Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Bemidji, MN

  • Published 2022/08/16

Even though Bemidji is a small city compared to others in the region, there’s a lot going in this charming town that’s worth the visit.

This Minnesota town is the county seat of Beltrami County and serves as the central city for three Indian reservations: Red Lake, White Earth, and Leech Lake.

In addition, it’s a college town that houses three main institutions, creating a young and diverse population and a bustling art scene.

And it’s also surrounded by many water and land features, including national and state parks, lakes of all sizes, and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Lastly, it’s a sporting hub that proclaims itself as the curling capital of the US, along with numerous hockey tournaments.

Don’t be overwhelmed—this list will guide you to the city’s top spots.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Bemidji, MN:

Cruise the Still Waters of Lake Bemidji

Still Waters of Lake Bemidji

Edgar Lee Espe /

Lake Bemidji is a 7,000-acre lake formed by melting glaciers, and it’s the most prominent physical feature of the city.

It’s a favorite summer destination due to its proximity to the town and the various other attractions surrounding it, such as the Lake Bemidji State Park.

There are many activities to try on the lake, such as kayaking, swimming, canoeing, and waterskiing when the conditions are right.

Trees surrounding Lake Bemidji

Edgar Lee Espe /

Boating to the more remote sections is also recommended, as these spots usually harbor the most fish.

You can try catching freshwater game like crappies, largemouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and various other species.

While on the water, try spotting the various bird species frolicking, feeding, and hunting near the shore.

Lake Bemidji is a great spot for birdwatching because of these diverse avian species.

Daytime view of Lake Bemidji

Edgar Lee Espe /

Go Skiing at Movil Maze Recreation Area

Movil Maze Recreation Area is a little-known attraction located north of Bemidji’s city proper.

This 913-acre destination was created during the first Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon in 1979 when a crisscrossing network of trails was constructed for the event.

Because of how the paths were laid out, the area took on a maze-like appearance that gave it its name.

Today, the attraction has become an all-season destination that offers an array of outdoor activities.

Skiing is still a top sport here during winter, but snowshoeing and snowmobile rides are becoming increasingly popular.

When summer comes, many mountain bikers take advantage of the winding trails for a thrilling experience on the rugged terrain.

You also explore the area on foot or on horseback, whichever you prefer.

Trek the Trails of Lake Bemidji State Park

View of Lake Bemidji State Park

Jacob Boomsma /

Spanning 6,765 acres, the Lake Bemidji State Park is an expansive attraction on the other side of the eponymous lake.

The park’s rolling terrain was created by retreating glaciers in past ice ages, and this created many types of habitats that have been home to diverse wildlife.

From spruce-tamarack bogs to thick forests, there’s a lot of variation in the landscape.

Log cabin at Lake Bemidji State Park

McGhiever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So whichever part of the trail system you choose to explore, you’ll find something new in every corner.

Aside from exploring the woodland and encountering creatures like owls, minks, black bears, and porcupines, there are many activities you can try in the more developed areas.

The sites next to Lake Bemidji are ideal for swimming and kayaking.

Boardwalk at Lake Bemidji State Park

Jacob Boomsma /

If you want to go camping, there are many areas for RVs and traditional tents, complete with modern conveniences for an excellent stay.

Be sure to check out the Visitor Center to learn more about the park, its history, and conservation efforts.

Welcome sign of Lake Bemidji State Park

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Join the Sports Fans at Sanford Center

As mentioned, Bemidji has a thriving sporting culture that focuses more on winter-related games.

The centerpiece of it all is Sanford Center, a 4,700-seat multi-purpose arena and convention center.

While other events happen in the facility, it’s mostly used for the exhilarating hockey tournaments anticipated by locals and visitors.

It hosts the home games of the city’s hockey teams—both the men and women division.

And the matches can get intense, especially when either team is going toe-to-toe with the opponent.

Aside from hockey, the center hosts curling events, basketball games, and other sports that can be done on an indoor court.

There are also concerts, exhibitions, and even private events held in the facility.

Except for the last one, you’re invited to join all the thrilling activities at the center, so bring the whole family!

See the Statues at Paul Bunyan Park

Large lumberjack sculpture of Paul Bunyan Park

Pierrette Guertin /

Paul Bunyan is a legendary lumberjack that frequently appears in American and Canadian folklore.

He is supposed to be a gigantic lumberjack who did superhuman feats, and he was always accompanied by his loyal pet Babe the Blue Ox.

The people of Bemidji have claimed him as their own, so they dedicated one of their community parks to the mythical figure.

The grounds of Paul Bunyan Park

Edgar Lee Espe /

Located next to Lake Bemidji, Paul Bunyan Park is a scenic attraction with vast and verdant grounds, trees, and panoramic views.

But the most prominent attractions here are the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues.

These roadside figures are listed under the National Register of Historic Places and are the most recognized icons of the city.

So make sure to stop by and get up close and personal with these well-known sculptures!

Watch a Thrilling Race at Bemidji Speedway

If you find the sound and sight of zooming racecars exhilarating, then Bemidji Speedway is just for you!

