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NORTH DAKOTA TRAVEL GUIDE

Fargo, North Dakota Mario Wall in Fargo, North Dakota

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to North Dakota! Hopefully this page helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to North Dakota.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons

OVERVIEW



North Dakota remains sparsely populated to this day, but there's still plenty of interesting attractions in the state. For badlands-style scenery, head to the western part of the state and spend a few days exploring the two major units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While in the western region, take a drive to see the giant metal sculptures along the Enchanted Highway. If you're interested in Lewis & Clark history, you'll find several great museums and attractions that highlight their epic journey within the state. Some of the best roadside attractions are also found in North Dakota, including the World's Largest Turtle and the World's Largest Buffalo.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN NORTH DAKOTA



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in North Dakota? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in North Dakota, in no particular order:

Engage in history at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
See the impressive Gol Stave Church at Scandinavian Heritage Park
Go backpacking or horsepacking on a portion of the 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail
Cycle the Greenway of Greater Grand Forks
Drive the Petrified Forest Loop in Theodore Roosevelt National Park to see beautiful badlands scenery
Catch the Medora Musical, a famous live song-and-dance show in Medora (near Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
Go bird-watching at the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge in either spring and fall
Stop at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, one of the premier Lewis & Clark sites in the U.S.
Photograph the scrap metal roadside attractions along the Enchanted Highway in the southwestern part of the state
Take a selfie with the world's largest buffalo in Jamestown

If I could select only one place to visit in North Dakota, I would choose Medora so that I could visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

For a list of 10 great attractions in each U.S. state, click here.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN NORTH DAKOTA



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in North Dakota. I believe each of these attractions should be on your North Dakota bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northwestern North Dakota
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Williston - visit a partially reconstructed fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River
Little Missouri State Park, Killdeer - remote park along the Little Missouri River; great badlands scenery with 45 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails

Southwestern North Dakota (including Medora and both units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
Bully Pulpit Golf Course - one of the finest public golf courses in the country
Enchanted Highway - take a 32-mile drive past the world's largest collection of scrap metal sculptures
Maah Daah Hey Trail - hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride a section of this outstandingly scenic and wild 144-mile single-track trail
Medora - North Dakota's best small town; the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Medora Musical, Medora - attend an excellent live song-and-dance show
Medora Riding Stables, Medora - go horseback riding in the North Dakota badlands
North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora - history museum focusing on cowboys, Native Americans, rodeos, and ranching
Petrified Forest Loop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park - the #1 scenic drive in North Dakota
Sully Creek State Park, Medora - attractive state park showcasing the North Dakota badlands
Theodore Roosevelt National Park - beautiful badlands & great wildlife viewing; scenic drives and great hiking trails; the #1 ND attraction
White Butte, Amidon - take a moderate hike to the highpoint of North Dakota

Northcentral North Dakota (including Minot)
Geographical Center of North America, Rugby - a classic roadside attraction
International Peace Garden, Dunseith - monument along the US/Canadian border that is flush with flowers and beautiful gardens
J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge, Kramer - views hundreds of thousands of waterfowl in the spring or fall
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Stanton - visit a historic Native American trade center and hike past historic sites
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Washburn - one of the best Lewis & Clark museums in the U.S.
Scandinavian Heritage Park, Minot - tour buildings and see items and sculptures celebrating 5 different Nordic countries
Tommy the Turtle, Bottineau - roadside attraction featuring the world's tallest turtle sitting on the world's largest snowmobile
World's Largest Turtle/Wee'l, Dunseith - large, quirky roadside attraction of a giant turtle made out of wheel rims

Southcentral North Dakota (including Bismarck)
Dakota Zoo, The, Bismarck - a good medium-sized zoo
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Mandan - reconstructed historic forts & earth lodges
Fort Mandan State Historic Site, Washburn - replica of a Lewis & Clark expedition fort
Giant Cow statue / Salem Sue, New Salem - 38-foot tall fiberglass cow; a great photo-op
North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, Bismarck - museum offering four galleries on North Dakota history
State Capitol Building, Bismarck - visit the "skyscraper of the prairie"

