I spent my Thanksgiving weekend traveling back to Northern Minnesota with my wonderful girlfriend, Breeah, visiting her family and taking in my first snow in well over a year. I also attended my first Black Friday (or Brown Thursday, I guess) sale on Thanksgiving evening at a K-Mart. Outside of working the retail “death shift” in my college years, I have never been inside a store on Black Friday.

On Saturday evening, as we made our way back to Minneapolis, we stopped in Duluth and the Bentleyville Tour of Lights. It was Breeah’s little surprise for me that weekend as she didn’t let me in on this until the night before. I’m always up for a cool roadside stop and this one definitely takes the (fruit) cake.

One of the taller tree light structures I’ve ever seen (next to my comparatively short girlfriend)

Bentleyville is situated on the Duluth docks and is not your Grandma’s Christmas light show. We arrived just after 5 p.m. to throngs of visitors – easily numbering in the thousands – walking through the various light fixtures while holiday music was piped in throughout. I haven’t seen a grander display of exterior illumination since Clark Griswold knocked out half of Chicago’s power grid.

There were marshmallows for roasting…

Just like Griswold, Bentleyville is the pet project of one person – Nathan Bentley. Formerly of Elko, MN (and later Cloquet, MN), Bentley’s passion for Christmas lights made his house one of the most popular drive-by visits in the state. Bentley continued to go over-the-top, even bringing in “Santa” on weekends to take wish lists from local kids. Eventually he contracted space for parking lots and buses to manage all the visitors coming to his country home. In 2009, the city of Duluth took up the bill and granted Bentley some prime real estate and Bentleyville was born.

If it wasn’t so cold, I’d camp out here too…

Of course Santa’s here, and Mrs. Claus too (complete with her own house and line of kids). There are stands for hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn and marshmallows (to roast in the fire pits). It’s all free of charge (sans $5 for parking and free will donation boxes). Despite it being on the low end of ten degrees (and snowing), the glow of the lights and the uplifting holiday spirit made me quickly forget that my fingers were about to freeze off (ooh, that cold Lake Superior air).

All in all, a great Christmas-themed stop for the Holiday Roady. They got a great thing going on in Bentleyville, pop. 1,000,000 lights and counting…

(For more information on Bentleyville, click here)


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