This past summer, I helped run a singer-songwriter contest at work. This was one of the entries.

Is that guy Minnesota or what?

Gabriel Douglas wound up being one of the winners of the contest, and I met him in San Diego when he opened for Gregory Alan Isakov. His personality is bigger than life (as is his beard); he’s like a caricature of himself. And since he makes me laugh A LOT, we became fast friends.

When we met, one of the first things he said to me was, “Duluth is the greatest city in the world.” Duluth. Duluth, Minnesota. The song above is about Duluth, Minnesota. And geographical chauvinist that I am, I knew that this could not possibly be true – Gabe Douglas must be very sheltered. Minnesotans must never get out.

Those humble Midwesterners – they’re so precious.

But when a work trip took me to Minneapolis last week, I decided to make the jaunt north on Friday night to hear one of Gabe’s bands play in – you guessed it – Duluth.

And I loved it.

Duluth is nestled on the shore of Lake Superior, built right up on a hillside. When I-35 dropped down toward the city, the lights were sparkling on the water and the stars were bright as flashbulbs. I used all of my hotel points for a room on the waterfront, and then walked up the hill to the little downtown strip.

We spent most of the evening at Tycoons, a bar/restaurant that used to be the City Hall, with a speakeasy in the basement that used to be the town jail, all “Not in Nottingham” style. Since Gabe was my only friend and he was busy being the Most Popular Man in Duluth, I made friends with the locals. By the time the show was over, I’d social butterflied my way around town, crashing into bed at 3am because Duluth makes you wild and crazy.

The next morning involved a stroll along the water, coffee at a bakery called Amazing Grace, and – once again – the confirmation that my assumptions aren’t always right. Of all places, I can’t wait to go back to Duluth, Minnesota. It charmed me.

[And speaking of charming, listen to this song Gabe wrote for his niece on her 3rd birthday. It’s magic. You’ll be happy the rest of the day.]


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  1. Val on November 6, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Well good grief. That little song was the adorablest.

  2. Sara Montour on November 6, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    It really is the best city in the world, bar none.

  3. Joan Provo-Clinkston on November 6, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    This is such a sweet story Annie.

  4. Erin on November 6, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    Have to send this to my Duluth friends! Please tell us what you did and where you ate in Minneapolis.

  5. Hope on November 6, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Are you kidding me with that song?!

  6. [not the] Best Blog Ever on November 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Duluth, and, well, let’s be honest… Minnesota… rocks. :)

    Glad you enjoyed yourself and that “we” made a shout-out in your corner of the blogosphere!

  7. hootenannie on November 6, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Erin! This trip, I ate at Barbette (fried frog leg risotto) and Ecopolitan (way, way too much cashew cheese, and I’ll never do it again).

    I also went to a Halloween party at… a castle? I think it’s a museum/castle. And I saw the Spoonbridge and Cherry, of course. And bowled at Bryant-Lake Bowl.

    I want your recos for my next visit! Maybe one of them should be drinks with you. :)

  8. Leigh Kramer on November 7, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Love that song! I’m going to have to check out more of his music.

  9. Michael on November 9, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Sweet post! I would love to visit Duluth sometime. We have friends who lived in Minneapolis for a few years…they found much to love about the city and region.

  10. Allison on November 9, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    this comment is completely unrelated to your post. but every time i go to the grocery store i check for my favorite flavor of larabar – chocolate chip cookie dough. and 9 times out of 10, they are out. it angers me. but today, they had a full box. i bought the whole damn thing. and i just wanted to share that with you.

  11. […] in Minnesota along the edge of Lake Superior, an area called the North Shore. I’d been to Duluth once before – but that was in November, and I was really only there during the dark. I needed to see it in […]

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