50 Wacky Roadside Attractions in Minnesota to Visit with Kids
It all started five years ago in western Minnesota. While on vacation in Otter Tail County, my kids needed to get some energy out at a playground. Because we didn’t have one at our resort, we would often head to the parks in nearby towns to play.
One of the parks we loved to visit is found in the tiny town of Vergas (population 331). Vergas is home to the World’s Largest Loon, and it is the loon that birthed my grand idea. It started when I would look back at my vacation photos. The pictures taken in front of the giant loon were always my favorite. In talking with others at the resort, I learned that there were more roadside attractions in the area. We visited Pelican Pete, the giant pelican in Pelican Rapids, and Otto the Otter in Fergus Falls, each time snapping a photo with our new giant friend.
As I reflected upon our photos and travels, I wondered if there were other giant roadside attractions in Minnesota. Boy, was I surprised after a bit of research! Minnesota is filled with these roadside wonders. While there were a few books written about Minnesota’s weird and wacky roadside attractions, there were no books for children. I had just finished writing and illustrating my first children’s book, ASD and Me: Learning About Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I needed a new project. Sharing these wonderful, weird, and wacky roadside attractions with children of all ages inspired my creative juices. Over the next months, I planned out our “big year” to visit Minnesota’s roadside giants.
Our travels started the following June when we returned to the lake up in Otter Tail County. This area of Minnesota is a hot-spot for giant roadside attractions. After spending a week at the lake, the kids and I headed north to Bemidji to visit Minnesota’s most famous roadside attraction, Paul Bunyan and Babe. We then headed towards home and explored the Leech Lake area on the way. A few weeks later we headed up the north shore and over through the Iron Range. Near the end of summer, the kids and I took a trip up to Lake Mille Lacs and explored the Brainerd area, which is another hot spot for roadside attractions.
I also traveled solo on two occasions, an awesome experience where I received some much-needed rest and relaxation from motherhood. When the kids went back to school, I headed to southwest Minnesota and toured its small towns and visited its roadside giants. Finally, in late September I headed up to International Falls while the trees were at their peak fall color to visit the final giants on my list.
It was amazing to criss-cross Minnesota and visit so many amazing places. I discovered something really wonderful as we explored the small towns that have built these incredible sculptures. Most of them have great family friendly amenities, often right next to the sculpture. They make for great destinations for day trips, weekend getaways, or even extended vacations. The sculptures help to etch the memories on a child’s mind. My kids so often remember the giants and talk about the things we discovered in the towns we visited, and they absolutely love looking at the photographs!
So, here’s my list of 50 Minnesota roadside attractions to check out. There are many more in Minnesota and I am hoping to visit them all someday! Do you have a favorite? Comment below and I will come for a visit! I would love to add a second volume to Minnesota Wonders!
Click on the name of the roadside attraction to see its picture. For visitor information for each town, see the links below.
- Smokey Bear in International Falls
- Big Vic in Ranier
- Big Louie in Barnum
- Uncle Dan Campbell in Big Falls
- Jackpine Savage in Littlefork
- Giant Black Ducks in Blackduck
- Black Bear in Northome
- Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji
- Northern Pike in Eskerine
- Big Moose in Moose Lake
- Voyageur in Cloquet
- Pierre the Voyageur in Two Harbors
- Giant Chairs and Beaver in Beaver Bay
- Rocky Taconite in Silver Bay
- Floating Loon in Virginia
- Big Stick and Hockey Puck, Eveleth
- Iron Man in Chisolm
- Giant Turkey in Frazee
- World’s Largest Loon in Vergas
- Pelican Pelican in Pelican Rapids
- Otto the Otter in Fergus Falls
- Sculpture of Ken Nyberg in Vining
- American Coot in Ashby
- Chief Wenonga in Battle Lake
- Prairie Chicken in Rothsay
- Big Ole in Alexandria
- Tiger Muskie in Nevis
- Paul Bunyan in Ackley
- Lucette (Paul Bunyan’s Fiancée) in Hackensack
- St. Urho in Menahga
- Sea Serpent in Crosby
- Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd
- Giant Fish in Isle
- Lighthouse in Walker
- Paul Bunyan’s Bobber in Pequot Lakes
- Paul Bunyan in Jenkins
- Giant Deer in Deerwood
- Giant Walley in Garrison
- Lou T. Fisk in Madison
- Gnome Park in Dawson
- Giant Ear of Corn in Olivia
- Hermann the German in New Ulm
- Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth
- Peace Pipe in Pipestone
- Dala Horse in Mora
- Francois the Voyager in Pine City
- Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis
- Soaring Jets in Owatonna
- Brown Trout in Preston
For more information about the roadside attractions and towns featured in my list, check out my book Minnesota Wonders.
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