600 S. Lake Ave.
Duluth Minnesota 55802United States
Midwest Living Recommends
You can practically feel Lake Superior's stormy wrath in this hardworking museum honoring navigation on the inland sea.
Everyone who visits Duluth should make time to lean on the seawall of the shipping canal as a mighty freighter rolls under the Aerial Lift Bridge and into the harbor. And as soon as the enormous ship passes, they should turn around and take a free tour of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center the Army Corps of Engineers runs right beside the canal. The multilevel museum provides a quick introduction to navigation on Lake Superior for a little perspective as you're vacationing along the shore. The museum is light on high-tech exhibits found at some of the region's leading museums but still provides plenty of insight, and you can't match the gritty reality you feel from all the wooden ship name plaques hanging overhead as you enter and the massive engine towering in the stairwell. Display cases provide background on Duluth's famous lift bridge (traffic used to slide across the canal in a hanging gondola instead of driving across a lifting roadway) and all the ways ships have served commerce on Superior. Life-size re-creations of passenger cabins from various eras reinforce how lucky you are to not be a 19th-century sailor, and the full-size ships' wheel on the top level makes a great photo op for adults and kids.