We’ve all driven past that thing that made us ask, “What was that?” We rarely stop because we’re too busy getting to where we’re going, and odds are, we forget to look it up later.
In the spirit of enjoying oddities along Minnesota’s roads, we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorites, which are scattered around Minnesota’s Resort Country… which is throughout the state of Minnesota. These attractions make for great detours along the way to your resort, or as you’re exploring the towns around your vacation spot.
1. Big Ole, Alexandria
Built in 1965 as an attraction for the New York World’s Fair, the 28-foot tall Viking bore a shield emblazoned with “Alexandria, Birthplace of America.” After the Fair, Big Ole was shipped to Alexandria, where he was installed in a small traffic island. This might seem strange, as there are hundreds of other towns named Alexandria across the country: In 1898, a rune-covered stone was discovered in Alexandria, leading archeologists to think Vikings had settled there. In 1910, the runestone was declared fake, but locals embraced the legend. To honor this connection, Big Ole was moved to face the town’s Runestone Museum.
2. World’s largest crow, Belgrade
An 18-foot tall crow on top of a 30-foot replica twig guards the Belgrade Centennial Memorial Park. The crow — which has a museum at its base — was built in 1988 to honor Minnesota’s centennial. The park is near Crow River, which feeds into Crow Lake; both were named after Sioux warrior Chief Little Crow. The crow can be seen on the left side of Highway 71 in Belgrade.
3. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Bemidji
Designated as the second most photographed site in the U.S., Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox have kept watch over the townsfolk of Bemidji since 1937. Built by locals, the pair served as mascots for a lumberjack-themed winter carnival that was meant to help boost Bemidji’s tourist season. It must have worked because the statues remain. Paul is 18 feet tall and sports a wooden mustache and pipe, and Babe is about 10 feet tall. They were even added to the National Register of Historic Places (https://www.gsa.gov/real-estate/historic-preservation/historic-building-stewardship/national-register-of-historic-places) in 1988.
4. Jolly Green Giant, Blue Earth
The 55-foot statue was not built by the Jolly Green Giant company, but by Paul Hedberg, the former owner of AM radio station KBEW. Erected on July 6, 1979, the Giant had an eight-foot-high base with a staircase so tourists could climb up and pose for pictures. Upon completion, it was the fifth-largest freestanding statue in the U.S.
5. Frank Lloyd Wright gas station, Cloquet
Frank Lloyd Wright designed Cloquet’s gas station as part of his utopian city plan. Originally intended for Buffalo, NY, it was built in Cloquet instead for R.W. Lindholm, who was in the petroleum business and whose house was also designed by Wright. The uniquely designed gas station opened in 1958, and is still in operation today.
6. Largest ball of twine rolled by one man, Darwin
Rolled by Francis Johnson, the ball of twine tips the scales at 17,400 pounds and is a whopping 12 feet in diameter. It took Johnson 29 years to make — the artist spent about four hours a day on it. The ball of twine is on First Street in Darwin, next to the water tower.
7. Mushroom building, Dassel
The small, white, cylindrical building has a maroon, half-sphere roof and looks exactly like a mushroom. Built in 1931 as a gas station, it has also been a dentist’s and a realtor’s office. It was restored by the Dassel Area Historical Society and community volunteers, and now serves as the town’s cultural hub.
8. Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum, Duluth
Standing 30 feet from Duluth’s shore, the structure looks like an upturned house jutting out of the lake. Some say it was a bunker or ice house; others say it was an illegal casino during Prohibition. History says that it was built in 1919 as the foundation of an unloading dock for local businessman Harvey Whitney, but boats couldn’t get close enough to unload, so the project was abandoned in 1922. Today, tourists can be seen jumping from it into the waters of Lake Superior.
9. World’s largest Dilly Bar, Moorhead
The local Dairy Queen installed the 12-foot tall Dilly Bar statue in 2018 to commemorate the frozen treat, which was invented at the Moorhead restaurant in 1955.
10. World’s largest pelican, Pelican Rapids
Pete the Pelican resides at the base of the Mill Pond dam on the Pelican River. Built in 1957, Pete stands 15-1/2 feet tall and is definitely worth the detour and Instagram photo op.
There are hundreds of Minnesota resorts near these roadside oddities. Book your next stay today! https://minnesota-resorts.com/resorts/
By: Caitlin Koenig
Photos for Unusual Attractions-
Largest ball of twine photo credit: exploreminnesota.com
Uncle Harvey’s mausoleum photo credit: visitduluth.com
Big Ole, World’s largest crow, Jolly Green Giant,
Frank Lloyd Wright gas station, Mushroom building,
World’s largest Dilly Bar photo credit: roadsideamerica.com