A Nostalgic Visit to Paul Bunyan Land

Many Minnesotans have fond memories of visiting Paul Bunyan Land as children. Nowadays, this famous attraction has even more for all ages!


“Oh boy!” said Pete to the rest of our group. “One of the highlights for us kids on our summer trips to the cabin was visiting Paul Bunyan Land. You know, he talks to you and everything! He even knew my name!”

Photo Credit: Paul Bunyan Land
Photo Credit: Paul Bunyan Land

If you grew up in the Northern United States, chances are you know the mythical legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Formulated out of anecdotal storytelling from logging camps in the late 19th century, the legend appeared in various print publications beginning in 1904 with a story in the Duluth News Tribune. Paul Bunyan was a lumberman’s Goliath, capable of superhuman feats. His folkloric exploits were co-opted into advertising and promotional campaigns for destinations, consumer products, and services. At the same time, the stories were adapted into children’s storybooks and even a short animated feature in technicolor by Walt Disney Studios.

In the Upper Midwest, statues of the mythical lumberjack and his sturdy blue companion are found all over: the Mall of America, Bemidji, Eau Claire, the Brainerd (Minnesota) Welcome Center and Ossineke (Michigan). But arguably the most famous Paul is the one at Paul Bunyan Land, now located six miles east of Brainerd on Highway 18. After the original 6-acre amusement park’s location was acquired for retail development, the current owners of Paul Bunyan Land moved Paul, Babe, his dog, and all the rides and buildings in 2003. They expanded the operation by incorporating an existing attraction, The Old Farm Pioneer Village, which had occupied part of the new 23-acre site.

Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage Amusement Park Rides at Paul Bunyan Land

The Old Farm Pioneer Village features more than 40 buildings and contents dating from the late 1800s to the 1940s.

Paul Bunyan Land
The entrance to This Old Farm at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Beautiful settlers’ cabin at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage implements outside the settlers’ cabin at Paul Bunyan Land

The antiques and displays spark all kinds of nostalgia: a pioneer’s log home, a vintage one-room schoolhouse, an old-time gas station and general store, mechanical sheds, farm and firefighting vehicles, barber and beauty shops, and even a petting zoo.

Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage Buildings at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Vintage Building at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Storefronts at Paul Bunyan Land
Paul Bunyan Land
Classic cars at Paul Bunyan Land
Mrs Pumpkin Eater
Storybook building at Paul Bunyan Land with Mrs Pumpkin Eater!

But the biggest attraction at Paul Bunyan Land is Paul himself. The mechanical statue weighs over 4,000 pounds and was moved intact to the new location so as to not traumatize young spectators along its route. We got to ask Paul a few questions during our visit and he even sang a version of an old Dave Clark Five song to us, changing the lyrics from “Glad All Over” to “Plaid All Over.” It’s all in great fun!

Speaking of fun, one of the weirdest Paul Bunyan stories has to do with his dog, Sport. Known as the “Reversible Dog,” Sport, who was accidentally cut in two by a lumberman’s ax, was hastily stitched back together with his hindquarters upside down. As the story goes, Sport doesn’t really care. When he gets tired, he just flips over and runs on his back legs.

Paul Bunyan Land
Pete recreates a childhood memory of having his photo taken with Sport, the Upside Down Dog

A visit to Paul Bunyan Land will be fun for the entire family. Admission includes full access to the vintage displays and unlimited rides on 20 vintage amusements such as Dodgem cars, Ferris Wheel, and Tilt-a-Whirl. The Amusement Park’s Memorial to Labor Day season is augmented with a Haunted House and Corn Maze at Halloween, and an Enchanted Village open for three weekends in December with more than 40 holiday displays. Other special events such as Pioneer Days in August (which features a parade of vintage vehicles) add to the enjoyment. Concessions, a cafe and a gift shop round out the offerings.

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How did Pete fare during our nostalgic visit to Paul Bunyan Land? He may just have had a better time than anyone! This attraction is timeless, and like many visitors, we’ll look forward to bringing our grandkids (when we’re so blessed) here and re-live the magic!

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Tips and Particulars: Paul Bunyan Land is located on Highway 18 six miles east of Brainerd, Minnesota. Open daily from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, 10am to 6pm. Check out Hidden Hollows, their Halloween seasonal attraction and the Enchanted Village with free admission to more than 40 displays on weekends in December.

Disclosure: We were the guests of Paul Bunyan Land during a recent press trip with Explore Minnesota.