Discover Minnesota's Roadside Wonders | Midwest Living

Discover Minnesota's Roadside Wonders

Minnesota’s quirky roadside attractions include a giant ball of twine, a 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant and several iterations of everyone’s favorite blue ox and lumberman. Hunting down these mythical figures and oddities is the perfect excuse to venture out on a mini road trip and grab some classic photo ops.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox

These two famous friends are well-represented across northern Minnesota.

• Debuting in 1937 for a winter carnival, Bemidji’s 18-foot-high Paul Bunyan, dressed in his signature buffalo plaid shirt and blue jeans, stands proudly beside Babe, his blue pal.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox 

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota

• A talking Paul (from 1954) and Babe (1964) grab attention at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd.

Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd.

• An oversized Paul Bunyan kneels outside the Paul Bunyan Historical Museum in Akeley, with one hand low enough for visitors to crawl into.

• Paul’s sweetheart, Lucette, has stood as Hackensack’s larger-than-life centerpiece since 1950.                       

Mythical Men

Legends and lore surround these figures on display in southern and central Minnesota.

The Jolly Green Giant: This 55-foot-tall, 8,000-pound green bean was built to lure motorists off Interstate 90 and into the town of Blue Earth.

Jolly Green Giant

Photo: Courtesy of Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce

• Hermann the German: New Ulm’s symbol of Teutonic heritage since 1897. The 27-foot-tall, sword-wielding chieftain stands atop a 102-foot-tall monument in Hermann Heights Park; climb spiral stairs for a view with Hermann.

New Ulm

New Ulm. Photo: Ackerman + Gruber

 • Big Ole: A 28-foot-tall, helmeted Viking warrior is an artifact of the 1965 New York World’s Fair. Today, he symbolizes a theory of early Norse exploration in the Alexandria area.

Big Fish in Small Ponds 

These fish are as big as the tales told all across the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

• Minnesota’s state fish, the walleye, can be found in larger-than-lake form in Baudette, Garrison, Isle, Rush City and near Lake Kabetogama.

Walleye sculpture in Baudette

Walleye sculpture in Baudette. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota.          

• There’s a giant tiger muskie in Nevis and Bena, a Northern Pike in Deer River and a trout in Preston.

• Madison, the self-proclaimed Lutefisk Capital of the USA, boasts a giant cod named Lou T. Fisk.

World's Largest

Find these (possibly) record-setting everyday items within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities.

• The small town of Darwin preserves Francis A. Johnson’s masterpiece: what’s billed as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine Rolled by One Man. It took Johnson 29 years to construct the 9-ton, 12-foot-wide ball, housed in a glass-sided enclosure. (A larger twine ball sits in Cawker City, Kansas, but it was created by more than one person.)

World's Largest Ball of Twine

Photo courtesy of Explore Minneosta/Jessica Brouillette

• A size 638-D leather boot, crafted for the centennial of the Red Wing Shoe Company in 2005, stars at the Red Wing Shoe Museum in Red Wing. The boot weighs over a ton.

Red Wing boot

Giant boot in Red Wing.

• Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, in Jordan, claims to have the “World’s Largest Soda Selection” with 155 varieties of root beer alone.



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