1. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory This spot is legendary for its thousands of hawks and other birds riding the thermals above Lake Superior and Duluth’s Skyline Drive as they migrate south. Check the website for workshops and demonstrations. (218) 428-6209;
2. Park Point Grab sandwiches and picnic fixings at Northern Waters Smokehaus in DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace (), cross the Lift Bridge, and head out onto the 7-mile-long sandbar known as Park Point. If you want to stay on Park Point, plan ahead to get a room at the charming Solglimt Bed and Breakfast. (218) 727-0596;
3. Spirit Mountain Adventure Park Craving a few thrills? You don’t have to wait for the snow to fly to enjoy the downhill action at Spirit Mountain. Try the Timber Twister coaster ride, head for a family-friendly two-seater zipline or take the chairlift to mountain bike runs ranging from easy rollers to adrenaline-pumping black-diamond drops. (218) 628-2891;
Photos provided by Spirit Mountain
4. New Scenic Cafe On the scenic drive hugging Superior’s shore, you’ll find the perfect spot to dine about 8 miles north of Duluth. Sample seasonal fare such as pistachio-crusted goat cheese salad, curried blue mussels, smoked salmon or a blackberry cream cheese tart. If it's warm, sit outdoors among flowers and herbs. (218) 525-6274;
5. Two Harbors Stroll the breakwater and enjoy watching the behemoth “Lakers” loading up with iron ore. Leave time to check out the scenic lighthouse that doubles as a four-room bed-and-breakfast. (888) 832-5606;
6. Gooseberry Falls State Park The scenic falls on the Gooseberry River, great hikes and easy-to-find agates on the lakeshore make this one of Minnesota’s most beloved parks. Here, you can connect to the paved 14.6-mile section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail for biking and in-line skating to Beaver Bay.
7. Palisade Head Turn at the Palisade Head sign for a steep uphill drive and exhilarating cliff-top views of the shoreline, fall colors and picturesque Shovel Point in nearby Tettegouche State Park. (218) 353-8800;
8. Bluefin Bay Guests here and at nearby Surfside on Lake Superior can sign up for kayaking lessons and guided trips. Get a fresh view of the shoreline and admire how remarkably clear Lake Superior is—to its bottom of volcanic rock.
Photo by Lisa Meyers McClintick
9. Lutsen Mountains For dramatic fall colors, head slightly inland via the Lake Superior Hiking Trail or Superior National Forest roads (look for fall color tour signs near Tofte). Then ride the Lutsen Mountains tram over the Poplar River and 1,000 feet up to the peak of Moose Mountain. Stroll to the Magic Mountain overlook, take a hike, then relax at the Summit Chalet facing Lake Superior.
Lutsen Mountains; photo by Ginger Crichton
10. Grand Marais If you want a lasting souvenir of a magical fall getaway, a number of galleries here capture local beauty in a variety of mediums. You can also take a hands-on class in everything from knitting to boatbuilding at North House Folk School. Crave something simpler? Stroll pretty Artists Point at the tip of Grand Marais Harbor and snap a photo of your version of a stacked-rock statue on the shoreline ledge.
For more information: Visit Duluth () or Explore Minnesota ()