Destination Perham: Home of the International Turtle Races

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Perham is a charmer.

A growing little city with big dreams, this hidden gem in western Minnesota boasts a bustling downtown shopping district, fun and family-friendly community festivals and tons of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Seated in the northeastern corner of Otter Tail County, on the Highway 10 corridor between Wadena and Detroit Lakes, Perham’s year-round residents number around 3,500, but the area’s population swells to three times that in the summers, when seasonal lake home and cabin owners are factored in.

All those folks are kept entertained with community events like Turtle Fest, the East Otter Tail County Fair and the holiday season Parade of Lights, to name just a few. In addition, the area’s mix of prairie, wetlands and forests, with its record number of lakes and other waterways, creates the perfect environment for wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, birding, swimming, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, and the list goes on.

Perham is home to two renowned museums, a dog park, traditional and disc golf courses, the historic Pioneer Village, a skate park, a retro-style movie theater, a community pool and fitness center, and public library.

Walking paths and recreational trails wind through town, connecting to the city’s parks, schools and athletic fields. A map of the town’s trails and parks can be found HERE.

Downtown, Perham’s shopping corridor is a consistent hit with visitors, with a unique variety of specialty shops, clothing stores, eateries and more. Learn more about the city of Perham and all it has to offer by clicking HERE.

(Perham Focus File Image)

(Perham Focus File Image)

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(Perham Focus File Photo)

(Perham Focus File Photo)

Turtle Fest is the highlight of the summer in Perham. This multi-day summer celebration features food, family-friendly events and plenty of fun. Events typically include a grand parade, rides on the Turtle Trolley, prize giveaways, an arts and crafts fair, kids’ activities, live music and more. This year’s Turtle Fest will be held June 16-20. For more information, visit perham.com.

(Perham Focus File Photo)

(Perham Focus File Photo)

Perham is home to an internationally-recognized, one-of-a-kind museum, the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, or ITOW. ITOW turns the recorded oral stories of veterans into multimedia exhibits, preserving their war stories for others to hear, for years to come. For more information, visit historymuseumeot.com.

(Perham Focus File Photo)

(Perham Focus File Photo)

For more than 100 years, the fair has been a summer highlight in Perham. Offering family fun with a small-town feel, the fair features a carnival, concerts, a petting zoo for kids, exhibits, livestock competitions, live entertainment and much more. The 2021 fair is set for July 22-25. For more information, visit eotcountyfair.org.

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(Perham Focus File Image)

(Perham Focus File Image)

A great drive any time of year, the Otter Trail Scenic Byway is especially picturesque in the fall, when colors are at their peak. The rolling, tree-rich route is perfect for leaf peeping, and it travels right by Maplewood State Park, one of the best places in Minnesota to take a fall color tour.
Travelers on the byway pass by tribal hunting grounds and battle sites, former routes of fur traders and explorers, towns that boomed and died, and much more. The route offers views of more than 1,000 lakes and wildlife-filled wetlands, and features sight-seeing stops at 19th century flour mills, scenic trails, roadside sculptures, historic sites and informational markers.
At 150 miles, the route makes for a fun one-day excursion, or can easily be extended into a weekend trip or longer. Stop by one or all of the communities linked by the route — one of which is Perham. Others include Fergus Falls, Battle Lake, Pelican Rapids and more. Each has a distinct character and plenty to offer visitors.
Find a detailed map and additional information about the Otter Trail Scenic Byway at exploreminnesota.com.

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* Dates may change, events may be canceled, and new events are added throughout the year. For the most up-to-date information, check out the calendar at perham.com.

(Perham Focus File Photo)

(Perham Focus File Photo)

12: Great American Think-Off, New York Mills School Auditorium

16-20: Turtle Fest

26: Rib Cook-Off, downtown, 1 p.m.

26: Average Jo Triathlon

4: Fireworks, Krueger Field/East Otter Tail County Fairgrounds, 10 p.m.

10-11: Phelps Mill Arts Festival

22-25: East Otter Tail County Fair

14: OtterFest, downtown Ottertail

21-22: Black Powder Rendezvous, Perham Pioneer Grounds

26: Lakes Area Home Tour

9: Glen Campbell Tribute Show, Perham High School Auditorium

5: OtterDazzle, downtown Ottertail

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