Bemidji isn't a bustling urban center by any stretch, but this small town of 12,000 or so, set in Minnesota's green serene northern woods, has watery horizons that glitter and gleam in a very big way. The local college population provides a lively contrast to the vast silent stretches of untouched wilderness tumbling out to the sky-high horizon. Lake Bemidji stretches away into the distance, crossed by the Mississippi River and as some versions have it, birthplace of tall-tale American hero, Paul Bunyan.
It's said that the steps of this legendary character and his blue ox created Minnesota's ten thousand lakes. Lake Bemidji, as the story goes, is his first footprint. Thanks then, to Bunyan, visitors have a fine range of things to do and see on a visit, from cultural sights in Bemidji to outdoor activity on and around the lake. You can't pass through town though, without at least snapping a quick photo of the Paul Bunyan and Blue Ox statues, but then meander on around Bemidji to see the more modern sculpture efforts of artists in the area. Anyone with an interest in history won't want to miss the very informative exhibits at the Beltrami County History Center, and with time to linger on, consider signing up for a language immersion course at Concordia Language Village.
Winter visitors can hit runs on the small ski area north of town, or head for the Paul Bunyan State Trail for groomed cross-country ski routes and spots to go snowshoe exploring. More tourists wander through during warmer months, flocking to Lake Bemidji State Park to splash around in the water. For a bit of exercise, take a stroll along one of the park's pleasant trails, like the interpretive boardwalk route, Bog Walk. For longer jaunts quick-step towards the Paul Bunyan State Trailhead, also located in the park.
Bemidji is 99 miles north of Brainerd, and 150 miles west of Duluth.