Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bentleyville: Get outdoors tonight

Don't let the dark and cold of winter trap you in your light and warm house. If you're uncomfortable snowshoeing by moonlight or skiing by headlamp, you can still head to Duluth's Bentleyville and have a great winter experience.

It's in Bayfront Park, just west of the DECC and Great Lakes Aquarium. We went on Thanksgiving Day, after supper. It's open every night through December 26, until 9:00 Sunday through Thursday and 10:00 Fridays and Saturdays. It's free, but you're encouraged to bring canned goods for the food shelf.

If I were writing up Bentleyville like a hiking trail, I'd explain that it's a lollipop loop. You enter along a track of lights and lit-up sculptures, then take a loop around Bayfront Park. There is something new going on around every corner. By the time you've completed the loop, you can sip hot chocolate, roast marshmallows on an open fire, visit with Santa Claus, and get a candy cane from Mrs. Claus. 
It reminds me of the Christmas markets in Germany, with all the lights and all the good spirits and people moving about. New this year is the tall lighted "tree" that does a stunning performance of lights synchronized to the Christmas music. 

To get  the most out of your experience, start with dinner in Canal Park or downtown Duluth. After your meal, hop on the Jingle Bus, the free shuttle down to Bayfront Park. Crowding into the bus with your fellow overinsulated merry makers is as true-blue Minnesotan as cramming through the gates of the State Fair. 

The part that captured me most of all, that touched some deep part of my Yuletide spirit, was the artificial pine trees, the needles illuminated from within. I would really never have expected that, and it was lovely.

Enjoy winter at Bentleyville!

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