Park; just look for the signs!

Check it Out!

If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy the winter trails or catch a magnificent view of the Lake, consider Skyline Parkway. An absolute jewel in Duluth’s crown, Skyline offers year-round views and plenty of opportunity for big adventure.


Photos from the Facebook page of “Friends of Skyline Parkway” 

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That’s What She Said

Dennis O'Hara

All right, so the title of this post is obviously a click-bait-y ploy for your attention.

If you’re familiar with the TV show The Office, you know that resident corporate dink Michael Scott ends every fortuitously unintentional innuendo with “That’s what she said.” The jokes can get reasonably off-color, so we’ll save the examples for a more fitting occasion.

Nevertheless, people really are saying things about Duluth. We’ve been hearing unbelievably positive commentary from around the country about our food, our scenery, our recreation. So, basically, all of the things. 

Today, Destination Duluth will explore some of the attention we’re getting in other places. From he and she; from them to we; here’s a compilation of what they said.

Outdoor Adventures

Star Tribune: Outside Mag names Duluth “Best Town Ever.” (August 2014)

Summary: Duluth trumped a whole bunch of other cool cities for this amazing accolade; here’s why.

Duluth News Tribune: Duluth graces the cover of Outside magazine's 'Best Towns Ever' issue (August 2014)

Summary: This is our hometown paper. Duluth is amazed that we made the cover! Story includes a few comments from former Mayor Don Ness.

Outside Magazine: Best Towns 2014 – Mountain Biking Duluth (March 2014)

Summary: A minute and a half long video of awesome mountain biking footage, narrated by Rudy O’Brien.

National Geographic: America’s 20 Best Mountain Bike Towns (May 2017)

Summary: Nat Geo explores the Duluth Traverse, Lester Park, Hartley Park, Mission Creek, Spirit Mountain, and Piedmont-Brewer Park biking systems, and explains what makes them great.

Duluth’s Image

The Atlantic: How America is putting itself back together … Most people in the U.S. believe their country is going to hell. But they’re wrong. What a three-year journey by single-engine plane reveals about reinvention and renewal. (March 2016)

Highlights: The story highlights some cool cities and the great things they’re doing, after our country experienced some horrible events (mass shootings, economic downturns, bouts of extreme poverty). Highlights Duluth’s great job opportunities (Cirrus, etc), year-round recreation, and amazing quality of life.

The Star Tribune: Duluth enjoying a new image, long in the making. (August 2015)

Summary: Total rah-rah cheerleader article about Duluth from tip to tail. A collaboration of accolades Duluth has received, and how its image has been reborn.

General Duluth Awesomeness

The Star Tribune: How Duluth became the outdoor capital of the Midwest (April 2017)

Summary: A rundown of Duluth’s awesomeness, including: Picturesque panoramas (Hawk Ridge, the Duluth Traverse), locally crafted beverages (Bent Paddle, Vikre) other cool hotspots (seeing Glensheen from the outside, Pier B, the Lakewalk, Canal Park).

Outside online: Why Duluth is the Best Town in America (August 2014)

Summary: Rundown of everything that makes Duluth great: local beer, outdoor activities, and the birthplace of Bob Dylan.

Food and Drink

The Star Tribune: Destination, Duluth: What's new in dining that you don't want to miss (June 2016)

Summary: Several Duluth hotspots are highlighted and dissected: Duluth’s Best Bread, Duluth Coffee Company, Vikre, Pickwick, Grandma’s, Brewhouse, Northern Waters Smokehaus, Duluth Grill, Burrito Union, and options up the shore.

One Fit City

Gadgets and - Fitness tracker data reveals the fittest cities in America (May 2017)

Summary: Fitbit ranks Duluth #1!

In Closing

Well, clearly we’ve given ‘em something to talk about. From our food and drink to our outdoor adventures, and even our connection to Bob Dylan, Duluth has got it goin’ on.

I know we can keep it up.

And, that, folks, is what she said.

