• Dunes of Duluth

    At the foot of Lake Superior, a windswept spit of sand draws beach bums and boat nerds.

    Most people don't think of Duluth as a beach town. It's a little chilly, for one thing. But the port city has six miles of sandy beach along the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. Just over the Aerial Lift Bridge, Park Point is where Duluthians play. They hike and run on a two-mile trail through forest and dunes. They paddle canoes and kayaks. They hang out on the beach, watching waves in winter and braving them in summer.

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  • Hawk heaven

    On a ridgetop in Duluth, birders watch for hawks, eagles and peregrine falcons.

    On Duluth's Hawk Ridge, a bird in the hand is worth at least two in the sky. They're impressive when spotted overhead. But up close, it's easier to get to know a bird — say, the northern goshawk, a fierce predator whose image once adorned the helmet of Attila the Hun. As she held a young goshawk by the legs, naturalist Willow Maser struggled to make herself heard above its high-pitched screeches.

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  • Cross-country in Duluth

    When snow falls, skiers fly onto a splendid system of groomed trails.

    One March, I went up to Duluth but woke up in Siberia. Twenty inches of snow had fallen overnight. A savage 70 mph wind was howling around the glass-walled lobby of the Willard Munger Inn. Swirling snow had turned the air white.

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  • On the water in West Duluth

    On the once-gritty St. Louis River, boaters and birders enjoy the scenery.

    lot of water — beyond the big lake and the Aerial Lift Bridge. Fishermen and bird-watchers have frequented it for years, and more are showing up as the water becomes cleaner. Sturgeon have come back, eagles nest, and 70 percent of the birds seen in Minnesota come through on fall and spring migrations.

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  • Swimming holes of Duluth

    In this Lake Superior town, the rivers are the place to cool off.

    In Duluth, there's water, water everywhere — and nary a place to swim. In Lake Superior, anyway. If you try to cool off in the frigid lake, you'll probably run out immediately, shrieking. Early tourist brochures touted Duluth as "The Air-Conditioned City," and the vast waters of the big lake keep it cool, usually until July. Then it heats up, and the locals - few of whom have actual air conditioners - head for water.

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  • Relishing winter in Duluth

    In this sporty town, you can ski downhill or cross-country, then see the ballet or a Broadway show — all within city limits.

    When it's not cold or snowy enough in Duluth, the natives start to grumble. The breezes that earned it the nickname "Air-Conditioned City'' will chill your bones in winter, and if you don't keep moving, you'll wind up as stiff as the bronze sculptures along the lake.

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  • Quaffing with a crowd

    At craft-brew fests, fans converge to try the latest concoctions.

    Twenty years ago, most beer drinkers thought porters work on the railroad, blondes have more fun and a craft requires popsicle sticks and yarn. My, how things have changed. In the United States, craft beer still claims only 11 percent of sales. But each year, more and more drinkers cross over from the lite side, and hundreds of new craft breweries spring up to serve them.

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  • Duluth's Skyline Parkway

    High above Lake Superior, a scenic boulevard was the city's first playground.

    It's a hot Saturday in Duluth, and it seems as if every tourist in town is on Canal Park. But a few have found their way to a quieter spot, on Amity Creek above downtown. Just off Skyline Parkway, some 10-year-olds are having a great time climbing rocks and splashing in a pool beside a waterfall, thanks to a mother who went to college in Duluth. She's brought her daughter's soccer team to play and cool off between tournament games.

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