by Lisa Meyers McClintick
A ship the length of several football fields glides toward Duluth’s Canal Park like a stealthy giant until it blares its baritone horn. If you’re outside roasting marshmallows at The Inn at Lake Superior, lounging on one of its balconies or swimming in its rooftop pool, you’ll easily hear the answering bells of the city’s iconic Lift Bridge. The ringing signals it’s time to raise the bridge deck and let the ore boat into the world’s most inland harbor.
It’s one of the free shows you get while visiting Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota, and the 174-room Inn on Lake Superior boasts one of the best locations. A stellar view of the Great Lake unfurls in front of lakeside rooms and the lobby, while to the west, guests can see downtown Duluth’s historic buildings lining the shore and marching up the city’s famously steep hills. To the east you can see a lighthouse and the Aerial Lift Bridge, which leads to Park Point and its sandy beach.
The Inn on Lake Superior has been a longtime favorite of the Canal Park hotels, but a remodeling that started in 2013 has infused public areas with fresh color and furnishings, adding a North Country chic to the lobby with a river-like path leading out to Lake Superior. Rooms have also been remodeled with fresh dÃƒ©cor, and most were completed by 2015.
Most families don’t spend much time in their rooms though — not with the lake constantly beckoning. Lake Superior’s many moods and beguiling blues pull everyone outdoors to watch ships, skip rocks and bravely wade into summer-warmed water with the soundtrack of seagulls squabbling over popcorn dropped by tourists. Don’t expect the world’s largest freshwater lake to get warm enough for most kids though. It’s usually daredevil teens and young adults who swim out to a former sand and gravel loading dock to jump from its walls into the cold, clear water.
The Inn on Lake Superior offers guests a choice of two heated pools. There’s a traditional indoor pool, plus a rooftop pool that stays open year-round as long as the temperature stays above zero — a rarity in Minnesota. It steams in the winter months and welcomes guests with hearty Nordic heritage.
Guests can find plenty to do beyond the hotel and lakeshore. Within a block, they can tour the free Maritime Visitor Center, eat at dozens of restaurants or cafes and find an impressive variety of boutique shops. Families with older children who crave action can find an arcade, rock-climbing facility, harbor tours, the Great Lakes Aquarium, hockey games and more — all within a 10-minute walk.
Our Editor Loves
- Rooftop pool
- Lakefront location in Canal Park
- Evening campfires with S'mores
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All rooms have a microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, pillowtop beds, flat-screen TV with premium channels, toiletries, hair dryers and free Wi-Fi. Most accommodations sleep three to five guests, but there are two-room suites or the option for connecting two rooms with two queen beds for space for six or eight guests. If you have young children and want a bathtub, be sure to ask for a room that has one. Some are showers only.
Guests also can reserve a free portable crib or add a rollaway bed for an additional $10 per night. ADA-accessible rooms include a roll-in shower and a toilet and bed at wheelchair height. Portable shower chairs can also be requested.
Two Queen Beds - Poolside
These standard rooms with two queen beds open up to the pool on the first floor and overlook the pool from the second and third floor. These are usually the lowest priced rooms for families on a budget. They sleep up to four people.
King or Queen Beds With Sofa Beds
These rooms feature one king or two queen beds and include extra space with a sitting area and sofa bed, sleeping four to six people. Rooms facing downtown Duluth (to the west) are the most affordable. Rooms facing the bridge cost about $20 more, and about $40 more can include an upgrade to lakeview rooms.
The two-bedroom family suites include one king bed and a living room area in one room and a second room with two queen beds. These include suites that face the lake, as well as suites with a cabin-themed dÃƒÂ©cor and patios or balconies that overlook Canal Park or the Aerial Lift Bridge. Cabin Family Suites sleep up to six and Family Suites sleep up eight.
Whirlpool or Fireplace Rooms
These rooms with king beds have the added perk of a whirlpool or fireplace. They sleep up to two people.
King Beds With Full Kitchen
These rooms offer one king bed, a full kitchen and views of Lake Superior. They sleep up to two people.
Entire staff was super. Darius & Maddy were super helpful and friendly. A great experience overall. Fabulous view, clean room, great amenities. Walkable to lakefront experiences, restaurants, galleries, etc.
by Terri D
Had a wonderful stay at The Inn on Lake Superior. I had placed a request for a room with an unobstructed view since I was bringing my 80 year old mother to stay the first time on the canal. We had checked in and went to our room; the room was clean and bright and on the top, third floor, as requested. We went out looking around the canal and when we returned to our room, much to our surprise was a complementary bottle of champagne and chocolate to help celebrate our stay. Thank you sooo much, my Mom and I both loved it. Many thanks to Char MOD and to Daniel to help us feel so welcome. The breakfast buffet was very good too! Didn't get a chance to enjoy the smores night but it looked like people were truely enjoying the event as well.
