Last weekend was my birthday, and I always insist upon going somewhere for my birthday, since it’s a pretty good excuse to jump on a plane. This year, though, with a trip to California the following weekend (aka today, yes!), we wanted to stay closer to home. So that’s how boyfriend and I drove a couple of hours North of the Twin Cities to spend the weekend in Duluth, MN.
Duluth is a northland port town right on Lake Superior, and it has some seriously cute shops and restaurants. It was gray and chilly the whole weekend, but that didn’t stop us from having a nice time and honestly, was pretty predictable since that tends to be the standard weather in Duluth.
Shirt is from MSP/STP Clothing
We stayed at the brand new hotel Pier B resort. It just opened in June, so the decor is clean and modern. We loved the mix of wood and concrete in the room because it had such a nice, “up-north” feeling to it, but without being super rustic and having animals on the walls or anything. It was still modern with a nod to the local, more rustic, feeling.
The location of the hotel was perfect for us. It was right on the water, which was nice and meant that the communal outdoor areas had an excellent view of the water and the iconic Duluth lift bridge. We also decided to splurge and go for the room with a deck, which had a great view as well, but might not be worth the extra cash in the future. It was nice to sit out there, and it would’ve been great if the weather was nicer. That said, there are areas that the whole hotel can access that are outdoors and have tables with fire pits and such, so you don’t really need your own.
Also, be warned that the hotel is right next to the Bayfront Festival Park, so if there is a concert or music festival, you will be listening to that music until 11pm. We weren’t too annoyed by it, but I would recommend double checking before you go. If it was music you liked, I imagine that sitting out on the deck and listening would actually make for a great night, but when we were there it was an ACDC cover band… not exactly my favorite genre.
We started out by grabbing breakfast down in the canal park area, which is the main tourist zone of Duluth. Then, since we were there, we obviously had to do some wandering and shopping. Some of the shops were mostly Duluth sweatshirts and such, which we weren’t really into, but we did find some gems.
We loved Northern Waters Smokehaus, and so did everyone else because there was a crazy line to get in it. We picked up some smoked salmon and sausage and got away from the crazy, hungry crowd.
I was obsessed with a lot of the things at Northwoods Confections and Gifts. I made Dustin walk around with me for like an hour, which made him crazy. We ended up getting a couple of things and I snapped this picture of some wanderlust things I was dying to get but didn’t because of that little budget thing.
They had so much cute decor. It will be a must-return-to on our next trip to Duluth!
We also went up the hill to Apricot Lane, which is a cute boutique that I follow on Instagram that has shops around the Twin Cities. I’ve been meaning to get to one of their locations but we’ve been so busy that of course I didn’t have any free time until we were on vacation. I liked the shop and we got one Minnesota shirt. I’ll have to go to the locations around the cities now and see what they have!
Once we tired of shopping (okay, not we, Dustin), we were going to try to find a coffee shop but just ended up driving North out of town and up to the North Shore area. It was so nice to go for a drive and chill since everyday life is so hectic and stressful. We pulled over for a historical marker (they’re always such silly “historical” things, aren’t they?) and walked on the rocks on the shore of Lake Superior. It was really beautiful and we were completely alone up there for a little while, which was really nice.
Shirt is from Great Lakes Co
After our little adventure, we returned to the canal park area just in time for the distillery tour (every day at 5:30) at Vikre Distillery. I love gin and I love all things locally made (if you couldn’t tell from all of the shout-outs to local businesses in this post!) so I was more than a little excited for this.
I am a huge fan of gin, thanks in large part to the influence of many English friends in Grad School, so I was over the moon that this place had three varieties of locally sourced and made gin. Despite the fact that the distillery was created to make whiskey, (which takes longer to make than gin, hence the gin) they aren’t yet selling that year-round, so boyfriend was a bit disappointed, but he drank a gin cocktail without his usual complaints so you know it was good.
The tour was fun and informative and we each finished a cocktail on the tour and then decided to split a flight of gin so we could try them (boyfriend liked none of them, but it was my birthday, not his so whatever). My favorite was the juniper gin, so I bought a bottle to bring home.
We ate a lot on this trip, as is standard on a birthday trip! We had breakfast both mornings at the Lake Ave Cafe, which seriously had such good food. It looks like an unassuming place, but you have to go here and try some of their awesome brunch options, especially the Huevos Avenida Del Lago.
For a birthday dinner, we decided to check out Zeitgeist Arts Cafe and we were so glad that we did. Starting with the stuffed dates wrapped in bacon (!) and then with a grilled romaine salad, all the way through our main dishes (duck pot pie and thai chili bowl) and our milk and cookies for desert, this meal was awesome. We had expected a lot more rich, heavy, northland comfort food while up in Duluth, so we were pleasantly surprised to find this place!
For snacks, we loved the Portland Malt Shoppe , pretty much the cutest little ice cream shop in the world with killer malts. We also hit up Hepzibah’s for sweets and of course stopped by Tobies on the way back to the Twin Cities for cinnamon rolls and caramel rolls.
I also loved the gin from Vikre Distillery, did I mention that yet?!
Let me know your favorite road trip destinations in the comments!