15 of the Best Things to Do in Bemidji, MN
Did you grow up hearing about the legend of Paul Bunyan? Then if you admire this giant lumberjack and his blue ox, you’ve got to visit Bemidji, MN. It’s known as the supposed birthplace of Paul Bunyan, so it’s worth poking around and seeing what this city’s like!
If you don’t know anything about Minnesota, then you probably don’t know where to start. But don’t worry, as we’ve got you covered. This article will go over 15 of the best things to do in Bemidji, MN!
1. See Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
Of course, the first thing you should do in Bemidji is to go see Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox! These huge statues were built in 1937, so they’ve been around for quite some time. But it was only recently that Paul Bunyan and Babe were added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Parks Service.
You’ll find these statues right on the shore of Lake Bemidji, next to the Tourist Information Center. Paul Bunyan stands at 18 feet tall and 5 feet wide, while Babe stands at 10 feet tall and 23 feet long.
After you’ve snapped a few pictures with these statues, head in to find more photos and artifacts about them, as well as additional information.
2. Spend Time at Lake Bemidji State Park
While you’re in the area, why not head over to Lake Bemidji State Park too? If you’re looking for things to do in Bemidji, MN in the summer, and you want to enjoy the great outdoors, this is the perfect place to be.
There are over 1,600 acres of hiking trails and recreational facilities, as well as pine forests and hiking trails. You’ll be able to walk, hike, and bike, as well as swim, boat, fish, and play volleyball!
For things to do in Bemidji, MN in the winter, you won’t be disappointed here either. You can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing!
3. Catch a Performance From the Paul Bunyan Playhouse
The Paul Bunyan Playhouse is actually a summer production, so you need to be in town during this season to catch a performance from this company. It’s situated in the Chief Theater, so if you’re not in Bemidji for the summer, you can still head over to this theater to watch some outstanding performances.
The playhouse was formed in 1951, and with over 70 years of experience, they’ve impressed both residents and tourists in their audiences.
If you’re searching for fun things to do in Bemidji, MN for couples, then we highly recommend buying some tickets for the Paul Bunyan Playhouse!
4. Go on the Bemidji Sculpture Walk
The Bemidji Sculpture Walk’s been around since 1999. Over the past 2 decades, this walk has displayed many pieces of art for the public to see in the downtown area of Bemidji.
Some pieces (called “encore pieces”) stay on this walk for 2 or 3 years. Afterwards, many are made available for purchase, which then benefits the artists.
This is one of the many kid-friendly things to do in Bemidji, MN. There are plenty of places to stop and take a break if needed as well!
5. Go to the Headwaters Science Center
Headwaters Science Center is another family-friendly place to go in Bemidji. It’s a fantastic way to get your kids interested in science, as there are many hands-on displays and programs.
This science center first opened its doors in summer 1993, and back then, there were just a few modest displays and a small gift shop. In almost 30 years, it’s since grown to have 11 Science Carnival exhibits! There’s also a live animal collection, where you’ll see creatures like snakes, owls, and turtles.
As for the hands-on exhibits, your kids can enjoy Simple Circuits and Animal Menagerie.
6. See a Hockey Game or Concert at Sanford Center
The Sanford Center is a convention center and arena that hosts both hockey games and concerts for Bemidji. It first opened its doors in 2010 and can seat 4,700 people.
Mainly, you’ll be able to catch collegiate hockey games from the men and women’s Bemidji State Beavers teams. Otherwise, a number of concerts are held here, as well as the Gigazone Gaming Championship.
There’s a small part of the Sanford Center with a ballroom that you can rent out for large events as well.
7. Have Fun at Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land
Paul Bunyan’s Animal Land is actually Minnesota’s largest wildlife park and petting zoo. Whether you go alone, with a significant other, or with your kids, everyone’s definitely going to have a fun time!
In this park are almost 100 animal species from all over the world, so it’s spectacular to see. You’ll view anything from coyotes, jackals, and wolves, to kangaroos, camels, and exotic birds.
There’s also a small petting zoo that allows your little ones to feed and pet deer and goats. They can also have fun on the playground, indoor learning center, and picnic areas. And don’t forget to buy some souvenirs in the gift shop!
Read Also: Things to Do in Mankato, MN
8. Spend a Day at the Buena Vista Ski Area
Here’s another thing to do in Bemidji if you’re here during the winter! The Buena Vista Ski Area is packed with many winter activities for those who lead an active lifestyle. For example, you can ski, snowboard, and go tubing.
What’s cool is there’s still plenty to do if you’re here in the summer. For instance, you can take a horse-drawn covered wagon ride, which is an unforgettable experience! You’ll enjoy a guided tour where you’ll see the sights early pioneers and Native Americans saw when traveling through the area.
9. See the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest
The Mississippi Headwaters State Forest spans almost 45,300 acres and stretches across 3 counties: Clearwater, Hubbard, and Beltrami. This forest is full of lush oak, birch, maple, and aspen trees, which give you an amazing view of various types of greenery.
