By the Numbers
AVERAGE COMMUTE 20 minutes
MEDIAN AGE 35
MEDIAN INCOME $46,394
MEDIAN HOME PRICE $148,000
BIGGEST EMPLOYERS SMDC Health Systems (4,281), St. Luke's Hospital (1,592), University of Minnesota Duluth (1,522)
TELLING STATISTIC At 2,342 miles from the Atlantic via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, Duluth is the farthest-inland port in the world
BOB DYLAN MAY have left town when he was six, but Duluth still has soul. Stretching 37 miles along a cliffy hillside overlooking Lake Superior, the city was once one of the wealthiest in the U.S., thanks to its being the geographical nexis of the shipping, timber, and mining industries. That 19th-century infrastructure still exists massive grain elevators line the harbor, and trainloads of taconite pellets are still hauled in from the Iron Range. But the original Scandinavian settlers also tried to replicate a mini Oslo, building alpine ski jumps, cross-country-skiing and hiking trails, bike paths, and classic stone bridges that make fishing in the city's 12 designated trout streams an aesthetic experience. Those frothy, 40-degree (in August!), ten-foot Lake Superior swells that send diehard surfers and kiteboarders running for their drysuits add a little excitement to the mix. Today the city is all about gentrified Nordic funk: Renovated stone mansions line Lake Superior, and businesses like Midnight Sun Adventure Company a retail-and-guiding center for kayaking, climbing, trail running, and cross-country skiing have sprung up in Canal Park. All this has inspired a new generation of artistes. That recycled-paper house with a Finnish flair is the home of internationally renowned architect David Salmela. The chefs at the New Scenic Café prepare the kind of mind-altering fish dishes you'd expect for a restaurant that overlooks 10 percent of the world's fresh- water. Local steepcreeker and filmmaker Cliff Langley even made a cinematic tribute to Duluth titled Long Cold Winter, Eh? His point: If you can transcend the frigid stereotype and a few frozen digits, even winter in Duluth can be a blast.
The Perfect 48 Hours
From subscriber Doug Hoffman, 46, a sports-medicine physician who moved to Duluth eight years ago:
Ride 50 miles (rent a bike at Willard Munger Inn, 800-982-2453) along Lake Superior to Two Harbors, looping back through Lakewood. After a dip in the lake, head to Chester Creek Café for brunch (taransmarketplace.com), then to the lakefront for one of many summer festivals. Later, rent a tandem sea kayak at Midnight Sun (midnightsunsports.com; guide required) for a twilight lake tour, then make your way to Va Bene Berarducci's Caffe (vabenecaffe.com) for a pizze margherita, followed by an open-air movie in Leif Erikson Park. The next morning, take the 4.2-mile Lakewalk to Canal Park, where you can watch 1,000-foot-long ore boats go under the Aerial Lift Bridge. Then walk over to Park Point, swim in the waves, and eat a grilled pastrami sandwich at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe (amazinggracebakery.com). That evening, drive up the North Shore for seared halibut at the New Scenic Café (sceniccafe.com).
If IKEA designed a city, it would look like Minneapolis. Scandinavian ethos and design permeate everything from the "Minnesota nice" sensibility to the sleek downtown skyline. At the heart of a growing metro area of almost three million people, Minneapolis is surprisingly leafy, with 182 city parks and a chain of five lakes connected by a 13.3-mile biking-and-running path starting just a few blocks west of Uptown. "Culture" can mean anything from viewing the Picasso & American Art exhibition at the new Walker Art Center (designed by Pritzker Prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron) to downing a tiki drink at Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge.
"Canoe capital of the world." Sara Dusbabek