Even during winter, Duluth's tourism industry booms

With Duluth’s frigid temperatures in the winter, some people may think going out and about on the weekend is not practical, but because of the holiday season, many popular attractions in the summer are just as popular in the winter as they are decorated for festivity. Gene Shaw, director of public relations at visitduluth.com, knows that Duluth has just as much to offer in the winter as it does in the summer.

“There are so many activities to do during the winter. Minnesota has this one awesome sport. You may have heard of it: hockey.  H-O-C-K-E-Y,” Shaw said.

“A lot of conferences and conventions happen during the winter,” he said.

Some of the popular year-round activities include Glensheen Historic Estate, Duluth Children’s Museum, Lake Superior Zoo, Great Lakes Aquarium, Spirit Mountain and recreational outdoor activities.

“These family-friendly attractions and activities are great for when children are on winter break and the family wants a weekend getaway on the north shore,” Shaw said.

Revenue, according to Shaw, does not really fluctuate greatly from one season to the next. While some businesses and attractions close for the winter, many others open.

Bentleyville is a prime example. Its magnificent lights bring many tourists to Duluth during the time it is open each winter.

Shaw does not see a significant difference in the number of tourists from the summer to the winter.

“People come when they want to come. The weather can determine what people do, but not so much when they come,” Shaw said.

Jeff Stark, who is in charge of Venue Operations at Bayfront Festival Park, said that the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) is busier as a whole in the summer, but is always doing something in the winter.

“It’s hard to track numbers when the activities that go on in the summer and winter are just so different,” Stark said.

Stark said that while weather plays a large factor for overall numbers of tourists brought into Duluth in the winter, it does not stop people from coming if it is a few degrees colder than previous years.

“There’s a lot of sports conventions, concerts and just a lot of entertainment things overall in the winter,” Stark said.

Ross Reinhold from SupeiorTrails.com said that while tourism around Lake Superior is naturally in July and August, there are quite a few significant events that draw tourists into Duluth in the winter months.

Reinhold said that ice caves on Lake Superior draw in large crowds of people from around the Upper Midwest.

“There were probably at least 20,000 people or more that visited the caves within a two to three month timeframe last season,” Reinhold said.

As manager of South Pier Inn in Duluth, Branden Robinson sees how the time of year can really impact the number of tourists who come to Duluth at a given time in the year based on how booked his hotel is.

“Tourism is highest in the summer. Grandma’s Marathon, the third weekend of June, is when tourists really start coming,” Robinson said.

According to Robinson, the hotel industry is busiest during winter holidays, excluding Christmas, when tourism is down.

“President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, New Years –  they all draw a lot of people into town,” Robinson said.

Most tourists getting hotels in the winter come from Thunder Bay and the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, according to Robinson.

ScenicPathways.com said in a post on its website that a popular winter event that draws a lot of tourism to Duluth is the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Race.

According to the site, this race is the longest dog sled race in the continental United States. It starts in Duluth and stretches about 400 miles along the United States-Canadian border.

Besides the standard Google search of activities to do in the wintertime in Duluth, Perfect Duluth Day has a calendar on its website that lists activities and events going on in Duluth on a day-by-day basis throughout the year.

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