Not only is there a wide variety of trees, but there are also 95 ponds and lakes. If you’re a nature lover, then this will be like a dream, especially since there are numerous camping sites in this state forest.
During the day, you can explore the area by taking the many trails here. You can walk, hike, and mountain bike, as well as go boating, kayaking, or canoeing. In the wintertime, you can also go snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
10. Visit the Beltrami County Historical Center
The Beltrami County Historical Center has been a somewhat transient museum. It first came about in 1952 but moved across several locations. Finally, in 2001, it found a permanent home in the James J. Hill railroad depot, which had been restored.
At the Beltrami County Historical Center, you’ll be able to learn all about the county’s extensive history. Access public archives and view interpretive exhibits.
There are many interesting exhibits, such as Revisiting Beltrami County, The Railroad, and Trails Through Time. Plus, you’ll gaze upon diaries, manuscripts, journals, artifacts, maps, and photographs from throughout the years.
11. Go See a Race on the Bemidji Speedway
Are you a fan of Formula 1 races? Then you need to give Bemidji Speedway a visit!
This dirt racetrack spans a quarter mile and is where all the action happens. Typically, races start after Memorial Weekend, so if you want to catch some races, plan your visit for after that weekend.
If you’d like to stay for a while, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are some lakeside campgrounds next to Bemidji Speedway. This offers you an experience in nature while keeping you close to the races. Just be aware that you’ll need a generator, as there are no hookups.
12. Pay Your Respects at the Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial
The Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial was built to honor all the veterans who have dedicated their lives to the country. The area makes for a nice and peaceful walk where you’ll see many meaningful installations, such as the Stone Pillars, Service Dogs, Walk of Honor, and more.
Even if you don’t personally know anyone in the military, the Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial is sure to give you a newfound appreciation for what these passionate and hardworking individuals have done to ensure you live a life of freedom.
If you bring your kids, this is a great opportunity to show them the importance of the US military.
13. Have a Look Around Bemidji Woolen Mills
Bemidji Woolen Mills might just look like any other retail shop at first glance. But what many visitors don’t know is that this company has been around since 1920, so it’s been a part of the local community for over a century!
As its name suggests, the store sells woolen goods, such as gloves, hats, sweaters, and blankets. Their brand is well-known locally and you can count on them to bring you only the finest woolen products.
They’ve also expanded to carry other high-quality brands, such as North Shore, Arborwear, Dale of Norway, and Fox River.
14. Shop Around at McKenzie Place
Are you stumped on what to bring back for your loved ones? Then worry no more, as McKenzie Place has everything you need!
This is the ultimate gift shop to hit up and buy a number of special items for both yourself and your family and friends.
Inside, there are 11,000 square feet filled with unique merchandise that’s sure to make the people in your life happy. You’ll find a wide variety of things, such as candles, toys, gifts, books, souvenirs, greeting cards, etc.
McKenzie Place also has an online shop, so if you’ve accidentally forgotten to buy a present for someone, just hop online and quickly place an order to get a replacement gift.
15. Grab a Bite and Beer at Bar 209
Bar 209 is wonderfully located, considering it’s next to not just the Mississippi River, but also Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji. So while you’re having a meal or a cold beer, you’ll get to gaze out the windows at a breathtaking view.
If you’re used to and like classic bar food, such as sandwiches, pasta, and burgers, then you’ll feel right at home here at Bar 209. In addition to decent grub, they also serve many local craft beers from the state. They even serve Bemidji Brewing’s beers!
Happy hour is every day from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, so if you want some 2-for-1 deals, visit Bar 209 then!
FAQs on Things to Do in Bemidji
Want to learn more about Bemidji, MN? Then take a look at our FAQ section below.
What Is Bemidji Known For?
Bemidji, MN is known as the supposed birthplace of Paul Bunyan. It’s also nicknamed “The First City on the Mississippi”.
What Is There to Do in Bemidji in the Winter?
There are plenty of winter activities to do in Bemidji, MN! You can go cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, downhill skiing, and ice fishing.
How Far Is Bemidji From the Canadian Border?
If you’re thinking of visiting Canada while up here, there’s good news. Bemidji, MN is just 233 miles (375 kilometers) from Winnipeg!
Have an Amazing Time in Bemidji, MN
After reading this article, now you know that there are so many things to do in Bemidji, MN. As the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, this city already has a claim to fame you can’t ignore.
And with its many parks and trails, nature lovers will have a fulfilling trip in Bemidji. Not to mention, there are lots of places to go if you’re into winter activities.
So for those going to Minnesota soon, put Bemidji on your list of stops. Spending just a day or 2 here will definitely change your life!
Are you going to travel to other parts of Minnesota? Then make sure you read our articles on other fantastic destinations within the state!