I always find it interesting when you come across roadside attractions such as a really, big statue of something and the town or community where it resides makes the claim that it is the “biggest”! Now, I totally understand superlatives. I’m actually the worst at overusing them. (See what I did there?) Just look back through my blog posts and you’ll find that so many things I encounter are my “very favorite” or “the absolute best”. But I’m okay with that. It just shows my exuberance and the extreme kick I get out of random things in life! And that’s probably why I appreciate a really great tourist trap or roadside novelty.
So today, because I love hokey and record-breaking (or so they say) roadside attractions, AND because yesterday was Paul Bunyan Day … we celebrate the BIG man himself, PAUL BUNYAN! Yessireee – it’s a thing – June 28th is National Paul Bunyan Day and I bet you’ve never even celebrated! Well, go put on your plaid, flannel shirt – grab a BIG cup of coffee – sit back and I will share with you the very best places in the USA to see the big man himself – because there most certainly are a few!
Famous P.B.’s in the USA:
Bangor, Maine: Bangor claims to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan – although interestingly enough, the towns of Bemidji and Akeley, Minnesota make the same claim … but more on that later. In reference to the town’s history in the lumber industry, this Paul Bunyan was erected in 1959. Constructed of fiberglass over a metal frame, he weighs around 3,700 pounds and is said to be hurricane proof! That’s always good. And not only do they say he was “born” here, they claim their memorial to the big guy is the “Largest in the World” (of course, they do) measuring in at a whopping 31 feet tall. A few fun facts about this Paul:
- This Paul Bunyan came to life in Stephen King’s 1986 novel, “It”! That traumatizing scene did NOT make either of the movies, however. (Stephen King is actually FROM Bangor, Maine).
- There is a time capsule ensconced in the base of the statue to be opened in the year 2084!
- Although I have not seen it myself – it is reported that Paul Bunyan’s “birth certificate” hangs on the wall at the city clerk’s office.
- The town of Bangor likes to dress their Paul Bunyan up – once he wore a fez for a Shriner’s Convention and another time he wore a bandanna for a Willie Nelson concert.
It’s FREE to stop in and have your picture made with this one – and such a fun whimsical thing to do – so don’t miss this photo opportunity the next time you’re visiting or happening through Bangor, Maine. Contact Info: Bass Park, 519 Main St., Bangor, ME / 207 947-0307.
Portland, Oregon: I really like the looks of this Paul Bunyan in Portland, Oregon. Not the ruggedly handsome Paul Bunyan that we’re used to – this one has a down-to-earth Portland vibe, don’t you think? The only thing more so would be if he was sporting dreadlocks (wouldn’t that be just great?). Constructed in 1959 of concrete over metal to mark the Oregon Centennial, he towers an impressive 31 feet tall at the corner of a busy intersection in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland. He has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places so definitely do a drive-by to see this guy the next time you’re in the area! Contact Info: 8433 N. Interstate Ave., Portland, OR 97217. Looking for other FUN things to do in Portland? Check out our blog post about Portland HERE.
Brainerd, Minnesota: I have not been to see ALL of the Paul Bunyan’s yet. Oh, but rest assured they are all on my “to-do” list. And Brainerd, MN has TWO that I can’t wait to visit! You read that correctly – TWO Paul Bunyan’s!
- The first is located at the Brainerd Visitor’s Center. This Paul Bunyan is on the smaller side at only about 12 feet tall but what makes him unique is that he is sitting on a stump just waiting for tourists to snuggle up in his lap and wave along with him to the camera. This makes for a great multi-tasking travel stop: clean restrooms, racks of those travel brochures that you just can’t help but load up on, and a cozy photo op with Paul Bunyan. Contact Info: 7393 State Highway 371, Brainerd, MN 56401 / 218 829-2838.
- The second is located at none other than … PAUL BUNYAN LAND – a small amusement park located in Brainerd. This version of the legendary lumberjack is housed in a log-cabin structure, has hairy eyebrows and beard (not simply painted on) and TALKS to children! He’s actually animatronic – like at Disneyland! But not. It’s true, since the early 1950’s all 26 feet of this Paul Bunyan has been greeting guests and welcoming them by name. And he’s seated too – imagine how tall he would be if he was standing! This Paul HAS to make your next Minnesota travel itinerary. Contact Info: 17553 State Highway 18, Brainerd, MN 56401 / 218 764-2524 / paulbunyanland.com
Bemidji, Minnesota: Minnesota really does it up right when it comes to Paul Bunyan and probably wins the prize for the most Paul Bunyan related memorials, statues, scenic routes, parks, car washes, sub sandwich shops – you name it – Minnesota has one with a Paul Bunyan theme. So it was no wonder, when visiting the Bemidji Visitor’s Center, that we stumbled across not only this monument to the man, but one to his BFF as well – Babe the Blue Ox. I especially love the look of this Paul Bunyan – broad shouldered, pointy mustache, cute shoes – terrific rendition!
