BEMIDJI - A jewel of the Northwoods, the city of Bemidji and surrounding area offers something for everyone.
It's the perfect retreat, plush with beautiful scenery, abundant recreation, arts and cultural opportunities, for those seeking a change of pace.
Iconic roadside attractions, pristine lakes and forests and an event calendar packed for the adventure seeker assure those who live and visit Bemidji have a bit of everything.
A regional hub of activity, the First City on the Mississippi offers year round recreation, shopping and activities, with big city amenities and small town charm.
Whether you're looking for a place to get away from the daily grind, or someplace to fill a vacation full of fun, the Bemidji area offers the best of both worlds.
This year, Bemidjians celebrate the 75th birthday of Paul Bunyan and his faithful sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox.
The 18-foot statue, in historic downtown, was put up in 1937 along picturesque Lake Bemidji.
Here are 50 fun things to do in the Bemidji area:
1. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox -- Paul Bunyan towering 18 feet tall and his Blue Ox Babe stand along the shore of Lake Bemidji near the Tourist Information Center. Built in 1937, Paul and Babe were recognized by Eastman Kodak as the second most photographed icons in the nation behind only Mount Rushmore. Celebrate the 75th anniversary by visiting and taking a commemorative photo.
2. Devotion Paintball and Laser Tag -- Best course in northern Minnesota with six playing fields and full retail shop. Mobile option -- the business brings the paintball or laser tag equipment to your indoor or outdoor location. Fields open any time by appointment.
3. Disc golf -- The newly updated 18-hole disc golf course is located in Bemidji's City Park. This wooded course features two levels of difficulty, concrete tee pads and water hazards. The parking lot entrance for the disc golf course is off of 23rd Street Northwest, just west of the National Guard Armory.
4. Geocaching -- Caching opportunities are rapidly growing in the Bemidji area. There are caches with easy access around downtown Bemidji or more challenging access at Lake Bemidji State Park and other beautiful locations in the surrounding forests and attraction locations. Search www.geocaching.com by zip code 56601.
5. Cinema -- Movies are fun. Bemidji Theatre offers private showings for both current and older movies, delivering the perfect get-together for schools, businesses and other organizations. The theatre offers daily matinees, stadium seating, digital sound and a full concession stand.
6. Paul Bunyan Animal Land -- Lions, tigers, bears, camels, leopards, kangaroos, cougars, bobcats, three species of deer, elk, llamas, donkeys, lemurs, monkeys, raccoons, fox, reptiles, exotic birds, amazing bugs and various small mammals are just a few of the animals who make their home at Animal Land. The wildlife park/petting zoo is home to nearly 100 animals representing every continent on earth. Indoor learning center, gift shop, picnic areas, playground and RV parking. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. Birthday parties, group rates, traveling educational programs and more.
7. Putt-N-Go Amusement Park -- It's a bonanza of fun in one place with a giant waterslide (smooth riding fiberglass flume, heated pool water, curves, drops and tunnel), go-carts, miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, showers, changing rooms and special attractions for children.
8. Bemidji Bowl -- 24 lanes include: 8 boutique lanes, 35 Redemption arcade area, 3 pool tables, simulated golf, 13 TVs, private party rooms, full- service bar, pizza and lunch bar.
9. Paul Bunyan Playhouse -- The Paul Bunyan Playhouse is Bemidji's professional live production theatre. Nationally recognized as the longest continually operating summer repertory in Minnesota. Located in the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. It hosts a variety of music and drama performances throughout the summer.
10. Lake Bemidji State Park -- This park is the perfect playground any time of year, offering visitors swimming, boating, fishing, bird watching, hiking, camping, biking, picnicking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and year-around naturalist-led activities. Hikers can explore the beauty of a tamarack bog carpeted with showy lady's slippers, pitcher plants, dragon's mouth, grass pink and insect-eating sundews. Most flowers are blooming in the bog during late spring and early summer.
11. Bemidji Community Art Center -- Located in Library Park along the downtown waterfront area of Lake Bemidji, this historic center hosts photography, painting, art and craft exhibits throughout the year.
12. Wild Rose Theater -- The Wild Rose Theater offers a variety of stage performances throughout the year. In addition to performance arts, the space houses the Fleur De Lis art gallery on the third floor with art showings each month as part of the First Friday Art Walk.