This 1/4 mile dirt track is a well-known spot in the city for thrilling and bombastic stock car races.

You may bring the whole family or friend group over and watch as multicolored and oddly-shaped vehicles race to the finish line.

It’s as loud and rowdy as it can get!

Marvel at Beautiful Exhibits at Watermark Art Center

Visual art aficionados will have a grand time exploring the halls of Bemidji’s Watermark Art Center.

This facility was founded in 1982 and was established to serve as a hub for the city’s art scene.

The name “Watermark” has a lot of meaning, but one of the most fascinating interpretations is that it honors the lakes, rivers, and streams of the state, which all have been embedded in the culture and consciousness of the people.

Today, the center provides space for art exhibits, workshops, and even author readings.

So during your visit, you can expect stunning works of art by local and national artists, whether it be paintings, sculptures, or installation pieces.

On occasion, the center holds art festivals where everyone is invited to join.

So if you want to showcase your talent, be sure to participate in these activities.

Have a Fun Family Day at Diamond Point Park

Winter scene of Diamond Point Park

Edgar Lee Espe /

One of the aforementioned waterside attractions next to Bemidji Lake is Diamond Point Park.

This is another outdoor destination frequented by locals and visitors alike because of its gorgeous sceneries and modern amenities.

Having been around since 1917, this facility holds the title of being the oldest park in the city.

Over the years, it’s been redesigned and renovated to fit contemporary needs.

Today, the park has large open spaces with a scattering of trees, a boat launch, many shelters and pavilions, and picnic spaces.

One of the most visited sections is the small beach, which offers swimming and shore fishing opportunities.

These features come together to create a wonderful pocket of green space in the city, which incidentally was given an Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Recreation and Parks Association.

Explore the Trails of Buena Vista State Forest

Because of Bemidji’s location, there are many state and national forests surrounding it.

One of the closest and most expansive ones is Buena Vista State Forest, which covers a total area of 18,693 acres.

This ecological hotspot was also shaped by glaciers, resulting in diverse habitats that are home to many native flora and fauna.

You can check out these unique sections by exploring the trails traversing scenic valleys and climbing high ridges.

There are also other activities to try like backcountry camping, hunting, and swimming in the many lakes and rivers within the state forest.

Landscape photography is highly recommended, especially in the fall when the forests change colors.

During winter, snowmobile rides and skiing are ideal on the gentle slopes of the mountains.

Step Back in Time at Beltrami County History Center

Exterior of Beltrami County History Center

Edgar Lee Espe /

The county of Beltrami has an extensive and colorful past that’s celebrated today at Beltrami County History Center.

From the last glacial period to modern history, the facility features exhibits covering every notable era in the region.

So if you’re a history buff, be sure to make a stopover at this intriguing and educational attraction.

There are many things to see, such as the weaving exhibit that showcases baskets and beadwork made by Native Americans.

Snowy grounds of Beltrami County History Center

Edgar Lee Espe /

At the retro photography collection, you’ll find well-preserved photographs of Beltrami during the bygone years.

Finally, the Trails Through Time exhibit offers a modern approach to learning the county’s history, with touch-screen stations and interactive displays.

There are also special events on occasion, so check out their website to join one of these engaging and informative activities.

Go Camping at the Mississippi Headwaters State Forest

The waters of Mississippi Headwaters State Forest

Edgar Lee Espe /

The Mississippi Headwaters State Forest is the largest natural attraction in Bemidji, covering 45,290 acres in total.

It’s named because Lake Itasca, the main water source of the lengthy Mississippi River, is located within its boundaries.

And like most of the land features in the region, this state forest was shaped by glaciation.

So there aren’t any huge mountains, but there are rolling hills and flat expanses that hide small bodies of water.

And in these flatlands, there’s a diverse set of habitats that are home to many species of wildlife.

Exploring these wonders via the park’s winding trails is a favorite activity here, along with dispersed camping and hunting.

In the many ponds, rivers, and lakes, you can go fishing, swimming, kayaking.

Whichever season you visit, there’s a lot of things you can do while at this magnificent location.

Catch a Show at the Chief Theater

The Chief Theater is the hotspot of performance art not just in the Bemidji but the whole region.

Since it was established in 1937, the facility has continued to serve as the venue for world-class theater plays and other shows.

It’s also the base of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse theater company, the oldest professional summer stock company in the whole state.

Under their care, the attraction has remained a culturally significant institution in Bemidji.

They bring in actors from all over the country as well as accomplished playwrights to produce shows that provoke the mind and entertain the heart.

Within the 310-seat facility, you’d be treated to show-stopping performances and engaging stories that will have you in awe of human talent.

So check out their website and book a ticket for their next show during your trip.

Try Sunbathing at Cameron Park

Picnic area at Cameron Park

Edgar Lee Espe /

There is no shortage of waterside public spaces in Bemidji, and one of these is the quaint Cameron Park.

One of its most prominent features is a small, sandy beach.

It’s a great little spot for sunbathing and also serves as the entrance to the swimming area right in front of it.