If you have kids you'd swear were tadpoles in another life, there are rooms right along the hotel's indoor pool for extra convenience. The pool ranges from 3 to 5 feet in depth, and there's also a sauna and hot tub. The pool area faces Canal Park and stays open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for families and from 10 to 11 p.m. for adults only.
Outdoor Rooftop Pool
Adults in particular enjoy the 4-foot deep, lighted and heated rooftop pool, especially at night when you can see the stars, gaze at the nicely illuminated Aerial Lift Bridge and downshift after a day of playing tourist. Two high walls block the wind from the lake and help keep the pool sheltered. Pack a warm robe and slip-on shoes for winter dips in the pool. It does close if the temperatures drop below zero. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for families, 10 to 11 p.m. for adults only.
Few kids can say "no" to the allure of roasted marshmallows oozing across chocolate and wedged between graham crackers, and nightly S'mores between 8 and 10 p.m. have become a beloved Inn tradition. They stoke up more than one fire and have picnic tables for guests to relax while nibbling sticky bits of marshmallow off their fingers.
Guests have access to complimentary bicycles for adults and kids. They're a good way to get around Canal Park, ride to Park Point, head to Bayfront Festival Park or explore downtown. The easiest ride (and one without the hassle of traffic) is the Lake Walk that hugs Superior's shore. Take a spin toward historic Fitger's for lunch at the former brewery or ice cream at the PortLand Malt Shoppe.
The complimentary deluxe continental breakfast features do-it-yourself fresh waffles, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, fruit, coffee, tea and juices, and a welcoming view of the lake.
For emergency attacks of hunger or an easy dinner at the end of a long day, check the hotel marketplace for snacks, frozen meals, beverages and treats. Additionally, complimentary soda and water are offered on arrival.
There are dozens of places to eat within an easy walk. Among the choices are the legendary antique-filled Grandma's Saloon with rooftop seating, newcomers such as Canal Park Brewing Co., and familiar chain restaurants and smaller eateries.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The hotel offers bottled water and soda pop when guests check in, which is a nice touch for families whose kids want to bypass settling into a room and beeline for the lakefront.
You can find schedules of when boats are arriving or leaving the harbor posted at the nearby Maritime Visitor Center, listed online, or by asking the Inn's front desk to print out a schedule.
There are two treadmills, two elliptical machines, a stationary bike and free weights for parents craving a workout. The fitness center is open 24 hours a day.
Parking is free for all guests.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Summertime is peak season at the Inn. Minnesotans seem to have "go to the lake" in their DNA, and the state even coined the term "cabin traffic" to describe the weekly congestion heading north of the Twin Cities every Friday and Sunday afternoons Memorial Day through Labor Day.
You'll get better rates and room choices if you travel mid-week. It's also wise to check the Duluth events calendar. If there are major weekend events such as the famed Grandma's Marathon or Tall Ships in Duluth, it may be tough to get rooms.
If you have younger children and don't have to work around a school schedule, September can be a glorious time to visit. October offers teens the thrill of a haunted ore boat, though November brings storm season when waves can be strong enough to sink ships.
Book early for winter holiday weekends, especially during the Bentleyville Lights at Bayfront Park. Superior waves and cold winter temperatures can create incredible ice sculptures on the shore, but predicting the right conditions can be challenging. March and April can be unpredictable weather-wise, but the crowds are few and prices are lower.
Visitors can fly into Duluth International Airport and catch a free shuttle to the hotel, which is about a 15-minute drive. You also can rent a vehicle at the airport, which is necessary if you're hoping to explore the North Shore. If you fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, it's about a 2.5-hour drive north with a rented vehicle. Private shuttle services are available and cost about $69 round trip or $42 one-way. Duluth's Canal Park is about 160 miles from the Twin Cities via Interstate 35.
Canal Park and its parking lots get busy during the summer, so it's often easiest to get around on foot. Summer visitors can hop aboard the Duluth Transit Authority's Port Town Trolley by the Maritime Visitor Center about a block from the hotel. The trolley loops into downtown (Superior Street) and onto Harbor Drive for access to Bayfront Park, the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and Great Lakes Aquarium every 30 minutes. You can also catch a city bus to Park Point Recreation Area (with sandy beaches) or other Duluth destinations.
For Mom and Dad
If parents can sneak away, it's a nice summer stroll or bike ride down the Lake Walk or into downtown for a night at the theater or at one of the many restaurants for a romantic dinner together.