Canal Park is one of the most visited areas of Duluth. Home to iconic Duluth landmarks like the Aerial Lift Bridge and William A Irvin, Canal Park offers a wide variety of activities to do. You could easily spend a day, or even a week, at Canal Park and still never run out of things to do. This article focuses on the areas on and around Canal Park Drive and South Lake Street.
Here are our favorite things to do in Canal Park.
Take a Tour on the William A Irvin
The SS William A Irvin is a decommissioned iron ore ship that now serves as a floating museum. Get up close and personal with the inner workings of an iron ore ship, part of the industry that established many communities along the North Shore. In its previous life, the Irvin sailed the Great Lakes from 1937 until her retirement in 1978. In 1983 the ship was purchased by the City of Duluth and placed in her permanent home in a slip in Canal Park. She’s been there ever since- except for one year from 2018 until 2019 when she was moved to dry dock while the slip was repaired. During that time she received a fresh coat of paint and basic maintenance so she can continue to serve the City of Duluth as a museum.
If you are visiting Duluth in the month of October, you’ll see a much different ship than the rest of the year! The William A Irvin becomes the cities most-visited Halloween attraction as the Haunted Ship.
Watch a Ship Go Under the Aerial Lift Bridge
Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge is probably the most iconic and photographed feature in Duluth. Built in 1930, the Aerial Lift Bridge serves to connect residents in the Park Point neighborhood to the rest of Duluth. The bridge goes halfway up at the top and bottom of every hour to allow smaller vessels like a sailboat and the Vista fleet to pass under. The bridge raises all the way up when an iron ore ship or larger research vessel is passing through. You can view the schedule for the bridge in the Marine Museum or online at CanalPark.com.
Visit the Lake Superior Marine Museum
The Lake Superior Marine Museum is a free, handicap-accessible museum. It serves to give you insight into the iron ore shipping industry. There are movie programs, onsight park rangers to answer questions, and model ships to view. Head up to the upper level for a great view of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Check the schedule on the monitor to see when the next ship will be passing through. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop for some great maritime-themed souvenirs.
Take a Stroll on the Lakewalk
Duluth’s Lakewalk received a massive overhaul in 2021 to help prevent ongoing damage caused by winter storms. The new Lakewalk is now elevated in several areas, giving walkers a new perspective on the Lake Superior shoreline. This 7.5 mile boardwalk and asphalt trail starts in Canal park and leads you along the shoreline until the intersection of I-35 and London Road. From there you travel inland between London Road and Superior Street for several miles before crossing back over to the Lake side, ending at Brighton Beach.
The section at Canal Park follows along the eastern shoreline.
Take a Cruise on the Vista Fleet
The best way to sightsee a city known for its waterfront attractions is right from the water itself! The express tour is a quick 45-minute tour that is great for families with young children. Longer tours last 1-2 hours and some include a trip under the Aerial Lift Bridge! The narrated tour is rich with Duluth history and unique nuggets of information you may not be able to learn elsewhere.
Plan a romantic date night or celebrate a birthday with one of the many dinner cruise options. These usually run from 1.5-2 hours and include a meal and sometimes even live music!
Prices for the cruise are kept affordable and include senior and child discounts. See the full list of cruises and current prices on the Vista Fleet website.
People Watch at the Minnesota Slip Bridge
The Minnesota Slip Bridge is a footbridge that connects Canal Park to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC). As you cross over you can look towards Duluth and have a great view of the SS William A Irvin in her slip. This heavily trafficked area is a great place to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the surroundings.
When boats need to pass in and out of the slip, which also serves as a marina for small boats, the bridge will lift and lower. While there isn’t really a set schedule for this, boat traffic is pretty regular, especially on weekends. So you may get a chance to see the bridge lift and lower during your visit.
Walk up and down Canal Park Drive and S Lake Street for dozens of locally-owned shops. Some of our favorites include the I Love Duluth, Toys for Keeps, Father Time Antiques, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and Sivertson Art Gallery.
Then, head into the historic DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace for even more shopping options. Not only is the building itself pretty neat, but the variety of stores is also impressive. Check out Hepzibah’s Sweet Shoppe, J Skylark Toy Store, The Blue Heron Trading Company, and Two and Co Clothing.
Have a Meal
We have never tried it, but just from looking at the wide variety of restaurant options in Canal Park, we imagine you could eat there for a week straight and never run out of new things to try. The Canal Park website lists over 30 dining options, not including all of the restaurants located in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace.
Likely the most famous, or at least iconic, Duluth Restaurant is Grandma’s chain of restaurants. In Canal Park alone, Grandma’s has two restaurants (the Sports Garden and Saloon and Grill), plus the Grandma’s Ice Cream Boxcar open in the summer months.
Other notable restaurants include the Vikre Distillery and Hoops Brewing Company for those who enjoy local liquor and beer (they also serve food!). A personal favorite amongst the CVR crew is the Northern Waters Smokehouse, serving up premium house-smoked fish and some amazing sandwiches!
So, come for a day, or come for a week. And never run out of things to do at Duluth’s Canal Park. Plus, it’s an easy hop over to Duluth’s Bayfront area which boasts the DECC, the Great Lakes Aquarium, Marcus Omnimax Theater, Bayfront Festival Park, and the Playfront Playground. Getting to Canal Park is easy. From I-35 take the Lake Ave exit and turn towards the Lake. Keep going straight and you will find yourself on Canal Park Drive in the heart of Canal Park.
Need a Place to Stay?
Captain’s Canal Park is located right in the heart of Canal Park at the Suites Hotel. This beautiful 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom suite has a full kitchen, living room, and the SS William A Irvin is nestled right outside the bedroom windows. Enjoy being in the center of everything, easy walking distance to all that Canal Park has to offer. Book your stay today!
Listen to the Podcast Episode
Jaye and Martha spend an afternoon at Canal Park. They enjoy lunch at Cloud 9, check out the Aerial Lift Bridge, do some shopping at Dewitt-Seitz, then wrapped up the episode by discovering the best spot to people-watch in Canal Park. Listen in to hear what happened to Martha just before they started recording the podcast. It’s quite hilarious (although Martha didn’t think so).