Duluth ‘Mini-moon’

Truthfully, it could be a while before our official honeymoon becomes a reality, so Logan and I planned an April, three-day “Mini-moon” to Duluth, Minnesota to coincide with Logan’s running in the annual Fitger’s 5K race. Here some highlights from our weekend getaway!

The Fitger’s Inn is a boutique hotel built in the renovated, historic Fitger’s brewery right in downtown Duluth. Centrally located with gorgeous views of Lake Superior as well as dining and shopping options all in the same building. What’s not to love?! High-end kitchen, clothing, and outdoor adventure stores provide endless spending opportunities, while the three restaurants right on site cater to every budget and taste. Our room had a nice mix of modern amenities and English country flair, not to mention a lake view.

The lakeside walking trail runs right along the shore of Lake Superior in front of the hotel. A short walk up the trail will take you to the lovely Leif Erickson park with panoramic views of the lake. Just about a mile down the shore will take you to Canal Park, a lakeside entertainment district with shopping, food, and nightlife. Upon arrival on Friday, we stopped for lunch at the Canal Park Brewery and shared a really tasty burger and creamy mac ’n’ cheese. Being the middle of a work day, we had no wait, no issues finding parking, and a table with unobstructed views of Lake Superior.

While in Canal Park, we toured the Great Lakes Aquarium which focuses on the history, native wildlife, and environment of the region. Educational opportunities and hands-on activities make this a great place for families and nature lovers. Logan touched live sturgeon and jelly fish! This nostalgic stop brought back memories of touring the aquarium with my late Grandfather about 10 years ago. Everything seemed exactly the same. {Logan here: Literally… this is a very fun place but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been updated in over a decade.}

The next morning, Logan was an absolute trooper and ran the chilly April race in great time. About 1800 participants lined up for the race that starts and ends at the Fitger’s Inn. (We wisely booked our room a good six months in advance so we could take advantage of this luxury.) This was phenomenal for me (Logan’s personal photographer) as I could warm up in the lobby between start and finish. My fingers were a little numb on the camera shutter (perhaps gloves would have been wise) but I’m always proud to cheer and support Logan’s efforts.

To read more about Logan’s Fitger’s 5K running experience, click HERE.

New Scenic Cafe

After the race, since we planned to drive a little way up the North Shore, a friend recommended we stop at the New Scenic Cafe for lunch. About 20 minutes north of Duluth on Scenic Highway 61, this darling roadside cafe has a simultaneously upscale yet cozy feel. Logan ordered a family-sized French press of dark and velvety-smooth coffee… and drank the whole thing (though truthfully this is a common feat for him). {Logan here: Don’t judge me…} Trying to make an economical choice, I ordered the special ‘beer of the day’ – Blacklist Spruce IPA. I was hesitant by the word “spruce” and when it arrived in a can, I had even less faith. I take it all back. This beer is AMAZING! It’s a seriously strong IPA with a whisper of woodsy spruce. After one beer I felt like I could run a marathon or lift a car over my head. (A few hours later I was in strong need of a nap, but it was worth it.) I have since looked for it in liquor stores with no luck. If anyone knows where I can find it in the Cities, I would be interested!

Logan and I absolutely love mussels, and maybe we have been guilty of claiming each batch as the best we’ve ever had… but New Scenic Cafe’s Curried Blue Mussels might truly be the best we’ve ever had! Sweet with a touch of heat, the coconut-based red curry broth was intoxicatingly delicious. Accented with cilantro and fresh crusty bread for dipping, these mussels were absolutely divine. The somewhat traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi was elevated above the norm by a combination of chicken confit, pâté, crunchy veggies, and my favorite condiment, Sriracha mayo. 

Mussels from heaven – and I don’t mean Logan’s.

In a lovely finishing touch, charming, hand-written, personal notes from the cafe’s patrons cover the walls and provide endless entertainment. Logan and I submitted one, so maybe one day someone will be entertained by ours as well. The New Scenic Cafe was a bit of a splurge, but well worth it. We will definitely go back on future trips up the shore.

Gooseberry Falls State Park 

About 30 minutes north from the cafe is Gooseberry Falls State Park. We walked the Falls Loop Trail from the Visitor’s Center which was a pretty easy one-mile hike with a big payoff. The Falls are gorgeous and the loop offers many different views of the cascading water. Coming from Colorado, we found this trail quite easy, but there are stairs and uneven terrain to be aware of. Logan and I added this gorgeous and accessible park to our future camping destination list.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Another 10 minutes up the shore from Gooseberry Falls is the famous Split Rock Lighthouse. Not having time to venture further, this served as our turn around point (for this trip anyway). While initially disappointed to learn that they charge a fee for entry (I’m not sure why I thought it would be free), it shortly became very worthwhile to learn about the fascinating and deadly history of the lighthouse. We self-guided through the museum and lighthouse to be treated to spectacular views of the rugged, Lake Superior shoreline. At that point my beer from lunch had worn off, the wind had really ramped up, and it was COLD. So we decided not to attempt the 100+ stairs down the side of the cliff to the pump house where you can see that most famous vista of the lighthouse, but it will be a ‘must do’ on a future visit. (As a photographer, I have guilty feelings for not doing the hike. But it’s just an excuse to go back… right?)

Some final thoughts…

The North Shore of Minnesota is a very popular summer and fall tourist destination and I’m told that the hotel and traffic situation during those times is pretty congested. Visiting Duluth in April might not be green and warm, but it is peaceful and empty. Sure, there were still icebergs in Lake Superior, but we enjoyed the outdoors in light jackets. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Duluth was hit by a pretty big snowstorm about a week after we visited, so perhaps a little luck was at play as well.) We experienced vacant state parks, monuments, and entertainment, no traffic, and never struggled to find a parking space. We can’t wait to explore more of Duluth and the North Shore on future visits!


Disclaimer: All opinions are entirely our own, and exactly that – opinions. We are not sponsored and have not been compensated in any way for a favorable review.

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