We ventured north to Duluth last weekend, and decided to just keep on driving. It was a quick getaway, one that would be a surprise to the kiddos (mostly because we didn't want to listen to "when do we leave" for the 400th time), but also because impromptu family vacations are fun!
We clued them in a couple of days prior to leaving, so they could have a say in a little planning and allow some time to get excited to head out for a weekend in Duluth. Ryan had some ideas for what he wanted to accomplish (food, drinks and a stop at the UMD store), I had purchased tickets for Lincoln to ride Thomas the Train, and the girls were open to exploring! After taking some time to think about it, Ryan and I can't recall ever having taken a trip to the Duluth area in the summer. So we had a lot of plans in mind!
After a lunch stop at Gordy's High Hat in Cloquet (one of Ryan's choices), we headed to UMD where we spent far too much money before venturing further north to our first spot of exploration: Gooseberry Falls. As we drove, Ryan and I conversed about the last time we had been there, 19 years ago!, and how we hit a deer after having decapitating the poor deer. It's about all that I can remember from that trip to the Falls. Sad, right!?
check out those tree roots!
The falls didn't disappoint this time around. They sure weren't running nearly as full as in the pictures, but that allowed for some great memories watching the kiddos wade through ankle deep water. We were also able to get over to a few areas that we may have not been able to reach had they been flowing any faster.
We took our time checking out all the nooks and crannies, hiking down and around, finding bridges and stairs. I took what felt like hundreds of pictures to the rest of the family. They were clearly over my requests for pictures: I hollered down to 3 of them to turn around and smile; without skipping a beat, Sidney headed left, Lincoln headed right, and Ryan turned around to smile :) Hilariously perfect shot!
Eventually we climbed back into the truck and headed even further north! We looked at the map and realized we were only 7 miles from Split Rock Lighthouse. It was becoming too late into the day to actually tour the lighthouse, but that wasn't what we wanted to do anyway. We pulled off at a Lookout Point and headed down the path in search of Lake Superior, with hopes of finding the perfect location to view the lighthouse. After a 10 minute hike, we failed to find what we were looking for and opted to travel further north. Eventually, we found the right location, and headed out on a short hike. We passed by a sweet gentleman who pointed us in the exact direction we were hoping for: Split Rock Lighthouse.
Turns out, this ended up being a favorite part of the trip for all of us. Unplanned, adventurous and beautiful. We were all in awe of the beauty in front of us.
I couldn't help but think of my dad as we were joined by two men who were flying a pretty decked out drone all the way to the lighthouse and back. Lincoln was in love with watching their "copter".
And then, it was time we headed back to Duluth's very own Canal Park to locate some late dinner. Thankfully I had a nice bag of road trip snacks packed for us to enjoy as we made our way back. Despite the late hour (it was nearly 7pm), we still had a 30 minute wait for our table. The kids took this moment to enjoy Lake Superior from Canal Park and attempted their hand at skipping rocks while Ryan enjoyed a beer from a local brewery. Win for everyone :)
After dinner we finally found our hotel and it was just a quick sleep before we were back in the city center for day two! The whole reason we decided on Duluth for our weekend getaway was because Thomas the Train was going to be at the Depot and we just knew Lincoln would love it. He picked me as his date for the day and we enjoyed some wonderful one on one time as he leaped around from activity to activity, train table to toys and finally heard the train whistle signifying our turn for the train ride.
While he and I had some much needed preschool fun, the girls and Ryan took a tour at Glensheen Mansion. They were so happy to have gone and truly enjoyed learning/seeing all the things the Mansion has to offer.
Another stop in Canal Park for yet more food, more exploring and we were ready to pack up and head home. We made a quick pit stop at another brewery for Ryan's sake before embarking on what would be a very long (construction and traffic filled) drive back home: 4 hours long! As we drove, Ryan reminded me about a conversation we had not terribly long ago. We commented that there is so much to see in our very own state and we often think we need to get on an airplane to experience a vacation. We continue to learn that this is really not the case and are getting excited to plan another more-local, weekend getaway! Here's to more family time :)