Travel

Staycation Series: A Weekend Getaway to Duluth, MN

Weekend after weekend, my Instagram feed was filled with photos of beautiful trips to the northern shore of Minnesota. The leaves were turning, the sun was shining, the colors were vibrant. So naturally, once Austin finished his first round of med school midterms, we booked a getaway to Duluth, MN to see what the hype was all about. Turns out we accidentally purchased the winter edition of what everyone else got...

We made the drive 2 hours north and arrived in the dark at our sweet (and cold) little camper cabin at Fond du Lac Campground. When we pulled the curtains open the next morning, we were greeted with a snowy winter wonderland instead of autumn colors. 

Was it the weekend we anticipated? Not quite. Was it a much-needed chance to slow down nonetheless? Absolutely. 

Austin and I are always looking for ways to travel on a budget and this was a fantastically inexpensive getaway. Travels don’t need to be glamorous and costly. My favorite and most memorable trips have been the spontaneous road trips Austin and I took with light duffels and even lighter wallets. Sleeping in the back of the jeep in a parking lot at the Grand Canyon, tenting in the Tetons for five days with no plan, taking off to a teeny wooden cabin in Duluth. The addition of our Bernese Mountain Dog pup, Remi, has kept our recent stays especially down to earth looking for dog-friendly accommodations. 

If you are in MN and looking for a cost-friendly staycation, Duluth is a great option. I thought I would share this mini getaway with all of you.

Where we stayed

We spent our two-night getaway at Fond du Lac Campground in their “camper cabin”. It was a cute little wooden cabin with two beds and an additional lofted sleeping area. It was certainly a rustic stay, but it also was only $75 a night, allowed pets, and was practically the only place available on such short notice. Our backup plan was to rent a camper if we couldn’t find lodging somewhere. 

There was no insulation so it was a little chilly at night. However, there was electricity and a space heater in the cabin which helped to keep us warm. The couple that runs the campground lives on-site and is so sweet and accommodating. Overall, we had a great experience and would definitely recommend the campground (especially during the warmer months). We would love to go back in the summertime. 

Sights we saw & other activities

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Downtown Duluth Neighborhood Drive

My younger cousin lives in Duluth right now, so it was great to drive through the neighborhoods around downtown Duluth to visit her. The houses were old and beautiful. If you are into cheap thrills aka driving down the streets and looking at homes, I highly recommend checking out the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area. The streets reminded me very much of downtown Stillwater, winding uphill through the city. 

Canal Park

We were going to stop and get out for Canal Park, but it turns out it is a beautiful drive through as well. Warm coffees in hand, tunes playing in the car, we drove around downtown and took in all the sights.

 

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Enger Tower

I have been to Duluth a few times but I don’t think I have ever been here. It was stunning! Like a little castle in Duluth, MN. We walked around to the lookout areas and took some pictures of the sights. If it weren’t for us being already caffeinated, we would have grabbed a coffee from the cute little cafe/food truck in the park area.

Wifi-less Activities

We played numerous rounds of sudoku and also lost a few terrible games of chess to a computer. It was refreshing to feel removed from the fast-paced world of work, school, and productivity. We snuggled with Remi and had time to sit in peace with our thoughts and have some good conversations. It was really nice.

All of the “activities” we did in Duluth were free and simple. The sights were beautiful and the chance for quality time together was much appreciated.

What we ate

Austin and I were extremely unadventurous with our Duluth dining experiences. So if you are looking for great cuisine in the Duluth area, this post is not for you...

We ate dinner on the road before we arrived on Friday. Saturday morning we prepped all of the ingredients for a crockpot chili dinner. Then we took off to downtown Duluth and had a quick drive-through brunch at the Caribou/Einstein Brothers combo (cultured I know). When you have a pup in the car, your dining options become pretty limited. Especially when it's too cold for outdoor seating. During our summer road trips, most places allowed dogs at their outside tables.

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Our snacks consisted of copious amounts of goldfish, carrots, and grapes we had packed before we left. On Saturday night, the chili was a hit! If you are camping or staying at a cabin, I totally recommend bringing the ingredients for a warm, home-cooked meal. Slow food and slow days make for a relaxing and refreshing weekend. Before we went back to our cabin to check on our crockpot, we grabbed some cookies from a gas station for dessert. 

Then like the classic college kids we once were, Sunday morning breakfast consisted of a 5-star Kwik Trip meal. Not exactly an impressive dining guide. But hey, that is real life on a budget, on the road, with a pup!

Essentials we packed

Power strip - the cabin we stayed in only had one outlet. A power strip was an essential item for charging our devices while keeping the crockpot and space heater running.

Heated blanket- if you know me well in real life you know my heated blanket is basically an extension of my personality. I live in that thing during winter. This was perfect for staying warm in our little cabin. 

Caffeination Station- A staple in all of our road trips. A proper slow morning neeeeeds a warm cup of coffee. When we camp or travel, we always bring our Coleman grill, little red kettle, can of coffee grounds, Yeti coffee mugs, and our pour over coffee maker.

Cold Weather Clothes- It wasn’t snowing when we left for our trip, but we packed as if it was. Rule number one of travel is to pack for extreme weather conditions. Even during our 2-week summer road trip from 2019 we had chilly weather. For this trip, I brought my parka, scarf, mittens, wool socks, and winter boots. Thankfully! It would have been a chilly trip without those things.

“Off the grid” Entertainment- A good book to read, your journal, a deck of cards, some pre-downloaded games on your phone. There is something so relaxing about doing mostly meaningless activities together that have nothing to do with school. Give your brain a break from normal life and take some time to unplug. 

 

If you are looking for a sign to take a trip to the North Shore, this is it! Our weekend getaway was inexpensive and good for the soul. I hope you enjoyed this mini staycation travel guide. Like I said, our trips are rarely glamorous. I think that is the fun of traveling when you’re young. Road tripping is like a challenge for us. How many places can we see together (and now with Remi too) for the least amount of money and preparation? You would be surprised how many beautiful sights are hidden not too far from where you live.

Bundle up and get out there my friends! I would love to hear about other fun staycation sites you have visited. 

Until next time,

xx Mich

1 Comment

  1. Kelly Tope

    October 26, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    So glad you three got to take a quick trip up there. Definitely my favorite place in MN to visit. However, I also love the Red Wing area, and Frontenac State Park down that way. One of the most beautiful fall hikes when the leaves are changing colors. Some of my favorite MN wineries are down there too. Falconer Vineyards, Cannon River Winery and Alexis Bailly, the best Chocolate wine ever.

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