SPIRIT MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE PARK
Picture this: You’re sitting at the top of a mountain in basically a snow-sled-on-rails with only a hand brake and a seat belt to give you any sense of control before you go zig-zagging through the trees, wind in your face and a knot in your stomach…And then, you look up to see Lake Superior in the far, far distance and (better yet) there’s a kiddo sitting in your lap smiling and giggling and shouting, “Faster, mom! This is the coolest thing we’ve ever done together! Fasterrrrr!!!” So I finally let go of the brake and sat back to enjoy that crazy alpine coaster ride.
That was my experience at the Spirit Mountain Adventure Park in Duluth. That was the memory I will take home with me and remember forever. Our trip to the northwoods was filled with so much happy – I saw my kids in their glory in a place where adrenaline meets courage. And let’s be real for a second – the scenery is tough to beat. If you’re looking for a fun and unique outdoor adventure, I’d like to suggest heading to Duluth for a stay in their Villas, a day at their Adventure Park, and a dip in Lake Superior (if you dare).
What is it?
I went to college in Duluth and I can tell you that Spirit Mountain was a fantastic way to spend those loooong winters – downhill skiing, snowboarding, and tubing with friends. Now they even offer downhill fat tire biking trails (yes, I’m so old that fat tire bikes weren’t even a thing when I was in college). But Spirit really comes alive in the summers as well!
The Adventure Park is an entertaining place to spend a day up north with your family. Open seasonally from Memorial Day weekend until mid- to late-October, a day pass to the park will get you unlimited rides on the Timber Twister alpine coaster (wheeeee!), the treetop zip line, chairlift rides, endless bouncing on the giant jumping pillow, and round after round of mini and disc golf. There are many scenic hiking trails and plenty of mountain biking trails for all skill levels as well.
Fit for what ages?
Obviously there needs to be age restrictions for the Adventure Park since it’s not all that conducive to little bodies. The alpine coaster and zip line are not for the faint of heart, so know your child’s level of adventure before throwing them on one of those rides, even if they fit the age and height requirements.
We brought a one-year old and he could literally do nothing. but he was pretty happy picking up sticks and throwing rocks and riding around in the backpack while eating treats from the concession stand. Just know that an adult will need to hang back with any underagers so make sure you have a good adult/kid balance to make the riding efficient and enjoyable. My friend Melinda tagged along so both big kids had either her, me or my husband to ride with and one of us could throw sticks with the baby (sarcastic yay!).
So here’s the breakdown:
For the Alpine Coaster, you must be at least 3 years old and 38 inches tall to ride with someone over the age of 16. The taller passenger must sit in the back with the shorter rider in front. To ride alone, you have to be 54 inches tall.
For the Zip Line, you must be at least 3 years old to ride, but if you’re under 8 or under 48 inches tall, you need to go with someone over the age of 16. To ride alone, you must be 48 inches tall and at least 8 years old. But, just like the coaster, this one is WAY more fun with a friend by your side!
To ride the Scenic Chairlift, you must be 3 years old and accompanied by an adult.
Have a 2 year old? They will have a blast on the massive jumping pillow (where the minimum age is 2). This is an awesome way to burn their energy, but just be careful if your tiny toddler is sharing the pillow with tons of bigger kids – you know the drill.
How much are we talkin’?
Prices for the Adventure Park for individual attractions range from $6-16 per ride for single or double riders. Multi-packs of tickets are available at a cheaper rate per ticket and the website does offer occasional deals, such as Wednesday BOGOs and evening discounts.
Plan on spending a good chunk of time at the Adventure Park? Want the most bang for your buck? If yes, the Day Pass is definitely the way to go! While the $44 wristband is a bigger expense up front, we got our monies worth within the first 15 minutes with six rides down the alpine coaster. And you can save a little if you purchase your day passes online more than 48 hours in advance of your arrival.
However, some quick numbers in case a day pass isn’t what you’re looking for:
- If you just want to experience the Alpine Coaster once (because you really should experience it), single riders pay $11 and double riders will cost $16 for their one ride down the mountain.
- If you want one lift down the scenic chairlift or one zip down the zipline, the rates are the same ($11/single; $16/double).
- If you have a little one who is only interested in jumping on the inflatable pillow, that will cost you $11 for 30 minutes or $25 for an all-day pillow pass.
- One round of 9-hole mini golf costs $6 a game.
At the Adventure Park, you could also spend cash on food and drink from the concession stand, disc rentals (for disc golf) or Spirit Mountain souvenirs (including action photos from the alpine coaster – $12.99 for a 5×7 or $9.95 for a keychain).
As far as accommodations go, our family stayed at the Mountain Villas right down Skyline Parkway atop Spirit Mountain. The views were beautiful and the villas were cute and absolutely unique. Villa rentals sell out quickly during peak months and range from $180-$240 per night. The Villas are available for rent year-round and vary in style and furnishings because they are privately- and individually-owned. Pets are allowed in certain Villas for a fee.
Want some tips?
I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Duluth. I love almost everything about it – the views, the water, the hiking trails, the lift bridge, Black Woods (yes, the restaurant), and now that I have children, I’m super happy they have the Spirit Mountain Adventure Park. And just like I would suggest you order the Pasta Luca Brasi at Black Woods (for real, man. THE BEST!), I also have some tips for making the most of your family time at the Adventure Park and in Duluth in general.
