Why Duluth Makes Me Smile

I love Duluth. Even in the winter. I have since I was a little girl. For those of you who frequent Canal Park, Downtown, or the Bayfront, it hasn’t always been this developed for lack of a better word. Duluth has become a popular place to spend a vacation, visit friends or family, and live. Our city on the lake offers a lot! Why Duluth Makes Me Smile | Duluth Moms Blog

Living in Duluth in the late 60’s to early 70’s, my parents had a little 2 bedroom house on Grand Avenue across the street from the Holiday Station, which is no longer there. Our family of 5 lived in that little house until 1973. My dad caught the bus each day on the corner to go to his job at the railroad. Grand Avenue was a main thoroughfare and a residential area all in one. Stadium Lanes, Wade Stadium, and Shopper City were places that were frequented by our family often. I vividly remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders while my little sister held his hand, as we walked down Grand Avenue to the Dairy Queen by Denfeld. Dilly Bars were only $.15 a piece and were a huge treat!  

Spirit Mountain was just a big hill until being developed in 1974. I remember going up there with my parents and walking around the orange flagged stakes and seeing signs that said, please do NOT pick the trillium. I didn’t know what trillium was until years later, long after my sister and I picked them for bouquets to be presented to our mom. 

Trips to the lake, yes the BIG ONE, were far and few. Once we moved 20 minutes outside of Duluth, heading there was a HUGE deal. The canal was where we spent Fourth of July, sitting on the lighthouse wall watching the sky light up with fireworks, while mom and dad’s arms were wrapped around us so we wouldn’t fall in the lake. The Canal had one stop: Burger King. That’s it! The hotbed of shops that are there now were actually warehouses. There were no huge hotels on the waterfront. Grandmas Restaurant opened in 1976. It was as popular then as it is now. 

Enger Tower has always been a landmark on the skyline of Duluth as well as the Lift Bridge. But now, they are not only landmarks, but places to visit. Places where families make memories. Who remembers racing their siblings or friends to the top of Enger Tower? When was your first time walking across the lift bridge? Years ago, if a ship came through and people were on the bridge, they were just allowed to stay there. Imagine!!! There used to be 3 bridges that went over to the Wisconsin side of the lake. There was an old white wooden bridge that required a toll to cross. The bridge also opened to let ships through. It is a popular fishing spot now, with only the base of the bridge emerging from land. The bridge is no more, but I remember sitting on the floor of my dad’s old Impala across from my sister Nancy (Gasp! Seat belts weren’t a thing then!) giggling and holding our breath until we crossed to the other side. 

Glass Block department store used to be downtown, before it was a store in the Miller Hill Mall.  Sears was there as well. Idyllic little shops peppered Superior Street, long before the sky walk system was a thing. There weren’t brick streets downtown until the mid 1980’s.  

Even further back, in the 50’s, my dad used to drag race down on Garfield Avenue by Goodwill.  It made me smile when he told me about how his dad would help his son work on his car when he had time. Every time I drive down there, I imagine my dad in a fast car smiling as he cruised down the avenue. And, I might add, my dad has THE best smile! 

Now, the Canal Park area and Park Point beaches are popular places for families, visitors, and kids to hang out. Superior Street holds popular stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. Enger Tower has paved paths, grill and picnic areas, and gorgeous flower gardens throughout. Spirit Mountain, which was built in 1974, is a place for families to ski, hike, and enjoy! Duluth has hiking and biking trails that wind through our city! There is even 43 miles of the Lake Superior Hiking Trail system that goes through Duluth. And the Lakewalk? Wowza! We have taken our children on the Lakewalk with their bikes, and gone for miles… up to the Lift Bridge, and then back again. Lots of memories have been make on that path, with our children in tow.  

Certain landmarks make me smile… the corner store on Grand Avenue that used to be Skelly’s service station. You could get a Snicker’s bar there for a nickel when I was 5. Driving on Woodland Avenue up the hill and remembering where the Snow White Market was, which now houses a flower shop. The ride north to Duluth by Thompson Hill. Right when the whole Duluth skyline would come into view. Day or night. The bridge, the bay, and the city… I distinctively remember my father driving us to Duluth from Esko on cold Saturday mornings. Just to take my sister and I bowling. He would always say, “We are the only nuts out on the road in this kind of weather!” He said that a lot. And the memory makes me smile each time I pass that area. Bridgeman’s up by the mall was there when I was a kid. My brother David took me there after Christmas shopping. We would get an ice cream roll. Usually with candy cane bits. Watching my children as toddlers, put their little feet into icy Lake Superior on a hot summer day. Those smiles were the best! 

I feel so fortunate to have been raised in this area. Lucky to have the memories that I have while growing up close to Lake Superior, and blessed that I have had the opportunity to raise my children here. No matter where my husband and I end up after we retire, Duluth will always make me smile, as I will forever hold those happy memories in my heart.

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