The Bentleyville Tour of Lights

The Bentleyville Tour of Lights should be a winter tradition for everyone! What better way to get into the holiday spirit than strolling through America’s largest, free, walk-through lighting display?
Bentleyville, in Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park, features more than 4 million lights across 20-acres off the shores of Lake Superior.
Enter by way of the majestic Bentleyville Castle door and follow the holiday music floating through the air.
Hot chocolate and cookie from Bentleyville’s Cookie House in hand, you can find your way through lighted tunnels simulating those that run I-35 underneath city parks.
The pathways take you through different districts of Bentleyville-Duluth including the municipal golf courses, the aerial lift bridge, Enger Park, the Tall Ships festival, and Lester Park.
There are so many displays including Nativity, Support our Troops, First Responders, Vikings, Dinosaur Land, Rudolph’s Campgrounds, 12 Days of Christmas, Gingerbread Man, Frosty Fairways, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Island of Misfit Toys and my personal favorite, TWO Paul Bunyan and Babe tributes!
The magnum opus of Bentleyville is the animated 12-story steel Christmas tree and ball which is covered with over 150,000 sparkling LED lights.
Adorned with an illuminated #OnlyInMN sign, the tree rises to more than twice the height of New York City’s famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree!
How did it come to be, you may ask?
Nathan Bentley first decorated his home with lights in Esko, Minnesota in 2001.
He added more and more eventually Bentley’s house was known as “the house with all of the lights in Esko.”
One of Bentley’s friends eventually started referring to his house as Bentleyville (a play on words from Dr. Seuss’s “Whoville.”).
In 2004, the Bentley’s moved from Esko to Cloquet, Minnesota.
“Bentleyville” grew very quickly and within a few years, outgrew the Bentley home.
In the fall of 2008, the Duluth City Mayor asked Bentley if he would bring Bentleyville to Bayfront Park.
It opened in 2009 to over 150,000 visitors and has gained immense popularity every since.
The Tour of Lights runs from November 18 to December 26, 2017.
It is also the official drop-off location for new unwrapped toys and nonperishable food items for the Duluth Salvation Army.
If you are headed there, bring your donations, dress warm, and don’t forget your camera!

Chester Park

How quickly the weather can change here in Minnesota. This #mnbucketlist stop is a perfect example of that. It was only a few short weeks ago that I was hiking through Chester Park in Duluth. A park that straddles both sides of a wooded ravine that contains Chester Creek, one of the 28 streams that flow through the city of Duluth. The ravine opens at the top into a wide, wooded, “bowl”-shaped valley known as Chester Bowl.  Located between University of Minnesota, Duluth and St. Scholastica and right off Skyline Drive, Chester Bowl has 2.5 miles of hiking trails. I wasn’t there for the ski area, ski jumps, pond, or soccer field but they are there. The parks ski jumps were previously used to train Olympic ski jumpers but were torn down in August of 2014 as they were deemed safety hazards. I came to hike, take in the leaves changing, and to explore Chester Creek. Have you had a chance to check out this park? Any other Duluth must-see’s that are your favorites? 

Hoovie’s Popcorn Wagon

When you think about Canal Park and what you love about it, you may reminisce about the Ariel Lift Bridge glowing in the sunlight, meandering through Bayfront Park, the busy lake walk and masses of seagulls, grabbing donuts at Crabby Ol’ Bills, watching the ships come in, visiting the Maritime Museum or having dinner at Grandma’s. For me? Apple cider and hot buttered popcorn. Hoovie’s Popcorn Wagon often sits between the Lighthouse parking lot and the Lakewalk, providing passersby with nutriment like caramel corn, hot coffee, and shaved ice. I myself prefer my walks to include food, so it’s perfect – especially those that include the Northshore and Duluth harbors panoramic skyline.

Va Bene Caffe

Va Bene Caffe, Berarducci’s Italian Restaurant is a quaint restaurant with warm, yellow walls off East Superior Street in Duluth. They have an open kitchen giving the place a welcoming but balanced ambiance. Think romantic date night meets sidewalk café. Intimate but airy, the classic Italian eatery has become the sweetheart of the Northshore crowds.

It’s not a surprise with house-made, hearty pastas, well selected wines and rave-worthy gelato. And the complimentary focaccia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar certainly doesn’t hurt.

My personal recommendations? Try the ripallo pesto. It is made with basil pesto and is served with roasted potatoes, asparagus and penne pasta. Something lighter? The caprese with fresh basil, savory mozzarella, and ripe tomatoes is my summer go-to. It’s worth a stop any, or every, time you are in Duluth. Make sure to make a reservation so you get a seat on the patio as it sits above the lakewalk, giving a spectacular view of Lake Superior.