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Why Bismarck, ND, Is a Best Place to Live

A thriving economy, amenities help make this Great Plains city one of the country's best places to live

By Laura Hill on December 3, 2017


It has a wealth of fun and interesting things to do. Good restaurants. Great schools. And an energetic, increasingly youthful citizenry who cares about their growing city. Sound like a bustling northwest city, or maybe a New South hot spot? Welcome to Bismarck, N.D., one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live.

Best Places to Live in North Dakota

Bismark Attracts New Residents

Located on the vast Upper Great Plains, Bismarck may surprise people who envision winter blizzards, scorching summers and unpredictable acts of nature when they think about the city. But not those who live there.

“This is an incredibly safe, growing community,†says Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary. “I’ve believed that one of our most important responsibilities is to use resources in a prudent way that creates an environment where we either attract or retain talent – and that’s working. We have prodigal kids coming back and bringing all these new bucketsful of ideas from whence they came, so we get to grow differently here.”

Located in the middle of energy country – Bismarck is home to MDU Resources, a national energy-production and distribution giant – the city has benefited from the region’s astonishing gas and oil boom, as well as a healthy agricultural economy. The Bismarck MSA’s 115,000 people enjoy what has been the lowest unemployment rate in the country – 2.6 percent – and a cost of living more than 2 percent lower than the national average.

River Enriches Bismarck-Mandan

On top of that, the city offers a satisfying quality of life. Its location on the Missouri River, just across from Mandan, means the twin cities have a wealth of things to do outside, even in deep winter.

“The river is very vibrant and allows for a myriad of recreational activity, from boarding to jet skiing to fishing and kayaking and canoeing,†Seminary says. “It’s really a beautiful scenic byway, quite spectacular. And we’re blessed to have four seasons. Sure, we have some real winter, but by and large, you can get out and enjoy the weather every day of the year.”

Bismarck received high marks for its housing, which has been challenging in light of the area’s economic growth, but it is still reasonable and varied, from single-family homes (median priced $183,100) to condos and apartments.

As the North Dakota state capital, Bismarck is a government center. It is also a regional health-care hub, with two major hospitals. Its cultural opportunities include the North Dakota Heritage Museum, the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony and an active performing arts community. The city’s numerous parks are celebrated, as is the Dakota Zoo, and a roster of festivals and downtown events make for a lively calendar.

Small Companies Can Mean Big Business for Bismarck Entrepreneurs

Vibrant Downtown Bismarck

Seminary is particularly proud of his city’s downtown, which has been thoughtfully revitalized in recent years. Bustling with locally owned restaurants and bars, it is also a retail center, and, unlike most downtowns, within walking distance of the area’s major shopping hub, the Kirkwood Mall.

“We have fun here,†Seminary says. And the future looks even more enjoyable as the city grows and continues to change. Still, there is a constant that makes Bismarck stand out.

“When you have extreme weather elements, 30 or 40 below, 110 in the summer, droughts, floods, years when you don’t have enough rain to grow the crops, blizzards that shut things down for four or five days in a row, you have to have faith in your neighbors,” Seminary says. “Here, they always have your back.”

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