Best Things to Do in North Dakota: 12 Top North Dakota Attractions

Jon Miksis Jon Miksis clock Updated July 3, 2024 tourism Dream Destinations
by Jen
Best Things to Do in North Dakota
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Are you thinking of visiting North Dakota? Here are some of the coolest and most unique things to do in North Dakota. Make sure to add these beautiful sights and hidden gems to your itinerary!

Are you yearning for a journey into the heartland of America? Welcome to North Dakota, a state that’s brimming with hidden gems, unique sights, and exciting activities. From the rugged beauty of the Great Plains to the rich tapestry of Native American and pioneer history, this state offers a wide array of outdoor attractions and cultural experiences.

Explore the majestic Theodore Roosevelt National Park or sail on the serene waters of Lake Sakakawea. North Dakota’s cities, such as Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks, offer a vibrant blend of arts, entertainment, and culinary delights. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast ready to explore the trails of the Maah Daah Hey Trail, or a family looking for wholesome fun at attractions like the Red River Zoo, North Dakota has something special for you.

From the whimsical sculptures of the Enchanted Highway to the historical significance of the Knife River Indian Villages, North Dakota’s attractions are as diverse as they are captivating. Ready to discover the best places in North Dakota? Buckle up and join me on this unforgettable journey through North Dakota’s hidden gems and iconic landmarks. Here’s everything you need to know about the best things to do in North Dakota.

The top places to visit in North Dakota right now
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Best Things to Do in North Dakota: 12 North Dakota Attractions

Are you ready to discover all the coolest things to do in North Dakota? As mentioned above, there’s a plethora of incredible activities in North Dakota for all travelers to enjoy. Keep reading to find where to go in North Dakota. Are you looking to witness the enchanting Northern Lights? Or would you prefer to discover charming and challenging outdoor trails? Whatever you’re planning, North Dakota can accommodate your needs. Here are all the best things to do in North Dakota that you should know about.

1. Discover Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Welcome to the wild heart of North Dakota! Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers an unparalleled journey into the untamed beauty of the Great Plains. Named after the 26th President of the United States, this vast wilderness is divided into three distinct units: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

Imagine hiking through wind-sculpted canyons in the North Unit or taking a scenic drive along the 36-mile loop in the South Unit. You’ll encounter wild bison, elk, and prairie dogs, all roaming freely in their natural habitat. And if solitude is what you seek, the Elkhorn Ranch Unit offers a peaceful retreat, providing a glimpse into Roosevelt’s life as a rancher.

The breathtaking vistas and unspoiled wilderness are what truly set this park apart. From the colorful Painted Canyon to the towering buttes, the landscapes here are awe-inspiring. It’s easy to see why this park is one of the most popular things to do in North Dakota.

Are you ready to explore one of the coolest destinations in North Dakota? Theodore Roosevelt National Park awaits, promising an unforgettable experience that will leave you longing for more. Trust me; you won’t want to miss this adventure!

Discover Theodore Roosevelt National Park with unspoiled wilderness, vibrant vistas, and towering buttes.
Discover Theodore Roosevelt National Park with unspoiled wilderness, vibrant vistas, and towering buttes.

2. Explore Fargo, a City Bursting with Culture and Creativity

If you’re looking for a city that’s buzzing with energy, creativity, and a whole lot of fun, you’ve found the right place. Known for its vibrant arts scene, Fargo is home to some of the best places in North Dakota to explore culture, entertainment, and culinary delights.

Start your adventure at the Fargo Air Museum, where aviation history comes to life. From vintage aircraft to modern jets, it’s a must for aviation enthusiasts. Next, catch a show at the iconic Fargo Theatre, an art deco gem that hosts films, concerts, and festivals.

Hungry? Fargo’s culinary scene is a food lover’s dream. From gourmet dining to food trucks, the city offers a diverse array of flavors to satisfy every palate. And don’t forget to visit the Red River Zoo, a family-friendly attraction with over 300 animals from around the world.

For art aficionados, the Plains Art Museum showcases regional and national artists, including contemporary and traditional American Indian art. It’s a place where creativity thrives, and inspiration is around every corner.

Fargo is more than just a city – it’s a hub of excitement and exploration. If you’re wondering what to do in North Dakota, Fargo’s got you covered. Dive into the city’s rich cultural tapestry, and you’ll discover why Fargo is one of the coolest North Dakota places to visit.

