Explore The History of Canal Park in Duluth with Fitger’s

The beautiful port city of Duluth, Minnesota, touches the shore of Lake Superior and is home to one of the most photogenic places around—Canal Park.

The charming park boasts large stretches of lakefront boardwalk, a massive lift bridge overlooking the harbor, and exciting attractions like the Pier, the Aerial Lift Bridge, and the Canal Park Outdoor Plaza. What’s the history of Canal Park? Let’s take a look.

Founding of Canal Park

Canal Park began as a dream in the minds of the citizens of Duluth in the mid-1800s. In 1874, Congress granted money for the city of Duluth to construct a canal with the hope that it would facilitate access to the harbor and make the economy of Duluth thrive. Construction began quickly, and in 1875, for the very first time, Canal Park was officially born.


As the years passed, more and more development came to Canal Park. The Great Lakes Aquarium, a world-class aquarium and hometown favorite, opened in 2000, and various restaurants and boutique stores began popping up around Canal Park. The park became more popular than ever, especially amongst tourists.

A Major Facelift from Industrial Hub to Tourist Scene

Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota, has undergone a radical transformation over the past few decades, as the once industrial hub is now a popular tourist destination. The area, which was once full of warehouses, docks, and other industrial facilities, has been completely revamped and is now home to restaurants, bars, hotels, and a variety of tourist attractions.

A Storied History of Adventurers and Industrial Progress

The stretch of land that now makes up Canal Park has been in use for many businesses, activities and adventures over the years – much like prohibition era Chicago.  Its early history traces back to the mid-1800s when the area was an industrial center. They built the first warehouses and docks there. What eventually became the Iron Ore Express Rail Line was put into place. The Canal Street Bridge was the first permanent bridge between the Twin Ports of Duluth & Superior, and it was in use until the 1950s.

The Northern Pacific Railroad used the area extensively until the 1970s, and utilities such as water, power, and sewer were all available near the shores of Lake Superior.

Big Changes

In the early 2000s, Duluth began to realize its potential for tourism. Developers saw the potential for Canal Park and started investing money into creating more appealing attractions. A couple of the prominent changes were the creation of Canal Park Drive, which allowed more accessible access to the area, and the renovation of the buildings around the room. Unique restaurants, bars, and shops now surround Canal Park.

The Canal Park Revamp: From Industrial to Entertainment

Recognizing the potential of the area, city officials began renovations in the 1980s that would transform the industrial landscape of Canal Park into a vibrant and welcoming tourist location. New buildings and facilities were constructed, such as hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Today, the area is full of tourist attractions, such as the Adventure Zone, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, and the William A. Irvin iron ore freighter (retired).

A Thriving Tourist Destination

The extensive renovations of Canal Park have paid off, as it is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. Visitors come to the area to enjoy the many attractions, take advantage of the various shops and restaurants, and stroll along the canal, a unique feature that adds to the scenic views of the harbor area.

Swimming with the Fishes

The Duluth Harbor Walk is a pedestrian walkway that stretches along the shoreline and pier of St. Louis Bay. It’s a lovely place to take a walk and even do a bit of fishing. A variety of fish swim in these waters, so if you have time be sure to bring a fishing pole and your favorite bait.

With a view to Fun

Canal Park also has some beautiful gardens and parks, a playground, and a picnic area. There’s also a playground for kids to enjoy, an outdoor theater, and a Disc Golf Course – for example, the Great Lakes Aquarium. This marine life center showcases a variety of fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Guests can walk through underwater tunnels for a close-up look at the sea creatures. There’s also a gift shop and cafe inside the Aquarium to top off a perfect day at Canal Park.

Endless Events and Festivities

You’ll experience a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, many of which are free. From the Duluth Winter Festival to the Summer Solstice, Canal Park hosts a wide range of celebrations, concerts, and much more.

Explore Canal Park with Fitger’s Luxury Lakefront Hotel

A stay at the luxurious Fitger’s Lakefront Hotel could be the ultimate way to explore the beauty of Canal Park! Located in the middle of Duluth along the shore of Lake Superior, this incredible hotel offers the perfect destination to explore and discover all the wonders of the surrounding neighborhood.

Fitger’s Lakefront Hotel offers impressive amenities and services to make your stay as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. We have different room options, from comfortable executive suites to luxurious honeymoon packages.

Enjoy dinner and drinks at the hotel’s on-site restaurants and lounges, or walk along the lakefront to the beautiful variety of bars, cafes, and shops that Canal Park is known for.