13. Gallery North -- A non-profit cooperative art gallery under the sponsorship of the Northern Artist Association, gives members a place to display and sell work, encourages growth, builds confidence and provides public exposure for art, while emphasizing variety and individuality. A cooperative art gallery filled with original creations available for purchase in a variety of mediums.
14. Ceramics and pottery -- Glazed and Amused, a locally owned and operated paint-your-own ceramics studio, is located in the heart of beautiful downtown Bemidji, just steps away from the iconic "Paul & Babe" statues. At Glazed and Amused you can relax by yourself or enjoy time with family and friends.
15. Dancing -- The Suzy and Hondo School of Dance is tucked in the forest and located on Tyler Avenue Southeast in Bemidji Township. Since 1998, the school has offered group and private lessons. They teach social, ballroom, Latin and swing dances. Once goals are firmly established you can begin to combine lessons, practice sessions and dancing nights out.
16. Headwaters School of Music and the Arts -- A place where a wide variety of arts activities take place, from chamber music concerts and children's theater productions to large-scale projects like clay arts, metal sculpture and mural painting. Artworks Programs on Saturdays and during school vacations. Weekend workshops for children, teens and adults featuring guest artists. Ongoing group classes and private lessons for all ages in a variety of artistic disciplines.
17. Beltrami County History Center -- The Great Northern Depot is of historical significance since it was the last depot built by "empire builder" James J. Hill. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988. Built in 1912, the arched framework of the depot windows represents a neo-classic design. The depot is also associated with two statewide historical events: agricultural development and railroad construction and the northern Minnesota lumbering era, all of which took place between 1870 and 1920. The depot represents a broad diversity of people who lived and continue to live in this area. The depot has been restored to house the Beltrami County History Center, a full-service history center which includes a three gallery museum, research library, public archives, gift shop and meeting room.
18. Bemidji State University -- Tour Minnesota's only lakeside campus, with its natural history collection, art galleries and historic buildings. BSU's Outdoor Program Center offers sailboat, ski boat, canoe and pontoon rentals along with instruction, equipment and guide services.
19. Concordia Language Villages -- Visit the unique educational and cultural grounds of Concordia Language Villages northeast of Bemidji. Students come to live the culture and speak the language of 13 different languages with five permanent villages: Norwegian, German, Finnish, French and Spanish. Special events to the tradition of the village you're visiting are available. Twice each summer, villagers and staff meet at Waldsee, the German Language Village, to celebrate International Day. This gathering is open to everyone and requires no admission fee. This year the events are planned for July 6 and Aug. 10.
20. Headwaters Science Center -- An engaging science-oriented center located in downtown Bemidji. It offers a variety of opportunities to explore the sciences through activities, an interactive exhibit floor and a unique gift shop. Please call for more information or register for demonstrations, Tots-in-Science, birthday parties and summer camps as well as many other programs and activities.
21. First Friday Art Walk -- On the first Friday of each month, Bemidji celebrates the arts by opening its doors for a night of visual, literary and performance entertainment. Art lovers can stroll from one art opening to the next, explore new art work from local and regional artists, and find food and drinks along the way. Talk to artists talk about their work, listen to live music, attend a book signing, watch a demonstration and share your passion for the arts with others.
22. Itasca State Park -- Established in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park. Today the park totals more than 32,000 acres and includes more than 100 lakes. Walk across the mighty Mississippi as it starts its winding journey 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Stand under towering pines at Preacher's Grove. Visit the Itasca Indian Cemetery or Wegmann's Cabin, landmarks of centuries gone by. Camp under the stars, or stay the night at the historic Douglas Lodge or cabins. Explore Wilderness Drive past the 2,000-acre Wilderness Sanctuary, one of Minnesota's seven National Natural Landmarks.
23. Bemidji Sculpture Walk -- It's the 14th consecutive year as a venue for sculptures and murals on public display throughout the downtown business area. Begin your walking tour by picking up a map at the Tourist Information Center.
24. Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial -- Dedicated May 2006, the memorial is designed to honor the unity and cooperation of the armed forces in defending America and the freedoms we treasure. While it honors all branches of the military, it also focuses on one -- that of Charles Lindberg, one of the Marines who hoisted the first flag on Iwo Jima.
