Sheldon Aubut's Duluth History



The Finnish Riviera*

*No offence meant to our Finnish friends - they are a wonderful people.

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Duluth is one of the country's best kept secrets as a tourist destination.

As a large portion of the population of Northeastern Minnesota is Scandinavian, they have euphemistically christened Duluth "The Finnish Riviera".

Click for Duluth, Minnesota Forecast

Believe it or not but Cruise ships are now visiting Duluth.  Check out Alex Sahlberg's video of the German Cruise ship "Columbus" entering the Duluth Harbor under the Aerial Lift Bridge.

(if it is a bit dark please increase the brightness on your monitor)

Special note:  November 30, 1997.   Just sitting here working on web sites.  Had the TV on to The Learning Channel for background noise, not paying much attention, just a special about the history of the bathing suit, but then....   An interview with a fashion designer talking about the dangers of exposure to the sun, "Because of this I believe that the northern beaches are going to become much more popular, and the dangers of exposure will keep people from the southern beaches."  Wow!!...

Now we should really see the tourist flocking to our sandy beaches...


We have six miles of fine, sandy beach on Lake Superior, within the Duluth city limits. What does it matter if you can only swim in it when the summer wind is from the North? The mean temperature of Lake Superior is somewhere around 45 degrees and if the wind is from the North or East  it blows all the warm surface water to Duluth and the water temperature nears 75 degrees. But, if the wind is from the South or West all the warm water goes on its merry way to Canada and Duluth has 45 degree water at the swimming beaches. But... That isn't always bad. On a 90 degree summer day, (which has happened, we assure you) it is quite nice to be in the city that wraps itself around the end of the lake as the temperature will be about 10-20 degrees cooler than "over the hill". Makes for a pleasant 70 degree day in the city.  As a matter of fact a New York City reporter, in the late 1800's christened Duluth "The Air-Conditioned City".

How many places in the country can you watch ice breakers freeing trapped ships from ice flows from the comfort of your hotel room? Often, when the shipping season starts the lake is still covered with ice. The ice breakers clear paths for the Lakers and ocean going vessels, but if the wind is right the passages may close while ships are gliding through. In 1995 there were six ships and ore boats trapped in the ice for days. Two ice breakers, with helicopter support, freed them and it became a memorable event for those lucky enough to have seen it.

Another winter activity here is rescuing ice fisher persons* from the ice flows on Lake Superior.  Every year this happens several times.  They go out fishing.  The ice shifts and soon they, patiently staring down the holes in the ice, float away.  Usually it is at least three beers before they realize they are no longer attached to the part of the world knows as "solid earth" and are now unguided boats floating whichever way the wind is heading.  The smarter ones drag a canoe out on the ice with them so that they can just paddle back to shore.  But, "smarter" is a relative term when it comes to ice fisher persons*.  Even the smartest tend to regress after a few beers and it is not uncommon to see whole communities of ice houses going for a pleasant ride across the lake.  And as long as the beer and chips hold out they don't get too upset. The Coast Guard Ice Breaker does a very good job of finding these folks and I don't think they have ever lost one soul on the ice flows.  But, the big news is that the government wants to start charging for these rescues.  I think it will mean that we will see more canoes on the ice in the winter.

Fall arrives in Duluth, what seems to we Duluthians, months earlier than the rest of the Nation. Actually late September and early October are some of the most photogenic days in the area. Duluth rests on the cusp of the ancient pine forests at their juncture with the hardwood forests of central Minnesota. This makes for some very spectacular, colorful vistas. As the area around Duluth is all forest, hills and lakes, it is a fall leaf hunters paradise. On weekends the population seems to double as fall foliage lovers from places as far South as Minneapolis, and some say, places even further South, come to Duluth and shoot Kodak's stock through the roof (pronounce "ruf" if you are from Northern Minnesota).

Where else can you watch the end of a 250 mile dogsled race in the morning (John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon), go downhill skiing within the city limits (Spirit Mountain Ski Area), and take in a Symphony production in the evening (Duluth-Superior Symphony)? With hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, an equal distance of cross country ski trails and thousands of square miles of lake surface (for those crazy ice fisher persons*) this is a winter paradise. Those even crazier snowmobilers even have a national event, the Spirit National Snowcross, where they beat their bodies, their machines and the mountain into submission. Of course, the mountain always wins in the end.

