Are you planning on visiting this magical town and looking for things to do in Duluth in winter?
Duluth is one of the best towns to view Minnesota’s winter wonderland in the colder months.
Whether you prefer being out exploring in nature, or instead like being bundled up indoors with a cup of hot chocolate, there is something for everyone in Duluth.
I grew up just an hour from Duluth and love escaping to the city during the winter to explore all of the fun activities.
There are so many fun winter activities in Duluth, and you’ll find some of the best on this list.
Things to Do in Duluth in Winter
1. Tour the Lights at Bentleyville
For Christmas lovers old and young, the Bentleyville Tour of Lights is like a dream come true, with over 4 million Christmas lights to explore.
As you walk through the millions of lights, you’ll find small buildings with free hot chocolate, cookies, and popcorn! There are even firepits to roast a marshmallow.
Bentleyville is an entirely outdoor event. Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. I always get so chilly from that Lake Superior wind!
Whether you’re visiting as a couple or with your kids, it’s one of the best holiday activities in Duluth in winter.
The event typically takes place right after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas.
It’s free to visit, but parking at the DECC costs $10. You can also stay nearby at a Canal Park hotel and walk to the event.
2. Go Ice Skating at Bayfront Festival Park
Bayfront Festival Park is located right along the shore of Lake Superior, in the same place that Bentleyville takes place.
So what would be a more perfect place to lace up some skates and head out onto the ice?
I figure-skated all through high school, and skating in such a beautiful location is like a dream come true! I love skating at Bayfront Festival Park.
This would be a great activity to head out with your sweetheart for a romantic date in Duluth and have some fun in the cold.
3. Hit the Slopes at Spirit Mountain
Spirit Mountain is a fantastic ski resort, located right in Duluth! With 22 runs and 175 acres of skiable area, it’s a great place for beginners and advanced skiiers.
Of all of the Minnesota ski resorts, Spirit Mountain is definitely one of the most beautiful because you can see Lake Superior.
Aside from just the downhill skiing, there’s also snow tubing and cross-country skiing to enjoy at the resort.
You can also head just a short distance up the North Shore to Lutsen and ski at Lutsen Mountains.
4. Hike to The Apostle Islands Ice Caves
If you’re up for a short drive from Duluth, the Apostle Islands Ice Caves are a fantastic way to spend your day.
With just the right weather conditions, the shores of Lake Superior freeze and create magnificent “caves” of ice near the Apostle Islands, only about 1 1/2 hours from Duluth.
You’ll hike at least 2 miles on the shore and ice of Lake Superior to get to the ice caves, which can get very cold!
If you’re able to pay the ice caves a visit this winter, truly enjoy it, as it isn’t always possible! I haven’t been able to catch them yet at the perfect time!
Follow the NPS’s recommendations and check the current conditions here.
5. Attend the Christmas City of the North Parade
The Christmas City of the North Parade in Duluth is the best kickoff to the most wonderful time of the year in Minnesota.
It has been a tradition in winter in Duluth since 1958. It starts at Fitgers and heads down Superior Street all the way to 4th Avenue West
You’ll see floats covered in glitter and tinsel, twinkling lights galore, dancing acts, a visit from reindeer and snowmen, and an appearance from Santa Claus.
My family used to go to the Christmas City of the North parade every year. Now, we watch it from the comfort of our living room. But for kids, all of the fun is sitting in person watching it!
6. Head Out for a Hike on the North Shore
The North Shore is one of Minnesota’s best places to visit, year-round.
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, amazing views of Lake Superior, and green forest all around, it truly is a magical place, and even more so in the winter!
When the green pine trees are coated in freshly fallen snow and Lake Superior’s water is freezing along the shoreline, you’re surely in for a treat.
Choose from one of the North Shore’s 8 state parks, or hit the 300+ mile long Superior Hiking Trail. There is no shortage of hiking around Duluth!
