I take it as a sign of an active mind when I see someone or something that sends me into fits of excitement. Finding inspiration is thrilling! Inspiration doesn’t necessarily need to relate to one specific subject; in fact I just enjoy other people’s zeal and zest for life. Inevitable that spices my up own day to day. Here are some people to watch if you are looking for a little (or quite a bit) of extra color in your life.
Tim Bengel– this young German guy who, it turns out, can do some pretty amazing thing with a creative eye and some sand. You might have seen some of his YouTube videos floating around of the process he goes through to create each piece. I have no way of getting to New York to see his upcoming exhibit, and no way of flying to Stuttgart any time soon to see his other work, but one can dream, right? The Travelettes, and especially Katja. These woman have made a career of exploring the world and telling people about it! Katja is the founder and seems to have just a fountain of good ideas about life, travel, art, and fashion. Not to mention she does it all with her adorable little toddler by her side. Rebecca of A Clothes Horse is a blogger I have avidly followed for a year and half now. I stumbled across an interview with her on Modcloth’s blog and fell in love with her style right off the bat. Not only that, though, her blog is tastefully refreshingly and full of gorgeous photos that she takes herself. She posts fun lists of old movies to watch at Christmas time, and even involves her husband in some of her sillier photo shoots. I just never seem to get tired of her posts.
It’s a short list, but trust me, these people have enough content to keep you gazing at their pages, slack jawed, for quite some time. Enjoy!
Okay, so you’ve made it to the great white North, only to find that it’s very green and there’s that great big expanse of silvery blue that people keep talking about… This is Northern Minnesota and you’re looking at one of the biggest, deepest, coldest lakes in the world. It’s the biggest of all the Great Lakes, and, thanks to all the shipwrecks and that famous Edmund Fitzgerald song, is pretty infamous. It’s Lake Superior. Here are my top recommendations for things to do in Duluth, MN and the surrounding north shore.
1) Go to Canal Park. It’s touristy, but the view of the Aerial Bridge when it goes up and down to accommodate ships in the harbor can’t be beat. There are some cute little food and ice cream stands to keep you fed while you gaze at the icy cold water and contemplate going in the retrieve that one really cool rock out there…There’s also the Maritime Museum, which is free, educational, and really interesting. It’s also a good place to escape to when it gets too cold outside!
2) The Portland Malt Shoppe. Not only is it the cutest ice cream shop OF ALL TIME but the sweets are delicious and it boasts access to the fabulous lake walk so you can enjoy your treat with a stunning view of the lake and the Aerial Bridge. This place can get busy on summer evenings, so plan your visit accordingly.
3) The old Congdon Mansion. This place is now called the Glensheen Estate and is the turn-of-the-last century home of a very wealthy family. They built their dream home as fancy and forward thinking as possible. It’s a glorious example of early twentieth century innovation and architecture…and bonus! There was an infamous and bloody murder in the 1970’s so you just know that that place is haunted. The estate offers all kinds of interesting tours for curious visitors, and while somewhat expensive, is well worth the cost. Check out the website Here.
4) Brighton Beach is a small rocky beach that sits on the outskirts of the city of Duluth in a more residential area. It is not too busy and is consequently a very good place to look for agates, enjoy the brisk wind coming off the water, and relax in a beautiful setting. Some people are brave enough to actually get in the water and go swimming, but I’ve always found it much too cold. My favorite part of the beach is all the old graffiti carved into the rocks by couples over the years. Some of it is dated to the 1930’s!
5) The Mocha Moose in Two Harbors is my favorite little coffee shop to visit whenever I’m in the area. It’s cute, somewhat hidden (you need to drive on the old highway to get there) and it always relaxed and welcoming. If you’re lucky you can catch a live music session, and if not, you can sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous garden while sipping and munching. I have a tradition of ordering the house drink- a mocha- and purchasing the hand crafted mug it comes in. There is a potter who lives nearby who sells his mugs to the cafe for purchase, but I always just buy whichever one the barista makes my drink in!
6)If you are headed up the north shore just continue on until you get to Gooseberry Falls State Park. We’ve been coming here on our family vacations for as long as I can remember and it never gets old! Park entrance is free and you can spend the day hiking, swimming, or just strolling along the trails. There are a series of waterfalls that lead to a river, which leads out into Lake Superior. Along the way are plenty of places to get in the water if you so choose. I spent years climbing up and down just about every inch of this place. It’s beautiful pretty much year round!
7) Take a drive along Skyline Parkway. This scenic drive will take you up the hill over the city and smack you across the face with stunning views of the city below. There are multiple places to pull of the main road and get out of your car to take it all in. At night the city looks especially magical with all the lights shining off the lake. Be aware though- since this area is densely wooded there is a very good chance that you will come across some wildlife!
There are so many wonderful things to do and see in Duluth it was hard to come up with just a few favorites! I didn’t even get to the local roller derby team- Harbor City Roller Dames -, or my favorite spot for local brews (Fitger’s), but there are just some things that you will have to discover for yourself. I have tried to list a good combination of off-the-beaten-track spots and some good old fashioned sightseeing musts. Duluth is gorgeous in the summer and autumn, in my opinion, so most of my adventures take place in those seasons. In any case, Minnesota is a pretty top notch destination for outdoor adventuring with the added bonus of the relaxed midwestern attitude. They don’t get the Minnesota Nice reputation for nothing!
