Duluth has always been a shipping town: first for furs, later for iron ore, timber, and grain. As a shipping and milling town, Duluth once had the highest number of millionaires per capita in the United States. This is still reflected in the large number of mansions in the east end of town. Ocean-going vessels come up the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes to Duluth Harbor. Since these "salties" go through the locks, they are smaller than the native "lakers" that stay within the Great Lakes. Ships under many flags, including Nigeria, Greece, and Denmark frequently dock in Duluth to pick up grain and coal for overseas markets. Iron-ore and taconite still go to Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for processing into steel.
Built largely on a 700-foot hill overlooking Lake Superior, Duluth also has a thriving tourism industry, with antique shops, excellent restaurants, cozy inns, and scenic views of the lake. There is a ski resort inside city limits. Canal Park and Superior Street have the highest concentrations of tourist destinations in the city. The famous Aerial Lift Bridge is on Lake Avenue, next to Canal Park. Particularly proud residents liken the city to San Francisco, which also has bridges, hills, a bay, and a thriving tourist business. The renowned Grandma's Marathon is held annually, named after Grandma's Saloon (restaurant) in Canal Park. The University of Minnesota-Duluth and St. Scholastica College are the two largest colleges in the city with over 12,000 students together.
Duluth is the western endpoint of the scenic North Shore Drive, which follows the rugged north coast of Lake Superior nearly 700 miles to Sault Ste Marie (Ontario). Across the bay is Superior, Wisconsin.
Due to the close proximity of Lake Superior, a deep lake and the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, Duluth can be cool or cold anytime of year. The official temperatures are reported from the airport, over the hill, and can be ten or more degrees (Fahrenheit) above the downtown temperatures. Sixties (18'C +/-) for a high in August are not uncommon, but it can reach the 80's (about 28'C) just as easily. Bitter windchills can occur in the winter, although air temperatures generally do not go below -20'F (-29'C). Despite this, some people bike to work year-round.
Duluth is about a 2.5 hour drive north of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, on Interstate I-35. A driver approaching Duluth on I-35 from the Twin Cities will be rewarded by a spectacular view of Duluth laid bare in the valley, just after entering the Duluth city limits, with a stunning view of Lake Superior into the horizon. Travelers not familiar with Duluth may be surprised at how elevated the surrounding hills are. Of course, the elevation is only high by midwest standards. The international airport sits at a not-quite-Everest-like elevation of 1,427 feet. Still, after long hours of relatively flat and urbane scenery, the view is a treat, especially during peak fall colors. The highway then descends at a steep grade just to the east of downtown; Exit 256B is the recommended exit for most downtown attractions.
Duluth-Superior (WI) is an international seaport, by way of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and while the taconite industry has dropped way off from the Iron Range, timber is still shipped by boat.
Private automobile is probably the best option for getting around Duluth. The city generally does not have any traffic problems. The city is built on a rather steep hill, so if you travel around anywhere other than downtown or I-35, make sure your brakes are in good order. It can be slushy in the winter as the road crews typically put down salt first, then plow the roads when traffic is lighter. However, being on the west side of the lake, Duluth doesn't normally receive the large lake-effect snowfalls, 2" to 6" is the normal snowstorm. Highway 53 crosses from Wisconsin to the south to the Iron Range in the north. Highway 2 runs east-west and will take you to the largest mall, on top of the hill on the west side. Keep in mind that the majority of the city is laid out in a grid based on the Lake Superior shoreline. This is about 45 degrees off of true north, however the residents refer to north/south streets running parallel to the lake, and east/west avenues that are perpendicular to the lake.
If you don't have a car, you could use the public bus services operated by the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA).