As in most cities, the downtown area is home to a number of the city’s cultural and social attractions, as well as government offices and business centers. Duluth’s main library is located in downtown, as is the city’s foremost museum, the courthouse, city hall, several local restaurants and bars with live music venues, and many of the larger business offices. Stores and places to eat and drink tend to be locally or regionally owned and operated, with most chain and franchise establishments having located (or re-located) themselves in the “Miller Hill area” around the U.S. Highway 53 corridor. A large portion of the eastern section of downtown is oriented around Essentia Health–St. Mary’s Medical Center and Miller-Dwan Medical Center.
Five blocks along Superior Street and seven blocks along 1st Street West have been designated the Duluth Commercial Historic District, with 87 contributing properties built between 1872 and 1929. It was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 for its state-level significance in the themes of architecture and commerce. It was nominated for representing Duluth’s commercial development and popular architectural styles at the turn of the 20th century.
The downtown area contains a number of historical buildings, many of them dating to the city’s peak days in the late 19th century and early 20th. These include the Historic Old Central High School (now the administrative offices of Duluth Public Schools), the NorShor Theatre, and the Duluth Depot (now a museum), among many others. Newly constructed ones are less common than older edifices, although some large newer buildings such as the Tech Village are present.
Downtown Duluth is the home of Fond-du-Luth Casino.
Streets in Duluth’s downtown area features dramatic upward slopes, a feature common to many of Duluth’s neighborhoods due to the 800-foot (240 m) elevation difference between the shore and the hilltop.
As a part of a beautification project during Duluth’s economic crisis of the 1980s, several blacktop streets were converted to brick. Along with this change came the introduction of “old-fashioned” ornamental streetlamps.
Due to the city’s cold winter temperatures (at times falling well below −20 °F (−29 °C)), a network of skywalks was constructed to provide indoor connectivity between most major buildings. The skywalk system is augmented by an over-the-freeway enclosed walkway leading to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) in the Canal Park district.