Best Small Cities In America: Why Duluth Should Be On Your Bucket List

Image for post
Image for post
I won’t guarantee Northern Lights, but we do see them. I do promise memories. (Photo courtesy John Heino)

he other day I ran across an article about what they claimed were The Best Small Cities in America to Visit for a Weekend . If you live in a small city you may be curious how your town stacks up. I, naturally, scrolled through the article because I wondered if Duluth might be listed.

The first listed was Bozeman, Montana, which they say is “poised to be the next Boulder, Colorado. It’s a town about half the size of Duluth, tucked into the mountains with “a college town vibe.” Ah, youth!

Next listed was Ithaca, New York, another college town in a beautiful setting. The autumn colors in Upstate New York’s Adirondacks are gorgeous enough to rival Duluth’s North Shore in its peak.

Third, we discover Key West, Florida. Population 26,990. It’s a party town. It’s also the site of a bucket list item for me, the Hemingway home. 500 good words a day was the goal. Keep sharpening pencils till they come. Also noteworthy, Harry Truman had a house here. Duluth has its own Truman monument. Or rather, Truman once spoke here, at the Duluth Armory where young Bob Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly on his Winter Dance Party tour, a couple days before “the music died.”

Other towns on the list include Portland (Maine), Santa Fe (New Mexico), South Lake Tahoe (California), Lancaster (Pennsylvania), McMinnville (Oregon) and a bunch of others including three in New England and one each in California, Idaho and Mississippi.

early all weigh in as smaller than Duluth, though Santa Fe does rival our population heft. Nevertheless, they were mistaken not to include this Northland gem in the article. Here’s a short list of reasons why Duluth is a great small city.

1. The Views
2. The Lake (Comes included in most of the views.)
3. The Arts. Twin Ports Art scene is vibrant and expanding. It’s no secret that something is happening here in the arts that will emerge in a more significant way.
4. The People. It’s Minnesota. Minnesota Nice is a way of life.
5. The Events. There are all kinds of events that people come from all over to see and be part of. Here’s a short list:

Grandma’s Marathon (Third week in June)
Duluth Dylan Fest (Always the week of Bob’s birthday. Next year May 16–24)
Homegrown — An 8-day week of homegrown music. (Many of these performers have national, and even international, followers.)
Spirit Nationals Snocross (Thanksgiving weekend.)
John Beargrease Memorial Sled Dog Race (End of January)
DuSu Film Festival (First week in June)
Catalyst Content Festival (Mid-October)
North Shore
South Shore
Concerts in the Park (Too numerous to list.)
Bayfront Blues Festival (August 14–16)

Then there are the 29 parks, hiking trails, mountain biking trails, cross country skiing trails and the skiing at Spirit Mountain. Historic buildings, live jazz, state parks in the vicinity, public art, craft breweries, and much more. If you need more ideas, try

Image for post
Image for post
“New Morning” — Painting by the author.

FOR DYLAN FANS who want to visit important historic Dylan-related places and spaces, Harvard professor Richard Thomas, author of Why Dylan Matters, says “Start your Dylan tour in Duluth.” You can read Gary Stoller’s June 11 article here: Traveling To Unmask Dylan As New Scorsese Movie Debuts.

Sure, it can be pretty cold here sometimes. That’s not your problem though, if you’re only visiting for a long weekend. I suggest a week, though. It usually takes three days just to get settled when you travel, yes?

Take off all that internal armor you wear on the job. Unwind. Let the atmosphere settle your nerves. And just “be.”

Written by

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store