Itinerary for a 3-day holiday weekend in Duluth, creating memories that will last a lifetime!
Duluth offers SO many exciting activities to celebrate the holiday season. We've narrowed the list to seven attractions reoccurring each weekend during this holiday season. We suggest taking Friday off as a 3-day weekend of holiday wonders in Duluth.
Here's a quick and easy itinerary with links for info and tickets, followed by more details and links for each:
- THURSDAY EVENING: America's Largest and #1 Public Holiday Lights Display, known as Bentleyville
- FRIDAY MORNING: See SCUBA Santa at the Great Lakes Aquarium
- FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Christmas at Glensheen Mansion (39 Rooms, 27 Christmas Trees and ELVES!)
- FRIDAY EVENING Nov 17: Go to 65th Christmas City of the North Parade
- FRIDAY EVENING Nov 24-Dec 23: Explore the Zoo Lights (and meet the critters) at the Lake Superior Zoo
- SATURDAY MORNING: Skiing/Snowboarding/Tubing at Spirit Mountain (After Thanksgiving, conditions permitting) OR
- SATURDAY MORNING: Dec 2 - Attend Duluth Winter Village at the DECC
- SATURDAY AFTERNOON: The Duluth Playhouse presents of The Sound of Music - Dec 1-17 at the historic NorShor Theater
- SATURDAY EVENING: Take a train ride on the Christmas City Express
Don’t wait: start planning for your best Duluth holiday weekend today!
First, to do it all, you gotta take Friday off and make it a three-day weekend!
THURSDAY EVENING: – Bentleyville
(Thursdays are an excellent choice to avoid the weekend crowds)
Join Bentleyville as they celebrate their 20th anniversary with the biggest and best light display EVER!
The annual walk-through holiday light display - features over five million lights, live characters, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn, smores, and a large variety of themed displays. Children under 10 can visit Santa and get a stocking hat. Best of all, admission, refreshments, hats for kids are ALL FREE! (Parking nearby is $10)
Bentleyville typically welcomes an astonishing 300,000+ visitors per year. While many are local residents, others, including global tourists, visit Bentleyville from far and wide.
Founder, creator, and "Mayor of Bentleyville" Nathan Bentley, shared what’s new this year:
- Free live performances and extra events every single weekday night this year, to help celebrate our 20 years.
- Chris Hawkeye will perform a free live solo performance at Bentleyville on Friday, December 1st at 7:00, 8:00, and 9:00 pm.
- Fireworks - Wednesday, December 20th, for our 20th Anniversary celebration.
- Retro Week – We are bringing back all the nostalgic things about Bentleyville, starting December 18th, and going through December 22nd.
- More photo opportunities than any time in the past 20 years.
- Live Reindeer night - December 4th.
Bentleyville will be open evenings from November 18th – December 26th, 2023 (Including holidays!) They provide a planning guide and tips at bentleyvilleusa.org. In case of inclement weather, announcements are made on the Bentleyville Facebook page.
FRIDAY MORNING - Great Lakes Aquarium
The folks at Great Lakes Aquarium shared that they will have two interesting highlights during the holiday season this year.
SCUBA Santa will be making his appearance on-site at the Aquarium every Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 am, from November 25th - December 17th. You can find SCUBA Santa in the Isle Royale exhibit.
And, the Aquarium’s annual holiday membership drive begins November 20th, and runs through the end of the year. During this time, the Aquarium will offer perks and bonuses for new or renewing members. Special bonuses and incentives for use at area businesses and attractions (to be announced) will be included with purchase.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON - Christmas at Glensheen
Christmas at Glensheen Mansion is an immersive experience, perfect for all ages. Christmas at Glensheen was #2 in the country in the 2018 USA Today 10Best Holiday Historic Home Tour, (behind Elvis' Graceland). Glensheen is nominated again in the 2023 USA Today's 10Best contest. Vote for Glensheen here.
Last week, we featured a full story on Christmas at Glensheen.
Mike Mayou, Marketing Manager at Glensheen, shared several highlights:
- 27 beautifully lit Christmas trees
- Many original ornaments from the Congdon family will be on display
- Several themed rooms - including a candy cane room, a gnome room, and rooms decorated in monochrome, such as the blue room and white room
- An elf hunt, where little visitors can search the mansion for a variety of plush elves hidden throughout
- During the Christmas season, Glensheen will be playing classic holiday tunes – all from 1950 and earlier
- Guests can take home a copy of Clara Congdon’s sugar cookie recipe
- This year, Glensheen’s special candlelight tours will be expanded. People can choose from the “classic” candlelight tour, where they can explore the first three floors of the home. Or, folks can choose to tour the entire five floors of the mansion - all by candlelight.
All of Glensheen’s Christmas tours will be self-guided, and folks can go at their own pace. But plenty of staff will be on hand to answer any guest questions that arise.
Christmas tours at Glensheen will take place from November 17th – January 7th. Please visit glensheen.org to learn more.
FRIDAY EVENING: - Lake Superior Zoo
This year, the Lake Superior Zoo will host their third annual Zoo Lights event, which is back and better than ever with three brand-new giant inflatable animals. Guests will enjoy a magical walk-through experience featuring holiday light displays, larger-than-life animal inflatables, free s'mores, visits with Santa, and more! LS Zoo’s main building and Primate Conservation Center will be open to see the animals and warm up on a cold night.
Zoo Lights start on November 24th, and runs every week (Friday-Sunday), from 5:00-7:30 pm. (Closed on 12/24 and 12/25).
SATURDAY MORNING – Winter Fun at Spirit Mountain
After Thanksgiving, conditions permitting
Spirit Mountain offers 22 Alpine runs, 175 acres of skiable terrain, 700' vertical drop, 5 chair lifts, and 3 surface lifts.
They also offer fat-tire biking, tubing (ages 3 and up) and the largest terrain park and half-pipe in the Midwest, with fabulous views of Lake Superior from all runs.
For cross-country skiers, Spirit’s Upper Nordic center features 22km of groomed Cross-country ski trails (classic tracks and skating) are mostly intermediate and run through dense hardwood forest.
For more information and tickets, go to Spiritmt.com
SATURDAY AFTERNOON – The Sound of Music (2:00 PM Matinee) Dec 1-17
See the most beloved musical of all time – The Sound of Music – in a theatrical production by the Duluth Playhouse, presented at the historic NorShor Theater.
Duluth's favorite holiday tradition continues with the iconic Rodgers & Hammerstein collaboration that has become the world's most beloved musical.
Featuring a score of cherished songs, including "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," and "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," The Sound of Music won the hearts of audiences worldwide, earning five Tony Awards and five Oscars. This inspirational story, based on the memoir of Maria Augusta Trapp, proves that love and family can overcome the darkest of times.
For all the show times and tickets, go HERE.
SATURDAY EVENING – Take the Christmas City Express with the North Shore Scenic Railroad
The Christmas City Express is a storybook experience recommended for families with children under 10 … and for the young at heart.
The performance begins in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, where you’ll be treated to a book reading of the new Christmas City Express story. Guests will also enjoy carolers, and a visit from a special guest.
Then guests will climb aboard the train for a short 30-minute ride up to Lake Superior. Once onboard, guests will enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, cookies, and holiday tunes.
Space is limited, and early reservations are strongly encouraged. Get info and tickets here.
Additionally, The Bentleyville Shuttle Train (which is separate from Christmas City Expres) operates on Saturdays, departing from Fitger’s. Learn more and purchase tickets here.
Start Making Plans Today!
There you have it! A packed three-day holiday weekend tour with memories that will last a lifetime!