Those magical “free days” of October are nearly upon us. MEA weekend — for those not in the know — is when the Minnesota Educators Association holds professional days for teachers. The conference is always on the third Thursday of October with schools closed for the long weekend. This year, it lands on Thursday, Oct 17 — Sunday, Oct 20.

And that means it’s the last “Get out of Dodge” weekend for families before winter break. So, what to do with this glorious found time?

It’s easy to forget that Duluth is just a couple podcasts away on I-35, and offers something for everybody. And presently, the hardwood trees are on fire with color!

Here’s a family to-do list to get the MEA ball rolling:

1: Glensheen Mansion: The morning start

Over the October holiday weekend, Glensheen is at its family friendliest — and with extended hours and self-guided tours, it’s the most FLEXIBLE part of your visit. As the Midwest’s most visited historic house museum, it’s well worth the trip.

For starters, the estate will offer EXTENDED tour hours until 8 p.m. on the two most popular tours: the General Admission and Full Mansion starting Thursday, Oct 17 through Sunday, Oct 20.

All tours MEA weekend are partially or fully SELF-GUIDED, so your family can go at the pace that’s right for them. You get to decide how much time to spend in the opulent mansion and how much skipping rocks in Lake Superior. There’s also bridges, gardens, and paths to explore across the 12-acre estate.

And lastly, it’s the Great Pumpkin Hunt, with numbered pumpkins to find during the day!

(Insider tip: The estate looks great at sunset. If you time your tour right, you can be hunting the estate pumpkins at dusk.)

Glensheen is a 39-room mansion on the lakeshore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. It is open for tours daily. For more information on the mansion and estate, the Congdon family or tour options, please visit the MAIN SITE.

3300 London Road, Duluth — 218–726–8910

2: Bent Paddle Tap Room …with food from OMC and/or Corktown Deli: lunch!

Okay, now why would I direct your family to a bar for lunch? Because Bent Paddle Taproom isn’t really a bar as much as it’s a 5,500 square-foot contemporary tasting room. The architecture is beautiful and includes a fireplace and a children’s area. And there are two incredible restaurants just down the street that deliver there — OMC Smokehouse and Corktown Deli.

Of course, there are lots of beer but there’s also homemade root beer and kombucha.

Also, kid-friendly are these fun, actual non-video games — and they’re all free! (One may put in quarters as a donation to nonprofits.)

Brewery tours take place every Saturday and Sunday year-round at 11 am, and last about an hour and a half. Tours launch from the brewery located at 1912 West Michigan Street and end in the taproom located at 1832 West Michigan Street.

Tour samples are included so remember to bring your 21+ ID. Children are allowed with adult supervision. Pre-registration is required and space is limited to 20 people.

Bent Paddle Taproom: 1832 W Michigan St, Duluth, MN (218) 279–2722

But wait…we were talking about lunch.

Yes, OMC (That’s short for Oink, Moo, Cluck) has award-winning BBQ and fish from the smokers they tend in the back. All the sauces and sides are made in-house, too.

While Corktown Deli crafts beloved sandwiches and salads, they also have a full deli case for picnics to go. The housemade pastrami involves a long process of brining and other steps I don’t fully understand but make it a local fav.

Both restaurants are known for homemade items.

OMC: 1909 W Superior St, Duluth, MN: (218) 606–1611

Corktown Deli & Brews: 1906 W Superior St, Duluth, MN 55806: (218) 606–1607

Plus, they deliver it all on this darling little scooter!

And if you need dessert, it’s a short walk to the charming Love Creamery. They make handcrafted ice cream with unique flavors from local and organic ingredients.

Love Creamery: 1908 W Superior St, Duluth, MN 55806: (715) 209–037

3: Lake Superior Zoo: Early afternoon exploration

October is a great month to visit Duluth’s zoo as the nearby hillside is lit with fall colors. Also, children love to run (or ride the zoo train!) along the scenic paths between exhibits.

And there’s plenty to see. One of the most popular exhibits for children is the Barnyard with upclose contact with goats, sheep, llamas and prairie dogs. There’s also a butterfly room with hundreds of beautiful butterflies and emerging pupae — plus parrots, snakes, tigers, chinchillas. This list could go on and on.

The Lake Superior Zoo is open every day from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

7210 Fremont Street
Duluth, MN 55807
Phone : 218–730–4500

4: Kingsbury Creek Hike

There are a bunch of reasons to recommend this trail.

First, it’s easy enough and family friendly at 1.3 miles long.

Second, it’s also right near the zoo in West Duluth. In fact, the head of this trail is just north of the Lake Superior Zoo parking lot.

Photo by Northern Images

Third, it has some outstanding views including creeks, bridges, waterfalls and railroad tracks.

Plus, it’s a little inside baseball. Despite being a great hike, it doesn’t end up on a lot of visitor lists — so, you can hike like a Duluthian!

5: Spirit Mountain Timber Twister / Scenic Chairlift

The Timber Twister alpine coaster at Spirit Mountain is always a beautiful ride, but in the fall it’s gorgeous! The carts race down a 3,200-foot elevated track, offering amazing views of Duluth.

Fortunately, riders control the cart’s speed with a safe limit of 26mph. You can ride solo or in pairs.

Here’s a three-minute video of the run here — ->

Those looking for maybe a slower pace and truly outstanding view would enjoy Spirit’s Scenic Chairlift Rides. You get outstanding views of St. Louis estuary and Lake Superior.

Ticking and additional information here — -> Spirit Mountain Adventure Park

9500 Spirit Mountain Place
Duluth, MN 55810
1- 800–642–6377

Duluth is a special place. You can breathe a little deeper and feel a world away from real life — even with kids.