A few personal favorites include Tettegouche State Park’s High Falls and Shovel Point. I love both of them in winter, and dare I say they’re even better than in the summer!
7. Go Fat Tire Biking
In recent years, fat tire biking has become increasingly popular in Minnesota.
A fat bike is essentially an off-road bicycle with large tires that are designed for riding through rough terrains such as mud and snow, making it the perfect winter activity.
Along the North Shore, Jay Cooke and Split Rock State Parks have miles of groomed fat bike trails available for bikers to use.
Spirit Mountain has fat biking trails that are serviced by a lift. Bikers can hop on a lift with their bike and take the trail back down.
8. Go on a Dog Sled Tour
Kids (and myself) love dogs more than most things, so one of the most perfect ways to spend a winter day in Duluth with kids is a dog sled ride.
Spend time getting to know the ins and outs of an Alaskan husky sled dog’s life as well as heading out for a ride of your own!
Positive Energy Outdoors, right in Duluth, offers a variety of packages for dog sled tours. It’s such a magical experience and I think everyone should give it a try!
You can also plan to attend the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which takes place each January in Duluth.
9. Snowshoe the Superior Hiking Trail
Snowshoeing is a classic winter activity, and there really is no better place to do it than Duluth, Minnesota.
Snowshoeing can be done on almost any trail along the North Shore, but many people enjoy doing it on parts of the Superior Hiking Trail.
Some popular Duluth snowshoeing trails with fantastic views are Oberg Mountain, Carlton Peak, and High Falls in Tettegouche State Park.
All 8 state parks on the North Shore have miles of trails available for use.
10. Check Out the Lake Superior Ice Festival
With so much of Minnesota covered in snow and ice all winter, Superior, Wisconsin has made the best of it by carving sculptures into the ice!
Head right across the border from Duluth into Superior for the Lake Superior Ice Festival.
It’s great fun to walk around and see all of the creative sculptures that local artists have created.
It sure takes a lot of talent to be able to take a block of ice and turn it into something so creative!
11. Go Ice Climbing
For a unique, challenging winter activity in Duluth this year, strap on some climbing gear and go ice climbing!
Positive Energy Outdoors provides ice climbing guides throughout the winter at beautiful locations such as Gooseberry Falls State Park and the Casket Quarry.
Between December and March, they offer guided climbs to ensure that you get the most out of your day and are safe!
Ice climbing in Duluth is a fun way to spend a cold day, especially if you’re looking to try something new. It’s such an interesting and unique experience and you’ll be glad you gave it a go!
12. Grab a Cup of Locally Roasted Coffee
Duluth is home to many great coffee shops, but among the most popular is the Duluth Coffee Company, located at 105 East Superior Street.
One of my favorite ways to spend a cold winter day is bundled up with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. I usually bring a book and enjoy the vibes of the coffee shop.
So if you’ve had enough of the cold and are looking for a way to warm up indoors, a hot cup of coffee is a perfect way.
13. Ride the Christmas City Express
Starting in November, the North Shore Scenic Railroad turns into a real-life version of the Polar Express. This is something I dreamt of as a kid!
Beginning in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, right in downtown Duluth, you’ll hear a reading of the Christmas City Express story before boarding the train.
Onboard you’ll take a 30-minute ride to Lake Superior while listening to holiday music and enjoying treats.
This is great fun for the entire family, even those with young kids! As a full grown adult, this is one of my favorite things to do in Duluth in winter. It’s so fun and unique.
14. Walk the Lake Walk by Canal Park
Duluth’s Lake Walk runs along Lake Superior for 7.5 miles, starting in Bayfront Festival Park and making its way down to Lester Park.
If you visit in December, you’ll catch views of the Bentleyville Light Show in Bayfront Festival Park. And throughout the rest of winter, enjoy the sounds of crackling ice on the lake.
You’ll walk along the shore of Lake Superior for the entire walk and see the waves freezing along the beaches.
