With its pristine countryside of rolling prairies and intimidating badlands, North Dakota is an unspoiled look into the past. A quiet environment will greet you upon arrival. Say goodbye to modern chaos and hello to a state where the tallest building is a mere 21 stories.
North Dakota offers amazing access to the outdoors while remaining off the beaten path. Long overlooked by the traveling masses, there are plenty of things to do in North Dakota’s wilderness. You can enjoy beautiful hiking trails through landscapes where Sacagawea lead Louis and Clark.
In the cities and small towns, you’ll uncover the strong connection North Dakota has with its past through restored frontier and Native American villages – all while learning just why Theodore Roosevelt held the state in such high esteem.
16. Frontier Village (Jamestown)
Alongside the National Buffalo Museum, you’ll find the exciting Frontier Village. In Jamestown, the village comprises several original villages from across the state that have been moved and restored to create a journey into the past.
Walk along the old streets wandering by shops, churches, jails, and the post office, all from the Pioneer history where Americans traveled west in search of more opportunity.
A highlight of the experience is the writer’s abode that is dedicated to the works of Louis L’Amour, a famous writer whose works mainly featured the Old West. For a truly authentic experience, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride before bearing witness to an old-fashioned shoot-out.
15. International Peace Garden
On the border between North Dakota and Canada, the International Peace Garden is split in half between the two places. Part memorial, part ornate garden, it’s a peaceful place of reflection and a quiet way to spend time with friends and family.
The garden is open year-round and celebrates the peace between the U.S. and Canada. You can explore the park and the many hiking and biking trails that guide you to picnic areas, restaurants, exclusive gardens, and a conservatory home to over 3000 cacti.
Some of the park is so remote that you may even stumble across a moose!
14. Dakota Zoo
In Bismarck, the Dakota Zoo is home to a wide range of animals and several interactive experiences. A great place to bring the kids, visitors can enjoy up-close experiences with wildlife from around the world with 600 animals representing over 120 species.
Some highlights include gazing upon the majestic Bengal tiger, while grizzly bears and mountain lions roam the zoo’s prairies. From the barnyard and whitetail deer enclosures, you’ll be able to feed some of the zoo’s residents.
The Dakota Zoo also offers an exciting calendar of events that include Breakfast at the Zoo, an Easter egg hunt, and nighttime adventures.
13. Enchanted Highway
After driving 90 miles west of Bismarck, take Exit 72 to embark upon a scenic drive with a difference. Forget stunning scenery and towering mountains typically found on these road trips (although it is beautiful), and enjoy a series of public art.
Enchanted Highway covers 32 miles of local road and features seven giant sculptures. It was all the work of one man, Gary Greff, who hoped to attract more travelers to his hometown of Regent. Some of the massive sculptures include “Pheasants on the Prairie” and the “World’s Largest Tin Family”.
So you can bring these impressive works home with you, head into Regent where you can buy mini replicas at the local gift shop.
12. Bonanzaville (West Fargo)
Showcasing life in North Dakota from the late 19th century to the modern day, Bonanzaville is a fascinating, family-friendly attraction. In West Fargo, the historic village comprises over 45 buildings from here and around North Dakota.
The village gets its name from the bonanza farms that sprung up in the region during the 1800s. These farms embodied the movement west, the development of new technologies, and large-scale farming.
Walk between the dozens of authentic buildings that include the Arthur Town Hall from the 1890s, an old saloon and hotel, plus a historic blacksmith. Bonanzaville is also home to multiple museums that look at specific history and careers, from the Law Enforcement Museum to the Eagle Air Museum.
11. North Dakota State Capitol
At only 21 stories tall, the North Dakota State Capitol is the tallest building in the state. Standing high above the lush grounds, the capitol is a striking sight and far different from other government buildings around the country.
It’s not your typical 19th century building with beautiful limestone facades. The capitol was built in 1930 with influence from art deco architecture. The building stands at over 240ft and features an 18th story observation tower from which you can enjoy endless views of Bismarck and the surrounding prairies.
While it’s a great way to see all of town at once, you can also explore the building on a guided tour during the week. From there, roam the grounds home to memorials and a local arboretum.
10. Knife River Indian Villages Historic Site
Experience the history and culture of the Hidatsa and Mandan Indians at the Knife River Indian Villages Historic Site. The site is close to modern day Stanton and several villages have been restored as a way to continue their heritage.
Visitors can gain invaluable insight into early life in North America along with experiencing a vibrant culture that continues to this day. Begin at the site’s museum where you can explore rows of relics that were a part of the original villages that once graced the region.
Along the Village Trail, you can explore the beautiful landscape on your way to earth lodges that were once home to the famed Sacagawea.
9. Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
Learn about one of the most famous expeditions in U.S. history at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. In Washburn, the center is near where Lewis and Clark spent the bitter winter of 1804/05.
Now, more than two centuries later, you can explore the fascinating story via a series of amazing exhibits. The interpretive center has preserved hundreds of prominent artifacts along with Fort Mandan. Here, the explorers were able to retreat from the brutal weather and meet Sacagawea, who would guide them across the rugged plains.