25. Bemidji Speedway -- Quarter-mile oval dirt track auto racing east of Bemidji near Roosevelt Road. Most races are Sunday evenings from May to October. Check the Speedway's calendar of events.
26. Farmers markets -- Bemidji Area Farmers Market: Open Air July 1 - Oct. 31. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays. Seasonal items available. Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market: Open Air June 18 - Nov. 1. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays. Art vendors along with traditional market fare. Both markets are located in downtown Bemidji.
27. Covered Wagon Rides -- Take a unique ride along the historic Continental Divide in an authentic covered wagon at Buena Vista north of Bemidji on County Road 15. It's a beautiful way to view Bemidji's spectacular scenery - especially in fall. See breathtaking vistas of lakes and forests 30 miles distant.
28. Bemidji City Parks -- The city of Bemidji has 19 city parks, ranging from neighborhood playgrounds to lakeside beaches. Recently renovated, Diamond Point Park has a swimming beach, walking trails and picnic and play areas. Some other popular parks are Paul Bunyan Park, Cameron Park, Bemidji City Park and Nymore Park.
29. Berry picking -- Berry picking is popular in Beltrami County. Most growers offer pick-your-own or will pick strawberries, blueberries or raspberries for you if orders are called ahead. Some local farms include Mistic's Berry Farm, Uncle TL's Berry Ranch and Abbie's Acres.
30. Scenic Byway -- Lady Slipper Scenic Byway goes "over the river and through the woods," just like the song says. The river is the Mississippi River, where it passes out of Cass Lake as a wilderness stream, close to the beginning of its long journey. The woods are the pines, aspen and birches of the Chippewa National Forest, which covers a wide expanse of north central Minnesota. This rustic route is one of the 22 Minnesota Scenic Byways.
31. Scuba diving -- PADI Dive Center offering scuba and snorkeling education, equipment, experiences and travel opportunities. Our instructors and staff are professionals eager to help you succeed in your dreams of becoming a scuba diver. At The Dive Depot you can start your diving adventures with your Open Water Scuba Diving class and can work your way up to assistant instructor.
32. Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival -- The festival is once again partnering with the American Cancer Society Beltrami County Relay for Life to invite Cancer Survivor/. Supporter teams to participate in this year's festival, Aug. 2-4. The Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival will feature three days of fun for the entire family. After all, it's not just about Dragon Boat racing. Festival activities will include great food, music, kids activities, a parade of teams, cultural performances and more along the shores of Lake Bemidji.
33. Art in the Park -- The Bemidji Community Art Center's annual Art in the Park has been appealing to local residents and visitors from all over the country since 1967. This juried fine arts and craft fair located in downtown Bemidji on the shores of Lake Bemidji in beautiful, tree lined Library Park and boasts an annual attendance of more than 8,000 visitors during this two-day event. It features more than 120 artists, a dozen food vendors and live entertainment all within easy reach and walking distance to our downtown and all its amenities. Art in the Park will celebrate 45 years on July 21-22.
34. Bemidji Jaycees' Water Carnival -- Family oriented Fourth of July Celebration. Fireworks, midway and food vendors, Kiddie Parade, Bingo Tent, Live Music, Craft Fair. The carnival goes from June 29 to July 4. A parade starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 1, and a fireworks show starts at dusk on Wednesday, July 4.
35. Downtown Days and Lunker Days -- A fun community event that involves a boat parade, a fish fry and social on Friday night near the waterfront and the Kraus Anderson Walleye Classic on June 9.
36. Bemidji Women's Expo -- The sixth annual Women's Expo featuring keynote speaker, Brenda Elsagher, will be Sept. 22 at the Sanford Center. The day is filled with informational seminars, vendors, door prizes and great food.
37. Sanford Center -- Opened in October 2010, the Sanford Center is a 185,000-square-foot facility and is the hub of social, cultural and recreational events in north-central Minnesota. It serves the broader regional community, and is anticipated to have an estimated $13 million annual impact on the economy of north central Minnesota.
