In a tiny town in the middle of central Minnesota that most have never heard of, lies a Roadside Attractions goldmine. This is Vining- Population 68. There really isn’t much activity here other than a gas station, a post office, and the sculptures of Ken Nyberg strewn about all over town.
Minnesota’s Iron Range sits in a largely forgotten part of the state, north of Duluth, West of the Boundary Waters and pretty far off of any beaten path. A good 3-4 hours from the Twin Cities, it’s more of a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight. Known for its iron ore pit mines, the excavation over the years has left the area spotted with these scenic wonders. This one, the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Open Ore Pit Mine is over three miles long, a mile wide and 535 feet deep.
Without question, one of the all-time great roadside attractions in the state of Minnesota is Big Ole. This larger-than-life Norseman statue is found right down by the lake in the tourist-friendly Alexandria, MN. Big Ole represents the Nordic history in this town’s past – the controversial claim that Vikings were exploring this area as early as the 14th century. Read more about that.
Allegedly the second most photographed statues in the US (behind Mt. Rushmore), Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji, MN are the quintessential roadside attractions of Minnesota. Built in the 1930’s, they continue to be the most recognizable and iconic roadside attractions of Minnesota’s northwoods.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it), Minnesota decided one Bunyan was not enough. So, in the spirit of competition, Paul Bunyan statues started popping up all over the place. Stay tuned for more.
Here in the north-central North Dakota town of Bottineau, on the edge of the Turtle Mountains, sits Tommy Turtle, riding on an old-school snowmobile. One of the all-time classics, this bad boy is worth every second of a trip across the frozen tundra.
While in the area: Check out Lake Metigoshe State Park. One of ND’s best kept secrets. The Lake spans across the border into Canada and is accessible from both countries. This wooded, scenic, recreation-friendly lake might make you almost forget you’re in the middle of the Great Plains.