I have never taken a solo road trip before. There was always a parent driving, or in the case of my African road trip adventures, a friend behind the wheel. Last Friday, however, I packed a copious amount of snacks, cleaned the car out, and prepared to drive from my home in Denver, Colorado, to my grandmother’s apartment in Duluth, Minnesota. Denver to Duluth. It has a nice ring.
According to google the trip would take sixteen hours (if I was good and kept to a tight schedule) and take me through eastern Colorado, all of Nebraska, cut across Iowa, and then north through Minnesota. Duluth is on the tip of Lake Superior in the northern part of the state. I slept very little the night before I left since the cats and the bunny were all staying at friends’ places and the apartment was a little too quiet for my liking. I finally had the car packed and was on the road at about 5:30. The sun wasn’t even up yet and there was a light drizzle. This cleared into a haze by the time the sun started to come up and made for a spectacular sunrise as I drove through the hilly prairie-like land in the eastern part of the state. I was so tempted to stop and get out of my car and take photos! I didn’t, and I regret it now.
Nebraska seemed to take a very long time to drive though (not a suprise). I began to feel really tired on this part of the trip. I used a variety of tricks to keep myself alert. The old blast-the-music-and-sing-along. I will post a link to the Boss Lady Roadtrippin’ playlist, via Spotify. I also drank a thermos full of coffee in addition to a bottle of kombucha. Water was a great pick-me-up also. Finally I had to admit that I needed an actual rest. Somewhere near the eastern border of Nebraska I pulled into a pretty and shaded little rest stop to take a 45 minute catnap. I’m not sure what the elderly tourists walking in and out of the restrooms thought of a person just snoozing in their car, but no one bothered me.
The sun was getting much lower in the sky as I passed in Iowa, and what a welcome relief it was to see pretty rolling hills and sunny forests instead of endless flat and dull landscapes. Iowa passed by uneventfully and it was almost dark by the time I crossed the state border into Minnesota (at last!). I could tell I was there even before the robotic google maps voice said ‘Welcome to Minnesota’ because fir trees replaced the maple and ash trees. The landscape was distinctly more north-woodsy. I pulled off into a small town to grab a bean burrito for dinner and was charmed by the Minnesota accent, which was always there, but which I never noticed much before. Or maybe it was just this one small town.
It was late at night and very dark as I drove through heavily forested roads in the northern part of the state. There weren’t too many other cars. I was about twenty minutes outside of Duluth when I saw a wolf run into the road. Luckily I was not going fast, and since my brights were on I saw the wolf with plenty of time to slow down. Luckily he or she thought better of crossing the road and turned and ran back into the trees. Given how thick the trees were and how late at night it was I’m surprised that I didn’t see more animals on the road, but the rest of the drive was uneventful.
Around midnight I finally pulled into the parking lot of the apartment homes where my grandmother lives. My parents were both there to greet me. It was wonderful to have finally made it!
Want to check out my custom-made Boss Lady Roadtrippin’ playlist? Find it Here!
If you spend some time driving up and down the [very steep] streets of Duluth, MN to find free parking, you will no doubt then spend some time walking up and down those same [steep] streets in order to find a cup of coffee. I did that, and I ended up sitting here at Duluth Coffee Company. There is a sunny bench when you walk in, but to get to the coffee you venture into a dim and delicious-smelling back part of the shop where there is a counter to order at, a wall of guitars made out of what looks like drift wood, and Duluth-themed gear to bring back home. The menu is straightforward and to the point: actual coffee drinks that promise a caffeine rush and plenty of flavor without making your teeth ache from a bunch of unnecessary sugary syrup. Excellent. I have ordered my usual, a cappuccino, and it’s excellent. I also enjoyed not paying an arm and a leg for it (lookin’ at you, Colorado).
There are a few locals chatting with the barista, and a mix of what I assume are other visitors. I can tell that they are visitors because, like me, they pause to peruse all the Duluth-themed gifts for sale. My friends back home would like that stuff, right? It’s pretty quiet overall, with just a bit of conversation and some music. It is a Sunday morning, and unlike some cities, this one seems to actually sleep in on Sundays. The street outside- which is a main drag of the downtown area- has minimal traffic. The temperature outside is somewhere around 68 degrees, and with the sun shining it’s a perfect morning to lounge around outside with coffee.
Between the guitars made out of driftwood (and I see one made out of an old aluminum tin!), the collection of old coffee pots on the wall, and the handful of attractive people in here, I am definitely happy to set up camp and enjoy my drink. This place could easily fall into the trope of tourist trap if it weren’t for the good coffee, interesting people, and comfortable feel that attracts regulars as well as visitors. I don’t recognize any of the bands that are playing softly in the background, but I know that I like them. My cappuccino is almost gone and it’s time for me to pack up and continue on my journey, so I will hurry up and post this now. Cheers!