At the Adventure Park
- Figure out your adult to child ratio to make sure your kiddos are old enough to either ride alone or they have an adult to go with them on the rides, OR are patient enough to wait their turn if there aren’t enough adults to go with all kids every time (especially true if you have a little one under 3).
- Wear tennis shoes. These are particularly important when you’re flying over the trees on the zip line or chillin’ in the chairlift with your legs a’danglin.
- When you arrive at the park, head into the small building just off the parking lot to pick up or pay for your tickets. Here, you can also pee, change a diaper, cool off in the A/C or grab a quick snack as well.
- Everything is very close together so no need to bust out the strollers or anything if you can prevent it and there’s lots of land to run. There’s no admission fee for the Adventure Park (tickets are sold by attraction) so spectators can sit on one of the many picnic tables to rest or munch on some grub.
- There is NO refund on tickets due to bad weather. The jumping pillow, chair lift and zip line shut down when it rains. The alpine coaster runs through rain or snow, but will shut down if there is lightning in the sky. We got caught in a downpour on our first ride down the mountain and it was A-MAZING. And cold. It was also very cold.
- There are a number of rules for each attraction, especially the alpine coaster, so make sure whoever is driving is smart and aware of those rules. For example, you must stay 160 feet behind the cart ahead of you. Just make sure there is common sense.
- There can be long lines on weekends especially, but they go relatively quickly and the workers are efficient and helpful. We were there post-storm, so it wasn’t as busy immediately afterwards, but as the sun came out, so did the people.
- Mini golf was sort of unimpressive. We spent most of our time on the coaster and jumping on the pillow. The zip line took awhile to load, so we only went on that a couple times due to impatient children. And sadly, the chairlift was down that day due to rain, but I’m sure that would’ve been gorgeous and insanely relaxing!
- There is a restaurant at the bottom of the chair lift called Riverside Grill. We drove there because the chairlift was down due to weather and it took us a surprising 15 minutes to get there from the top of the mountain. But it was sweet with a fireplace and cafeteria-like tables and a kind bartender who makes a mean wild rice burger and pours a generous glass of vino.
- If I were a mountain biker, that would definitely be how I would’ve spent some of my time on Spirit Mountain. With well-groomed trails and a killer view, it just seems like it would be an incredible way to spend a day in outdoor Duluth. If your family has interest in mountain biking, know that there are rentals available at the chalet and that trail fees are only $29/person for all-day access. Spirit Mountain also has some cool looking summer camps for kids who are interested in mountain biking and outdoor adventures as well, so be sure to check those out if you’re local.
At the Mountain Villas
- Check-in time is 4pm. Check-out time is 11am. Quiet time goes from 11 pm to 8am.
- The Villas are furnished similarly to the furnishings in a hotel. Think coffee pots and coffee, beds and sheets and pillows, TVs, fireplaces, sunrooms, pots and pans and hair dryers to name a few. But do pack your own toiletries. These products were not included in the Fox Den (our Villa) and shampoo was sorely missed by my oily scalp. Lesson learned.
- The Villa office has board games and DVDs to rent when the office is open.
- Feel free to bring your own food and drink and utilize their nice kitchen and save money on going out. Although, I must say, Duluth has some fantabulous restaurants!
- Just down the street from the Villas are a couple of gas stations if there is anything you forgot or if you have any late-night Dorito cravings (true story).
Some of my must-see stops when visiting Duluth with the family include:
- Enger Tower: See all of Duluth from this crazy high point on a hill. Kids love climbing the steps and I love walking through the Japanese garden.
- Jay Cooke Park and Gooseberry Falls: If you have little ones, consider bringing a hiking backpack if you are interested in heading to these parks. They are Gorgeous with a capital G!
- Brighton and Park Point Beaches: Both are enjoyable for kids to find unique stones and rocks to collect and bring home. And both allow for kiddos to wade in the icy cold waters of Lake Superior.
- Canal Park: Who doesn’t love climbing rocks and walking the pier to the lighthouse. And if you walk far enough, you’ll end up at Portland Malt Shop. Oopsie daisy, how’d we get there? Ice cream for the win!
- Children’s Museum, Lake Superior Zoo and Great Lakes Aquarium: These are just your classic kid-stops, but they’re there. So, yeah.
- Betty’s Pies: Technically it’s far outside of Duluth, but I would drive hour for their coconut cream.
Hours and location
9500 Spirit Mountain Place | Duluth, MN 55810
Spirit Mountain Adventure Park is open seasonally during warm weather months, from Memorial Day weekend until mid- to late-October. Their hours vary month-to-month (sometimes day-to-day), so be sure to check out their online calendar for the most up-to-date hours before booking your trip or purchasing your passes. Also note that the chairlift and Riverside Grill can have hours that vary from those of the Adventure Park so plan accordingly.
The Adventure Park and the Villas are right off Hwy 35W and West Skyline Parkway well before you actually enter the “city” of Duluth (you know, the part with Canal Park and seagulls and that lighthouse that is in every picture of Duluth ever taken in the history of the universe?).
Parking is not an issue at all. There’s a large, free gravel lot that is mere steps from the ticket office and all the adventures. If you stay at the Villas, you could probably easily walk to the Adventure Park (we chose to drive because we had a one-year old and also…well…we’re a little lazy).
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Spirit Mountain Villas and passes to the Adventure Park in exchange for my time sharing this post. All thoughts are my own.