Fargo: A dynamic city known for vibrant arts, culture, and cuisine.
Fargo: A dynamic city known for vibrant arts, culture, and cuisine.

3. Relax at Lake Sakakawea

Get ready for a splash of fun at Lake Sakakawea! As North Dakota’s largest reservoir, this stunning lake is a haven for water enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. It’s one of the most beautiful places in North Dakota to visit that you’ll never forget.

Picture yourself sailing across the sparkling waters, the wind in your hair, and the sun kissing your skin. Lake Sakakawea offers endless opportunities for sailing, kayaking, motorboating, and even paddleboarding. And if fishing is your passion, you’re in luck! The lake is teeming with walleye, northern pike, and other fish species, making it a favorite spot for anglers.

Surrounding the lake, you’ll find hiking trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds. It’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway or a family vacation.

Lake Sakakawea is a picture-perfect location providing the perfect place to create memories and connect with nature. If you’re searching for the coolest things to do in North Dakota, look no further. Dive into the adventure and discover the magic of Lake Sakakawea.

Lake Sakakawea one of the best things to do in North Dakota.
Experience the thrill of sailing, kayaking, and fishing in Lake Sakakawea’s sparkling waters.

4. Explore Bismarck, the Capital City with a Rich History

Welcome to Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota, where history, culture, and modernity blend seamlessly. If you’re wondering where to go in North Dakota, Bismarck should be at the top of your list.

Start your exploration at the North Dakota Heritage Center, where you can dive into the state’s fascinating history. From ancient fossils to modern innovations, it’s a journey through time that will captivate all ages. Don’t miss the impressive T-Rex skeleton cast!

Next, take a stroll around the North Dakota State Capitol, a towering building that offers tours and walking paths. Enjoy the panoramic views of the city from the observation deck, and don’t forget to explore the beautiful Capitol Grounds.

For families, the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck is one of the most fun things to do in North Dakota. With over 500 animals, including threatened and endangered species, it’s a delightful experience for animal lovers of all ages.

Bismarck isn’t just about history and attractions; it’s about the vibrant community and the warmth of the people. From local eateries to bustling markets, the city invites you to immerse yourself in its unique charm.

Are you ready to discover one of the best places to go in North Dakota? Bismarck awaits, promising a rich and rewarding experience that will leave you enchanted.

Visit the North Dakota State Capitol for tours, city views, and the beautiful Capitol Grounds.
Visit the North Dakota State Capitol for tours, city views, and the beautiful Capitol Grounds.

5. Discover Medora, the Gateway to Adventure

Medora is a gateway to adventure and a celebration of the Wild West. Situated in the Badlands, this charming destination is one of the best North Dakota places to visit that offers something for everyone.

Ever dreamed of stepping back in time to the days of cowboys and pioneers? The Chateau de Mores is your chance. Explore this historic homestead, and you’ll feel the spirit of the 18th century come alive.

Golf enthusiasts, get ready for a treat! The Bully Pulpit Golf Course is not only a top-notch golfing destination; it’s a scenic masterpiece. With dramatic views of the Badlands, it’s a golfing experience like no other.

Let’s talk about the Medora Musical. Imagine a summer musical show under the stars, paying homage to President Roosevelt’s trip to the Badlands. It’s a toe-tapping, heartwarming performance that’s become a beloved tradition.

And if you’re in the mood for some outdoor fun, Medora is the perfect base for exploring the nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Hiking, wildlife watching, or simply soaking in the natural beauty – Medora puts it all at your fingertips.

For those searching for the coolest North Dakota things to do, look no further than Medora. The town offers a plethora of activities that embody character, fun, and the great outdoors. Pack your bags and get ready to explore Medora!

Explore character, fun, and the outdoors in Medora, North Dakota's ultimate destination.
Explore character, fun, and the outdoors in Medora, North Dakota’s ultimate destination.

6. Uncover the Secrets of the Enchanted Highway

Ready for a road trip like no other? Buckle up and head to the Enchanted Highway, a magical stretch of road that’s home to some of the coolest activities in North Dakota.

As you drive along this 32-mile route, you’ll encounter towering metal sculptures that tell a story. From “Geese in Flight” to “Grasshoppers in the Field,” each sculpture is a masterpiece, capturing the imagination and delighting travelers of all ages.