38. Bemidji Skate Park -- The concrete park is located on 23rd Street Northwest in Bemidji. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are no fees for using this public skate park. Everyone is welcome to use it any fashion they choose such as skateboarding, BMX biking and more. It is surrounded by gorgeous trees, grass and shrubberies to have an eye appeal of comfort. Lots of parking is available that is shared with a new playground, Bemidji Curling Club, Disc golf field, and a large field for other sporting needs.
39. Golf courses -- The Bemidji Town and Country Club, located on the north shore of Lake Bemidji, hosts one of northern Minnesota's premier golf courses. Its biggest event is the annual Birchmont tournament, scheduled July 23-28 this year. Other area courses include Maple Ridge, Castle Highlands, Sand Trap and Greenwood, each complete with driving ranges, power carts and clubhouses.
40. Boating and fishing -- There isn't a better way to enjoy the lakes than cruising on the water. Fishing is a well-liked activity amongst locals. The larger recreational lakes are popular for sailing, waterskiing and pontooning. Numerous visitors and local community members like to boat through several lakes via the Mississippi River. Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving are the showcases for the city, offering excellent opportunities for walleye, northern pike, yellow perch and muskies.
41. Trails -- The Bemidji area is a recreational lover's dream with a wide range of opportunities, including a network of trails for biking, hiking and running in the summer months. The area features nine trails for cross country skiing within a 15-mile radius of Bemidji, with most open to non-ski season hiking and mountain biking. The paved Paul Bunyan Trail is part of an impressive statewide system, allowing cyclists to connect with Guthrie, Walker and beyond.
42. Beltrami County Fair -- A celebration for those near and far that showcases all that the county has to offer. Plenty of things to do and see for young and old such as children's activities, entertainment, food and merchandise vendors, livestock and agriculture competitions, midway rides and much, much more. We offer free unlimited wagon rides, constant musical and variety entertainment, a free play land for the children and animal shows going on almost all of the time. Fair dates are Aug. 8-12.
43. Coffee shops -- Hot or iced; cappuccino or latte? Coffee has become a year-round drink of choice in the Bemidji Area. From coffee stops such as Cabin Coffee House, Dunn Bros, Cantabria Coffee Company, Wild Hare Bistro and Caribou Coffee, there is always a variety of local flair when it comes to coffee-making throughout the community.
44. Relax and unwind with yoga -- With a variety of yoga studios in Bemidji, including Dionne's OM Yoga Studio and Yoga Bemidji Network. A calm, serene atmosphere allows individuals to release their emotions and revitalize their bodies after a busy summer day.
45. Stroll downtown Bemidji -- Visit some of the area's many local shops featuring moccasins, wild rice, dream catchers, beaded craft items, lumberjack plaid and other area souvenirs. Also, be sure to indulge in the jewelry shops, antique stores, boutiques and second hand shops.
46. Area dining -- There is no shortage of places to eat throughout Bemidji and the surrounding communities. From causal to fine dining, numerous restaurants offer outdoor seating to accommodate the beautiful views of Lake Bemidji. Patrons have numerous choices of dining including: Mexican, Chinese, barbecue pits, vegetarian, hometown cafes and several locally run establishments.
47. Relay for Life - An American Cancer Society-sponsored event, individuals and teams collect donations during the Relay that are used for cancer research, education, advocacy and service programs in the area. This year's event is being held at the Sanford Center on July 14.
48. Kids Fishing Pond - A fishing pond stocked with bluegills and pumpkin seed sunfish is located on First Street Southeast next to the Sanford Center. This is a fun, healthy, family activity that is safe for children of all ages to enjoy. It is a way to introduce young people and their families to the outdoors and the rewarding sport of fishing.
49. Car Show and Swap Meet - The Paul Bunyan Vintage Auto Show will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 22 at Bemidji High School. Enjoy the fun of the car show, swap meet, car corral (cars for sale), misc. vendors, live music, kid's games, car chats, seminars and food vendors. Cost is $5 per adult, and those under 15 are admitted free.
50. Bemidji Library Book Festival -- The festival is a weeklong series (June 11-16) of literary events with author presentations and a writers' workshop every day. At 10:30 a.m. each weekday, a children's author reads to children and adults at a special story time at the library. Every afternoon is a writers' workshop, hosted at the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts. Each evening also has an author event. The Book Fair, featuring local authors, is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. June 15 along with the keynote event with Ann Bancroft at 7 p.m. at Bemidji High School.