Northeastern North Dakota (including Grand Forks)
Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site, Cooperstown - excellent Cold War history site

Southeastern North Dakota (including Fargo and Jamestown)
Bonanzaville USA, Fargo - a recreated pioneer village
Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center / Fargo Woodchipper, Fargo - see the actual woodchipper used in the Hollywood movie Fargo
Frontier Village, Jamestown - see a collection of original historic buildings
Mario Wall, Fargo - take a photo with a large mural of the famous Mario video game by Nintendo
National Buffalo Museum, Jamestown - interesting museum plus photo-ops with the world's largest buffalo statue
Sheyenne National Grassland - visit a pristine tall-grass prairie
Wahpeton Wahpper / World's Largest Catfish, Wahpeton - large, quirky roadside attraction
World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown - giant roadside attraction at the National Buffalo Museum

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in North Dakota? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

For a list of 5-star attractions in neighboring states, click on any of these links:  MN  |  MT  |  SD

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN NORTH DAKOTA



These towns and cities in North Dakota are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Fargo - a medium-sized city with a few noteworthy museums and other attractions, such as the actual woodchipper used in the movie Fargo
Medora - a small town that serves as the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park; don't miss the Medora Musical while in town

My favorite city in North Dakota is Fargo - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least one night there
My favorite small town in North Dakota is Medora - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 2-3 nights there

If you want to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, stay in Medora.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS NORTH DAKOTA FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that North Dakota is famous or well-known for:

agricultural industries
badlands
Fargo movie and TV show
Native American tribes and culture
oil and gas industry
prairies
roadside attractions

Click here if you'd like to explore what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN NORTH DAKOTA



There is one national park in North Dakota, plus a few other federally-managed parks and properties, including:

National Parks
Theodore Roosevelt National Park - beautiful badlands & great wildlife viewing; scenic drives and good hiking trails

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks & Properties
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
North Country National Scenic Trail

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has two major units (North & South) and one minor unit that sits in between them (Elkhorn Ranch). The South Unit is the largest, most popular, and closest unit to the gateway town of Medora. Both the South and North units have bison, prairie dogs, and other wildlife, but only the South Unit has wild horses. The scenery and hiking in all three units is excellent. The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is very remote, and there are no services there. A 4-wheel drive and/or high-clearance vehicle is sometimes needed to visit the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

For more information on North Dakota's national parks, visit the North Dakota page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota has 13 state parks. Many would agree that these represent North Dakota's finest state parks:

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Mandan - see reconstructed historic forts & earth lodges
Fort Mandan State Historic Site, Washburn - visit a replica of a Lewis & Clark expedition fort
Little Missouri State Park, Killdeer - remote park along the Little Missouri River; great badlands scenery with 45 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails
Sully Creek State Park, Medora - attractive state park showcasing the North Dakota badlands

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota only has one known natural waterfall, and it's a seasonal tiny stream (Mineral Springs Waterfall). It's not even worth looking at in my opinion.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN NORTH DAKOTA



Here is a list of the best scenic drives in North Dakota:

Enchanted Highway - a 32-mile paved route from Gladstone to Regent that passes several large and impressive scrap metal art scuptures
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Unit Scenic Drive - a 14-mile paved route through the north unit of ND's only national park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park: South Unit Scenic Drive - a 36-mile paved route through the south unit of ND's only national park

I haven't driven the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway yet, but it's possible there's some decent scenery on that route.

For a list of great scenic drives in each U.S. state, click here.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN NORTH DAKOTA



There is only one notable amusement park in North Dakota, and that is the Raging Rivers Waterpark in Mandan. It is fairly small though, especially in comparison to water parks found in other states.

