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Take a road trip on scenic byways

We live in a state that is rich in culture, history and natural beauty. Whether you have an afternoon or a week to spend, driving and stopping along Minnesota's scenic byways are an excellent way for the family to get out of town and learn about our...

woodpecker iverson.jpg
A pair of pileated woodpecker babies poke their heads out of their nest at Lake Louise State Park north of LeRoy. Photo by Deb Iverson, LeRoy.

We live in a state that is rich in culture, history and natural beauty. Whether you have an afternoon or a week to spend, driving and stopping along Minnesota's scenic byways are an excellent way for the family to get out of town and learn about our state.

Explore Minnesota has mapped out 21 routes throughout the state called scenic byways. Each route contains several cities and landscapes to explore. There are websites for each scenic byway that includes detailed maps, points of interest and lodging options.

Let's explore a few of these destinations in different regions:

Shooting Star Scenic Byway

The southern part of our state is filled with natural beauty and wonderful towns from Adams to Austin. The Shooting Star Scenic Byway runs for 32 miles along Highway 56 in the southeastern corner of Minnesota.

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Landscape Features:Lake Louise State Park, rich agricultural lands, the JC Hormel Nature Center and Niagara Cave in Harmony.

• Enjoy the area's many golf courses, including the Oaks Country Club in Hayfield or the Cedar River Golf Course in Adams.

• This area is one of Minnesota's wildflower routes. Visitors can see many local flower and grass varieties, including this trail's namesake flower, the rare Shooting Star.

• This area is rich in theater with the Brave Community Theater in Spring Valley and The Riverland Theater in Austin.

• Live like a local and join in a small-town celebration in Adams for Dairy Days June 10-12, or stop by LeRoy in late July to attend Summerfest.

Culture/History:Mower County Historical Society in Austin.

Get your Spam on at the new and improved Spam Museum. Learn about this kitsch meat product with audio/visual and hands-on displays and, of course, enjoy free samples.The Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum is a Laura Ingalls Wilder site and includes two floors of exhibits in a building that originates from 1876.

Other stops include National Trout Center, the Amish Tours of Harmony and the Fillmore County History Center.

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Waters of the Dancing Sky

This northernmost scenic byway passes through the top of Minnesota along Minnesota Highway 11 for a total of 229 miles. It encompasses many waterways, parks and opportunities to learn about history.

Landscape Features:Voyageurs National Park, Zippel Bay State Park and Hoyes State Park.

Recreation Ideas:Fishing opportunities abound as this area contains both the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods. Hunt for our state flower, the Lady Slipper. This flower blooms in June. Go birding from Warroad to Karlstad. This area is part of the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail.

Culture/History:Roseau Pioneer Farm & Village in Roseau provides a history of agriculture in the area. In addition to preserving history, they also offer an annual tractor cruise and a fall festival.

Make sure to stop and take your photo with Willie the Walleye in beautiful Baudette. Grand Mound is the largest known Indian burial mound. Stop by the Hockey Hall of Fame in Warroad. The Polaris headquarters are located in Roseau. Visit antique cars and farming equipment at the Kittison County Museum in the City of Lake Bronson.

The Warroad Heritage Center and Museum includes Native American artifacts and tells the history of the area in regard to the pioneers, military and fur trade. Visit historic gold mining sites along Rainy River

Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway

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Named for one of Minnesota's favorite legends, this scenic byway runs for 54 miles in central Minnesota. It features six unique routes that traverse Crow Wing and Cass counties in the Pequot Lakes area.

Landscape Features:This area boasts two chains of lakes, so visitors can get their fill of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes.

• Pelican Lake: There are many boulder fields in the area that were left behind by glaciers.

Recreation:

• Many birds pass through this region in the spring and fall, perfect for area birders.

• Check out the cities of Pequot Lakes, Crosslake, Jenkins and Pine River for boutique browsing.

• Biking and rollerblading are a great option to see the sights in this region as there are many miles of paved trails. Wind, Water and Wheels and Cycle, Path and Pedal offer opportunities to rent everything from bikes to kayaks to paddle boards.

• The area provides several lakes for fishing.

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• Brainerd zip line tour.

• Brainerd International Raceway.

• Nordic Inn Medieval Dinner Theater.

• Croft Mine Historical Park; Crow Wing County Historical Museum provides history of Native Americans, mining, railroads and lumber.

• Paul Bunyan Land and This Old Farm. This unique destination provides a greeting by the giant Paul Bunyan as well as a look into pioneer farm life.

For more information on Scenic Byways and other vacation destination spots, visit exploreminnesota.com.

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