When the weather warms up in Bemidji, Minnesota, it’s the perfect time to get outside for some outdoor exploration, especially if you have adventuresome kids. If you plan to #BeinBemidji this summer, here are some of the top things to do with your kids.
Geocaching is a great activity for explorers of all ages, but especially children. More than 6 million geocachers worldwide search for cleverly hidden containers that hold logbook and small trinkets for trade, and it’s all done using a GPS device or the Geocaching app available on smartphones. Geocaching is a fun, recreational activity to get your kids experiencing the outdoors through technology.
Parents can create a free account through geocaching.com and start exploring with their kids. There are millions of geocaches hidden around the world, and the Bemidji area has more than 1,000 geocaches to be found within the city, along bike paths, in state parks and everywhere in between. New to the sport? GPS units are available to check out from Lake Bemidji State Park for free, along with geocaching instructions and assistance from park staff.
Geocaching is a fun, off-the-beaten-path way to explore a destination by revealing hidden vantage points, or discovering scenic and historic locations. Once you find a geocache, sign and date the logbook, re-hide the geocache exactly how you found it, and share your experience online. This activity will give your kids the opportunity to experience adventure and fun in the legendary Paul Bunyan’s backyard.
Bemidji, granted Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2012, is one of the reasons Minnesota is the second-most Bicycle Friendly State in America. Along with the gem of a trail looping Lake Bemidji, Bemidji has two nationally known trails that route through it. The 3,000-mile Mississippi River Trail connects the wilds of Minnesota to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, and the 123-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail with its northern trailhead is anchored in Lake Bemidji State Park. Shuttle Service allows you to ride the distance you are comfortable with and say “we road” the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Traveling with your kids without bikes? Don’t fret. Bemidji’s Nice Ride BikeShare can get you on the trail and exploring the area. Experience the smells and sounds at a variety of trailside attractions, Mississippi River crossings, lakeside parks and beaches, ice cream shops (a treat for the kids) and eateries.
The kid-friendly Loop the Lake Festival, held the third Saturday of June, is the perfect combination of bike riding, food, music, rest stop activities and scenic beauty. In includes a 17-mile loop on an easy, paved route around Lake Bemidji, and it’s fun for the whole family.
The Lure of the Lake
The lure of the lake continues to pull young and old to its shores to hop into a boat or wiggle toes into a sandy beach. Let the call of the loon, lapping waves and slowly sinking sunsets wash away the stresses of daily life. Bemidji has several lakeside parks and lodging properties with beautiful sandy beaches to play and stay.
There, you can tell your kids the tale of the giant lumberman Paul Bunyan that roamed these north woods, his footprints filling with water creating lakes of all sizes. Statues of Paul and his sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox, greet visitors on the lakeshore in Bemidji. Naturally, water-related activities top the “what to do” list, especially fishing. Check out the weekly fishing report to find out which is the best bait and where is the best place to drop a line in the water with your kids.
From the narrated boat tour of Lake Itasca to a leisurely family-size pontoon ride or paddle up the Mississippi River, the opportunities to be on the water are many.
Kid-Friendly Restaurants and Outdoor Dining
It is no surprise that several of Bemidji’s kid-friendly dining establishments offer lakeside and outdoor dining from prime locations on the water including the Green Mill Restaurant tucked between two Hilton hotels on the south shore of Lake Bemidji and Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge’s Garden Court Grill on the north shore.
Other favorite spots are the rooftop of Sparkling Waters: Dining Between the Lakes and downtown Tutto Bene providing a menu of Italian influenced ingredients and techniques. Make a pit stop at Big River Scoop Ice Cream Shop and share a Babe’s Raft with your kids. The ice cream dish includes several scoops of ice cream in different flavors. Families can also opt to stay for lunch and order a pizza pie. Bemidji has a variety of eateries, coffee shops and bakeries offering al fresco locations from which to enjoy the sights and sounds of the First City on the Mississippi that surround you.