Located about 2 hours north of the state’s capital, Duluth, Minnesota, is the place to be during all seasons.
There is plenty to do for the entire family, including hiking, museums, sightseeing, and eating delicious food. And what’s better than visiting on a budget and getting to do all of this for free or very cheap?!
If you’re looking for an inexpensive getaway, you should consider Duluth, Minnesota for your next adventure.
Here’s a list of 18 fantastic free or cheap things to do in Duluth, Minnesota.
Free Things To Do in Duluth – Outdoors
Duluth is the gateway to some of Minnesota’s best outdoor activities! So it’s no doubt that you’ll find plenty of epic things to do outdoors during your visit to Duluth, especially in the summer!
Explore Canal Park
Canal Park is located in downtown Duluth, just minutes from the shore of beautiful Lake Superior.
This adorable downtown area has plenty of opportunities for shopping, exploring, and eating delicious food. Plenty of local shops line the streets with the chance to grab a small gift before heading home. Unique restaurants also are perfect for taking a break and enjoying the day.
Although you will walk outside while exploring Canal Park, it’s also a great place to spend a rainy day, as you can easily dip in and out of the shops.
Admire the Rose Gardens
One of the best parts of summer in Duluth is the smell of beautiful roses lining the sidewalks of Leif Erickson Park. Over 3,000 roses and other plants within the park make it the perfect place to literally ‘stop and smell the roses.’
On top of the beautiful flowers, you’ll have fantastic views of Lake Superior. Walking trails are everywhere where you can enjoy an afternoon outside with the family or bring your furry friend for a walk.
Visit the Bentleyville Tour of Lights
Duluth becomes an absolute winter wonderland with holiday lights, Santa visits, and lively music during the winter months.
The best place to see all of the holiday cheer is at Bentleyville Tour of Lights. What started as a small display in a local’s backyard has become one of the best winter activities in Duluth! Wander around this free walk-through event under over 45,000 lights, enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies, and have a visit with Santa.
Be sure to bundle up, though, because this is located right near the lake!
Watch Ships Pass Under the Aerial Lift Bridge
The iconic Aerial Lift Bridge is a must-see during your visit to Duluth, as you’ll see it in almost any area picture!
Not many lift bridges still operate today, but here in Duluth, you can watch as this one moves up to 135 feet and allows enormous ships to pass underneath.
Many people don’t know that you can actually walk across the bridge! Or, if you prefer, stay on shore and watch as the bridge lifts and lowers, which it does over 4,000 times yearly.
Head to the Top of Enger Tower
Enger Park is a nice little place to stop and enjoy a picnic outside.
You may also enjoy climbing to the top of Enger Tower, an 80-foot-tall tower. Visitors may climb the 105 stairs to the top of the tower and see the city of Duluth and Lake Superiore from way up high.
The views are magnificent and worth that little workout you’ll get in!
See Waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Waterfalls are one of the best natural wonders to visit, and Gooseberry Falls State Park has no shortage of them.
With just under a one-hour drive, you’ll be viewing some of the best waterfalls in Minnesota! Just a few steps from the parking lot, you’ll be met with the views of Gooseberry Falls.
If you’re up for a bit more hiking, head about 1.5 miles away, and you’ll find Fifth Falls, a more secluded waterfall within the park.
You can also walk out onto the shore of Lake Superior and enjoy the views from there.
Snowshoe on One of the Many Trails
Winter in Minnesota can be tough to get by without having something to take your mind off the cold.
Snowshoeing is the perfect activity that the entire family can quickly learn to do. There are places throughout Duluth to hit the trails and snowshoe in the colder months, including at state parks and on the Superior Hiking Trail.
You can rent snowshoes at a few places around town, including Continental Ski & Bike, or some state parks.
Walk the Shore of Lake Superior
On the topic of Lake Superior’s shoreline, one of the best free things to do in Duluth is simply admiring one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes.
There are many places to get down to the shore, but one of the best is at Leif Erickson Park. Follow the sidewalk, and it’ll lead you down to a rocky beach where you can search for sea glass and find fun-shaped rocks.
Many people enjoy walking out on the rocks and feeling the chilly waters of Lake Superior beneath their feet. The water doesn’t ever get very warm, so it’s likely not the best plan to go for a swim!
Get the Kids Energy Out at Playfront Park
As the largest playground in Duluth, you can imagine how much energy your little will be able to get out at Playfront Park!
If they’re ready for a break from shopping or exploring, take them here and let them play! It’s complete with slides, swings, and climbing equipment.
Plus, it’s found right near Canal Park, so you can get back to your adventuring after they’ve let their wiggles out.
Take a Day Trip To Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
This state park is home to one of the most iconic structures on the North Shore and in Minnesota, Split Rock Lighthouse.