In addition, the park has wide, verdant grounds, well-paved trails, shady trees, and picnic benches underneath.

If you’re up for more lake adventures, the park’s northern section has a kayak launch.

And if you bring kids to your trip, you can let them stay on the well-equipped playground and socialize with other children.

Play a Few Rounds at Bemidji Town and Country Club

Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, you’re still guaranteed a great gameplay here at Bemidji Town and Country Club.

It’s a seasonal golf course located in the northern section of Bemidji Lake.

So there are no urban developments anywhere, just rolling fairways, tall pines, and manicured greens.

Players will enjoy the beautiful views of the lake while playing on the 18-hole course.

It’s beginner-friendly, but don’t let your guard down as there are some tight spots that require skillful maneuvering.

When the course is closed during winter, the rest of the facility is available for holiday parties, private celebrations, and casual dining.

So you can still stop by and sample the delicious dishes and marvel at the magnificent views of North Shore Grille, their restaurant.

Let the Kids Learn at Headwaters Science Center

For those bringing children to their trip, make sure to stop by Headwaters Science Center.

And even if you’re not a kid, you’re still welcome to enjoy all the exhibits of this attraction.

The center was established in 1993 to create a space where young learners can learn about various scientific concepts outside of the classroom.

And this mission continues today, with new exhibits and programs added to stimulate kids’ creativity, imagination, and critical thinking.

From kinetic sculptures to aquariums, from complicated contraptions to intriguing illusions, there are more than 70 hands-on exhibits within the facility’s halls.

So you and your child can spend hours trying out each one and observing scientific principles at work.

Bond with Your Family at Bemidji City Park

There are many fun things to do for the whole family at Bemidji City Park, too.

There are a lot of pathways for walking and riding so that you may explore practically the entire park.

Since the paths are mainly level, they are suitable for individuals of all ages and abilities.

In addition, spread throughout the park is many kid-friendly play areas where kids may run about and burn off some energy.

At the same time, the grownups can rest on adjacent picnic tables or benches.

The park features an 18-hole disc golf course and several hiking routes for the more energetic guest.

Everyone may find something to enjoy in Bemidji’s City Park. Just drop by and have a look sometime!

Skate with Your Pals at Bemidji Skatepark

Bemidji is home to an outdoor skatepark known as Bemidji Skatepark.

The park features several ledges, ramps, and rails where riders may do any number of stunts.

Because it is not too large and does not have any enormous death pipes or vertical ramps, it is an ideal location for novice skateboarders.

However, do note that you will need to bring your skateboard.

Suppose you and your pals are looking for a location to get some exercise and practice new skateboarding skills in a natural setting.

In that case, the skatepark in Bemidji is a fantastic option.

Bring Your Kids to Paul Bunyan Animal Land

Check out Paul Bunyan Animal Land on your next family vacation if you’re searching for a fun and educational destination for the little ones.

This park is the city’s largest free-admission petting zoo and nature preserve.

Interactive lessons for kids of all ages are available for birthday parties and field trips.

Animal care is another essential skill to teach your kids.

The facility houses almost a hundred animals from every continent on Earth call Paul Bunyan Animal Land home.

At the zoo, you may find various animals such as kangaroos, camels, raccoons, monkeys, donkeys, kangaroos, lemurs, and deer.

They even have exotic birds, foxes, lions, cougars, leopards, bears, tigers, and many more.

Paul Bunyan Animal Land is home to various friendly and entertaining animals.

Pay a Visit to Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial

The Freedom Defenders Veterans Memorial is not far from the Mississippi River and Lakes Irving and Bemidji.

The memorial represents the respect, unity, and collaboration of the United States military in its fight to protect the rights and liberties of its citizens.

The Marine “Chuck” Lindberg Statue, Stone Pillars, Nine Flags, Service Dogs, and Walk of Honor are just some of the highlights of the memorial dedicated to remembering the men and women of the military.

The sacrifices made by the soldiers on behalf of the United States of America are unknown to most Americans.

Thus, this monument is the perfect place to learn about and celebrate those sacrifices.

Shop Outdoor Apparels at Bemidji Woolen Mills

In 1920, the Bemidji family started what is now known as Bemidji Woolen Mills.

Since its inception, the firm has focused on producing wool clothing for the outdoor sector, and that focus has not changed.

Downtown Bemidji is home to a vast retail outlet, while the industrial park to the south houses the factory.

Bemidji Woolen Mills is the most significant source of high-quality, warm woolen apparel for any outdoor activity.

They rose to prominence after they supplied the sweater vests worn by Rick Santorum, a Republican primary candidate, in 2012.

In a nutshell, you will like the tour since you will learn about the mill’s history and observe how it produces the goods.

You may also get some nice souvenirs to take back to your loved ones.

Final Thoughts

As the center of activity in this region of Minnesota, Bemidji has an endless list of attractions to visit.

From expansive forests to quaint lakeside parks, from noisy hockey games to quiet art galleries, there’s something for every preference.

So when planning your adventures, check out this list and add the top spots to your itinerary.

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