tall ship

Festival of Sail Guide: Tips to see the tall ships

The Festival of Sail, one of the largest events in our region, is only making one port stop with the tall ships in 2019. It will take place on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota August 11th through August 13th, 2019. This is your opportunity to get up close to some of the world’s most historic and majestic tall ships. To add to the fun, the festival features vendors, family fun entertainers, day sails, on board tours, and everyone’s favorite; the World’s Largest Rubber Duck.

Ticket 411

Festival Tickets
Tickets to enter the festival grounds must be purchased for each day you attend. However, you may purchase these either in advance or at the festival gates. The festival grounds are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm on Sunday, and 9:00am to 5:00pm on Monday and Tuesday.

Tall Ship Tour Tickets
Tickets for on board tours are available on a first come first serve basis. When you purchase an on board tour ticket, it is also good for your festival admission. There is an option for multi-day or single day on board tickets. Additionally, there is a Fast Pass ticket option which allows you to skip the lines on all ship tours throughout the entire festival.

Day of Festival Tickets
Tickets are available at the festival entrance on Harbor Drive. However, expect lengthy lines. You can avoid this line by purchasing your tickets in advance here. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, so there is no guarantee that any certain type of ticket will be available at the gate.

Vista Fleet Cruise Tickets
Experience the tall ships from a new perspective and see the grandeur from the water. The Vista Fleet is located right at ground zero of the festival and offers one of a kind harbor and Lake Superior cruises. Therefore, from morning to night of the festival, the Vista Fleet is offering unique sightseeing and dining cruises that bring you up close and personal with the historic tall ships. Specialty cruises include the Grand Parade of Sail, Bluegrass and BBQ by OMC Smokehouse, Sunset Dinner Cruise featuring Bellisio’s, Sips, Ships and Sunset, Moonlight Cruise, and Duluth Waterfront Tours. Make your reservations early as cruise tickets will sell out. Tickets and full cruise descriptions are available here.

Vista Fleet Combination Tickets
Explore the festival grounds each day and reserve a Duluth Waterfront Tour aboard the Vista Star or Vista Queen by purchasing one combination ticket here. During the Duluth Waterfront Tour, you will have exclusive viewing of the ships at port while entertainment tour guides provide you with details of each ship as you pass by. The tour concludes with a journey under the historic Aerial Lift Bridge and out onto the great and wondrous, Lake Superior (weather permitting).

Grand Parade of Sail

The Grand Parade of Sail is a spectacle you simply must experience. The Grand Parade of Sail is the kick-off to the 2019 Festival of Sail. The parade begins on Sunday, August 11 at approximately 9:00am. All ships parade around the Lake Superior harbor (weather permitting) and travel back under the historic Aerial Lift Bridge. Tickets for the Grand Parade of Sail aboard the Vista Star are available here.

The Ships

The current ship line-up includes US Brig Niagara, Schooner Appledore V, S/V Denis Sullivan, Abbey Road, Schooner Utopia, M/V Sundew former US Coast Guard Cutter, and Gerhard Folgero. Information on the ships can be found here.

Duck “Deets”

What exactly is the deal with this rubber duck, you ask? The World’s Largest Rubber Duck will make its appearance throughout the Festival of Sail by turning the Twin Ports Harbor into its personal bathtub. Most importantly, this is a spectacle that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Merch & Vendors

Festival Merchandise
The Vista Fleet Gift Shop, located right at the entrance to the festival grounds, is your one stop shop for tall ship, rubber duck, Duluth, and Lake Superior gifts and memorabilia. The gift shop will be open daily during the festival from 7:00am to 10:00pm. Official Festival of Sail merchandise is available just inside the Harbor Drive festival entrance.

Various food vendors and craft beer gardens are located behind Grandma’s Sports Garden and in the Harbor Drive festival area. Likewise, art, craft, and retail vendors will all be located behind Grandma’s Sports Garden.

Be Mindful

The Festival of Sail is one of the largest events that takes place in our region. Therefore, be mindful that there will be lines for entrances and ship tours. Secondly, please be respectful of volunteers and other patrons so as everyone can truly enjoy the event. Parking is available throughout the Canal Park area or in downtown Duluth accessible via the skywalk.


Area hotels are filling up very quickly. Make your reservations early. A list of hotels can be found here.

General FAQ’s

What to wear/bring
Lake Superior and Duluth itself bring some unpredictable weather. Therefore, dress in layers and be prepared for anything. Please note that backpacks are not allowed on festival grounds (diaper bags, purses, and camera bags will be subject to search).

Wheelchairs & Strollers
Wheelchairs and strollers are welcome in the festival grounds but not on the ships themselves. Patrons must walk up a gangplank to access the ships.

Only service animals will be permitted past the festival gates.

Festival Map