From roughly early November until mid-April, Duluth is usually covered in ice and snow, with temperatures often refusing to climb above zero degrees for weeks at a time. Then Old Man Winter finally gives way to some well-needed sunlight, and Duluth transforms from a somewhat sparsely populated winterland of roughly 87,000 into a hustling, bustling tourist destination where roughly 3.5 million visitors pump more than 400 million greenbacks into the economy each year. Duluth features a number of tourist hotspots including the renowned Aerial Lift Bridge, a gigantic all-freshwater aquarium (the only one in the U.S.), and numerous shops, eateries, and resorts with scenic lake views. The city is also home to the annual Homegrown Music Festival, the celebrated Grandma’s Marathon, and numerous parks, golf courses, and trails, including a 39-mile hiking trail along Lake Michigan’s shoreline and a six-mile sand spit.
Being a “Tourist in Your Own Town”
Duluth also boasts a variety of attractions for not just the seasonal populace but for year-round residents as well, including numerous art museums, theaters, live music venues, a symphony orchestra, a ballet company, a ski resort, and a plethora of after-hours pubs and clubs. Despite popular misperception, there’s actually much more to do in certain nooks and crannies of the North Star State during the winter months than mope around your apartment hoping a blizzard doesn’t engulf you.
The good old gas guzzler is still king of the road in Duluth, especially for those living in the more remote parts of town further from the lake. The Duluth Transit Authority does provide bus and trolley services, but we recommend having your own set of wheels if you want to work, play, dine, shop, and bank without having to coincide your activities with the somewhat limited bus schedule. Fortunately, traffic rarely backs up in Duluth and parking is more than ample. Many parts of town, meanwhile, have bike paths, but keep in mind that the streets of Duluth are notoriously hilly.
The first step in finding the perfect apartment is deciding which neighborhood is best for you. The easiest way to discover your dream ‘hood? Visit Duluth in advance and spend plenty of time in its various neighborhoods, getting a feel for their vibes and residents, before checking out the local apartment scene. Generally, the most modern and fashionable rental properties are situated along the coast of Lake Superior, although many of the outlying neighborhoods feature ultramodern lofts, condos, and rental houses as well. If you’re in the market for a sweet pad with a scenic view, check out the Bayview Heights, Goat Hill, or Piedmont Heights neighborhoods, which are perched atop steep hills and serve up plenty of panoramic views of both the city and the waterfront. The downtown area and Central Hillside are equipped with an array of brand-new lofts and condos that appeal to the more urban-minded leaser, while Congdon Park, Denfeld, and East Hillside, among others, are also popular choices.
Once you’ve established which neighborhood suits you best, it’s time for the fun part: picking a primo pad to call your own. A few things to keep in mind during your apartment hunting escapades: Rentals run the gamut in Duluth, from rustic “box units” for $600 or less all the way to newly-constructed, amenity-packed lofts and condos for a grand or more. Quite a few brand new complexes have sprouted up in recent years, many of which try to entice new tenants with amazing move-in specials (first month free, no move-in deposit, etc.). Fortunately, vacant units outnumber prospective leasers in Duluth, giving renters the luxury of scouring the market leisurely to find the best digs and the best deals. The apartment life isn’t for everyone, of course. For these people, the wide range of rental houses, many of which overlook Lake Michigan, may be a viable option. Just be sure if you go this route to give your new place a good inspection (better yet, hire a professional to do it) before moving in. Nearly half of all residences in Duluth are considered historic, meaning they were built prior to 1940.
Most property managers in Duluth require tenants sign a full one-year lease, although some offer 6-month and month-to-month leases (usually at a slightly higher price) as well. Landlords also have drastically different rules regarding roommates, smoking, subletting, and pets. Take your time and read your lease carefully before signing it, and examine your new place in-depth, making sure the appliances, pipes, sinks, windows, fans, and outlets function properly before moving in. Don’t forget to factor in the costs of utilities, especially heating, when determining your apartment budget. Because Lake Michigan has a cooling effect on the neighborhoods surrounding it (locals have dubbed Duluth “The Air-Conditioned City”), apartment dwellers along the lake often have to run their furnaces for nine or ten months of the year, especially at night.
And now it’s time to get down to brass tacks and find you the apartment you’ve always dreamed of! Happy hunting and welcome to Duluth!
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