Pattison State Park is a great park to explore with kids! There are tons of hiking options of various lengths to fit any need. The beach has lots of sand and space to play. Big Manitou Falls is impressive, and Little Manitou Falls has tons of fun rocky scrambles. They have a campground if you want to stay for the night, or the sister cities of Superior and Duluth are nearby. Read on if you are looking for my recommendations for a trip with kids. If you are looking for an overview of the park and its amenities, check out this post.
Little Manitou Falls
My kids’ favorite part of Pattison State Park was Little Manitou Falls. You can get here with almost no hiking by parking at the south entrance of Pattison. The “hike” to the falls is short and steep. You can hear the falls from the parking area. I recommend heading to the bottom of the falls right away. There is a pool at the bottom and a large rocky area extending down the river. We had a lot of fun scrambling over the rocks and checking out fun natural treasures on the way.
When you are sick of scrambling on the rocks, watch for access to the Little Manitou Falls trail, which follows along the river. The trail will be an easier and quicker hike back to the car rather than scrambling the rocks on the return trip. You can also check out the falls from the top, but be sure to hang on to young children as you get to be right up close to the edge.
At the parking area of Little Manitou Falls, there are pit toilets. There is also a large grassy space with multiple picnic tables. They have a very minimal play set consisting of a couple of swings.
Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park
Big Manitou Falls is way taller than the little one and can be quite impressive. Because it is so much bigger, you aren’t able to get as close to either the top or the bottom. Park at the main entrance of Pattison for easy access to the Big Falls. The hike there is only a little longer than to Little Manitou Falls but has some fun features. You and the kids will go past the beach and then through a tunnel that goes under Highway 35. From there, you can go to either side of the falls for a variety of views. Some picturesque pedestrian bridges lead over the water upriver from the falls.
The Beach and Water Access
The generously sized sandy beach is close to the parking area at the main entrance. It has plenty of room for kids of all ages to dig in the sand or go for a swim. There are changing rooms and flush toilets adjacent to the beach. There is a large grassy area with plenty of picnic tables. They have a small play set with a couple of swings. There is a dock in the water during the summer months.
Camping and nearby lodging
Pattison State Park features a family campground with 59 campsites. Eighteen of the sites are electric. Camp in the park and maximize your time in this amazing place!
If you can’t want to camp but proximity is important, this Airbnb listing is only 5 minutes from the park. You will find plenty of lodging options for all budgets/preferences in Duluth and Superior. We chose the Park Point Marina near Canal Park in Duluth. It is about 35 minutes away but within walking/biking distance of the lake, a playground, and various restaurants.
Nearby Kids Activities
Duluth and Superior have plenty of great kids’ activities. We love the Lake Superior Aquarium. Inside, you will find turtles, skunks, eagles, an electric eel, several touch pools, and plenty of fish. There is a water table area inside, an indoor slide, and a great playground out front. If your kids love animals, check out the Lake Superior Zoo.
The Duluth Children’s Museum is also worth a stop. Another great option is the North Shore Scenic Railroad. There is a train museum and the chance to ride a real, full-size trail up the Northern Shore of Minnesota. For more indoor fun, check out Duluth Adventure Zone. It is a large arcade with laser tag and a rock climbing wall. Our favorite was unlimited jumping on the bounce houses. Our young kids tired out quickly and loved it. If your kids are a little older check out Spirit Mountain.
Nearby and Free Kid Activities
Don’t miss out on some quality northwoods beach days. There are multiple spots to find a shoreline of Lake Superior and let the kiddos explore. Our favorite spot was a beautiful rocky beach along the Duluth Lake Walk near the Canal Park Lodge. For a sandier option, check out the 12th Street Beach, with public parking available. Drive a bit further on the peninsula to get to Park Point Beach. In Superior, try Barker’s Island Beach. For some free fun, head up to Enger Park. The stone tower is a fun climb and provides impressive views of the city. We also really liked Lester Park. It has a nice playground, a waterfall, and a shallow creek to explore.
Canal Park is a fun touristy part of town. There is an impressive lift bridge that we had fun watching. There are two small lighthouses with easy paths to bike or walk ou. Canal Park has lots of food options and is close to the aquarium and Adventure Zone.
Nearby Kid Friendly Restaurants
If you are looking for a fresh local morning brew, check out Duluth Coffee Company. Right across the street is Duluth’s Best Bread which has amazing cinnamon rolls, homemade pop tarts, and great bread. We tend to have breakfast at our hotel, but I would check out Uncle Louie’s if that weren’t an option.
One of our favorite lunch spots is Sir Benedicts Tavern on the Lake. They have great sandwiches and a beautiful outdoor patio if the weather suits. Another great lunch or dinner spot is OMC BBQ. OMC stands for Oink, Moo, Cock-a-doodle doo, and they serve a variety of smoked meats.
For a sweet treat, check out the Portland Malt Shop, which is open seasonally. Make sure you bring cash. Love Cremery has several locations in the area and features some wonderfully unique ice cream flavors.
Nearby State Parks
If you and the kids love state parks, don’t miss Amnicon Falls. It is only 30 minutes east of Pattison State Park. There is a short hike to see several small falls and a rustic-covered bridge.
In conclusion, Pattison State Park is a great trip with kids! Explore the park’s waterfalls, hiking trails, and the beach. If you are looking for more, Duluth and Superior, have tons of great places for fun for young and old alike.