Minnesota Wonders

Alexandria’s “Big Ole”


This week we head to Alexandria, home to the mysterious Runestone and the giant Viking, Big Ole. A great family vacation destination, Alexandria will keep you busy with its beautiful lakes, many museums, and outdoor fun.

Big Ole in Alexandria, Minnesota

Big Ole in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Standing 28 feet tall and weighing 8,000 pounds, the Viking “Big Ole” protects the city of Alexandria with his shield and sword. Built by artist Gordon Shumaker out of fiberglass, Big Ole represented Minnesota in 1965 as part of a display at the World’s Fair in New York City. He stood next to a replica of the Kensington Runestone and proudly proclaimed Minnesota to be the “Birthplace of America.” Originally Big Ole had gray hair, but it was painted blond in 1991. He has been damaged several times due to bad weather and was last renovated in 1997. Look for Big Ole on the south shore of Lake Agnes on Broadway Street.

Outdoor Fun

Central Lakes Trail in Alexandria, Minnesota

Central Lakes Trail in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Bring your bikes and enjoy the Central Lakes Trail, which provides 55 miles of paved trail. The trail runs 11 miles south to Osakis and 44 miles north to Fergus Falls. Visit City Park and enjoy the swimming beach, fishing pier, picnic shelter, and tennis courts as well as a great playground.

If your kids are like mine and love mini golf, head to Casey’s Amusement park for hours of fun. In addition to mini golf, the park features go carts, bumper boats, a batting cage and an arcade.

Museums and Historic Places

Learn about viking exploration at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Learn about the Viking exploration at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.

My kids and I had a great time exploring the Runestone Museum. Found in 1898 by a farmer while clearing land, the Runestone contains a strange language carved on its surface. The message on the stone remained a mystery until Norwegian historian Hjalmar Holand translated the inscription. It describes the dangerous journey of Norwegian explorers to Minnesota in 1362. Scholars throughout history have debated whether or not the stone is a fake.

Making words out of the same letter symbols found on the Runestone.

Making words out of the same letter symbols found on the Runestone.

Donnie and Anna really enjoyed doing some of the hands on kid’s activities in the museum. They also thought the giant replica of a Vikings ship was amazing. They still talk about the Runestone Museum and hope to visit it again someday. It’s located just south of Big Ole on Broadway Street. Visit the museum to learn more about the fascinating mystery of the Runestone.

Alexandria has two other museums to explore. The Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum highlights the history of one of Minnesota favorite pastimes: boating on a lake. You’ll be able to view some beautifully restored boats, fishing memorabilia, and learn about the history of boat building and recreation on Minnesota’s lakes.

The Douglas County Historical Society makes is located in the historic home of former Governor Knute Nelson. Nelson came to Alexandria in 1871 from Norway. He became Minnesota’s only foreign born Governor in 1892 and also served as a U.S. Senator for 28 years. Learn more about this great Minnesotan and tour his home at the Douglas County Historical Society.

Useful Links

Upcoming Events

  • Festival of the Lakes– August 1-16, 2015. A classical chamber music series featuring professional musicians. This year’s festival highlights French composers. See website for locations and concert times.
  • Douglas County Fair– August 20-23, 2015.


Hey kids, color Big Ole!


Click on picture to download coloring page.

Thanks for Reading!



Visiting the city of Alexandria in northwestern Minnesota.

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