My girlfriend and I got a bad case of wanderlust last September and couldn’t live with ourselves until we went on vacation. She suggested that we go to the rainforest, but then I read that some kinds of monkeys there can hang from tree branches by their tails. That’s kind of weird, so I nixed the rainforest. I suggested that we go to the desert, but then she read that there are no Michael Kors outlet stores in the desert, so naturally she vetoed it. We’re realistic, but a little hard to please. Our vacation destinations have to be spot-on perfect, ideal blends of scenery, culture, and fine dining. That’s why we agreed on Duluth.
I pointed my car north, put a cinder block on the accelerator, took a nap, and two and a half hours later there we were in that beautiful port town. We parked in Canal Park and set about a late breakfast at Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill. Full of guacamole and Spanish rice, we walked down the little pier leading past giant old anchors to the lighthouse. There Lake Superior stretched all around us. Lake Ontario is named that way because it touches Ontario. Lake Superior is named that way because it touches the best state in the country: ours.
Having risked the integrity of our outfits by standing beneath flying seagulls for long enough, we headed back into town. She was pulled toward Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory like a satellite falling out of orbit. That place does unbelievable things with candy apples, making them more candy than apple by the end of it. We ate fudge and turtles. We’ll return one day for the rocky road caramel apple, which doubles as a medieval mace.
I am a very thoughtful man, so I had pre-ordered us two tickets to a Vista Fleet cruise. We sat on the deck, approving of the waves and the scenery as they occurred to us. The narrator said many things which I should have written down for this article. The lift bridge honked enormously as we passed under it. We had the good fortune of running across a grain freighter out there, a steel behemoth which we followed back into the bay. On the calmer waters we saw giant silos, the city on the hill, and ducks frantically trying to get out of our way.
After we adjusted to life back on land we decided to investigate the commotion at the park by the aquarium. It was the prelude to the hot air balloon festival, complete with a grounded though fully inflated balloon. One of the nice men let her pull the handle on the burner, launching a 15 foot plume of white hot fire into the air. I had never wanted to ride in a hot air balloon before. Too much risk of falling, burning, and exploding all at once. But now that I’ve seen the burner up close and in action, I still don’t want to ride in a hot air balloon.
After double mushroom and swiss burgers at Grandma’s Saloon we toddled up around the bay and into the Fond-du-Luth Casino. We lost $9.89 there, but we now possess a slip of paper worth 11 cents, good for our next trip back — which will be soon, because Duluth has a number of things I won’t miss during the holiday season. What kind of things, you may ask?
Bentleyville Tour of Lights
November 18 – December 26
America’s largest free walk-through lighting display comes to Bayfront Festival Park with nationally recognizable displays, a 128 foot LED tree, and free hot cocoa, popcorn, cookies, and roasting marshmallows. Children 10 and younger who visit Santa will receive a free knit hat and bag of goodies.
Christmas City Express Train aboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad
November 24 – December 17
A festive train ride from Fitgers to the Duluth Depot featuring a reading of the new Christmas City Express story, carolers, and a visit from a certain special guest. Space is limited, so reservations are strongly recommended for this one.
Duluth Winter Village at Glensheen Mansion
December 2 – December 3
A shopping bazaar featuring 30 local businesses set up in cabins lining the grounds of the historic Jacobean estate. Local food, beer, music, live animals, children’s activities, fire pits, and more await at this free winter celebration.
By David Scheller