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Duluth by the ‘Sea’

By Erica Wacker

When searching for the perfect meeting space, it doesn’t take long to feel lost in a sea of beige ballrooms. But what about a beige ballroom that overlooks the sea? While Lake Superior isn’t technically an ocean, its size, splendor, and sparkling blue sheen sure make it feel like one, and your guests will appreciate its magic just the same.

The Big Lake

One of Minnesota’s top tourist destinations, Duluth is beloved by visitors for its culture, nature, food, and seemingly endless variety of things to do. Many of these same selling points make it a sought-after locale for meetings and major events. The largest venue in town is the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). In addition to its 30 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, and 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, the DECC is known for its public park, symphony hall, and ice rinks (curling, anyone?).

As for those lake views, the DECC’s Harbor Side Convention Center features floor-to-ceiling windows—plus an outdoor roof deck—overlooking Lake Superior and the iconic Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. The 12,000-square-foot Harbor Side Ballroom can be divided into five separate meeting rooms, with more meeting spaces on the lower level.

“We always take advantage of our big lake [as a selling point for meeting planners],” says Lucie Amundsen, the DECC’s communications director. Even when your guests are in parts of the DECC without lake views, they will know that Lake Superior is waiting as soon as they step outside. “There is magic with the big lake when you’re trying to be creative or work through a problem,” Amundsen adds.

The DECC emphasizes its “superior” customer service, including serving inventive foods from its Executive Chef Jerry Carpenter; posting a phone number on sandwich boards for guests to call and get their questions answered on the spot; giving event planners one point of contact, and sending them home with one invoice. “It’s just easier here,” says Amundsen.

About 4 miles up the Lake Superior shore, Glensheen Mansion is perched on 12 acres of meticulously maintained gardens, where it has stood since the early 1900s. Built by the Congdon family, who is credited with opening up the region’s iron ore and taconite mining industry, the mansion has been owned and maintained by the University of Minnesota since 1979. Several historic indoor and outdoor spaces are available for corporate and private events year-round. 

Glensheen’s largest space, the Carriage House Lawn, is available seasonally for tented events of up to 300 people. Inside the mansion, a fireplace and art glass fixtures grace the stately Amusement Room, with capacity for up to 80 guests. The largest indoor space is the Winter Garden, which runs the entire length of the house and features marble floors, brick walls, fixtures from the era of the Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1920), and space for 120 people.

Downtown Delights

For a more metropolitan feel, downtown Duluth is home to the Sheraton Duluth Hotel, which was completely renovated in 2021 without sacrificing its original elegance. Across the street sits the striking Greysolon Ballroom, a multi-purpose venue situated in the former Hotel Duluth, originally built in 1925. The namesake ballroom can hold 420 guests for theater seating and 370 for banquet seating. For smaller groups, consider the equally opulent Moorish Room off the lobby, which can accommodate between 80 and 200 guests, depending on the room configuration.

Less than a mile down Superior Street, the Radisson Hotel-Duluth Harborview has six meeting rooms, including the Great Hall, which can accommodate groups up 
to 300. The hotel is best known for its rotating top-floor restaurant, which reopened as the Apostle Supper Club in May 2022. With colorful retro booths and bold patterns, the restaurant exudes a “Mad Men” vibe with throwback menu items including cheese fondue, Jell-O cake, and classic cocktails such as blue cheese martinis and Aperol spritzes.

Pier B Resort Hotel on the Duluth Harbor has extraordinary views of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, Lake Superior, and beyond. The hotel has more than 4,000 square feet of meeting space, including capacity for 150 on the Rooftop Harborside Deck, and Silos, a steaks-and-chops restaurant.

Lincoln Park

One of Duluth’s hottest neighborhoods, Lincoln Park, is home to multiple microbreweries, cideries, unique shops, and trendy eateries—with more opening on a regular basis. The area is also home to Clyde Iron Works, founded as Northwestern Manufacturing in 1899. The owners transformed the 36,000-square-foot space from a heavy machine factory into an event venue, restaurant, and bar in 2010. 

Holding up to 600 seated guests, the main Clyde Iron Works building features 40-foot ceilings with two balconies overlooking the main floor. The semiprivate mezzanine holds up to 130 seated guests, and the upper floor restaurant can be reserved for up to 80 seated guests. Brick walls and exposed ductwork give Clyde Iron Works an industrial feel in keeping with the building’s origins.

The adjacent Malting Building reopened in 2019 as a second event space. The building is about half the size of the main Clyde Iron Works building with a similar vibe and layout, including a main floor flanked by balconies with seating for up to 450 guests. Both buildings are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant with ample free parking and Wi-Fi. Catering is handled by Clyde’s in-house restaurant, with options including appetizers, plated meals, themed buffets, and “bars,” such as a taco bar, pasta bar, and carving station.

Bent Paddle Brewing Co. in Lincoln Park on West Michigan Street is a 30-barrel craft brewer that uses water from Lake Superior. One-hour tours of the Production Brewery with free samples are available for groups.

No matter what type of event you are planning, and whether you prefer lake views, city skylines, or historic charm, you and your guests are sure to find it in Duluth.