Herald Journal Columns
August 14, 2006, Herald Journal

Duluth – a dream town


Duluth was, once again, a recent, fun family trip for our family. Duluth is considered a “top 10 dream town” by Outside Magazine, and although I haven’t traveled all across the United States, I would still have to agree that Duluth is one of the most beautiful and historic places to see and experience.

Duluth is an old-world town with cobbled streets, mansions, culture, history, charm, and many forms of entertainment. There’s much to see and do as a family. There are boutiques and shops, galleries, sculptures and flower gardens, parks, and of course, the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior, which offers a vacation to sightseers in and of itself.

Lake Superior has 154 miles of scenic beauty and natural wonders. If you take a drive along the lakeshore, which is what we always do, you’ll discover lots of history about American Indians, French and British explorers, and iron ore mining and lumbering. You can enjoy Superior National Forest on one side of the road, and the breathtaking shores of Lake Superior on the other side.

From Canal Park, where we usually stay, we start from the finish line of the Grandma’s Marathon and take the drive into Two Harbors, spotting each marathon mile marker along the way, until we get to the finish line in Two Harbors, where we usually get out and stand aside (I have run the marathon before, and it always brings back good memories). The marathon is certainly part of Duluth’s “history” and “heritage,” and if you ever get an inkling to run a marathon, Grandma’s is a wonderful experience. Or, one can try the half-marathon, which is, of course, half the distance, approximately 12 miles.

This year, our family traveled past the finish line and into Gooseberry Falls State Park, which was a fun and inexpensive (free) attraction. Parking was easy, and the spectacular waterfalls are just a short walk from the Interpretive Center, which has a gift shop, vending machines, and short films to view, and is a place to learn more about the North Shore area.

My children enjoyed the waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and just walking barefoot over the rocks and gently flowing water. There are different trails one can hike along, as well. It was an adventure.

Our plans were to traverse 10 miles north to Split Rock Lighthouse, but as it goes when traveling with children, vacation and traveling plans must be flexible, especially with a 2-year-old who needs a nap. We settled for traveling back to our hotel at Canal Park for a swim at the hotel pool, and a walk along the lakewalk to skip rocks into the lake and watch ships come into the harbor under the aerial lift bridge.

The waterfront area is the center of activities. One can tour the retired ore carrier William A. Irvin, visit the Superior Maritime Visitor Center, take a cruise on a boat, visit the largest freshwater museum, the Great Lakes Aquarium, which has about 70 species of fish; and take in a “show” at the Omnitheater.

We also took a walk to the nearby Bayfront Festival Park, which has a creative children’s playground that all three of our children enjoyed; and along the way to the park, we took a pit stop at the Chocolate Factory for some chocolate-covered pretzels and graham crackers.

Downtown Duluth is nearby and is home to the Depot, which houses a theater, art, history, and children’s museum; and of course, the train museum. The children’s museum is fun, with a neat castle area to let royal imaginations reign.

A favorite for our family is the Lake Superior Zoo, which is just about 10 minutes away from downtown Duluth. Our family also enjoys taking a drive through Duluth and looking at the castles, buildings, and the many homes built on hills, wondering how the homeowners mow their lawn.

We also like to take a drive to the University of Minnesota, Duluth campus. The college houses the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium, which offers free public shows Wednesday evenings. We wanted to take this in, but unfortunately, we didn’t make it this trip. Maybe next time.

When you’re in Duluth, you must visit the beautiful rose gardens and other beautiful plants at Leif Erickson Park. Our children enjoy this park, as well. There are over 3,000 roses and 12,000 non-rose plantings, with brick walkways, an antique horse fountain, a gazebo, and benches to rest on and take in the splendors of the flowers and the lake.

I haven’t mentioned the Glensheen Mansion, or other parks, museums, and trails in the area. It just goes to show that Duluth is definitely a wonderful pick for a short get-away family vacation that’s not too far away.

Garden stone creations

It seems collecting things like rocks and seashells is a favorite activity for many children.

While we were in Duluth, we took numerous walks along the lakeshore, and we collected some rocks. To commemorate our trip to Duluth, we are making garden path walking stones with our rock collection, which is a fun thing to do with any rock, seashell, or other collection.

You will need Plaster of Paris, the collection of rocks, seashells, or whatever, a recycled margarine or whipped cream tub, mixing stick, paint, paintbrush, and newspaper.

Cover the work surface with newspaper and mix one cup of Plaster of Paris with water until it becomes the consistency of paste. Pour the mixture into the tub or container. Press the collection materials into the plaster and allow to harden. Remove the creation from the container and decorate, if desired.

I found this idea in “The Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book” by Judy Press, Williamson Publishing Co., 1996, and have seen the idea in other places, as well.

Jenni Sebora has a bachelor of science degree in special education, and a master of science degree in education, with a coaching certification. She has taught in the public school system for 14 years, and has coached a variety of sports at all levels.

Jenni was a children’s program leader for Family Support Network/Parents’ Anonymous, for a local chapter, for 10 years and was the children’s program resource coordinator for the Minnesota Family Support Network/Prevent Child Abuse organization, for southern Minnesota chapters. She has conducted many trainings on dealing with children, children’s activities, and behavioral management.

Jenni has worked in day care settings, served as a Sunday school teacher, summer recreation director, and on the board of education at her church. She and her husband, Marc, have three children.