What makes Duluth attractive?

Hi all,

What makes Duluth attractive?  Why do people (or you) live here?

Why do tourists come to Duluth?

I’m currently working on a research paper centered around those questions and need more (informal) feedback to get a handle on this.  So, if you have an opinion on one, the other, or both questions, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks.

35 Comments

vicarious

about 12 years ago

Funny you should ask, since I'm currently contemplating moving out of Duluth. I moved here four years ago for a number of reasons:

- wanted to get out of MPLS
- wanted to be near Lake Superior
- proximity to wilderness
- interesting culture (kind of)

Now, I've pretty much decided that I need to move south. I just can't take 8 months of winter; long, cloudy springs; gone-in-a-flash summer. I find myself obsessing over temperatures. For instance, right now in Winona it's 60 degrees, sunny, with a light breeze. In Duluth, it's 30 degrees with a howling wind.

Also, I'm in flight school and the weather here just is not conducive - I have to cancel up to 50% of my flights due to weather. It sucks, and it would take forever to finish.

In conclusion: Love the people and scenery, hate the weather.

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

Alyssac, you have asked this question at the most inopportune time, I'm afraid. Duluthians get cranky in March.

In reality, the weather in Duluth is fantastic and a great reason to live here ... most of the time. But the way winter lingers into spring drives everyone nuts. We've pretty much had our fill of skiing and skating and snowmobiling and ice fishing and snowman making and so on by March, but it's too cold and muddy for spring activities until mid May.

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

I think people visit Duluth and live in Duluth for a combination of its beauty and its size. 

Duluth is small enough to not have problems like traffic congestion, but large enough to have easy access to a variety of goods and services.

Obviously the lake and urban wilderness give Duluth its personality.

vicarious

about 12 years ago

Paul,

The weather has clearly driven you to madness. I quote: "In reality, the weather in Duluth is fantastic and a great reason to live here ... most of the time."

In fact, the weather in Duluth is horrible - most of the time. I recognize that this is a subjective observation. If you enjoy cold, wind, fog, and clouds then Duluth indeed has fabulous weather.

In mid-July I will proclaim Duluth the greatest climate on Earth...for three days.

alyssac

about 12 years ago

I do admit to an above average fondness for rain and fog and 50-60 degree weather.

Calk

about 12 years ago

This is a good question.  I've lived in major American cities and small towns, and everything in between. One thing is for sure: no place on earth is perfect. Not even California (trust me on this one: I know). The grass is *always* greener. I envy my friends in NYC for all they have available, but they envy me for all that I can afford here. There is a difference. I'm jealous of the perfect weather my loved ones in Calif. enjoy, but they envy me for living somewhere affordable with clean air and no traffic jams.  I think what I love most about Duluth is the sense of community as well as the incredible opportunities here. There is so much going on here, I can't even do everything! My friend, who used to live in New Brunswick, used to complain about how awful it was living near NYC, b/c the attitude was, why try to do anything here in NB, there's so much going on in NYC. So NB was deadsville. I go to more plays, more concerts, more art openings than I ever did in Philadelphia, where I lived for several years. First, no fun living in a big city if you can't afford to enjoy it. And second, I know enough people in Duluth who share my interests, if I go an art opening by myself on the spur of the moment, I'm going to know everyone there, and will have a blast. There are also more opportunities here for children than my husband's and my hometowns -- combined. What a cool place to grow up: you can go skiing in winter w/o having to plan for weeks as I did in my youth, and you can go the beach in summer. There's hiking, there's community theatre. Where I grew up, it might have had a nearly perfect year-round climate, but there wasn't much to do if you did not have a set of wheels. Sometimes, I'm frustrated, b/c I'm a city person, and Mlps is so far away, but I think that distance also makes Duluth so special. We're in this little self-contained universe, and so we can connect with one another so much more. And it is gorgeous. I know a lot of people who live on both coasts, but I live closer to the Big Lake than any of them live to the ocean. Duluth simply is a small town with a big city feel in a lot of ways in a lovely part of the world. And that's why I live here -- though I'd like it a lot more if it weren't so damn cold in winter and if spring arrived in March like it's supposed to.