The Enchanted Highway is more than a collection of sculptures; it’s a testament to creativity and community spirit. Created by local artist Gary Greff, this outdoor gallery aims to rejuvenate the small town of Regent and inspire visitors with its unique charm.

If you fancy a picnic with a view, many of the sculptures have picnic areas, allowing you to enjoy a meal amidst the art. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the Enchanted Castle Hotel in Regent offers themed rooms that continue the magical experience.

If you’re wondering where to visit in North Dakota, the Enchanted Highway is a must. It’s a drive that promises surprises, smiles, and memories that will last a lifetime. Are you ready to uncover the secrets of the Enchanted Highway? Your adventure awaits!

Experience the Enchanted Highway's storytelling metal sculptures by artist Gary Greff, a testament to creativity and community spirit.
Experience the Enchanted Highway’s storytelling metal sculptures by artist Gary Greff, a testament to creativity and community spirit.

7. Explore Grand Forks, a City of Art and Adventure

Grand Forks, with its vibrant arts scene and outdoor opportunities, is a destination that beckons travelers looking for a blend of culture and adventure. It’s one of the coolest places in North Dakota that offers a rich and diverse experience.

Begin by visiting the North Dakota Museum of Art, where contemporary works and exhibitions will inspire your creative side. From paintings to sculptures, the museum showcases talent from around the world.

If you’re an outdoor lover, the Greenway is your playground. With over 2,200 acres of green space, it offers trails for biking, hiking, and even cross-country skiing in the winter. The Red River, which runs through the Greenway, provides opportunities for fishing and kayaking.

Don’t miss the Japanese Garden, a tranquil oasis that invites you to relax and reflect. With its traditional design and beautiful landscaping, it’s a perfect spot for a peaceful stroll.

Grand Forks is a city that embraces the best of what North Dakota has to offer. If you’re looking for the coolest North Dakota places to visit, Grand Forks should be on your list.

Grand Forks: Culture, adventure, and vibrant arts in one of North Dakota's coolest spots.
Grand Forks: Culture, adventure, and vibrant arts in one of North Dakota’s coolest spots.

8. Witness the Northern Lights, Nature’s Spectacular Show

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are one of nature’s most mesmerizing phenomena, and North Dakota offers a front-row seat to this spectacular show. If you’re searching for the coolest things to do in North Dakota, gazing at the Northern Lights should be on your list.

In the northern parts of the state, away from city lights, the skies come alive with ethereal colors, dancing and shimmering in the night. It’s a sight that captures the imagination and leaves you in awe of the universe’s beauty.

The best time to witness the Northern Lights in North Dakota is during the winter months when the nights are the longest and the skies are clearest.

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Locations near the Canadian border, such as the Turtle Mountains, provide excellent viewing opportunities.

Bring a camera with manual settings to capture this breathtaking spectacle, and don’t forget to dress warmly. The cold North Dakota nights can be chilly, but the view is worth every shiver.

Local astronomy clubs and online Aurora forecasts can help you plan your Northern Lights adventure, providing tips on the best locations and times to view this natural wonder.

Witnessing the Northern Lights is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. As such, if you’re looking for the best things to do in North Dakota, this celestial dance is an experience you’ll never forget and promises lifelong memories.

Catching North Dakota's brilliant Northern Lights is one of the best things to do in North Dakota.
Catch North Dakota’s brilliant Northern Lights near the Canadian border, especially in the Turtle Mountains during winter.

9. Experience Jamestown, the Buffalo City

Affectionately known as the Buffalo City, Jamestown captures the essence of North Dakota’s wildlife and pioneer spirit, standing out as one of the coolest places in North Dakota to visit.

At the heart of Jamestown lies the National Buffalo Museum, a tribute to the majestic American bison. Here, you can marvel at White Cloud, an albino buffalo, a revered symbol for many Native American tribes.

The Frontier Village offers a different kind of adventure, replicating a prairie town from the 1800s. Wander through historic buildings and watch live demonstrations that transport you back in time.

Looking for outdoor fun? The Jamestown Reservoir has it all. From fishing and boating to picnics by the water, it’s a haven for relaxation and recreation.

Literature fans will find inspiration at the Louis L’Amour Writer’s Shack, where the famous Western novelist penned his works. Explore his workspace and feel the creative energy that fueled his legendary stories.

With its rich history and natural wonders, Jamestown is hands-down one of the coolestdestinations in North Dakota that you won’t want to miss.