Shop and grab a bite to eat in Canal Park before continuing on and watching the freight ships come in through the Aerial Lift Bridge.
15. Take the North Shore Scenic Drive
If you want to see the beauty that Minnesota’s North Shore has to offer, but don’t want to get too cold, you can also take the scenic drive.
Just hop on Highway 61, starting in Duluth to Grand Marais, and drive any amount of the 145-mile drive up to Grand Portage.
While this drive is long, feel free to turn around wherever you like. There is so much scenery for the entire drive that you won’t be missing out!
A few great stops include Palisade Head, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Black Beach. None of these require much walking.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is another beautiful stop, where you can see the frozen waterfalls without having to walk too far.
16. Take a Glensheen Mansion Holiday Tour
While the Glensheen Mansion is beautiful year-round, it becomes its most beautiful during the winter months when it’s decked out for the holidays.
The Glensheen is decorated with over 20 Christmas trees and thousands of lights strung about the mansion.
You can also take a walk around the outside of the mansion for free and enjoy the Spirit of the Lights, which is a beautiful outdoor light display.
17. Go Cross Country Skiing
If you like snowshoeing, you may also like cross-country skiing at the Hartley Nature Center or Snowflake Nordic Center.
There are so many great places to go cross-country skiing around Duluth and on the North Shore that allow you to enjoy the great outdoors.
I personally prefer cross-country skiing to snowshoeing because I find it more fun. I love getting out on the trails and exploring in Minnesota’s winter months.
18. Go Snowmobiling
If you want to get out and explore the outdoors this winter but don’t love the idea of skiing or snowshoeing, give snowmobiling a try!
I love snowmobiling and living in Roseau, which is the home of Polaris, has given me a whole new appreciation for these machines!
There are so many great trails around Duluth and up the North Shore, including the 146-mile North Shore State Trail.
19. Try Out Snow Tubing
Another way to enjoy and embrace the cold weather in Duluth in winter is to try out snow tubing at Spirit Mountain.
Experience flying down the mountain on a snow tube with the chilly Lake Superior wind on your face.
It’s such a fun time, and not just for kids! I love going snow tubing and I know a lot of other adults who also love it! Embrace your inner child!
Plus, it’s so nice not having to walk back to the top, since Spirit Mountain has a lift that effortlessly brings you back to the top.
20. Visit Zoo Lights at Lake Superior Zoo
While Bentleyville is definitely the star of the show when it comes to holiday light shows in Duluth, Zoo Lights at Lake Superior Zoo is another great option.
The event takes place after hours and features a variety of giant animal inflatables and different holiday lights.
Plus, you can enjoy free s’mores, visits from Santa, live music, and more during the event. It’s fun for the entire family!
21. Visit Duluth Winter Village
Another great way to celebrate the holidays is by visiting the Duluth Winter Village in December.
Held at the DECC, this large event is a giant Christmas market where you can find local vendors selling all of their goods for the holidays.
You can enjoy delicious food from local vendors, craft beer at the Yule Hall, and cocktails at the bar. There are firepits to relax by and holiday carolers.
Christmas markets are one of my favorite ways to kick off the holidays and grab a few gifts for family and friends while supporting local businesses.
22. Bundle Up at a Resort
If going out and playing in the snow isn’t your thing, then you’ll be glad to know that there are tons of resorts to visit on the North Shore and in Duluth, Minnesota.
All of these resorts are cozy and make for a perfect place to have a weekend getaway to Duluth in winter.
My favorites are Cove Point Resort, Pier B Resort, and Lutsen Resort. All of these have beautiful views of the lake and are nice to relax at.
23. Watch a Show at the Duluth Playhouse
Another way to enjoy spending some time indoors this winter is to go watch a show at the Duluth Playhouse.
These vary from year to year and change with the seasons, but there are always all sorts of different options playing.
Last winter, I went to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with my mom at the Duluth Playhouse and it was such a fun day out.