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Bentleyville: Lighting up the Community

Dennis O'Hara

Bayfront Festival Park, located on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, is home to outdoor music concerts, festivals, and various gatherings during the summer and fall. However, for six weeks in the wintertime, it gets transformed from an open space to a spectacular walk through light display. Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” is known as America’s largest free walk through lighting display. It boasts over four million lights and has been drawing visitors from near and far since 2009, which was the first year it was held at Bayfront Festival Park.


Nathan Bentley, founder of Bentleyville, first started the tradition in Esko, Minnesota in 2001, lighting up his home for the holidays. In 2004, the Bentley family moved to rural Cloquet, Minnesota where the vision grew. “I was enthralled with the display of lights when Nathan Bentley put together his Christmas light display at his home in Cloquet,” Margy Fraboni recalls. In 2008, he was invited by the City of Duluth to bring his vision to Bayfront. “While working at Wells Fargo, employees could volunteer for different community events and I chose to help out at Bentleyville the first year it opened in Duluth,” says Fraboni.


Countless things make Bentleyville so special including sparkling lights, a 128 feet high dazzling tree, complimentary hot cocoa, cookies, and popcorn. You can even grab a roasting fork and roast marshmallows over an open fire. Santa and Mrs. Claus bring in the holiday spirit by jumping from an airplane on the opening night each year. Then they greet children every night, giving out free Bentleyville hats for children ten years old and under.


Children and adults alike can have their photo taken with Rudolph, the Bentleyville mascot that walks around and greets visitors. You can sign someone up on the Naughty or Nice List. The five-dollar per name donation helps keep Bentleyville, a non-profit, running. This past winter there were 1,327 names on the Nice List and 425 names on the Naughty List. The final night each year, they light up the sky with fireworks, illuminating the crowd and Lake Superior below. At Bentleyville, the holiday magic always surrounds you.


Holiday Tradition

Over the past years, Bentleyville has grown dramatically. In 2009, there were 150,000 visitors. This past season in 2017, it hit a record crowd of over 330,000 holiday enthusiasts. Tim Rogentine, event coordinator for Bentleyville says, “This is my fifth season with Bentleyville and I was amazed to hear how many times I heard the phrase “We came last year and this is now our family tradition!” or “This is our (second, third, seventh, etc.) time visiting this year!” We enjoy being able to have a positive effect on our guests’ lives during the holidays.”


Locals know that visiting Bentleyville on the weekends tends to be a bit more crowded and plan their visits accordingly. Another option to view the spectacular display is by taking a drive on Skyline Parkway or enjoying a dinner at The Silos or JJ Astor’s restaurant. The views can’t be beat!


Duluth is a great community to be a part of and one of the reasons is because of our neighbors, the great people who help make events like Bentleyville possible. 768 volunteers helped setup, run and dismantle Bentleyville for a total of 15,000 hours.

Each night between 25-60 volunteers are needed to help pass out hot cocoa and cookies. Rogentine says, “We take pride in how well our event has played out with the great response we have had with volunteers coming to help out and the flow of the crowds.”


Jill Dalbacka has been volunteering with a group of her friends for years. “We volunteer at the cookie house, six to eight of us at a time. It’s a great way for us to get together and to give back to the community,” she shares. Dalbacka, a former elementary school teacher in the Duluth School District says it’s a joy to see the children come through, including former students. This past year her granddaughter, a sixth grader from the Twin Cities, volunteered with her over Thanksgiving weekend. “She got to be one of the characters. When she got back to school in the cities, her friends didn’t believe her so I had to send pictures.”


Fraboni has been volunteering with her husband since 2009. “The organized process of putting the entire display together is monumental. The ‘Red Coat’ people are friendly and as supervisors, they make the volunteers feel welcome. Nathan always has a job for you and makes you feel good about what you are doing. Every season I would go back and learn to do more things, for example, how the tunnels are put together, how to string the lights over the tunnels and a myriad of other odd jobs,” Fraboni shares.


The Gift of Giving

Bentleyville is all about giving back to the community. Each day food and toy donations are collected at the entrance and are distributed to Salvation Army Corps in Duluth, Cloquet, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, MN, and Superior, WI. “Nathan does this from the heart, he wants to do it for the community,” shares Dalbacka.


