Officially it’s the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center, but everyone calls it The Depot (506 Michigan St. W., 218/727-8025 or 888/733-5833, www.duluthdepot.org , 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily summer, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. Sun. rest of year, $10 adults), after the imposing 1892 Chateau-style structure’s original purpose.
Today it houses four museums, with the Lake Superior Railroad Museum (218/722-1273, www.lsrm.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun.) being the top draw. The outstanding collection of classic rolling stock includes an 1861 wood-burning steam engine, railway post office, and rotary snowplow, plus kids love the locomotive simulator.
The hands-on Duluth Children’s Museum (218/733-7543, www.duluthchildrensmuseum.org , 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily summer, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun., closed Mon. rest of year, $6.75 adult, $4 children, $2 ages 3–5, ages 2 and under free), entered by descending through a giant tree trunk, focuses on natural history and world cultures.
The displays of the St. Louis County Historical Society (218/733-7586, www.thehistorypeople.com , 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., closed for lunch noon–1:30 p.m., closed Sat.–Sun.) look back at northeastern Minnesota.
The tiny Duluth Art Institute (218/733-7560, www.duluthartinstitute.org , 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily summer, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun. rest of year) has rotating exhibits.
Seemingly out of place in far-off Duluth , the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (902 1st St. E., 218/728-0630, www.rain.org/~karpeles , noon–4 p.m. Thurs.–Sun., free admission) is one of the largest collections of historical documents in the world, and Duluth native David Karpeles wanted one of his seven branch museums to be located here. Displays are rotated every three months so you never know what you will find, but his collection includes original copies of such landmarks as the Bill of Rights and Emancipation Proclamation, letters from Darwin and Galileo, Disney contracts, and Wagner’s Wedding March. It can be fascinating to see history with changes written in the margins.