One of Duluth’s most visible, popular and famous parks is Leif Erikson Park and its Rose Garden. It is located on the eastern half of the Duluth Lakewalk. A statue of the Norwegian Viking explorer marks the entrance to the park. He has been credited with being the first European to land on the shores of North America and “discovering it” more than 1,000 years ago (*Thank you Woodland Middle School 6th Graders!).
Leif Erikson Park: History & Features
There is an exact replica of his Viking ship, called the ‘Leif Erikson’ in the park. It was built and sailed from Bergen, Norway to Boston, and then on to Duluth. The four men that made this trip from 1926 to 1927 were out to prove that Leif Erikson and the Vikings could have made the same journey. The roughly 10,000 mile trip is the longest distance traveled for that size ship in modern times. Once they arrived to much fanfare in Duluth in 1927, Duluthian Emil Olson purchased the Viking ship and donated it to the city. It was displayed in a park close to the shores of Lake Superior. The park was renamed in the early 1930s to Leif Erikson Park.
One of the first things you will see at the park is a whimsical stone stage with two castle-like towers on each end. The stage was designed by Holmstead and Sullivan, who are well known for designing Denfeld High School and the St. Louis County Jail. Behind the stage is Lake Superior and its beautiful rocky shoreline. It’s been a favorite spot for years to skip rocks and watch the mighty ships. The well groomed lawn in front of the stage is perfect for picnics, kite flying, and just reading a book on a blanket. The hill leading down to the stage is a natural amphitheater, making it a great venue for concerts, plays and more.
The setting is ideal for large events. The Duluth International Folk Festival was held there for years until recently. The Lake Superior Shakespeare Festival, outdoor weddings and all types of reunions also take place in the park. A few years ago, Friday night ‘Movies in the Park’ began. Family friendly movies are shown on a huge screen on the stage from June till August. Admission is free for everyone.
The Duluth Rose Garden
The incredible Duluth Rose Garden is part of Leif Erikson Park as well. A bit further away from the lake and up some stairs, you will be treated to quite a beautiful and rare feast for your eyes. Surprisingly, the Rose Garden is on top of the Interstate 35 Tunnel, where cars are constantly zooming by! There are more than 2,000 rose bushes and thousands of other beautiful flowers and plants. Amazingly, there are 100 different varieties of rose bushes throughout the English-style garden. The Duluth Garden Society and the Parks and Recreation department do a terrific job with keeping the Rose Garden in picture-perfect condition during the garden season.