Travel back to the 1800s at Frontier Village: historic buildings, live demos, and prairie town vibes.
Travel back to the 1800s at Frontier Village: historic buildings, live demos, and prairie town vibes.

10. Visit Minot, the Magic City

Discover the allure of Minot, known as the Magic City, where culture, creativity, and charm come together. This vibrant destination is brimming with attractions that make it one of the best places to go in North Dakota.

Ever wanted to explore Scandinavian heritage? The Scandinavian Heritage Park offers a glimpse into the traditions of the Nordic countries. From replicas of traditional buildings to a stunning Stave Church, it’s a cultural journey you’ll want to include in your itinerary.

Animal lovers, make your way to the Roosevelt Park Zoo. Home to over 200 animals, including giraffes and kangaroos, it’s a wildlife adventure for visitors of all ages.

Art and creativity find a home at the Taube Museum of Art. With contemporary and traditional works on display, it’s a space that inspires and engages. Don’t forget to participate in workshops and explore the galleries.

For a breath of fresh air, the Minot Riverwalk beckons. Scenic trails along the Souris River offer opportunities for strolls, bike rides, or even romantic sunset walks.

Minot boasts a plethora of diverse attractions and a vibrant community, which makes it stand out as a must-visit destination. As such, if you’re compiling a list of things to do in North Dakota, make sure to include the Magic City for a memorable experience.

Explore Minot, the Magic City, where culture and charm converge, creating a vibrant North Dakota destination.
Explore Minot, the Magic City, where culture and charm converge, creating a vibrant North Dakota destination.

11. Embrace the Beauty of the Maah Daah Hey Trail

Adventure seekers, nature lovers, and those longing for a taste of the wild, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is calling your name. Stretching over 144 miles through the rugged Badlands, this trail is one of the coolest North Dakota things to do.

Hiking, biking, or horseback riding – the Maah Daah Hey Trail offers a variety of ways to explore breathtaking landscapes. Traverse through grassy plains, dense forests, and striking plateaus, each turn revealing a new facet of North Dakota’s natural beauty.

For those who love to camp, the trail provides numerous campgrounds, allowing you to immerse yourself in the wilderness fully. Picture waking up to the sound of birdsong and the gentle rustle of leaves, with the Badlands as your backdrop.

Photographers will find endless inspiration along the trail, with opportunities to capture wildlife, stunning sunsets, and the unique geological formations that define the area.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail provides a place where you can disconnect from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature. As such, I recommend this attraction to everyone visiting ND.

If you’re searching for unique places in North Dakota, the Maah Daah Hey Trail offers an experience like no other. Grab your camera and get ready to embrace the beauty of this incredible trail.

Explore North Dakota's beauty on the Maah Daah Hey Trail: hike, bike, or ride through diverse landscapes.
Explore North Dakota’s beauty on the Maah Daah Hey Trail: hike, bike, or ride through diverse landscapes.

12. Journey Through Time at Knife River Indian Villages

Step into a world rich with history, culture, and tradition at the Knife River Indian Villages. Located near Stanton, this historic site offers a glimpse into the lives of the Hidatsa people and stands as one of the most unique places in North Dakota to learn about Native American heritage.

Explore the reconstructed earth lodges, where the Hidatsa once lived, farmed, and thrived. These impressive structures provide a tangible connection to the past, allowing you to imagine daily life in the villages.

Wander along the scenic trails that wind through the site, following the paths of the Missouri and Knife Rivers. Along the way, you’ll encounter interpretive signs that share the stories, traditions, and history of the area.

The visitor center is a treasure trove of information, featuring exhibits, artifacts, and knowledgeable rangers who are eager to share their insights. Don’t miss the chance to participate in ranger-led programs that bring the history of the Knife River Indian Villages to life.

If you’re interested in birdwatching, the site is home to a variety of bird species, adding another layer of exploration to your visit.

For those compiling a list of things to do in North Dakota, this journey through time is an experience not to be missed. Come explore, learn, and connect with the legacy of the Knife River Indian Villages.

Experience Hidatsa history and culture at Stanton's Knife River Indian Villages, a unique North Dakota heritage site.
Experience Hidatsa history and culture at Stanton’s Knife River Indian Villages, a unique North Dakota heritage site.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Best Things to Do in North Dakota:

Looking to strengthen your knowledge of the best things to do in North Dakota? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about what to do in North Dakota.