Things to do in, and around, Duluth:

The quintessential Duluth sport:  Duluth National Snowcross snowmobile races.  Crazy folks jumping, bumping, and racing.

Spirit Mountain Ski Resort - Downhill, Cross Country skiing and "big air" snowboarding.

Kayak, whitewater rafting and Canoe

If you are in Duluth, and can only see one thing please see: Glensheen, the Historic Gongdon Estate 

Take a ride up the North Shore Drive of Lake Superior.

Summer Naval Cruise

BayFront Blues Festival  -  One of the premier Blues Festivals in the country.  Over 30,000 people, and some of the biggest names in blues.

Duluth Art Institute

Save the Duluth National Guard Armory - Armory Arts & Music Center

Grandma's Marathon - Saturday, June 20 at 7:30 a.m. in Duluth, Minnesota

Imagine 2,000 health nuts skating along the Grandma's Marathon course. In-Line Skating Marathon

Seven Bridges Road and Skyline Parkway  -  One of the most overlooked treks in Duluth.  Tourists are just starting to discover it.  They person who named it "Seven Bridges Road" never counted all the bridges.   You will have to count them for yourself. The parkway stretches for 30 miles along the top of Spirit Mountain.  Incredible vistas, rivers, waterfalls, tree lined roadways.

Find out about the Duluth Port at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and about local shipping and Ship Arrivals and Departures at the Duluth Shipping News.



Enger Tower  - Incredible view from the highest point on the mountain.  Overlooks vast vistas.  Wonderful acres of flower gardens.  Perfect for picnics, browsing and even weddings.




Golf Courses:

Sailboat races - Duluth Yacht Club

Tour the entire North Shore of Lake Superior

Charter Fishing at the Duluth Charter Fishing Guides web site.

Dinner Cruises - The Vista FleetScenic guided cruises of the Duluth harbor on very comfortable, modern cruise boats.  Dinner cruises, party cruises, and some of the best scenery on Earth.

Bridges, Bridges everywhere...

Lakewalk - 2.6 miles of incredible shoreline.  Walking path, skate and bicycle path, horse drawn cabs, restrooms along route, plenty of park benches.

Comedy?  Do we have comedy.  Visit Renegade Comedy Theatre and you won't regret it.   Well, maybe you will regret it just a little.  You could possibly regret it...   But go anyway, these people should either be locked away in the nuthouse or go to work for the government.

Lighthouses - Breakwater, North Pier.

FourthFest -  Always a good time with wonderful entertainers.   1999 had Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. Fourth of July weekend at Bayfront Festival park.

Ship of Ghouls - Halloween of course, the flagship of U.S. Steel's Great Lakes Fleet, the William Irvin, now a marine museum, is decked out as a haunted ship by students from UMD.  More information on the Irvin can be found at the William A. Irvin Homepage, but I don't think this site has been recently updated.

Minnesota Ballet - These folks put on a wonderful show.

Bed & Breakfasts:

Do mention that you saw them "On Sheldon Aubut's site"  if you should happen to stay at one of these.  I need all the points I can get.

Marine Museum

Duluth - Superior Lumberjacks Indoor Football - I went to one of these things on a weekend when I had nothing else to do. Son #1 gave me a couple tickets and I took a friend.  I was expecting to be bored silly as I am not much of a sports fan, instead we had a blast.  The crowd really got into it, the play was exceptional, and I hadn't had a hot dog in about a year.  Well worth the trip to see them play.

Transportation Museum - Lake Superior Railroad Museum.  -  Trains, trains and more trains.   Incredible place with its own 1900 city.

If you are a diver, check out one of Minnesota's Historic ShipwrecksMore information and links can be found at the Lake Superior Shipwreck web site.

If you like great Mexican food check out the Hacienda-del-Sol

Another great place to eat is the Scenic Cafe, about 15 minutes north of Duluth on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The Munger Trail is a wonderful 69 mile paved trail between Hinkley and Duluth for walkers, bicyclists and skaters.

Or, if you like more to your hiking experience try the Superior Hiking Trail Association.  200 miles plus of exceptional hiking trails.


