Sometimes long family road trips mean you don’t get to stop everywhere you want to. Short on time, we made our own adventure with roadside attractions in Minnesota.
It all started with the Vikings. We desperately wanted to see the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, MN but since we ended up halfway through Minnesota early on a Sunday morning, we weren’t going to have time to wait until their Sunday hours.
I’m still somewhat mourning the fact we had to ditch this stop because it looked so awesome. I am so fascinated by the Vikings and I think the kids would have loved it too. Alas, we didn’t have enough time and had to find something to commemorate our time spent driving through Minnesota so we took to the maps to find fascinating roadside attractions.
We were originally clued in to looking for roadside attractions with a stop at Cadillac Ranch in Texas on our PA2AZ road trip, but Big Ole started it all on this particular trip. He was built in 1965 for the New York World Fair of ’64-’65. The kindly Viking just so happens to be the biggest Viking in the country and he inspired us to see what other roadside attractions we could find in Minnesota without getting too far off the beaten path. You can learn more about this giant here.
Favorite Roadside Attractions in Minnesota
- One of the first roadside attractions we swung by was this cute display of metal farm animals in West Union, MN. Cheesy? Sure, but take a moment to look at the details. See if you can figure out what materials (or upcycling) they used to make them. Stinking cute.
- After a visit to Big Ole in Alexandria, MN, we headed a couple blocks away to the Giant Runestone Replica. What can I say? If you can’t see the real deal may as well see the fake. Impressive. I can’t even imagine the real deal being found stuck in some roots of a tree in a field. The grounds here were well manicured with a gorgeous garden I inspected at length and proclaimed I wanted one done exactly like it. It was so peaceful on a Sunday morning. Fair warning, there isn’t any real parking – just on-street.
- If you make it to Runestone Museum while they are open, Spotty the Stuffed Dog is listed as a roadside attraction and you can see “Big Fish Atop a Sign” perched on a bait shop in town. Believe me. I’m not making this up even though I didn’t take the pictures to prove it. I didn’t say all roadside attractions in Minnesota were going to be crazy exciting, did I?
We stopped at Jan’s Diner for some breakfast before we hit the road. About Jan’s Place. There’s not much to say other than classic old diner in a place that definitely needed an update both inside and out. Breakfast was nothing to call home about but the cinnamon rolls….almost as big as my hand and delicious. Go just for those. They were pretty packed out as were the other 2 diners we swung past as we tried to find somewhere to eat.
- Next up we stopped at a Continental Divide Marker in Fergus Falls, MN. It looked super cool but there really wasn’t much information there even though it looked like there would be.
- Fergus Falls was also home to other roadside attractions. For the sake of time, we simply visited Otto the Big Otter. After dodging Canadian Goose landmines just to see him we had no desire to visit his feathered friend nearby – “Large Canada Goose”. That being said, you can see several different roadside attractions in Fergus Falls. You can find them on Google. We’ll let you decide which are legit and which are lame. I also want to note that if you visit Otto tell him we said hi (this request is from my daughter). This park is also a great place to burn off some energy at the playset.
**Trigger Warning** On a more serious note, if you have it in you I recommend a quiet walk through the Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in the park Otto is located. Grab your tissues. It’s incredibly sad but an honor to take a moment to recognize the grief losing a young loved one has on friends and family. And after that, go hug the ones you love and be thankful for the noise and chaos family road trips can be.
Roadside Attractions in Minnesota that make you go “hmmmm”.
- Smiley Face Water Tower – We spent the night in Albany, MN, so this was actually our first roadside attraction in Minnesota and it can be found in Freeport, MN. It was nothing to call home about. We didn’t even get a picture. Seriously, people?! Who listed this as a viable attraction? Or am I missing something?
- And then this….easier to see when traveling east on the highway. Named “Limo Buried Hood-First in a Field.” This is also in West Union, MN and feels like they were trying something Cadillac Ranch style. Don’t blink. You’ll miss it.
- Another one was “big” book sculptures outside a library. It wasn’t worth the drive through the town of Fergus Falls. Now, if we had the chance to be near Detroit Lakes, MN and see “Huge Kid Reading a Book”, that would have been super cool and the kids totally would have gotten their picture with it.
Do you have any favorite roadside attractions in Minnesota or another state? Give us the scoop! Perhaps it will be in our next family road trip adventure.