Is there anything fun to do in North Dakota?

Definitely! North Dakota is filled with exciting and fun activities for all ages. From exploring the rugged Badlands to visiting historic sites like the Knife River Indian Villages, there’s no shortage of exciting things to do. Outdoor enthusiasts can hike the Maah Daah Hey Trail, while art lovers can explore galleries in cities like Minot. Whether you’re into history, nature, or urban exploration, North Dakota has something to offer.

What are 3 things North Dakota is known for?

  1. The Badlands: A stunning geological formation offering breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities.
  1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park: Named after the U.S. President who spent time in the area, this park is famous for its wildlife and scenic beauty.
  1. Rich Cultural Heritage: From Native American history to Scandinavian influences, North Dakota’s cultural heritage is diverse and fascinating.

What North Dakota is famous for?

North Dakota is famous for its natural beauty, including the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s also known for its rich agricultural industry, particularly wheat, sunflowers, and soybeans. The state’s cultural heritage, including Native American history and Scandinavian influences, adds to its unique character.

Can you see the Northern Lights in North Dakota?

Yes, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, can be seen in North Dakota, particularly in the northern parts of the state. While sightings are more common in regions closer to the Arctic Circle, North Dakota’s clear skies and low light pollution provide opportunities to witness this natural wonder, especially during winter months.

Vibrant Northern Lights over North Dakota's night sky.
Vibrant Northern Lights over North Dakota’s night sky.

Why should I visit North Dakota?

North Dakota offers a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions that make it a worthwhile destination to visit. Here’s why you might consider a trip to North Dakota:

  1. National Parks and outdoors: Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a must-visit, with its stunning badlands, diverse wildlife like bison and wild horses, and opportunities for hiking, camping, and stargazing.
  2. Rich history and culture: Explore the Native American heritage at places like the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, or visit Bonanzaville to experience the state’s pioneer history.
  3. Fishing and hunting: Known for its excellent fishing and hunting, North Dakota provides numerous opportunities to enjoy these outdoor pursuits.
  4. Scenic drives: Embark on the Enchanted Highway or the Sakakawea Scenic Byway for breathtaking views and quirky roadside attractions.
  5. Winter sports: In the winter, the state offers opportunities for snowmobiling, ice fishing, and skiing.
  6. Friendly communities: Smaller cities like Fargo and Bismarck offer vibrant arts scenes, museums, craft breweries, and a friendly local vibe.
  7. Agricultural tours: Experience North Dakota’s rich agricultural heritage by visiting farms and taking part in harvest festivals.
  8. Affordability: Compared to many tourist destinations, North Dakota can be a more budget-friendly option without skimping on experiences.
  9. Unspoiled nature: If you’re looking to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in unspoiled landscapes, North Dakota’s vast open spaces might be just what you need.

In short, North Dakota offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that appeals to history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and those looking to explore a lesser-known part of the United States.

What is the best time to visit North Dakota?

The best time to visit North Dakota depends on what you want to experience. For outdoor activities and warm weather, late spring to early fall (May to September) is ideal. If you’re interested in winter sports or want to try your luck at seeing the Northern Lights, the winter months offer unique opportunities. Always consider local events and attractions when planning your visit to make the most of your trip.

Things to Do in North Dakota: A Land of Discovery Awaits

North Dakota beckons with a rich tapestry of experiences that promise adventure, learning, and unforgettable memories. Explore the rugged beauty of the Badlands, delve into the cultural heritage at the Knife River Indian Villages, or embrace the charm of cities like Bismarck and Grand Forks. With outdoor trails, historic sites, vibrant arts scenes, and natural wonders like the Northern Lights, North Dakota offers a diverse array of attractions.

Looking for the coolest activities in North Dakota? The Maah Daah Hey Trail invites you to hike, bike, or ride through breathtaking landscapes. Want to journey through time? The reconstructed earth lodges and scenic trails of the Knife River Indian Villages provide a tangible connection to the past.

Each destination in North Dakota adds a unique element to your journey. It’s a state that celebrates its history, its nature, and its community. It’s a place where you can disconnect from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with what truly matters.

Your adventure in North Dakota awaits, promising a rich and rewarding experience that will leave you with lifelong memories. Get ready to explore, enjoy, and embrace the best of what North Dakota has to offer. The magic of the Peace Garden State is ready to unfold.

The top things to do in North Dakota for all types of travelers
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