Roam Guide / Duluth, Minnesota
Impressed by the way Duluth Pack features their city and their product on social media we drove up to interview owner and Duluth native, Tom Sega. Our intention was to learn about the brand and explore everything this beautiful city has to offer. We did just that. We also visited the factory, learned to sew and toured the town in his truck. Tom is a good guy, a proud father and business-owner who treats everyone like family. Although Duluth Pack is over a 100 years old, Tom's story started during his days as a road warrior and his endless search for reliably durable luggage. Familiar with the quality of their products, he saw an opportunity and bought Duluth Pack in 2007. Over a decade later he continues to build on their quality craftsmanship while introducing a new generation to this handmade, on-trend, lifestyle brand.
When you round the bend on hwy 35 and Lake Superior comes into view, it's hard to tell where the water meets the sky. The expansive shoreline of this city will take your breath away.
When to go?
We know it can be cold in Northern Minnesota but this unique city has something to offer year-round. In June, Duluth plays host to Grandma's Marathon, which has been drawing runners from all over the world for over 40 years. Starting in November the shoreline comes to life with the Bentlyville Tour of Lights, a free, walk-though display boasting over 5 million bulbs.
How to get there?
There is an airport in Duluth (DLH) with daily flights from Minneapolis and Chicago, but it's just as easy to head north on 35 from Minneapolis / St. Paul and enjoy the scenic 3 hour drive.
Where should we stay?
My suggestion would be to stay at the Pier B Resort in a room facing the Harbor. If there is a concert you may want to consider (or avoid) the rooms that face the bandshell at Bayfront Festival Park. This hotel has great outdoor space with a lakeside fire pit and outdoor hot tub. It's an easy walk to Canal Park and if you have boat, they offer a launch and slip rentals. Another waterfront property is Fitger's historic Inn, with an impressive onsite restaurant, The Boat Club where I take all my out of town guests.
What should we do?
An easy introduction to Duluth is the one mile Lake Walk from Fitgers to the Ariel Lift Bridge. From there you can venture down the pier to the Lighthouse and take in the views. If you are lucky you'll get to see the lift bridge in action as ships pass through to the harbor. If you'd like to explore a little further, you can walk across the lift bridge and down the peninsula along the sandy shores of Lake Superior. If you don't want to walk, make sure you take the drive to Park Point Recreation Center where you can access an expansive beach that never really gets crowded. This area is lovely anytime of year; a great place to watch the sunrise in the summer or marvel at the ice formations in the winter. Another option I want to suggest is taking in the scenery from the sky. The Seaplane tours are breathtaking and informative.
RTip: is to begin or end your Lake Walk at Va Bene Caffe where you can enjoy handmade pasta and take in the Superior views.
I always recommend visiting the historic Enger Tower, it's free to the public and the 360 degree views of the city from the top are absolutely incredible. The five story climb is definitely worth it. My wife and I often head to Enger Park to walk the gardens and enjoy a picnic. It is a beautiful spot. From here, you can also access the Superior Hiking Trails. All the trails connect separately, stretching 310 miles, to the Canadian border. From Enger Park, I would suggest a nice stroll on the Scenic View Trail to the Twin Ponds.
If you are a cyclist check out Cyclist of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) for mountain bike trail information. If you need to rent a bike try, Continental Ski & Bike Rentals located near Leif Erikson Park. Since we're mentioning it, Leif Erikson Park also offers free movie nights every Friday in the summer. A great way to experience our marvelous lake-front community.
Many people are familiar with the Glensheen Manison tours and if you haven't visited you should, or take an alternate 'behind the scenes' tour to access areas you have not yet seen, like the attic. We just took guests there and everyone really enjoyed it. They also do the Best Damn Tour (yep, that's what it is called) in the summer, a hour-long kayak ride, launching from Glensheen’s Lake Superior shoreline. You end on the property, watching the sunset and eating s'mores by a fire. After dark you move indoors for a guided exploration of the mansion by flashlight.
If you are an angler or want to learn, the trout and salmon fishing on Lake Superior can be a spectacular adventure. My favorite outdoor store, Marine General Supply, recommends you charter a boat locally with Parker at Superior Pursuits.
Where should we eat?
Go to Northern Waters Smokehaus and order the Cajun Finn salmon sandwich, you will not be disappointed. You can even take your food across to Hoops Brewing and enjoy a beer. Or better yet, start at Hoops and order the sandwiches to be delivered. Northern Waters Smokehaus will deliver most places in the city. Don't forget to take some smoked fish home with you for later and ask for a side of green onion cream cheese.
I really love the Taste of Saigon. My business partner Mark and I meet there for lunch often. In my opinion their Sesame Chicken is out of this world.
Both my wife and daughter love the New Scenic Cafe, delicious food in a quaint and peaceful setting right by the lake. They have a seasonal menu and a great wine list.
The Duluth Pack team raves about the new restaurant, Martha's Daughter. Initially, they didn't even have a sign up, people were coming in by word of mouth and it was jam-packed. I guess the food is outstanding.
For dessert, head to PortLand Malt Shoppe, a cute little place, right on the water. They always have a line but it's worth the wait. They are strict about their closing time so make sure you check the hours before you go. I recommend the Peanut Butter Cup ice cream with Peanut Butter topping.
Where can we grab a drink?
Check out Vikre, a distillery and cocktail room, only a block from our flagship store in Canal Park. Try the Juniper Gin or a tasting flight. Here you'll have another opportunity to try Northern Waters Smokehaus as they offer an Epic Snack Plate.
The local beer scene is big here. So much beer, so little time. The Bent Paddle Taproom is really close to our offices and factory. We have partnered with various breweries for our annual Beer and Gear night, like Hoops Brewery and Fitger's Brewhouse. This is a great time to come into the store, shop, sample craft brew and enjoy some pizza.
RTip: If you are a beer lover, like us, check out an emerging, lesser-known brewery taproom in Duluth, like Blacklist Artisan Ales. Or hop across the border to the Cedar Lounge, where they tap a great selection of Earth Rider small batch brew.
What is the one can't miss item on your itinerary?
A "Lake Superior Martini," which is a glass of water right from the faucet. That is the first thing my daughter wants when she comes home. It is the best, most refreshing water there is. The source of that water of course is Lake Superior, and the air here is just as fresh. Get out and enjoy them both. The great outdoors is another can't miss part of a visit to Duluth.
The water is so delicious. I know it sounds silly, but just try it and you’ll understand.
Tell us something we don't know?
In a throw away society, we offer a lifetime guarantee on the craftsmanship and hardware on all of our handcrafted items. This includes the zippers, riveting, sewing seams, snaps, buckles, and the d-rings. If your bag needs repairs, we will fix it. We are proud of the adventures that they go on. We have bags sent in from people who have been carrying them for thirty years. We take care of the "wear and tear" and send them off on more adventures. We take our trade to heart. On the back of each tag you will find the signature of the team member who lovingly crafted your item.
What should we shop for, or bring back with us?
Well, Duluth Pack, of course. We have everything to get you outfitted for the outdoors. Family favorites include the Market Tote, which is offered in store in Sunbrella fabrics and usually sells out, and the All Day Lumbar Pack. We offer free parking behind the Canal Park Shops and Duluth Pack is the number one distributor of BWCAW permits in the world. If you need one, you know where to get it.
What should we take on the trip?
It really depends on the season and with the lake effect it can go from high 80’s to 50’s in a matter of hours. Be smart, pack effectively and wear layers.
Click here to see everywhere Duluth Pack recommends in Duluth.
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