As many of our regular readers already know, I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life. Like, my ENTIRE life. The only exception, of course, being that four-month study abroad stint I did in England last year. Yet somehow, despite all the spontaneous weekend road trips and Thanksgiving breaks to various relatives scattered across the state, I’ve only been to the city of Duluth once–and that was just to stop for gas on our way to Superior! But this year seemed as good as any to remedy that sad fact, so I decided to fill up my tank and wake up at the crack of dawn to take a day trip from St. Paul, Minnesota to Duluth’s Bentleyville, “Tour of Lights” for the first time ever!
Ok, so 10 a.m. isn’t exactly the “crack of dawn,” but we hit the road a bit earlier than we needed to in order to see Glensheen and grab a late lunch in Canal Park before Bentleyville opened at 5p.m..
We didn’t linger much on the two and a half hour drive, stopping only for a quick bathroom/bakery break at Tobies restaurant in Hinckley. It was pretty packed, with plenty of city-dwellers with the same idea as us. We got back on the road pretty quick, and booked it all the way through the city to Glensheen.
We purchased the general christmas self-guided tour ahead of time, hoping to beat the line. However, there ended up not being too much of a line to begin with. Getting through to the mansion was fairly straightforward. And although it was indeed crowded, it was certainly do-able. If you’re interested in the history and architecture of Glensheen and the Congdon family’s impact on Duluth, I highly recommend downloading the Glensheen self-guided tour app. It helps to give further context, rather than constantly craning your neck over the heads of tourists.
We left the mansion at around one thirty, leaving plenty of time to explore Canal Park and the bars. There are plenty of places to park, and Bentleyville’s visitor guide can help you figure out the best option. But if you’re willing to walk a little ways, there is street parking available on the Superior side, across the Aerial Lift Bridge. Although you’ll probably be fine this time of year, just make sure to double check the schedule.
By the time we parked, explored the forgotten (and not so forgotten) beaches, it was almost time! It was a typical Minnesotan night, nearing almost zero degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze. We were all packed like sardines, cheering when the lights flicked on.
And yeah, ok, it was worth it. Even if it meant shuffling around screaming toddlers and old couples from Saint Cloud who walk as slow as humanly possible. And if you have the chance to head up north in the upcoming weeks, be sure to include Bentleyville’s tour of lights on your list. At the very least, you can tell everyone at work or in class that you did (like me!).