12428797096?profile=RESIZE_710xNPS/Mark Hoffman

In addition to some stunning natural beauty, the Peace Garden State also has a fair amount to recommend it in terms of culture and history, though it’s most definitely off the beaten path in terms of tourism. In fact, by some accounts ND is the least visited state in the Union – though unfairly so, as the following can attest:




At 153 years of age, the state’s largest city (pop. around 126,000), located in a scenic valley on the Minnesota border (its closely associated with the MN town of Moorhead), is an underrated gem, with a low-slung downtown that’s a slice of pure Americana; a vibrant restaurant and craft-beer scene; and varied cultural menu of galleries, theaters (check out the art deco Fargo Theatre (above), opened in 1926) and museums – of which the most notable are the Plains Art Museum showcasing North Dakotan, Native American, and other U.S. artists (along with overseas forays such as an African collection); the Fargo Air Museum of vintage aircraft; Bonanzaville, a dozen-acre outdoor village of 40 historical buildings and museums illuminating the past of the Red River Valley;  And let´s not forget the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center, which beyond just being a run-of-the-mill tourism info office has a number of fun features, like the wood chipper from the cult classic Fargo, a “celebrity walk of fame,” and the fact that the darn thing´s housed in a grain elevator (“North of Normal,” indeed!).




Astride the Missouri River near the center of the state, its capital and second-largest city (pop. 74,000) was founded in 1872 and is very much along the lines of Fargo in terms of low-slung Americana, with a great little craft beer scene to boot. Besides touring the state capitol (above, not your usual neoclassical domed affair but rather a 21-story Art Deco tower built in 1932), you can check out the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, near the capitol; the Cape Hancock Historic Site, originally a military installation dating back to the city´s founding; the Victorian Former Governor´s Mansion; Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruises (this was originally on the route of the famous expedition of 1804-1806); and the 15-acre Dakota Zoo. (And fun fact: this is the only U.S. state capital named for a foreign statesman – Otto von Bismarck – thanks to brown-nosing by the railway that initially opened up the area wanted to attract German immigrants and investment, bur the 1874 discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills did a better job of it.)

12428972462?profile=RESIZE_710xRoderick Eime


Out in the lower far west of the state, with a population of just over 120, the tiny gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (see below) is known for its historic charm – and its connection to Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president (1901-1909), who spent a significant amount of time here during the 1880s (in fact, another ND nickname is the Roughrider State, after the volunteer cavalry regiment Teddy organized to fight in the misbegotten Spanish-American War). Along with that, there are a number of attractions in and around town like the Chateau de Mores, the estate, built in 1883, of a French aristocrat who became a local entrepreneur; the Medora Musical (above), about the olden days of the “Wild West” and Theodore Roosevelt (June through the first week in September); the Harold Shafer Heritage Center, about a prominent 20th-century businessman and local booster); the log Maltese Cross Cabin where Roosevelt once lived; and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

This 110,072-square-mile spread (above and at top) is known for its breathtaking badlands (dry and eroded landscape with steep slopes); scenic drives; and abundant wildlife including bison, elk, and prairie dogs. And it’s just the most prominent of the state’s nature reserves, including 63 national wildlife refuges and 13 state parks.


Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Located a half hour southwest of Bismarck, this 117-year-old park is built around the military post that was the departure point of the cavalry regiment led by General George Armstrong Custer, who was based here from 1883 to 1887. It includes reconstructed military buildings, Custer´s house, and the On-A-Slant Indian Village, offering a glimpse into the lives of the Mandan tribe which once inhabited the area. There are also hiking, biking, and camping options here.


12428989267?profile=RESIZE_710xItchy Melvin


In the north of the state´s central region, astride the Mouse River and with a population of some 48,000, Minot still carries the moniker “Magic City” because it sprang up practically overnight, as if by magic, when the Great Northern Railway laid down tracks hereabouts in 1886 (and it was even named after one of the railway´s major investors). These days it´s another classic ND mix of small-town charm and big-city amenities, with highlights including (naturally) a great little Railroad Museum, Dakota Air Territory Museum with 60 vintage aircraft; the Scandinavian Heritage Park (above; some 40 percent of the city´s residents are descended from Scandinavians), the nearby Pioneer Village Museum with 13 buildings from the frontier past; and the 20-acre, more-than-200-animal Roosevelt Park Zoo. Special events worth coming for are July´s North Dakota State Fair (talk about Americana!) and the four-day Norsk Høstfest (Norwegian Fall Festival) which despite its name covers all five Nordic cultures, in late September.


Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Near the center of the state near the town of Stanton and an hour northwest of Bismarck, this 1,758-acre archaeological site includes the remains of three villages of the historical Hidatsa tribal people, related to the Crow, dating back to around 1600 and occupied for nearly 240 years; the most famous resident was Sakakawea (Sacagawea), famed for assisting the Lewis and Clark Expedition (she was actually a Shoshone captive being held here). The “earth lodges” here reached heights of 14 feet and 40 ft. in diameter, and a couple have been reconstructed for visitors; there´s also a visitor center and museum which lays out the history of the site and the Hidatsa culture.

12428990092?profile=RESIZE_710xKen Lund

International Peace Garden

Situated way up north in the Turtle Mountains, on the border with the Canadian province of  Manitoba (about two hours from Minot, three from Bismarck, and four from Fargo), this park of just over 3½ square miles symbolizes the peaceful relations between the USA and its neighbor to the north, featuring beautiful floral displays, reflective pools, and walking paths. 



For more info, check out NBTourism.com.


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