From Lakes to Legends: Top Things to Do in Bemidji for a Memorable Vacation.
Bemidji, Minnesota, is a charming city in the state’s north-central part, nestled among a beautiful landscape of forests and lakes.
Known as the “First City on the Mississippi,” Bemidji is home to numerous historical and cultural landmarks, including the famous Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue in Paul Bunyan Park along the shore of Lake Bemidji.
Visitors can also explore the city’s vibrant downtown area, which features a variety of unique shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
One of the key features of Bemidji is its access to outdoor recreation opportunities. The city is situated at the northern end of Lake Bemidji, which provides ample opportunities for fishing, boating, and other water-based activities.
In addition, the surrounding forests and state parks also offer miles of hiking and biking trails and opportunities for hunting, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Bemidji is also home to several notable educational institutions, including Bemidji State University, which offers various undergraduate and graduate programs.
The city is also known for its strong arts and culture scene. It has various events and festivals throughout the year, including the annual Art in the Park festival and the Watermark Art Center’s juried exhibition.
Overall, Bemidji is a vibrant and welcoming city with a strong sense of community and a deep appreciation for its natural surroundings. Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor recreation, or the arts, Bemidji has something to offer visitors of all ages and interests.
Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox Statues
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are a pair of iconic statues located in Bemidji, Minnesota. Built in 1937, the figures were intended to attract the attention of passing motorists during the rise of automobile travel.
Paul Bunyan stands approximately 18 feet tall and measures 5 feet across at his base, while Babe the Blue Ox is about 10 feet tall and measures 8 feet across at the front hooves. From nose to tail, Babe measures approximately 23 feet.
Legend has it that the idea for the giant statue of Paul Bunyan was conceived over a pint in Bemidji. The town had enjoyed a modest tourist trade since the 1890s, with the rise of automobile popularity and affordability in the 1920s contributing to a significant boom in tourism.
However, the Great Depression took its toll on the industry. As a means of stimulating tourism, local civic organizations sponsored a winter carnival in January 1937, unveiling the giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as the carnival mascots.
Today, the statues are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are considered national tourism legends. The statues stand proudly on the shore of Lake Bemidji, welcoming visitors to the Tourist Information Center.
The center displays Paul Bunyan memorabilia. Visitors can marvel at the nationally known historic Fireplace of States, constructed using 900 rocks from every state in the union and every province in Canada.
The statues have also appeared in popular culture, including in the first season of the FX series Fargo, in the film Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, and on a postcard during the movie National Lampoon’s opening sequence Vacation.
Headwaters Science Center
Headwaters Science Center is a science museum in Bemidji, Minnesota that opened its doors in July 1993. The exhibit floor spans 7,500 square feet and is filled with over 70 hands-on exhibits that encourage active participation by visitors of all ages.
Many exhibits require talent and creativity, but all result in a better understanding and appreciation of scientific principles and concepts. In addition, the center is constantly building and adding more exhibits, so visitors can always expect to see something new.
The live animal collection at HSC is maintained for educational purposes to appreciate living things further and demonstrate biological and life history processes. Visitors can handle and examine most of the animals under the supervision of HSC staff, and group demonstrations and activities using live animals can be arranged.
The famous Snake Feeding event takes place on Saturdays at 3:30 pm, and visitors can check the center’s calendar to see if it is a Snake Feeding Day.
In addition to the hands-on exhibits and live animals, HSC offers a variety of programs and demonstrations for visitors to enjoy. For example, the Environmental Science Club is a new program dedicated to conserving and preserving the local and regional environment, focusing on aquatic resources.
Students participate in hands-on, educationally-based programs and field and lab work, including monitoring and analyzing water chemistry. Typical demonstrations last about one-half hour, and group programs are available for a minimum charge of $60.00.
Overall, the Headwaters Science Center provides a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. So whether you’re holding a snake or a bunny, making a harmonograph picture, watching the kinetic sculpture, or contemplating the beauty of the 210-gallon saltwater aquarium, there is something for everyone at HSC.
With its constantly evolving exhibits and programs, visitors are sure to come away with a newfound appreciation for the wonders of science.
Paul Bunyan Park
Paul Bunyan Park, located in Bemidji, Minnesota, is a well-known and popular park among locals and tourists. The park’s most notable feature is the towering statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, which stands tall at the park’s entrance.
The statue is a beloved town icon, and visitors often stop to take photos with the larger-than-life figures.
In addition to the statue, Paul Bunyan Park offers a variety of amenities for visitors to enjoy. The Nimi Statue, a sculpture that honors the area’s Native American heritage, is also located within the park.
The park features a dock and fishing pier that provides easy access to the lake, making it a popular spot for fishing and boating. Visitors can also enjoy the Paul Bunyan Inclusive Playground, which offers a fun and accessible play area for children of all abilities.
The Rotary Pavilion and plaza area with picnic tables make for a great spot to host events and gatherings, and the park’s paved trails provide easy access throughout the park. These trails also connect to the Paul Bunyan State Trail, Diamond Point, and the downtown area via the Lake Shore Trail, making it a convenient and accessible park for locals and tourists alike.
With its prime location along the lakefront and near the downtown area, Paul Bunyan Park is a crucial community park in Bemidji that offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Buena Vista State Forest
Buena Vista State Forest is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts in the heart of northern Minnesota. This sprawling nature preserve is home to various plant and animal species and miles of recreational trails for visitors to explore.
Buena Vista State Forest has something to offer everyone, whether you’re a hiker, biker, skier, or snowmobiler.
Winter visitors can take advantage of the 21 miles of marked snowmobile trails throughout the forest. These well-groomed trails connect to the surrounding counties and offer easy access to Nebish, Blackduck, Turtle River, and Bemidji cities.
For those who prefer cross-country skiing, Buena Vista State Forest boasts over 20 miles of pristine ski trails that weave through the forest’s beautiful landscape. The winter season at Buena Vista State Forest is truly a winter wonderland.
Summer visitors to Buena Vista State Forest will also find plenty of recreational opportunities. With access to public water on several nearby lakes, including Beltrami, Big Bass, Gull, Sandy, and Three Island lakes, visitors can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and fishing to their heart’s content.
The forest offers several picnic areas, shelters, and dispersed camping options for those who prefer to stay on land. With so many ways to explore the natural beauty of Buena Vista State Forest, visitors are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Beltrami County History Center
Located in the heart of historic downtown Bemidji, the Beltrami County History Center is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts.
The museum is housed in the beautifully restored 1912 Great Northern Depot, one of the region’s most unique and recognizable landmarks. As you step inside, you will be transported back to the early days of Bemidji and Beltrami County.
The museum boasts multiple exhibit galleries that showcase the region’s rich history. For example, one of the permanent exhibits delves into the early land and county history, exploring the natural evolution of the land and waterways, as well as the first inhabitants of the region.
The exhibit also highlights the European settlement and the artifacts of Native American communities established before settlement.
Another permanent exhibit takes visitors to the original Great Northern Railroad Ticket Office, where they can try out the depot telegraph, explore railroad tools, and learn more about rail operations.
One of the fascinating exhibits at the Beltrami County History Center is the local Anishinaabe history exhibit. It provides visitors with a glimpse into the culture, traditions, and daily life of the Native American communities that have been an integral part of the region for centuries.
Visitors can learn about the Anishinaabe language, music, and art, as well as their spiritual beliefs and practices. The exhibit also sheds light on the impact of colonization and the efforts of the Anishinaabe people to preserve their heritage and traditions.