Whether you are already a Duluthian or thinking about moving to the area, Bentleyville is just one of the events that shows what a great town we live in. The beauty of Lake Superior mingled with over four million lights, makes Duluth winter magical. Come and join us!


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Coming Home to Hartley Park: Family, Work, and Fun

Ross Perko

We told our realtor that we wanted a house with either a view of the Lake or one with a porch on which I could place my dirty trail running shoes as well as lean my bike directly off the trail.


Hartley Park won. We can drive to the Lake any day.


Run. Bike. Repeat.


I loved Hartley in college and medical school, however used it more for running than biking as the trails, much like my wife, were out of my league.  After being away from the city for nearly 10 years I was stunned on my first trail run by how Hartley had changed. The bike trails are now like superhighways with their banked curves and reduced roots, inspiring me to take back up mountain biking and falling in love with winter fat tire biking.


Hartley Park is just feet from my house and we are lucky enough to have two entrances on either side of the neighborhood. There is a perfect 2-mile route from doorstep to doorstep that is great for a winter walk or a quick burn.


From my house if I go right, I enter the trails after a quick hop over Tischer creek and head up the Guardrail Trail and into a beautiful forest climb. For me, the Guardrail used to be something only the best mountain bikers could cover given its technical terrain and elevation changes. While still challenging, now I can usually stay on my bike during the loop.


When running in the park, I have lapses where I temporarily forget that I am right in the middle of town. I sometimes count the run based on how many deer I have chased up rather than miles covered.


Happy Trails

The people experiencing Hartley are such a wonderful snap shot of our city. The neon clad runner with headphones (not me), the elder statesman with his trekking poles, wool socks and boots with red laces, and the mother wearing her baby and sandals with no socks while covering effortlessly a very technical portion of the Superior Hiking Trail while her other children lead the way. The dogs, the happy dogs.


Sometimes, after a fat tire bike ride, I wonder what is more tired, my quads or the muscles of my face responsible for smiling. I have yet to see someone on a fat bike having a bad day.


Husband. Father. Doctor.


My goal is to be a husband and a father first, then a doctor. My family is always number one and living in Duluth allows me to keep them a priority. I am able to have a work-life balance that allows me to have a professional role at my job, and then leave the office, be home within minutes, go for a walk with the family, and later put our children to bed.


Expanding Horizons

I have never been the type of outdoorsperson who craves being outside as growing up my idea of camping was being in a cabin with the windows open. However, the more time we spend outside, in Hartley or going on “adventure walks,” the more I may end up one day with a canoe on my shoulders trekking into the land of no cell signal.


Living in a city like Duluth, with all of its visual majesty and adventure, allows for the opportunities to maximize what I had always hoped to experience from life --- family, work and fun.



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Destination Duluth: About Us

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 the horrors of the rat race. 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 they left their hearts in Duluth, and never want to leave this magical place. These former tourists are ready to up the ante, pack up their former lives, and put down solid roots here. They’re ready to take the leap, and make Duluth their 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.”

Through a wealth of stories written by local residents and accompanied by amazing photography, we think you’ll immediately feel drawn to our city. And, as you continue to dig deeper, much like the first sparks of friendship often develop into love, we are pretty confident the feelings will grow. Maybe even enough to become a Duluthian yourself.

Growing Duluth in Three Easy Steps

With an abundance of great jobs, a healthy work-life balance, and natural beauty to spare, we don’t think we’ll have to try too hard to achieve our mission of recruiting our next generation of Duluthians. Our first goal is simply to capture your attention.

Destination 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 her glory.

Phase two of our strategy is to 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 for those who are ready, you’ll graduate to phase three of what 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.

Creating our own Destiny

Above all, Destination Duluth is here to showcase all of the amazing things that make Duluth … well, Duluth. This is often done simply by showing the world who we are in our natural habitat. Duluth is a phenomenal place to live, and we want to share it with the world.

Livingston says, “In polling community leaders, we learned that Duluth needed a new brand, as we had allowed people outside of Duluth to brand us with negativity such as poor employment opportunities, an unlivable winter climate and an unwelcoming, difficult community to integrate into. We at Destination Duluth decided to counter this with positive stories, breathtaking imagery and by promoting creative initiatives that demonstrate counterpoints to these claims.”

