As you may have guessed, visiting roadside attractions is one of my family’s favorite vacation pastimes. These quick stops are a great way to break up the monotony of hours in the car or a fun little daytrip escape. Oftentimes, the background of these quirky attractions reveals regional history or have local significance.
This past weekend my family took a two hour drive south on U.S. Route 169 (Interstate 35 is a quicker option) to the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.
We drove through “The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant” which is actually the Minnesota River valley near the town of La Sueur.
We were surprised by the drive’s lush surroundings which seemed to come out of nowhere after miles of cornfields and farmland.
A “Welcome to the Valley” billboard was propped on the side of a hill letting us know we had arrived. My kids thought that was “it” (the giant) and pronounced the attraction lame. Little did they know…
Blue Earth is named for the river by the same name that surrounds the town but it’s the 55-foot Green Giant that has put Blue Earth on the map.
The Jolly Green Giant has been Giant Food’s mascot since 1920’s but this massive statue has only been around since 1978 which was right on cue for the opening of Interstate 90. History fun fact: this section is where the I-90 east and west road crews met and the highway was considered complete.
Naturally, my kids were enthralled by the idea of seeing a “giant” and while they were no doubt impressed by its size, my daughter thought it was hilarious he was wearing a “dress.” Also, while you’re there look for the two dimensional Sprout by the red barn.
How to get to the Jolly Green Giant Statue: Take 35 south from Twin Cities or north from Des Moines. Drive west on I-90 and exit 119. Turn south onto US 169. Drive about a half-mile and make a right onto CR-104/Fairgrounds Road. Turn left onto Giant Drive and look for the little parking lot.
Tip: Bring a picnic lunch to this roadside attraction or visit the nearby Dairy Queen for a treat.
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