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Unique Places to See on Your Next Minnesota Road Trip

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Feel the breeze in your hair on a Minnesota road trip / Roy Son

Unique Places to See on Your Next Minnesota Road Trip

By Lisa Meyers McClintick

Minnesota is full of unique, just-off-the-highway attractions ready to entertain the whole family. Plan to visit one of these highway highlights on your next Minnesota road trip.

Kids playing at Franconia Sculpture Park

Kids playing at Franconia Sculpture Park

Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer

More than 100 funky sculptures, from geometrics and a disembodied head to a spotted lizard busting out of a lounge, rise above Franconia Sculpture Park's 43 acres along Highway 8 on the way to Taylors Falls. Artists-in-residence programs keep adding new work to this free, family-friendly attraction.

Treasure City, Royalton

This Highway 10 souvenir stop north of St. Cloud looks so 1960s with wooden signs, pirate cutouts and a man-eating clam, you expect a wood-paneled station wagon in the parking lot. Inside, you can grab a free coffee, cookie and ice for the cooler while browsing a maze of cap guns, sling shots, seashells and tchotchkes. Pick up a handy field guide, wild rice, Minnetonka Moccasins or a snack for the road.

Yellow sign that says Minnesota's Largest Candy Store

Minnesota's Largest Candy Store is a yellow beacon off the highway in Jordan

Minnesota's Largest Candy Store, Jordan

The bright yellow roof and believable claim as "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store!" pulls a steady stream of shoppers—650,000 a year, in fact—to Jordan’s expansive and seasonal Jim’s Apple Barn off Highway 169. Inside, the aisles are heaped with imported and exotic chocolates, gummies, licorice and gum, among other fanciful culinary finds. Don't expect a quick visit and be sure to take cash or checks. As for the "world's biggest outhouse" sign? It's a gag. Flush toilets await behind the green plastic door.

Nyberg Sculpture Park, Vining

Ken Nyberg's sculptures, such as a cup pouring coffee and a giant bare foot, look fascinating from a distance and can be even more intriguing up close. Check out the details, such as an elephant built from more than 900 lawn mower blades, on display in the tiny town of Vining along Highway 210 and the Otter Trail Scenic Byway.

Handmade toys at Lark Toys in Kellogg

Handmade toys at Lark Toys in Kellogg

Lark Toys, Kellogg

Take a scenic spin down Highway 61 and stop at this delightful collection of shops selling toys, games, costumes, musical instruments, books and retro fun in Kellogg. Leave time for exhibits of toys from every decade and a ride on the hand-carved custom carousel with a moose, otter, wizard and more.

SPAM Museum, Austin

Go ahead and make fun of the much-maligned canned meat: The Austin-based Hormel Co. that created SPAM takes a similarly lighthearted approach in this playful (and free) hands-on museum dedicated to the role of canned meat in nourishing WWII soldiers and earning a cult status across the globe. Look for Spambassadors handing out Spamples, and don’t go home without visiting the gift shop.

Other Roadside Giants

For sheer novelty, Minnesota boasts roadside attractions that let you sit in Paul Bunyan’s hand at Akeley, saddle up on Kabetogama's whopper walleye, and pose by Blue Earth’s 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant. In Angle Inlet on Lake of the Woods, there’s a new photo op with a monument marking the northernmost point in the contiguous United States modeled after the well-known southernmost U.S. marker in Key West, Fla.

For big eats, enjoy a Dilly Bar in the shadow of a giant version at Moorhead’s Dairy Queen, where the famed treat was invented. In Bena, walk through a mammoth musky’s mouth for dinner at the Big Fish Supper Club.

Lisa Meyers McClintick

Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website lisamcclintick.com. A mom of three, she especially enjoys family travel, hands-on learning vacations, local food and farms, living history and outdoor adventures.