Minnesota January 20, 2017
Take This Quirky Road Trip To Visit Minnesota’s Most Unique Roadside Attractions
Here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we have more than a few things to keep us occupied in every season of the year. Dozens of state parks, countless nature areas – and of course the 10,000 lakes from which we got our nickname – all add up to create the backbone of our beautiful state. But sometimes? It’s good to get out and see the manmade beauty that Minnesota has to offer.
This road trip to some of Minnesota’s most unique roadside attractions is a tour of Minnesota’s quirky side, full of zany artwork and tributes to Paul Bunyan. While it would be impossible to plan a single trip to see every single roadside attraction in Minnesota, this trip should serve as a good starting point. With 9 cities and 11 stops, It’ll take you to some of our most famous – and lesser-known – roadside wonders.
Since this loop across central and western Minnesota is just over 400 miles long, it would probably be better to take it over a weekend. But that just means you have more time to enjoy the towns that maintain these attractions as their claims to fame.
1. World's Largest Crow - Belgrade
Starting off in the small town of Belgrade, you'll find a massive crow watching over the area. The statue rises over 40 feet from the base to the top of its head. You'll find it along Highway 71 south of Highway 55. Bonus: if it's morning when you arrive in town, you could start your day with a donut from the Belgrade Bakery.
2. Big Ole - Alexandria
Continuing northwest from Belgrade, you'll arrive in Alexandria in about an hour. Being one of the larger towns on this route, there are a few notable roadside attractions in Alexandria. A stop at Big Ole is a must. This 28-foot-tall Viking statue is a the center point of Big Ole Central Park. If you're lucky, the farmer's market will be going on while you stop. It's a great place to load up on fresh veggies for the rest of your trip.
3. Kensington Runestone Replica - Alexandria
Of course, the real runestone is at the Runestone Museum not too far away. To make a day of Alexandria, it wouldn't hurt to pop in to see the real thing - after your photo op at the bigger replica, of course. Here, you'll learn about Minnesota's greatest mystery: is the stone real, or is it a fake?
4. Otto the Otter - Fergus Falls
Every small town has to have a big something to draw in curious visitors. In Fergus Falls, that thing is Otto the Otter. He's been sitting in Adams Park since 1972, after he was built by a group of high school students. At 40 feet long, he's the biggest otter in the world.
5. World's Largest Pelican - Pelican Rapids
The big pelican that stands alongside the Mill Pond dam in Pelican Rapids is quite a sight to see. It's not the tallest statue on this list - about 15 feet tall - but it does have quite an impact against the rush of water falling through the dam. This is a popular fishing spot in town, but we think it would also be a great stop for a picnic.
6. World's Largest Loon - Vergas
Other states have Muffler Men. Minnesota has giant birds. And this bird may be the most Minnesotan of them all. Just 15 miles from Pelican Rapids, the World's Largest Loon stands guard over tiny Vergas, Minnesota. The loon is 20 feet tall and draws crowds who want to see the state bird without hearing its call. Also worth stopping for in Vergas are many local shops.
7. 25-Sport Fishing Pole - Detroit Lakes
This attraction is a bit odd, but we had to include it on the list. It's too quirky not to stop for - especially when you see where it's located. The 25-Sport Fishing Pole is exactly what it sounds like: a giant fishing pole made up of equipment from 25 different sports, from hockey to basketball. It's conveniently located within Putt-N-Bump, a great place to ride go-karts, take a bumper boat break, play mini golf, and more. You'll find it a few miles south of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59.
8. World's Largest Paul Bunyan - Akeley
We couldn't do a list of Minnesota roadside attractions without including at least one Paul Bunyan stop, could we? This giant Paul Bunyan statue might just be the best photo op of the whole trip. This Bunyan is kind enough to kneel so that visitors can take a seat in the palm of his hand. And people have been doing just that since the statue was opened in 1985.
9. Babe the Blue Ox - Brainerd
From Akeley to Brainerd is a longer drive - about 70 miles - but you'll have plenty to discuss at this point. Why? Because two of the most famous Paul Bunyan attractions are yet to come. When you finally arrive in Brainerd, one thing you must do is stop off at the big blue ox. This thing has become a Brainerd landmark and a classic photo op for all Minnesota road trippers and Bunyan lovers.
10. Talking Paul Bunyan - Brainerd
The second Brainerd attraction is a little more involved, but it's worth it. The kitschy Paul Bunyan Land is a classic northern Minnesota destination for decades. Generations of Minnesotan children have wondered just how Paul knew their name. What better way to continue that tradition than to make a stop? It's a great, nostalgic way to end your road trip - and who could resist meeting a talking Paul Bunyan? Meet him at 17553 MN-18 in Brainerd.
11. Hairy Mosquito - Milaca
Another long drive between Brainerd and Milaca will take you through a pretty section of Minnesota along the shores of Mille Lacs Lake. The trip ends with another quirky stop, this time at Minnesota's
other state bird. The large metal sculpture outside of the Hairy Mosquito Trading Company in Milaca beckons you from the roadside to check out what's in store inside. Here, you'll find antiques, souvenirs, and even an ice cream shop. After all that driving, it's the perfect place to stretch your legs. You'll find it on 169 just north of Milaca.
We know there are lots more roadside attractions in Minnesota. What are your favorites? Does your hometown have a unique attraction? Let us know in the comments! If you love checking out Minnesota’s off-the-beaten-track places, you might like this
road trip through Minnesota’s most picturesque small towns.