Duluth’s Future

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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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 to boot, 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 Heaven … 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 handyman special on the cheap, fix 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.


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 uber-fancy 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.

And, just a friendly tip from a local: If you can swing it, having a garage in Duluth is key. With blizzards and freezing temps on the regular, a garage will keep your whip warm and cozy as the snowflakes fly.


Hansmeyer shares that his favorite resources for Duluth real estate include,, and Zillow, featuring the trendy value-tracking “Zillow Zestimate.” 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. Above all, I hope people will keep in mind that there are some really great neighborhoods here in Duluth, and not just out East.” 

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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Home of 10,000…Colleges?

Duluth: Home of 10,000 … Colleges?

Ok, ok, you got me: the title is clearly a bit of an exaggeration, and a transparent play on words referencing Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. But in all seriousness, if you’re looking to further your education, Duluth is a great place to be.

Between Duluth and our next-door neighbor of Superior, Wisconsin, this community offers a ton of post-secondary possibilities. And, there are plenty of options for non-traditional students who are also juggling a career and family, too.

Whether your goals are to earn a technical certificate, master’s degree, or even attend beauty school while living in Duluth, you’re in luck!


Superior’s Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) offers programs covering everything from Broadband Installer to Dairy Herd Management. WITC offers more than 70 career programs, including career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enhancement.


Lake Superior College (LSC) in Duluth offers more than 80 technical degrees, along with liberal arts and science degrees. Students can save money by first doing their generals at LSC, and then transferring to a four-year college. LSC also offers the third-lowest tuition rates in the Minnesota State college system.

LSC offers unique programs in cutting-edge fields such as cyber security and 3-D printing. LSC has the distinction of being designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

A Rapid Prototyping and Design certificate to learn 3-D design and printing is one career track available through LSC. The Downtown Duluth Center's specialized facility offers state-of-the-art, high-tech training equipment including computerized machines, 3D printers and scanners, robotic welders, waterjet and plasma cutting, and CAD design software.


Perhaps you’re interested in hair, skin and nails. This is a smart career choice; you know people will always be jonesin’ for highlights and a facial! Cosmetology Careers Unlimited (CCU) has a convenient campus downtown, and they are locally owned and operated.


The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) is an independent private college with locations across Minnesota, including their original campus in Duluth. The Duluth campus is also home to the St. Scholastica Monastery and the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth.


The University of Wisconsin-Superior (UWS) is another great choice for your undergrad or graduate studies. Their top programs include:

  • Elementary Education
  • Communicating Arts
  • Business Administration
  • Biology
  • Physical Education
  • Psychology
  • Legal Studies
  • Social Work


Undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) can choose from fifteen bachelor degrees in 84 majors and 72 minors, as well as four certificates. UMD also offers graduate programs.

The University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus, and the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Duluth, both have programs on the UMD campus. In addition to offering the EdD, UMD participates in two all-university PhD programs (one of which is located primarily on the UMD campus) and cooperates significantly in the delivery of a number of Twin Cities-based PhD programs.

Dedication to Non-Traditional Students

Although we’re certain that most, if not all, of the schools outlined here offer some sort of program dedicated to non-traditional students, space limitations restricted us to highlighting just two. So, we selected one from both sides of the bridge: LSC and UWS.

LSC’s popular eCampus offers more than 135 online courses along with a number of complete degrees available online, including associate of arts, accounting, paralegal, and web and computer programming. "Many of our students appreciate the scheduling flexibility because they’re taking classes while they’re also working a job or two, raising a family, and/or have other commitments in addition to college" said Daniel Fanning, LSC's Director of Institutional Advancement. "That is why Lake Superior College strives to offer many evening and online course and degree options to accommodate our busy students."