The original fort was washed away by the surging river, but was carefully reconstructed using 800 logs.
8. Medora Musical
It’s one thing to learn about local history at a museum, but it’s another thing to do it with music and a beer or two. At the Medora Musical you can learn about Teddy Roosevelt’s days as a cowboy, as he roamed what is now a national park in his name.
The two-hour spectacular is a rowdy rendition of his story that features plenty of singing and dancing by the amazing actors on stage. The outdoor theater show is backed by magnificent views of the badlands, a poignant reminder of what Roosevelt fell in love with.
Kick back and enjoy the show with a cold beverage in hand. As the live animals grace the stage, alongside all the revelry, you’ll find your toes tapping along to the beat. Oh, and there’s fireworks.
7. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Enjoy a mix of history and recreational fun at the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Near the banks of the Missouri River, the state park has several historic buildings to explore. Visitors can see important restored buildings that include the Custer House and the Mandan Indian Village.
The Custer house is complemented by numerous barracks that give insight into regional conflicts. You’ll also spot a commissary and several granaries. After exploring the Custer House, wander over to the Mandan Indian Village that showcases six earthlodges.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park has over five miles of hiking, cycling, and horse riding trails. While at night you can kick back under the stars at the park’s campground.
6. Fargo Air Museum
Within Hector International Airport, the Fargo Air Museum celebrates the history of aviation in North America. The museum showcases a variety of historic aircraft, including some that can still be flown to this day.
One of the first exhibits you should experience at the Fargo Air Museum is the full-scale replica of the Wright Brothers’ flyer that took to the sky in 1903. Other historic planes include the Iskra Jet from Poland and a UH-1 Huey.
But the museum’s collection of planes in flying condition is sure to make any aviation enthusiast happy. Here you can get up close with the p-51D mustang, the Douglas DC-3, and even a home built plane.
5. National Buffalo Museum
Celebrating the history of the buffalo through art, the National Buffalo Museum also manages a local herd. Upon arrival, one landmark will immediately stand out. Visitors will be dwarfed by the buffalo statue that weighs 60 tons and stands at 26 feet.
In the nearby fields, buffalos graze the pastures, among them a rare albino bison. Inside the museum you can learn all there is to know about the impressive animals, including their near extinction as Americans traveled west. Complement this experience by exploring how the animal was saved and slowly reintroduced. You’ll also find several pieces of Native American art showing the connection between the tribes and the buffalo.
4. Fort Union Trading Post
On the Missouri River, the Fort Union Trading Post was established in the 1820s. For four decades, it was a prominent trading post and was integral in the fur trade with the surrounding states.
The Fort Union Trading Post was designed to impress local Native American tribes through its grand architecture. The large white mansion was a peaceful trading port even in times of exterior conflict. Each year, it’s estimated that over 25,000 buffalo skins changed hands.
Once the most illustrious port along the Missouri River, Fort Union fell into disrepair. It has been restored to its heyday and now you can enjoy self-guided and ranger-led tours of the complex to learn about its fascinating past.
3. Scandinavian Heritage Park (Minot)
A celebration of all things Scandinavian, those traveling to Minot can explore a captivating experience at the Scandinavian Heritage Park. Here you’ll receive a look into Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic culture in an expansive outdoor museum.
Each country is represented within the on-site buildings that include a replica of the Gol Stave Church in Norway. Other popular exhibits are the huge Swedish Dala horse, the Danish windmill, and a traditional Swedish sauna.
With so much to do as you roam the Scandinavian Heritage Park, it’s best to visit in the warmer months. From May to September, you can embark on a guided tour which offers further insight into the attraction. If you arrive in September, be sure to experience Norsk Hostfest.
2. North Dakota Heritage Center
Enjoy a journey into the past as you learn about the history of the state at the North Dakota Heritage Center. In Bismarck, the center comprises four galleries that cover prehistoric history through to the 21st century.
Within the official history museum for North Dakota, you can explore a section dedicated to dinosaurs that once roamed the region. Visitors can gaze upon triceratops and T-Rex skeletons before learning about the various Native American communities.
There are several immersive experiences to have, including in the Northern Lights Atrium, where at night, guests can enjoy the breathtaking spectacle. When the sun’s out, walk along the center’s Capitol Arboretum Trail. While those with young kids can let them roam in the adventurous Treehouse.
1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Split by the meandering Little Missouri River, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a mix of stunning landscapes and scenic drives. These very landscapes so enamored the 26th President of the United States that he didn’t hesitate to protect them once he rose to power.
Today, visitors can explore the Badlands where bison roam free across the rolling hills. The national park comprises two sections. Begin in the South Unit, home to the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. Learn about the history and geology of the park while taking in the splendid views.
Here you’ll also find the Maltese Cross Cabin, once a temporary cabin for Roosevelt. From there, embark on a number of trails that lead to two campgrounds to sleep under the stars.