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Ultimate Guide: Top 5 Winter & Holiday Activities in Duluth

Duluth in Winter

Duluth, Minnesota, nestled along the stunning shores of Lake Superior, is not just a winter wonderland; it’s a place where fun knows no bounds during the holiday season. With its winning combination of natural beauty, heart-pounding outdoor adventures, cherished holiday customs, and the heartfelt warmth of its community, Duluth is an irresistible draw for those in search of a winter and holiday getaway that’s anything but ordinary. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker hungry for high-speed winter sports action, a nature enthusiast yearning for the serenity of snow-draped landscapes, or someone captivated by the enchanting brilliance of holiday lights, Duluth offers an array of experiences that cater to everyone’s idea of winter and holiday fun.

Hit the Slopes at Spirit Mountain

With an impressive 700-foot vertical drop, Spirit Mountain ranks as the second tallest ski hill in Minnesota. This renowned destination is particularly acclaimed for its challenging terrain parks, featuring jibs and jump lines that have earned national recognition. Nordic skiing enthusiasts are drawn to the extensive 22 kilometers of wooded cross-country trails, while families of all ages flock to the tubing hill for endless wintertime fun. The mountain typically provides lift access, rentals for both skiing equipment and tubes, and enforces safety guidelines for a secure and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re looking for downhill thrills on the slopes or family-friendly tubing fun, Spirit Mountain has you covered with a range of winter activities amidst the scenic beauty of Duluth. 

Skiing Duluth
Cross country skiing at Spirit Mountain

Bentleyville Tour of Lights 

Experiencing the enchanting Bentleyville Tour of Lights at Bayfront Festival Park is one of the best things to do during the holidays in Duluth. This spectacular outdoor light extravaganza has become a beloved holiday tradition, drawing thousands of visitors each year. Bentleyville has tourists flocking in to enjoy festive activities like visits with Santa, live entertainment, warm beverages, marshmallow roasting, and a continuously expanding array of holiday lights.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights
Holiday Lights at Bentleyville

Nation’s Tallest Christmas Tree

Bentleyville tops the holiday wishlist with the added attraction of the nation’s tallest Christmas tree! So, bundle up your family for a magical evening on a chilly winter night; it’s a quintessential “feeling Minnesota” moment. Bentleyville’s dazzling lights are on display from mid-November through Christmas, and admission to the event and all its activities is either FREE or by donation, depending on what you’re comfortable with. If you plan to drive, parking in the lot costs $10 per vehicle. 

The Christmas City Express at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum

During the Christmas City Express, visitors can step aboard a vintage passenger train adorned with holiday decorations and lights. The train typically departs from the museum or another designated location and takes passengers on a scenic journey through the winter landscape of Duluth and the surrounding area. Along the way, passengers are often treated to holiday music, storytelling, and sometimes even visits from Santa Claus or other holiday characters.

Christmas City Express
Christmas City Express

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

The museum is known for its collection of historic locomotives, rolling stock, and railroad artifacts, and the Christmas City Express is a special way to enjoy the museum’s offerings while celebrating the holiday season. The exact details and offerings of the Christmas City Express can vary from year to year, so it’s a good idea to check the museum’s website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information, including schedules, ticket prices, and any special events or activities that may be included.

Horse Carriage Rides & Dog Sledding near Duluth

Local Duluth businesses offer unique winter and holiday activities. Located just 30 minutes outside of Duluth, Positive Energy Outdoors offers an array of exciting and immersive experiences, including horse carriage rides and dog sledding, designed to connect individuals and families with the beauty of nature while fostering a sense of adventure and appreciation for the outdoors.

Horse Carriage Rides
Horse carriage ride in winter

Festive Horse Carriage Rides

Enjoy a leisurely and picturesque ride through the serene landscapes, guided by gentle and majestic horses. These carriage rides provide an opportunity to relax and soak in the natural beauty while creating lasting memories with loved ones.

Dog Sledding

For those seeking a more exhilarating adventure, Positive Energy Outdoors offers thrilling dog sledding experiences. You can harness your inner explorer and be part of a team of eager sled dogs as you glide through the winter wonderland, guided by experienced mushers. It’s an unforgettable way to embrace the winter season and witness the incredible bond between humans and their canine companions.

Whether you prefer a tranquil horse-drawn carriage ride or the adrenaline rush of dog sledding, it provides unique opportunities to engage with nature and create cherished moments in the great outdoors. These experiences are perfect for all ages and skill levels, making them a fantastic choice for families, couples, or solo adventurers looking to connect with the natural world.

UMD Hockey

Weather in Duluth in the winter can be uncertain, and it is always a good idea to have indoor recreation backups! Attending a University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey game can be a fun experience. The UMD Bulldogs boast a strong hockey program with a history of national championships, promising an exciting display of skill and competition on the ice. To fully enjoy the game, it’s essential to plan ahead. Check the schedule and secure your tickets in advance, as UMD hockey games tend to draw a significant crowd. Arriving early allows you to find parking, settle into your seat, and immerse yourself in the game-day atmosphere. Don’t forget to cheer enthusiastically for the Bulldogs, explore concessions for local treats, and capture the memorable moments of the game with photos or videos. 

UMD Hockey
Men’s Hockey at UMD

With its blend of natural wonders, exhilarating outdoor activities, cherished traditions, and the genuine warmth of its community, Duluth stands as a beacon for those seeking an extraordinary winter and holiday escape. Whether you crave the adrenaline rush of winter sports, the tranquility of snow-covered vistas, or the enchantment of holiday lights, Duluth’s diverse offerings cater to all tastes, making it a place where the magic of the season comes alive in unforgettable ways. So, pack your winter gear and immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Duluth, where fun and wonder await around every snowy corner. Find yourself visiting Duluth earlier in the season? Check out our Autumn in Duluth Guide!