And, UWS is another institution who is proud of their programs for non-traditional students. “From transition in the first semester, all the way through graduation, UW-Superior is committed to ensuring our nontraditional students are able to integrate into the UWS culture as they are an integral part of our campus climate,” shares Monte Stewart, Veteran and Nontraditional Student Center (VNSC) Coordinator. “We understand the multiple life roles our nontraditional students have, so we make sure we are there to assist them in managing these roles, helping to eliminate barriers to success.”

Parting Words

No matter what your educational goals, one of our post-secondary institutions is bound to offer a program to fit your needs. And, with plenty of options for folks who also have a full life beyond school, there is no excuse to put off the pursuit of your dreams any longer.

As John Keating, Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society, would say: “Carpe Diem!” Seize the day!

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A Hike, 20 Years In The Making

Kristina Bourne

We Craved Simple Hikes in the Woods

“The importance of place is overlooked, underestimated, and insufficiently acted upon. Living in the wrong place is a self-inflicted life handicap. Living in one's right place is the foundation of a fulfilling life. And for each of us, there is an ideal place,” writes Gene GeRue.

For our family, the ideal is place is Duluth.

Tim and I knew Duluth was where we wanted to live, but it took us nearly two decades to follow our hearts after graduating from UMD in the early 1990s.  We traveled and worked in Europe, pursued advanced degrees on the East Coast, and finally returned to our beloved Midwest in 2005 when Kristina secured a tenure-track position at a university in Wisconsin.

With enjoyable jobs, a roof over our heads, nice friends, and our first child, life should have felt satisfying.

It didn’t.

We felt stuck. 

Our hearts just weren’t fulfilled.

We wanted more time together outside with natural beauty surrounding us.  We wanted easy access to outdoor activities. We craved simple hikes in the woods. We craved the awesomeness of Lake Superior.

We craved Duluth.

We often talked about moving to Duluth, but then the reality of careers, kids, and security would trickle into the conversation. Then Tim’s brother died.  I had three consecutive miscarriages.  A close friend’s baby died. Those events, while traumatic, offered us a space to reflect on life.

We asked, “How do we want to live our life?”

The answer always included Duluth. 

We made the move in 2012, leaving behind good jobs, good friends, and family. Yet, this place feels more like home than any other place we have lived. It’s topography, climate, community engagement, landmarks, and more make it home.

We are proud that someday, when our children are asked, “Where are you from?”, their answer will be, “Duluth.”

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A Flightless Bird Soars

The City that made a Flightless Bird (and a whole lot more) Soar

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 Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm — from Scratch. 

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There’s a Map for That!

Looking for a Duluth Outdoor Adventure? There’s a Map for That!

It’s no surprise that Duluth is known as one of the nation’s best outdoors towns.  Take these stats:

11,000 acres of green space

6,834 acres of city parkland

1000 x 100 feet of cliff for ice climbing

150 miles of hiking trails

129 parks

85 miles of biking trails

33 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail

30 miles of cross-country ski trails

16 designated trout streams

12 miles of paved, accessible trails

7 miles of sand beach

2 alpine ski hills (plus 1 next door in Superior, WI)

1 Great Lake…for surfing, swimming, kayaking, sailing, fishing, paddle boarding, rock throwing, agate hunting, birding, snorkeling, meditating, and watching amazing sunrises.

Not to mention horseback riding trails, campgrounds, golf courses, dog parks, snowmobiling trails, ice skating rinks, disc golf courses, skate parks, and much more sprinkled across town.

Now add the 12,000 acres of wetlands, tributary streams and bays of the St. Louis River estuary, much of which hugs Duluth.  Also, consider the 8,938 acres of hardwood forest at Jay Cooke State Park, which borders Duluth, the 18,000 acres of Boulder Lake Environment Learning Center just 14 miles away, and the 4,400 acres of the Superior Municipal Forest just minutes across the bridge in Wisconsin.

Plan Your Next Outdoor Adventure

With so many options for outdoor recreation, how does an outdoor enthusiast know where to go? The City of Duluth produces a free paper map showing nearly all of the public recreation opportunities mentioned above.

The map, called the Outdoor Duluth Recreation Map, provides an overview with green shading of each publicly accessible outdoor location in the area, and details trail type, trail head information, and parking lots, plus the roads to get there.