BEST MUSEUMS IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota has a few good museums, including:

Western North Dakota (including Medora)
North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora - history museum focusing on cowboys, Native Americans, rodeos, and ranching

Central North Dakota (including Bismarck)
Dakota Territory Air Museum, Minot
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Stanton - visit a historic Native American trade center and hike past historic sites
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Washburn - one of the best Lewis & Clark museums in the U.S.
North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, Bismarck - museum offering four galleries on North Dakota history

Eastern North Dakota (including Fargo and Jamestown)
Fargo Air Museum, Fargo
Plains Art Museum, Fargo
Roger Maris Museum, Fargo
Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site, Cooperstown - excellent Cold War history site

BEST DAY HIKES IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota only has a few notable hiking trails. The best day hikes in North Dakota include:

Western North Dakota
Birnt Hills Trail, Little Missouri National Grasslands
Caprock Coulee Trail loop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit)
Jones Creek Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit)
Petrified Forest Loop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit)
White Butte
Wind Canyon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit)

Central North Dakota
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park trails
Grassland Trail, J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern North Dakota
North Country National Scenic Trail: From Iron Spring Creek to County Rd 23, Sheyenne National Grasslands

The highpoint of North Dakota is White Butte (3,506') in western North Dakota. A moderate day hike is required to reach the top.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota offers a few great backpacking opportunities. Some of premier backpacking routes/areas in North Dakota include:

Maah Daah Hey Trail
North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit)

The Maah Daah Hey Trail is the premier long-distance backpacking trail in North Dakota. There are currently 16 trailheads along the route. The trail is much more popular with mountain bikers and horseback riders, but hikers and backpackers do utilize the trail.

Backpacking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park requires a permit, but they are easy to get and currently unlimited. Visit the backpacking page of the NPS site for more information.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota offers a few great outdoor adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking the Maah Daah Hey Trail
Backpacking the North Country National Scenic Trail
Backpacking in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Backpacking in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Canoeing/kayaking on the Missouri River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Mouse River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Pembina River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Red River
Canoeing/kayaking on the Sheyenne River
Cycling the Greenway of Greater Grand Forks
Day hiking the Maah Daah Hey Trail
Day hiking in Petrified Forest National Park
Fishing or ice-fishing on Devils Lake
Horseback riding at Little Missouri State Park
Horsepacking the Maah Daah Hey Trail
Mountain biking the Maah Daah Hey Trail
Skydiving in West Fargo

SKI RESORTS IN NORTH DAKOTA



North Dakota only has a few small ski areas. None of them are nationally significant. The largest and best ski area is the Huff Hills Ski Area. It has 16 runs with a 450' vertical drop.

NORTH DAKOTA TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique North Dakota attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN NORTH DAKOTA



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in North Dakota:

caramel rolls
cheese buttons
chokecherries
juneberries
knoephla soup
lefse potato crepes
rhubarb pie

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in North Dakota (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in North Dakota (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY NORTH DAKOTA INFORMATION



State Capital:
Bismarck

Major Airports:
None; the largest airport is Hector International Airport in Fargo, but it's relatively small

Largest Cities:
Fargo (130,078), Bismarck (76,092), Grand Forks (60,432), Minot (49,875), West Fargo (41,186), Williston (32,048), Dickinson (27,257)

Primary U.S. Interstates:
I-29, I-94

State Highpoint:
White Butte (3,506') in Chalky Butte in southwestern North Dakota; a moderate day hike is required to reach the top

Professional Sports Teams:
None

Funny or Unique Town/City Names:
Zap

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.



Mario Wall in Fargo, North Dakota
Mario Wall in Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo Visitor Center, Fargo, North Dakota
the actual wood-chipper used in the Hollywood movie Fargo is held in the Fargo Visitor Center

Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo, North Dakota


ROAD TRIP GUIDEBOOKS



In addition to the information found on my website, I personally recommend purchasing these road trip/travel-related guidebooks. Click on any book cover to read reviews and/or purchase these books on Amazon.com.

        


MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this state travel guide? If so, here are links to more of my comprehensive U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama Maryland Oregon
Arizona Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Arkansas Michigan Rhode Island
California Minnesota South Carolina
Colorado Mississippi South Dakota
Connecticut Missouri Tennessee
Delaware Montana Texas
Florida Nebraska Utah
Georgia Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington DC
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming
Louisiana Ohio  
Maine Oklahoma  

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