An Aerial Lift Bridge raises 140 feet in 55 seconds allowing huge ore ships to pass through the international port. Duluth shipping news provides daily information on the ocean bound "salties" and great lake carriers "lakers" that pass through the canal, so you can watch them from the pier while eating cotton candy or drinking malted milkshakes.
A free Maritime Museum located in the Visitor Center in Canal Park also posts current arrival and departure times of scheduled ships expected in the harbor on a computer screen near the entrance. A colorful mural, ship memorabilia, model ships and replicas of ship cabins, steam engines and radars are exhibited inside, along with kid-friendly navigation displays. A pilot's house looks out over Lake Superior on the 2nd floor.
If you want to see a real ship up close, step inside William Irving a retired flagship of the USS Great Lake Fleet and take the 60 minute tour of the staterooms, galley, pilot house and dining room. Those interested in a more in-depth tour of the mechanics of a ship can sign up for the 90 minute hard hat tour. (If you visit in October, this ship turns into a haunted ghost ship 10 days prior to Halloween, where university theatre students attempt to scare the dickens out of adults. Not recommended for children–sounds pretty scary!)
Also docked in the Minnesota slip is the tugboat Essayons, which towed ammunition across the English Channel during WWII until it was sunk near the end of the war. You can visit both ships for $6 adult, $3.50 children from mid-May to mid-October. (The rest of the year is winter, and trust me you won't want to be on that icy shore.) Combination tickets are also available for the 2 ships and an OmniMax show for $10.50 adult and $6.50 per child.
In the center of Canal Park DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, a renovated warehouse on the National Register of Historic Places houses a dozen shops and eateries. A confectionery, coffee shop and bakery co-exist with stores selling regional and children's books, kitchen equipment, Christmas items, musical instruments, toys, potter, art, window treatments, home accessories, postcards and stationary, regional gifts and Minnesota clothing.
The Lakewalk is a side-by-side boardwalk and paved path that begins in Canal Park and follows the shoreline past tourist and antique shops, restaurants, rose gardens and statues all the way to 26th Avenue, six miles away. Jog, rollerblade or rent a bike. A "must do."
The OmniMax is located beside the Aquarium on the pier. Shows are $7 adult/$4 child. Park in the lot, and get a coupon for free popcorn or soda at the concession stand. How fitting that BEARS was playing during our visit, as we were still excited about our first bear sighting just days before at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Call 218-727-0022 for current showings.