The legend is also very detailed. Want to access the beach?  Look for the umbrella symbol.  Want to go kayaking or canoeing?  Look for the symbol of the person carrying a canoe.  Want to go birding?  Look for the binoculars.  Want to go skijoring?  Look for the dog pulling the Nordic skier.  Whatever outdoor activity you are interesting in pursing, it is likely documented on this map.

Duluth is unique in its access to and wide variety of outdoor recreation.  And the Outdoor Duluth Recreation Map makes planning your next outdoor adventure easy.

This free map is available three ways:

1.  Online:  download a free PDF version at the Duluth Parks & Recreation website here (

2.  In Person: pick up a free paper copy at the Parks and Recreation Office at City Hall (411 West 1st Street, phone 218-730-4300).

Or find a free copy at Parks partners such as Visit Duluth, Trailfitters, Continental Ski, Duluth Running Company, Ski hut, Hartley Nature Center, Spirit Mountain, Munger Inn, Lake Superior Zoo, Indian Point Campground, Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, Twin Ports Cycling, Thompson Hill Travel Information Center, among others. This map is hot so it might be worthwhile to call ahead to check availability.

Got kids? Once you’ve secured your map, check out this idea from my blog, Outside In Duluth, for a fun way to use the map and encourage more outdoor time as a family.  LINK:

Outdoor adventure awaits in Duluth!

Kristina Bourne loves spending time in Duluth’s great outdoors with her family. She blogs her family’s outdoor adventures at Outside In Duluth, a great resource for ideas and inspiration.

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Find Your People Here

Duluth: Find Your People Here

What does community mean?  It can be defined as a group of people who live in the same physical location, like Duluth.  It can also mean a group of people who share common interests.  For example, perusing a local events calendar, I saw an announcement for a dulcimer jam session, which brings together folks who admire the uniquely shaped stringed instruments.  Come to find out, Duluth has a flourishing dulcimer scene.

Duluth is made up of many passionate people who come together around their shared interest in a particular subject or practice. I was struck when our family moved to Duluth years ago by how quickly it felt like home. One of the reasons was how easy it was to find events, clubs, organizations, and businesses of interest.

For instance, I weave.  With the help of Google, I found the Duluth Fiber Handcrafters Guild, with a full weaving studio. Here I have met the most supportive and knowledgeable weavers who inspire me to create as well as several whom I now consider close friends.

Indeed, community groups are where we form friendships and connections that enrich our lives, as well expand our skills. Finding a community of people with a shared passion deepens our sense of place and helps us feel we belong. 

What’s your passion?  Chances are you’ll find like-minded folks with which to connect, interact, share, and help in Duluth.  Here are a few examples.

  • New parent? Hike It Baby Duluth offers family-friendly group hikes in Duluth’s many parks and green spaces.
  • Play a musical instrument?  Make music with the Duluth Community Orchestra or the Duluth Symphonic Winds Community Band.
  • Like to surf?  Get local wave reports at Stoney Point Surf Spot’s Facebook page and meet your peeps on Lake Superior.
  • Enjoy tying flies?  The Great Lakes Fly Shop holds a monthly Beer n’ Bugs fly-tying event that is open to the public.
  • Is paddling your passion?  Join the Dragon boat club and build team spirit on a 43-foot boat.
  • Hooked on fiber arts?  Find friends at the Lake Superior Modern Quilt Guild or hang out at local yarn shop, Yarn Harbor.
  • Creative at heart?  Write yourself home with groups such as the Lake Superior Writers or Polaris Poets.
  • Call yourself an aero modeler?  Fly planes with the Duluth/Superior Radio Controlled Model Airplane Club.
  • Interested in studying mediation? Check out the Bodhicitta Sangha–Duluth mediation center.

The list goes on and on.

Duluth is a vibrant community with groups of people who follow their passion, whatever it may be.  Make Duluth your destination for life and find your people here.

Kristina Bourne and her family meet the most interesting and passionate people while hiking on local trails, volunteering with community groups, and simply walking around downtown.  She writes about these encounters and more on her family outdoor blog, Outside In Duluth.

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