What is Duluth’s Weather Like in Winter?
Minnesota’s winters can be extremely unpredictable. It can be 50°F and sunny one day and then 20°F and snowing the next!
Although the temperatures can be quite cold, the snow makes for a beautiful winter wonderland! The average snowfall is 86 inches per year!
The average temperature in Duluth in January is about 15°F, meaning that it’s almost always below freezing!
When checking the weather, also be sure to look at the “feels like” temperature. With the wind chill, temperatures can feel much colder than they actually are.
What to Wear in Duluth in Winter
It’s extremely important to dress for the weather when visiting Duluth. Frostbite can set in quickly and it’s no fun to be cold.
As you’ve probably heard before, it’s easier to take off a layer than add one that you don’t have.
Be overprepared with extra warm clothes when spending time outside in Duluth.
- Base Layer: The base layer is closest to your body and will wick away moisture from your skin.
- Mid Layer: This layer goes between your base and jacket to provide extra warmth!
- Warm Jacket: A warm jacket makes all the difference when spending a day outdoors in winter. Down jackets are great options for staying extra warm.
- Snowpants: Snowpants are especially great if you’re walking around a lot outside. Choose a waterproof pair to stay extra warm.
- Warm Socks: I love wearing thick, wool socks in the winter! These ones always keep my feet warm paired with good boots.
- Boots: A good quality pair of winter boots may be the most important thing on this list. Choose a pair that are rated for negative temperatures.
- Stocking Hat: Keep those ears warm on a cold winter day with a warm, thick hat.
- Gloves or Mittens: Find a pair of thick, warm gloves with touch-screen fingers so you don’t have to remove your gloves to use your phone.
Where to Stay in Duluth
There are many great places to stay for your visit to Duluth when you’re done exploring for the night and are ready to rest.
Below, you’ll find a few of the best options for your visit.
Canal Park Lodge–> Within just a short distance of many activities in Duluth, Minnesota and beautiful views of Lake Superior. Plus a pool and free breakfast!
Beacon Pointe –> Another hotel on the shores of Lake Superior, each room with a kitchen and nightly bonfires for guests.
Captain’s Quarters –> If you prefer vacation rentals, this home is absolutely beautiful, has a full kitchen, and can sleep up to 8 people.
Where to Eat in Duluth
There is absolutely no shortage of food scene in Duluth.
Between local shops and chain restaurants, you’ll find almost anything you could be craving!
Right in Downtown Duluth, Pizza Luce is a delicious stop to grab a bite to eat, serving pizza, hoagies, and pasta (pictured above!).
Va Bene‘s menu is filled with all sorts of delicious pasta. They also have a great sorbet bar! You can see Lake Superior from the inside. Dinner with a view!
OMC Steakhouse is a great place for barbeque lovers. Smoked meat and many side dishes make for the perfect meal. There also are a few vegetarian options!
Wrap-Up: Things to Do in Duluth This Winter
With so many things to do in Duluth in winter, you’ll be able to find all sorts of fun adventures to keep yourself busy.
Whether you enjoy getting out and enjoying Minnesota’s chilly weather or you prefer to bundle up with a cup of coffee, you can do it all.
I personally love celebrating Christmas in Duluth and going for a hike along the North Shore. But there are so many choices for a fun-filled winter.
Read More About Visiting Duluth:
- 17 Romantic Things to Do in Duluth, MN for Date Night
- 13 Fun Things to Do in Duluth at Night
- 7 Places to Go Snowshoeing in Duluth
- 9 Places for Cross Country Skiing in Duluth
- 14 Best Things to Do in Canal Park
- 17 Indoor Things to Do in Duluth, MN
- 21 Best Restaurants in Canal Park
- 9 Best Duluth Hotels Near Bentleyville
- 17 Best Hotels in Duluth with Jacuzzis in Room
- 11 Best Hotels in Duluth with Pools