While not even close to being the biggest or tallest Paul Bunyan – this guy’s claim to fame is being the OLDEST Paul Bunyan. Standing only 18 feet tall and made of steel and concrete, this tribute to Bemidji’s era of logging and lumberjacks was constructed way back in 1937. He is located in a beautiful park on the shore of Lake Bemidji at the town Visitor’s Center. Bemidji has a rivalry with Bangor, Maine claiming that THIS is the birthplace of Paul Bunyan and even have his boxers, toothbrush, and other BIG stuff belonging to the famous giant on display in the Visitor’s Center. A great stop for pics of the statue, of course, but also a wonderful spot for a walk around the lake. Contact Info: 300 Bemidji Ave., Bemidji, MN 56601 / 218 759-0164.
Akeley, Minnesota: One final Paul Bunyan from the north woods of Minnesota (and still on my list to visit) is this version found at the town’s historical park. Akeley, too, claims to be the birthplace of Paul and since 1949 tourists have been posing for pictures with his baby cradle to prove it. But it wasn’t until 1985 that the town had an actual statue to go along with and support their claim. This Paul is a massive 4 tons of steel and fiberglass and kneels on one knee inviting visitors to have a seat in the palm of his hand for a photo. He’s a giant while kneeling and if he was standing would tower at 60 feet tall! Now THAT’s a pretty big deal! Contact Info: 112 W. Broadway, Akeley, MN 56433.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin: A very authentic tribute to Paul Bunyan can be found at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The museum opened in 1934 and includes an interpretive center and gift shop. Demonstrations and events such as chainsaw competitions are also held regularly in keeping with the goal of preserving the area’s logging camp history. And appropriately, upon arriving at the museum, you are greeted with statues of Paul and sidekick Babe. Another great place in the north woods to learn about logging and the folklore of Paul Bunyan. Contact Info: 1110 Half Moon Dr., Eau Clarie, WI 54703 / 715 835-6200 / www.paulbunyancamp.org
Minocqua, Wisconsin: What’s better than posing for a picture with a giant statue of an ax-wielding outdoorsman? Why, posing for a picture after eating at his restaurant, that’s what! That’s right – Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty located in the cozy town of Minocqau, Wisconsin is THE place to eat like a lumberjack. You can’t miss their giant sign on Highway 51 smack in the center of town and if you didn’t want to give the place a try before … you will when you see their sign.
Since 1961 the Cook Shanty has been open daily for breakfast and most days for lunch and dinner. Be sure to check their website as they are closed during the winter months. You’ll have to go more than once though. First to try the Logging Camp Breakfast of all-you-can-eat flapjacks, sausage, ham, camp potatoes, eggs, French toast, biscuits and gravy, and their famous buttermilk donuts. And then go back on another day for lunch or dinner and enjoy their all-you-can-eat Paul Bunyan Special of the Day that features things like fried chicken, ribs, fish, and pasta, you know, that stick-to-your-ribs stuff.
The décor is typical of an 1890’s logging camp from the rustic fixtures and oil lamps down to the checkered table cloths and historic logging photos lining the walls. Don’t miss the gift shop for an excellent array of north-woods-inspired gift items and décor, T-shirts, blankets, books and toys. And be sure and snap your picture with Paul and Babe before leaving for the ultimate souvenir! Contact Info: 8653 Highway 51 North, Minocqua, WI 54548 / 715 356-6270 / www.paulbunyans.com
Klamath, California: This Paul Bunyan is the epitome of roadside kitsch – my favorite thing. Located, alongside Babe, at the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California, this giant has been towering over the entrance to the park since 1946 when logging and timber was THE big gig in these parts. This Paul looms at 49 feet tall (actually the tallest – but they don’t brag) and 30,000 pounds! Babe weighs in at 30,000 pounds, herself – a lot of weight for a gal to carry, right? So much, in fact, that her head fell off in 2007 requiring some major reinforcements. These guys are BIG – heck, Paul’s boot alone is 10 feet tall.
Trees of Mystery doesn’t bother with the claim of Paul being born here – the story they stick with is that he retired here because the region is home to the tallest trees on Earth and he needed big ones to use for back scratchers! Paul and Babe are the perfect mascots for Trees of Mystery – home to giant redwood trees and featuring lots of woodcarvings that tell the stories of Paul Bunyan’s exploits. Paul actually talks and welcomes visitors with friendly greetings and questions like, “Hey mister, why are you wearing that silly hat?” Be sure to stop by the next time you visit this northern part of California. Contact Info: 15500 U.S. Highway 101 North, Klamath, CA 95548 / 707 482-2251 / www.treesofmystery.net. Looking for other FUN things to do in northern California? Check out our blog post about the redwoods region of northern California HERE.
I bet you didn’t know Paul Bunyan was such a BIG DEAL, did you? There are loads of historical and educational things to do in the USA. I surely enjoy doing those sorts of things and I LOVE incorporating quirky, fun stops into our itineraries right along with them. Stops like a quick pose with Paul Bunyan. Hope you can make time to see some of them the next time you’re out and about! Until next time …
Check out our family scrapbook HERE to see one of our visits with Paul Bunyan. It’s sort of my memorial to a memorial!
Have you ever posed for a picture with Paul Bunyan? Let us know where you had your brush with this great guy in the comments below