A Particularly Perfect Family Vacation

I admit I was nervous about this vacation. I was nervous about how the nights would go, how she would nap, how she would do in the hiking backpack. Luckily, Olivia proved me wrong and we ended having a fantastic vacation.

Day 1: Friday

We were able to leave the house around 8:00 am and drove the hour or so to a restaurant for breakfast where we’d traditionally go to eat growing up on our way to Duluth. Olivia was excited about her water cup.

And scrambled eggs. And she found a new love of orange slices and ate hers, mine, Chris’s and the nice lady’s sitting across from us. (Never mind that runny nose. She’s working through the tail end of a cold.)

She took a morning snooze in the car seat (score one for the day) and once we arrived in Duluth, we found a spot to park and then made our way to Canal Park where she got to see seagulls. She was about seven months old the first time we came here, but she was obviously so much more alert this time and was fascinated by the white gulls.

She even got some pieces of bread from some women sitting on a bench and learned the fine art of feeding the seagulls. (Note: I know. It’s bad to feed the seagulls. Old habits die hard. And she was so cuuuuute doing it.)

We walked around some of the shops (the big toy store was her favorite) and ate at Green Mill for lunch.

She took an afternoon snooze in the car on the way up to the lodge along the North Shore (score two for the day!) and when we arrived, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. We took her across the road down to Lake Superior and she was fascinated.

Seriously. The girl has never seen such a big body of water.

Since she has an intense love of rocks (“Rah!!!”) and has always thought water (“Wah!!!!”) was pretty A-OK, it was safe to say she was in absolute bliss, especially when her dad showed her how to throw said “RAH!” into the “WAH!”

We took a little hike behind the lodge, and she was able to keep up with us the whole time, handing me things to hold onto such as dandelion heads, rocks, and various interesting sticks.

Chris and I were too full for dinner, so Olivia got a cheese stick, grapes and cucumbers for dinner (we ate lunch around 2:00) and after we put her in her Pack N Play, Chris and I snacked on chips, and wine from plastic cups.

The only issue during the night was her pooping (I’m the worst mom ever for ignoring her cries, thinking she was just protesting, when in reality she had pooped immediately after sticking her in bed and she had finally just given up and gone to sleep) and me smelling it when I tiptoed to the bathroom at 10:00 that night. She was up at 1:00 where Chris changed her, she nursed and went right back to bed, where she pooped upon waking for the day around 7:15. Needless to say, she had a red bottom, but we had the Butt Paste with us. I also was getting Olivia’s cold, so I was up a lot with my throat drying up and sinuses plugged. But overall, it went better than I thought.

Day 2: Saturday

We had breakfast at the restaurant lodge before heading out to Judge CR Magney State Park for some hiking.

It was the perfect hiking weather. Olivia walked with us until we got onto the hiking path and then she protested a bit when Chris buckled her into the hiking backpack. She wouldn’t ever allow us before to put her in there so we were hoping for the best when the time came, but she did well.

Plus, it helps when you’re being fed lots of snacks along the way.

We hiked to the waterfall where Chris proposed to me back in 2006. Once again, Olivia had the opportunity to squat and throw rocks in the water. Greatest. Thing. Ever.

You guys, had you asked me a year ago if I thought hiking with an almost two-year-old would be fun, I would have laughed. But she loved it, all three hours of it. And seeing her love it, made me feel like it was OK we couldn’t go faster or longer, or take the harder trails.

She didn’t want her picture taken with me (does she ever?). Hiking was way more fun.


We ate at Subway for a late lunch and drove back to our lodge so she could take a nap. She passed out in the car and stayed asleep until we set her on the bed.

Which, you know, never happens, so you know it was a good time. She ended up sleeping for another two hours when she woke to nurse and get a diaper change.

Around 4:30, we drove into Grand Marais. We spent some time along the shore and—you guessed it—threw some more rocks into the lake.

We then went to the famous Sven and Ole’s pizza place to beat the crowd. They have some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, and Chris and I made it tradition to come here for dinner every time we come up here. Olivia thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, all the shops were closed by the time we got done with dinner at 6:00, so we made our way back to the harbor and hung around the lake until it got dark.

It was my happy place. My daughter was throwing rocks in the water and squealing and I was so dang happy I didn’t know what to do with myself.

We returned back to the lodge a little after 7:30 and she went to bed beautifully. Again, way better than I hoped. And slept all night until 8:00 the next morning. I, on the other hand, slept terribly again with my cold, but such is life.

Day 3: Sunday

Sunday, we drove back to Grand Marais and ate breakfast at the delicious doughnut shop, agreeably called “World’s Best Doughnut Shop.” Olivia loved her powdered sugar doughnut. You guys, I’m craving these doughnuts again.

There was nothing open again on a Sunday morning, so we entertained ourselves for a bit before heading out again. We had hoped to go on one last hike after checking out, but it had rained overnight and was sprinkling off and on, so we decided to just keep driving the two and a half hours back to Duluth and hope it hadn’t rained there. Olivia luckily slept in the car again.

We ate lunch at Grandma’s Restaurant and Chris and I had burgers and Olivia scoffed her $7 chicken fingers.

The rain was still holding off enough for us to walk the boardwalk and go down to the beach and play with more rocks.

Once again—Girlfriend wanted no pictures with her mama. So I held her down and hoped for the best and this is what we got:

Luckily, because her father is Best Parent right now, she cooperated for a family photo and here it is:

We stopped for ice cream cones at Dairy Queen (a perk of Olivia still rear-facing—she ain’t seeing nothing) before heading out on the road around 3:00.

It was such a wonderful trip away. I can’t wait to do it next year. I grew up going to Lake Superior every year with my family, but with Chris, the two of us started extending it further north and I love the memories we’re going to build with Olivia.

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You got some great pictures of all of you!! Sounds like a great trip. Sorry you didn’t feel well though. I still panic and don’t really take Bowen very far and for sure no where over night, heck we don’t even do restaurants very much BUT you are making me rethink! haha


What a wonderful trip! I love the North Shore (still remember Grey staring at Lake Superior as he had never seen a body of water that big that wasn’t the ocean) and all the beauty that is up there. Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time all around and was am so glad you were able to share all of this together.


Sooo jealous! Duluth is my favorite place ever and we didn’t make it up this summer. Donuts, Sven and Ole’s, rock throwing, Grandma’s, and hiking – sounds like a perfect MN vacation. Bonus Olivia slept well!

Jane allen
Jane allen

OMG, I looks like you had such an amazing time. You’re tempting me to write a post about our trip to Rhode Island. It’s where we spent most of our family vacations, so I’m so happy to get to do it with Kate


One of Tony’s bucket list items is to see a Great Lake, so someday we will have a family vacation to do that. I LOVE seeing all your pictures. I often think I post too many pictures, but then seeing so many pictures on other people’s blogs makes me think it really is okay. Sounds like it was a perfect little family vacation!