Duluth tourist attractions reopen under new health guidelines

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: June 29, 2020 06:14 PM

After being closed for three months, iconic Duluth tourist attractions like the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, the St. Louis County Depot and Lake Superior Zoo are reopening to the public under new health guidelines.

The museum and depot open Wednesday, July 1. It will also be the start of the season on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. The first train will begin boarding at 10:30 a.m.

Ken Buehler, the General Manager of the North Shore Scenic Railroad, said a lot of time, effort and hard work have gone into making sure the highest levels of safety are in place to welcome back guests and passengers.

Buehler said cleaning and sanitizing protocols have been put in place using standards from the Centers for Disease Control, the State of Minnesota and St. Louis County Health Department.

"People can expect a very safe, fun and educational experience both in the St. Louis County Depot and the museum and out on the trains," said Buehler.

As guests come back to the Depot, there will be deep cleaning done on a daily basis before the Museum opens and as the first train departs the station. Cleaning will also be done as the train is moving and in between runs.

"We're also having hand sanitizing stations and will have one way directional tours through the entire building. We're doing concierge boarding on the train so there's not a line so we can practice social distancing," said Buehler.

Crew and guests will be required wear face masks and new protocols are in place for visiting the museum and riding the trains.

All exhibit push buttons have been replaced by motion sensitive touchless switches. Access to some exhibits has been restricted.

Staff said it will be a team effort to ensure all these guidelines are followed in order to keep everyone safe.

"Our guests, visitors, and passengers have to be responsible themselves as well and if we both do that, it's gonna be fun," said Buehler.

Train Museum hours are Sunday, Monday & Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for Pizza Train nights. The rest of the Depot will be closed Mondays.

On the North Shore Scenic concierge boarding eliminates lines. Vestibules on each car will be open and hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the train. Open window and open air cars are available as well. 

The Railroad Schedule is listed below:

-Duluth Zephyr departs at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily.

-Music & Pizza Train, which is a two-and-a-half-hour excursion to Knife River, departs Wednesday through Saturday at 6:00 p.m. 

The North Shore Scenic Railroad is also doing NO RISK Reservations. This means if there is to be a change in operation that affects a passenger’s reserved ticket, the railroad will reschedule to another date and time and waive any and all fees. If this isn't possible for guests, gift certificates good for two years will be offered or a refund for the price of the ticket.

Additional information and reservations can be found here or by calling the North Shore Scenic Railroad at 218-722-1273.

Another popular family-friendly tourist spot is the Lake Superior Zoo. The zoo is welcoming guests inside the indoor building beginning Thursday, July 2.

The zoo reopened its outdoor space a few weeks ago but now will reopen its indoor space thanks to new safety measures.

"We're just really happy to be able to welcome both our members, the community, and tourists alike back inside so they can see even more of the animals that are a part of our family," said Haley Cope, the Director of Marketing & Development for the Lake Superior Zoological Society.

Some of the new health measures include a one-way path across the Zoo that will now include the Australia & Oceania Building, Primate Conservation Center, Nocturnal Building, and Zoo Central. The Safari Café and Tiger’s Paw Gift Shop will also be open. The Griggs Learning Center and Nature Trail will remain closed to the public for now.

Additional protocols include increased disinfecting routines and staff wearing face masks. Visitors are encouraged to wear masks as well and social distancing will be required between groups.

"There will be hand sanitizing stations located in increased areas throughout the zoo and there's signage for high touch areas," said Cope.

Hours will be Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with last admission at 4 p.m. The zoo will be closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Staff say a full pandemic operating plan has been put in place to keep animals, staff, and guests safe.

"We were closed for almost three months. We took a hit financially losing almost half a million dollars so being able to bring people back to the zoo is supporting our mission and helping take care of our animals. Welcoming everybody back like Duluthians and we've seen a lot of tourists as well, it just makes us feel like we're getting back to some sense of normalcy," said Cope.

The zoo has also extended the Summer Membership Drive. Any membership purchased through July 5 will receive $10 off, a $10 gift certificate to Black Woods Bar & Grill or Tavern on the Hill, and 2 free general admission passes to the Zoo.

For additional information, click here, or call 218-730-4500.


Alejandra Palacios

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