(lots more to list here when I get caught up with my real work.  SA)

We would suspect that just about anyone would find something to do on the Finnish Riviera. If you didn't find something in that list please contact anyone in the area. Being mostly Scandinavian they are sure to go out of their way to satisfy you and start whatever it is that you like to do. Whatever you do, don't let them convince you to try lutefisk.

A couple of Lutefisk sites for the uninitiated:
The Power of Lutefisk
The Worlds Largest Lutefisk

Did I tell you that I was mostly French?????

One of my Finnish friends, actually living in Finland, saw this page and here is his review:

On Saturday, December 06, 1997 3:48 AM, Topi Kuusinen [] wrote:

> Hi Sheldon,
> Quite liked these pages - one gets the impression you like Duluth.
> Anyway, as regards Finnish people and PC - go ahead and call the trapped ice fishers with their correct gender-specific pronoun. Over here in  Finland quite a few ice fishers get a cold bath when trying to extend  the season at both ends, often with a bottle of vodka to warm up.  So, another Finnish reviewer has approved of your page. ;-)
> BTW, Happy Finnish Independence Day (Today, Dec 6th 1997, is the 80th   anniversary of the Finnish Republic.)
> Cheers,
> -Topi Kuusinen, Finland
> Soon to go and try on the ol' black suit and head off into the blizzard for some Dec 6th partying. No Le Mansing  (motorcycling) around this time of year.

Dear Sir or Ms.,
Even though you state "we are a wonderful people" I must point out that the Scandinavian people populated the North shore of Lake Superior while the Suomi moved inland to build farms or work in the mines (until they were "blacklisted")!

My whole life here by the great "Lac" I have heard the North Shore referred to as the "Norwegian Riviera" principly due to the many Norwegian fishing families that settled there and not coincidentally that they seem to prefer a cold, wet and often dreary climate.

Conversly, Finns are always trying to "warm up"!  If you have ever sat down for coffee in a Finnish farmers kitchen and sampled hot, fresh light rye bread straight out of the oven, smothered in wild strawberry preserves and drank cup after cup of steaming hot coffee, or gone to "sauna" on a Saturday night when the sky was clear and the stars sparkled like diamonds and the air was a crisp 10F. and when you opened the sauna door you heard the crackle of the wood as it burned in the stove and you had to wet down the bench before you could sit on it and just as you were beginning to feel comfortable in the heat your uncle throws a half a bucket of water on the stove and you dive for the lowest bench as the steam erupts off the rocks in the stove, then you'll know what it is to be "warm"!!!

So as you see the shore by the big muddy here isn't really a Finn's dream of paradise. Rather, picture him on the porch of his cabin out at the lake, in the birches watching the sun set and raising a couple as he flips his hamburgers, because for a Finn the "Riviera" holds no pull...he is content to hear the call of the loon rather than the roar of the sports car and has no interest in lying about when he can grab a chain saw and go clear the trail to his deer stand!

A Finn knows what's important in one has to tell him.

Jim Kohtala  --  Duluth Minnesota

Books about Duluth, and the region, available from

Boomtown Landmarks (Discover Duluth) - by Laurie Hertzel

Sam Cook's "Campsightes"

Chronicles of Aunt Hilma and Other East Hillside Swedes - by Michael Fedo

Barton Sutter's "Cold Comfort:  Live at the Top of the Map"

Craig and Nadine Blacklock's "The Duluth Portfolio"

Destination Duluth (Port Cities of North America) by Martin Hintz

Duluth; The City and the People - by Chuck Frederick

Duluth/Superior Funbook - by Julie Ryan

Duluth Tour Book; An Illustrated Guide to Historic & Fun Places - by Jeff Cornelius

Friendship Fires - by Sam Cook

Ghostly Tales of Lake Superior - by Claire W. Schumacher

House of Stone : The Duluth Benedictines - Mary R. Boo

Just Keep Going North...You'll Know When You Get There! : Breath-Taking, Unforgivable Short & Tall Stories About Duluth & the Head-O-The Lakes - by Rick Eichert

Nina's North Shore Guide

The Raleigh Street Saga : Shattering the Legend - by Claire W. Schumacher

Trains of the Twin Ports Photo Archive : Duluth-Superior in the 1950s - by Marvin Nielsen

Up North - by Sam Cook


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Last modified: January 15, 2011
copyright 1986-2013 Sheldon T. Aubut, all rights reserved

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