It’s one of the most visited lighthouses in the country and makes for some pretty perfect photo-ops! This lighthouse began operations in 1910 and sits high above Lake Superior on a 130-foot cliff.
Today, you can tour the lighthouse for a fee or admire it from the outside.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is about one hour from Duluth.
Enjoy a Movie Outdoors
During the summer months, a free outdoor movie event is held every Friday just after sunset. Gather the family together and enjoy a fun film while enjoying the great outdoors!
The movies are played on a giant screen at Leif Erickson Park, with the lake in the background!
All movies are family-friendly and change weekly!
Free Things To Do in Duluth – Indoors
Although it’s great fun to enjoy the outdoors during your visit to Duluth, sometimes the weather gets the best of us. Here are a few great activities to enjoy indoors within Duluth.
Visit the Lake Superior Maritime Museum
The Lake Superior Maritime Museum is the perfect place to learn about the history of the great lake Duluth is known for.
If you’ve visited before, it’s definitely time to visit again as their exhibits often change, making for a different visit every time. You’ll learn about shipping on the lake and how the ships work, and you can watch them as they pass by from inside the building!
Admission is always free, so it’s worth stopping inside!
Take the North Shore Scenic Drive
While technically not indoors, if it’s a rainy day and you’d like to stay dry, consider riding up the North Shore Scenic Drive.
This road follows Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage, right below Canada. You’ll be able to still catch some epic views right from the comfort of your car! There are plenty of pull-offs along the way to stop and enjoy the scenery.
If you are up for some exploring, consider stopping at popular places such as Palisade Head and Black Beach. Or, head into one of the eight state parks and wander around the visitor centers to learn about the history of the North Shore.
Cheap Things To Do in Duluth, MN
Aside from all of the free things to do in Duluth, there are some great cheap activities to do as well. These activities are under $10 per person and are worth spending that extra money!
Learn at the Duluth Children’s Museum
Another perfect activity for families with children visiting Duluth is to head to the Duluth Children’s Museum.
Inside you’ll find exhibit after exhibit of hands-on activities for your littles to have fun with. There are also programs held daily for even more enrichment and fun. Your kids will not only get to play but also learn while at the Children’s Museum.
Admission is only $7 per person, making it an excellent cheap thing to do in Duluth.
Watch a Show at the Planetarium
At the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium, you can enjoy a day spent inside learning about the solar system. You’ll be able to watch an interactive show in a full-dome theater, which is quite the experience.
Both kids and adults will love learning about the planets, stars, and space.
Tickets to the planetarium are $5 for adults and $3 for kids.
Visit the Lake Superior Railroad Museum
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is found in the Duluth Union Depot and is a great place to learn about the history of the trains. Between the interactive exhibits, an extensive collection of equipment, and the helpful staff, you’ll leave with a plethora of new knowledge.
In the summer months, the North Shore Scenic Railroad departs from the depot and brings guests on a train ride. Here, you’ll have the chance to experience a real train ride and see some beautiful views along the way.
Admission to the museum is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.
Grab a Treat at the Portland Malt Shoppe
One of the best places to stop in Duluth on a sunny day is the Portland Malt Shoppe.
This adorable little treat shop is found not too far from Leif Erickson Park and has beautiful views of Lake Superior. They sell a variety of delicious ice cream snacks, including malts, sundaes, and floats. Picnic tables are nearby to enjoy your snack and the views.
The Malt Shoppe is only open in the summer, so plan your visit accordingly!
Tour the Glensheen Mansion
The Glensheen Mansion is a sight within itself, located on the shores of Lake Superior.
This beautiful 39-room mansion is found on 12 acres, surrounded by a beautiful landscape of flowers and plants. Glensheen Mansion is decorated most beautifully during the holidays, and tours are held.
Throughout the rest of the year, you can also tour the mansion for a fee.
If you have a bit of money to spare while in Duluth, visiting Glensheen may be an excellent option.
Best Time to Visit Duluth, MN
Duluth is located in northern Minnesota, which is known for its cold winters and warm summers.
In saying this, the best time to visit Duluth is in the summer months, between June and August. Temperatures average between 70 and 90 degrees, and the sun is out most days.
Fall is another beautiful time to visit, as the weather is a bit cooler and the leaves are starting to change.
Winters can be pretty harsh, but if you can handle the cold, it’s beautiful and Duluth offers many different experiences!
Where To Stay in Duluth
There are plenty of beautiful resorts, hotels, and vacation rentals to accommodate you during your visit to Duluth.
Pier B Resort is one of the most popular places to stay, with beautiful views of Lake Superior and a pool.
If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, Hostel Du Nord is a great option, offering a shared floor with private bunks.
Conclusion: Free Things To Do in Duluth, MN
Duluth comes in as one of the best places to visit in Minnesota, between the beautiful outdoors and indoor activities to do.
There really is no shortage of things to do in Duluth, so plan your trip today!