Almost 250 miles north of the Twin Cities is Bemidji, a sizable community spread along the shores of Lake Bemidji. The town is the county seat, and home to Bemidji State University. It’s also in the heart of the northern part of Minnesota, which means there are ample outdoor recreation opportunities, whether you like to fish, swim, hike, bike, snowmobile, cross-country ski, skate, or snowshoe. Those alone are great reasons to plan a family vacation in the Bemidji area, but as long as you’re going there, here are some additional activities for the whole family.

bemidji lake art walk 2 Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Along the lakeshore is the Lake Bemidji Art Walk, an outdoor sculpture that winds along a grassy trail. Don’t let cool or even cold weather deter you—bundle up and see how different the artwork appears in every season – even a snowy environment. If you start at the Tourist Information Center at the lake, you can pick up a treasure hunt map to aid your exploration.

Lake Bemidji State Park
3401 State Park Road NE
Bemidji, MN
Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Cost: Daily permit $5, longer-term permits available

On the other side of the lake is Lake Bemidji State Park, with plenty of hiking trails, a boardwalk through a bog, and a connection to the Paul Bunyan State Trail.

bemidji headwaters science center Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Headwaters Science Center
413 Beltrami Ave
Bemidji, MN
Hours: Open Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.
Cost: Entrance fees start at $4

A great rainy (or freezing!) day activity is a stop at the Headwaters Science Center. The overarching theme here is “Science You Can Touch”, and that’s exactly what you’ll find—nearly all the exhibits involve hands-on involvement, with varying levels of difficulty for different age groups. Ask the staff about handling the live animals—if you dare!

bemidji beltrami cty history Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Beltrami County History Center
130 Minnesota Ave SW
Bemidji, MN
Hours: Open Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Price $5 for adults; $4 for students and seniors 62 and older; $1 for children 12 and under

Housed in a former railroad depot, the Beltrami County History Center is a small but lively collection of artifacts displaying various aspects of the region’s history, from Native Americans to wedding traditions to medical practices.

bemidji paul bunyan playhouse Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Paul Bunyan Playhouse
314 Beltrami Ave
Bemidji, MN
Open June – August
Cost: Tickets start at $15

If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to check out what’s playing at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, the state’s longest continuously running summer stock theatre. Every summer the Playhouse presents several productions, usually including a musical, and there is often something family friendly on the bill.

bemidji concordia Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Concordia Language Villages
8569 Thorsonveien Road
Bemidji, MN

If you’re interested in having yourself and your kids learn a new language, plan ahead and book a camp at Concordia Language Villages. Even if you don’t want to immerse yourself in a second language, take the time to visit the Villages, just outside of Bemidji. Each language has its own village nestled into the woods, and it’s like visiting another country without having to hop on a transatlantic flight.

bemidji buena vista ski Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Buena Vista Ski Area and Ranch
19600 Irvine Ave NW
Bemidji, MN

North of Bemidji is the dual-purpose park, Buena Vista Ski Area and Ranch. Buena Vista is at the top of the Continental Divide and overlooks nine lakes. When there’s snow on the ground, stop by for some skiing; in the summer, the ski area becomes a “ranch”, and visitors can learn some horsemanship or take a covered wagon ride.

bemidji itasca sp headwaters Family Fun Neighborhood Guide To Bemidji

Photo Credit: Amy C. Rea

Itasca State Park
36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN
Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Cost: Daily permit $5, longer-term permits available

No trip to the Bemidji area would be complete with a visit to nearby Itasca State Park, the state’s oldest state park and home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Even the smallest child (with some helping hands) can cross the Mississippi by foot. Make a day of it; Itasca State Park is a jewel, with all manner of outdoor fun.

Amy C. Rea lives with her family in the Twin Cities. She’s the author of Backroads & Byways of Minnesota and Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes: an Explorer’s Guide. She can also be found chatting about Minnesota travel topics at

Comments (4)
  1. Jonel Axtell says:

    Bemidji is such a great town that not too many people venture to. I went to college and BSU and my dad, sister and brother still live there. There are many activities to do when in town and lots of historical venues to see. Check out the history center which has a veteran memorial outside where big boulders of each of the services are represented. It is really unique to see. Even being “up north” the city does have a mall and down town shopping area. The community grows with BSU in session and almost doubles the population of the city. The colors are really beautiful in the fall. A great 4 hour drive to the north country.

  2. Robert Treuer says:

    A good community in which to live, raise children, and find many friends. Arts and music are strong. We moved here over 50 years ago unto an abandoned farm and planted over half a million trees, welcomed by neighboring farmers. The Indian community is vigorous, traditional culture and language flourish. Of our seven children three are university professors, one an attorney, one about to receive his MD. all consider Bemidji their home town.
    I am a Holocaust survivor proud and grateful to be able to call Bemidji my home, able to live amid a foreswt we planted.

  3. Paul Wrege says:

    Bemidji is a little known gem. I grew up there and love to return. Days of summer were memorable with sunny, blue skies and pleasant temperatures. Swimming and fishing in the many lakes added to the fun. Bemidji State University adds a fine cultural and educational blend to the natural beauty of the entire area.

  4. Justis says:

    Bemidji??? Nothing to see here, move along now, nothing to see. Don’t need citiots coming up here crowding the place up. Perfectly happy the way it is. move along now, nothing to see….

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