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Get Outta Town!: 48 hours in Bemidji

Photos provided by Visit Bemidji

There’s an old folktale that Lake Bemidji was created out of the footprint of Paul Bunyan. True or not, Bunyan’s footprint is still making an indelible mark on the first city on the Mississippi that was named the best Minnesota town in 2017 by Minnesota Monthly.


3 p.m. – Check-in

While there are many places to stay on the lake, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, you should check out the Lake Bemidji B&B. However, if you’re looking for something historically Bemidji, you should check out Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge. The first cabins were built by George Cochran in 1915. (In fact, cabins 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 23 are the original cabins.) Now under new ownership, the resort still offers many different accommodations, dining options, fishing and water activities.

6 p.m. – Time to eat!

Some Bemidji staples include Turtle River Chophouse, Sparkling Waters and Mi Rancho but if you’re looking for authentic Italian dining, you can’t go wrong with Tutto Bene, a quaint eatery in Downtown Bemidji. There, you can enjoy dishes like wild snow crab ravioli, rabbit and pappardelle or a New York strip.

8 p.m. –Local brews

It’s just a couple block stroll from Tutto Bene to Bemidji Brewing, which has an extensive tap list with local beers ranging from a German Blonde, Oud Bruin Kriek and Maple Syrup Barrel Aged Double Porter. If you’re still hungry, they do have a full food menu, so you might enjoy their brewery nachos paired with a German Blonde or Winter IPA as a little snack.


9 a.m. – Get Your Exercise In

It’s time to burn off those calories from last night’s meal. Head down to the Bemidji State University Rec Center or Lake Bemidji State Park and rent some paddle boards, bikes kayaks or canoes. There’s a bike trail that goes around most of Lake Bemidji with paths that range from four miles to 35 miles. It’s sure to be a good time for everyone.

Noon – Lunchtime

You’re bound to be hungry after all that exercise so it’s time to grab a quick lunch before getting onto the rest of the day. Some good quick lunch spots include Paul Bunyan Sub Shop and Dave’s Pizza but we recommend loading up on some delicious BBQ at Fozzie’s Smokin Bar BQ. There, you’ll be able to find ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, egg rolls and more.

1 p.m. – Time for education

It can’t be all fun and games. If you’re looking for a little education, some of the go-to spots are the Watermark Art Center, Beltrami County History Center, Paul Bunyan Playhouse Theater (try and catch “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Footloose,” their summer musicals) or Suzy and Hondo’s School of Dance. The Headwaters Science Center is also a popular family destination as they have lots of interactive activities for kids.

5 p.m. – Dinner time

For dinner, why not try out one of the new places in town with Bar 209? Also located in the heart of Downtown Bemidji, Bar 209 is in a completely remodeled building and has a unique menu that features numerous unique takes on burgers and sandwiches. If you’re feeling really adventurous, might we suggest the Haba-Haba burger, which features a habanero-jalapeño butter basted burger, simple cabbage habanero slaw, pepper jack cheese and red pepper aioli.

7 p.m. – Live music

One of the most unique ambiances in Bemidji is Brigid’s Pub. This traditional Irish pub features a full food menu, extensive tap list and also has plenty of games to keep the kids entertained. They’re also kid-friendly until 10 p.m. and feature live music from local musicians every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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9 a.m. – Breakfast

Again, there are lots of breakfast joints to enjoy, including Red Stu Breakfast Bar, Minnesota Nice and Wild Hare Bistro and Coffee Company. However, you might want to check out Raphael’s Bakery Cafe for their delicious menu full of breakfast staples like omelets and french toast or enjoy something from their bakery. They must be good because their bakers arrive at 1 a.m. to start preparing for their day.

11 a.m. – Shop ‘til you drop

No trip is complete without a little bit of shopping. In fact, you can just stroll down Third Street in Downtown Bemidji to find a variety of local boutiques, including Yellow Umbrella, Compass Rose and Patterson’s Clothing. You also don’t want to miss Bemidji Woolen Mills on the edge of downtown. This 97-year company is now on its fourth generation owner and features a wide variety of men and women’s products that will make you look like a true Northwoodsman.

1 p.m. – Dessert!

Sure, you can enjoy lunch but why not skip it for some delicious dessert from local staples Big River Scoop or Chocolates Plus before hitting the road. Chocolates Plus has been in Bemidji for over 25 years and specializes in hand made chocolates, fudge and truffles.

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Plan Your Trip

Any weekend you choose is going to be a good time, but if you’re looking for a specific event going on in town, here are a few events to catch:

Loop the Lake Festival (Bike around Lake Bemidji), June 15 at 7:30 a.m.
Come celebrate Bemidji as a bike-friendly community with this festival for everybody that will take you around Lake Bemidji and features food, music, activities and plenty of photo ops.

Bemidji Bird City Celebration, June 22
The Audubon MN Society has designated Bemidji as “Bird City” so come over to celebrate this bird-friendly community, all in Paul Bunyan Park.

Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival, July 3-7
The whole community comes out every year for this fun carnival that takes place right next to Lake Bemidji. This year is sure to be a not miss, as it’s the 75th anniversary.

Dragon Boat Festival, July 31-August 3
Another fun annual event, the Dragon Boat Festival, is four days of fun for the entire family and features great food, music, kid’s activities, parade, cultural performances and, of course, the Dragon Boat race.

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Written by Andrew Jason

Andrew Jason is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media. He oversees the production and the wonderful team behind Fargo Monthly, Fargo INC!, Bison Illustrated and Design and Living magazines. In his free time, he enjoys running marathons and pretending he's a much better piano player than he actually is.

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