Beverly

about 12 years ago

There was a study about this that someone did (City of Duluth? Chamber of Commerce?), and the overwhelming response was simple: the lake.
I'm in that cranky state of mind that Paul referred to. I'm ready to pack my bags for anywhere warmer.

JP

about 12 years ago

I agree with Vicarious about Paul, it's Madness.  But before I said that I was going to say "a certain kind of insanity."  

Today at lunch despite the very cold weather, lack of sunshine and blustery wind, my wife said:  "Let's try to live here forever."  And then a conversation about how to handle an expanding family in a non-expanding house.  

There was no talk about the neighborhood problems, the employment pressures, lack of culture, not even the weather.  

Somehow there are many reasons to leave, many, many many reasons (cold, geographic isolation, politically polarized, stagnant economically, cold (again)).   But the reasons to stay, even if there are only a couple, (family, lake, authentic relationships) seem to really trump everything else.  

So we will be staying in this house for just as long as we can, I hope.

pH

about 12 years ago

I ski and snowshoe, but really the climate here is not great for relaxed outdoor living. There are things you do to stay balanced, and the things you do out of desire: this changes over time.  I went for a hike today in the gale- glad I did- but sometimes I'd just like to sit in a lawnchair, admiring the daisies. So yeah, call it late winter lunacy, but I'm feeling kinda vulnerable to relocation pitches. 

Anyway, back to the original question:

-Lake Superior, clean lakes and rivers
-Variety of natural landscapes
-Culture embracing eccentricities and non-sports related enthusiasms
-Very little suburbia/ mall culture
-Cheap houses in the 1990's 
-Good city planning in the early 20th century and no money to muck it up later. 
-Cold climates best endured when young- there will always be time to slip on the turquoise rings and live in a trailer in the desert.


"April is the cruelest month" -T.S. Eliot

Eric

about 12 years ago

To be fair, I live in Duluth mainly for school (University Minnesota Duluth). To be more informative, what first brought me to Duluth is it's very specific atmosphere; it has a very unique feel to it.

Duluth has a climate that is hard to rival in terms of its variety, as well as its extremes (for lack of a better term). It's amazing to take in the power of a winter storm, and contrasted to the beauty in the crisp spring and fall.

I think something that people don't think about, is what Duluth *doesn't* have. Since it's a smaller and more quaint city, it's nice to be able to take in the fresh air, avoid negative effects of larger cities (pollution, traffic, crime, etc.), while still being able to enjoy some of the aspects they have to offer (night life, restaurants, downtown area, historic landmarks).

More than anything, I think Duluth just has a very original character and feel as a city, that I still have yet to feel the same in anywhere I've been.

kokesie

about 12 years ago

Calk took the words right out of my mouth.  Thanks, man!  You summed it up nicely.

vicarious

about 12 years ago

RE: Madeline: it's: its:

Really? Seriously? Ick. Care to offer a relevant comment on the subject at hand?

Mary

about 12 years ago

That's a really good question...lots of great answers thrown out already, but here's another one that I don't think has been mentioned:  for kids growing up in small towns around here (northern MN and northern WI), I think it's a very attractive alternative to moving south to the Twin Cities (or Milwaukee, Madison, etc.).  A lot of people I went to high school with wound up in Duluth & Superior--I think for small town people without the desire/drive to live in the hubbub of the Twin Cities, Duluth presents a lot of opportunities and still manages to feel like a "big city," by comparison to where they came from, at least.  And when people complain about the economy there, well, most of the small towns around here are in worse shape, so Duluth still manages to look pretty good to us.    ;-)

baci

about 12 years ago

I'm fascinated Psychogeographic strands which bind us here. March is a huge component of these. The basement times, the hard times, the darkness in the bluestone. That which smashes us with fury against the cliffs of our own ... er ... yeah, maybe thats just me. I DO think there is something to the Dérive which has brought us here. Compels us to face the basement time, to confront bleak and endless moments, harsh conditions and grim skies with the relish of knowing and planning.

inquiring mind

about 12 years ago

I love living here... Except during this time of year when I am giving my dog a bath after each time she goes outside.  The weather people up here also make it tough to swallow.  They tell us its going to be warm and then it snows.  Then they tell us to prepare for a blizard and we get a small dusting.  Last, I call my parents in the cities and they tell me that my brother is out in the canoe on a river and it is 60 degrees.  Then I look out the window as a chair is blowing off my deck and the temp reading is 32.  These days in Duluth suck.  The rest of the year I love Duluth, especially riding my scooter everywhere in the summer month.

hbh1

about 12 years ago

i moved here for "love" and to escape a city i could no longer afford, but i stayed because of the lake. i like cities and the wilderness, and this offers the best of those two--it's the "center" of its universe here, instead of a satellite to somewhere else. i feel no need to travel to the Cities for anything. i like bleak weather, and cold, and fog. i hate the heat, and left Chicago during the heatwave when they were piling the dead up in refrigerator trucks. i need to have woods to hike in, and outdoor places to be alone for hours at a time. and i need to be able to go out and know a few people, and feel comfortable as a loner. there's enough culture to satisfy (as so often exists in university towns). clean air and little traffic make life good. i especially like that every blessed empty lot or park isn't mowed down to the nubbins and that wildflowers grow with abandon. i like that getting involved in a few things means you can know your local politicians fairly well and that there is an active DIY culture. if you are interested in something, getting involved is easy, though your responsibility will be great. 

it helps that i've never had trouble finding a satisfactory job, or living on a painfully small income.

jay

about 12 years ago

Topography.

carla

about 12 years ago

The Lake - and the lack of traffic and comparative lack of big box stores.
The remoteness and the uniqueness.
Affordability.

Barrett

about 12 years ago

"Why do people live in outlandish climates in the temperate zones, as they are miscalled? Because people are naturally idiots, naturally sluggards, naturally cowards. Until I was about ten years old, I never realized that there were 'warm' countries, places where you didn't have to sweat for a living, nor shiver and pretend that it was tonic and exhilarating. Wherever there is cold there are people who work themselves to the bone and when they produce young they preach to the young the gospel of work — which is nothing at bottom, but the doctrine of inertia. My people were entirely Nordic, which is to say idiots."

- Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

Patsy

about 12 years ago

I think most people live here because of the lifestyle, and people who are here and the Lake.  Some of us, me included, like cool weather.  Sure, I love a summer day, but by August I'm ready for fall.  I love the fog, the clouds, the cold. Mostly, I love all the cool people who have chosen to be here, they've created a culture of arts, sports, and social awareness that makes this a truly unique place.

Brent

about 12 years ago

I grew up in Moorhead, MN, a Superior, WI to the Duluth that is Fargo, ND (solely based on size). Fargo/Moorhead is about the same size as Duluth/Superior, but it lacks so many things that Duluth has. First of all, apart from the woodcut prints of Charles Beck, it is hard to find the beauty in the windswept plains of the Red River Valley. There is a certain rugged, natural beauty to the Duluth area that is unparalleled in Minnesota. The access to many of the outdoor activities that my wife and I enjoy is also a huge bonus. The local Duluth music scene, the variety of original restaurants, the thriving arts community, and all of the places within the city that you can go to get away make Duluth a wonderful place to live. Duluth has much more character than cities of similar size, without feeling crowded like the Twin Cities. Anyway, I haven't added anything to this discussion, just agreeing wholeheartedly with the previous posts.

girlfromnorthcountry

about 12 years ago

I also agree with the previous posters.  I just moved back to Duluth, my home town, after 14 years in Colorado.  When I tell people that I'm usually met with a very pointed, "Why?".  Excuse me, have you lived in Colorado?  Sounds fantastic, but in reality most touristy towns and areas are worse than Canal Park in July.  Way worse.  Year round.  Housing is expensive and sprawl is disgusting.  Traffic sucks.  Not to mention people just aren't as nice as they are here.  

I think Duluth's size lends itself to a more small-town feel, but with 3 big universities, there's plenty of opportunity for culture and diversity.  People are much more in tune with local politics and are active participants, they raise their voices and try to make a change.  Sometimes they're heard, sometimes not, but at least they're not afraid to try.  There's something brave and strong about weathering the long winters in Duluth, and I find nobility in that.

brian

about 12 years ago

I just went outside to re-attach a downspout extension so water would stop running into the basement. I could barely get to it because of the glare ice in the shady part of the yard, then I had to chop it out of the ice to get it to move at all, then as I was bending over to re-attach it, ice-cold water dripped into my exposed butt crack at high velocity from the roof. 
This place sucks. Get out while you can.
(I'll have a different opinion in July-Aug)

Mary K Tennis

about 12 years ago

What makes Duluth attractive?
Greg Cougar Conley.

rediguana

about 12 years ago

Top ten reasons to love Duluth:
10. Great views
9. Bike racks on buses
8. Cool summers
7. winter sports opportunities
6. Gigantic arts and music scene (proportionate to population)
5. Good community atmosphere, in some circles anyway
4. Progressive politics
3. 27 streams and rivers, most with multiple waterfalls, some very impressive (up to 60').
2. 10,000+ acres of forest in city limits with 50+ miles of nonmotorized recreational trails (double if you count Jay Cooke park)
1. Lake Superior (and associated beaches)

Top ten reasons to hate Duluth:
10. People can be snarky and cliqueish
9. Lots of depression and alcoholism (see #8)
8. The economy sucks. We work more for less dough than the state and national average.
7. Streets full of holes that never get fixed.
6. Inadequate mass transit.
5. Cutbacks in city services.
4. Probably property taxes (though I rent and live in Superior so I really wouldn't know).
3. Very little cultural/ethnic diversity
2. No way to bike across a bridge in winter.
1. Spring weather, as witnessed today.

As you can probably guess, I like Duluth overall. But I would move 75 miles east again in a heartbeat if I could find a job there.

purple

about 12 years ago

I'm not even looking at others comments before I answer.

I came to this city in 1987 from living off & on in Tempe, Arizona. Duluth, Minnesota is a FAR cry from Phoenix. But before Duluth I lived in Eau Claire, Wis., then back to Tempe, then off to Grand Forks , North Dakota.

Duluth, which I called the dull-youth when I was in HS, was really a sanctuary that I never knew. Duluth is the " you can run away from me but never from your fate" city for me.

I lived abroad for a couple years and never thought I would end up here. And if I had not become pregnant by a Duluthian, I would probably not be here. Ironically, the Duluthian sperm-donor moved on. I felt trapped here for so long by him & my situation, then realized that the pull had nothing to do with him. He left, I'm here.

Sure, my family, in addition to my son's family, lives here. But I love THE Lake. If you reading this grew up in desert, you know what I mean.

purple

about 12 years ago

Oh, and for efing's sake, GEEK PROM: www.geekprom.com

What is more attractive to Duluth than that?

zra

about 12 years ago

"What makes Duluth attractive?
Greg Cougar Conley."

word. he's one handsome devil.

Chester Dark

about 12 years ago

Here's another vote FOR the weather (except for much of March and April).

Also, uplifting views, interesting history, the focus on outdoor activities no matter how cold, excellent health care, outstanding universities, etc. etc. (I agree with Eric's summary).

carla

about 12 years ago

Latching on to that snarky and cliquish comment:
maybe we should have a big PDD party this summer?
CB

Karasu

about 12 years ago

I have no idea what keeps me here, but I was born here, and have no intention of leaving, except maybe to someplace more remote and inhospitable (so long as there's a decent internet connection). I like it here for most of the same reasons as the other commentors.

In defense of the weather, it may be colder here, but I think the Cities get more summer heat, storms, and heavy snow falls. The horrid winter should act like an evolutionary force: shave off those unfit to live with it, 'cause listening to people bitch about it all the time sure gets old. It's fine. Put your coat on. Bring an umbrella. (But, yeah: I'm also impatiently waiting for June.)

alyssac

about 11 years ago

Thanks, all, for your responses.  This has really helped me a lot!

The Big E

about 11 years ago

If you enjoy cold, wind, fog, and clouds then Duluth indeed has fabulous weather.

I enjoy those, and snow too.  I wish we had more of it.  Having lived in North Carolina in the past, I deeply cherish those occasional 55 degree July evenings, when I'm sitting out on the deck with a fleece zipped to my chin and a cold beer in hand, enjoying the crisp air and reveling in the mosquitoes' misery.

Calk

about 11 years ago

I agree with Big E. i do not miss those hot and humid North Carolina evenings at all! I love summer in Duluth, it's pretty glorious.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

I actually spend way too much time thinking about this but aside from all the scenery and weather-related pros/cons, I think it's really the challenge of living here I like. It keeps you focused and alive (until it's overwhelming when you then have to numb yourself somehow).

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