Moving to North Dakota? The toughest part is narrowing down your legendary to-do list. Let us help.
So you’ve moved to, or are considering moving to, the beautiful state of North Dakota. Welcome! The Peace Garden State has so much to offer, from outdoor adventures to breweries and unique attractions galore.
“With so many options for entertainment and recreation across the state, it is hard to narrow the must-do list to 20,” said Sara Otte Coleman, the North Dakota Department of Commerce tourism and marketing director. “What surprises new residents most is the huge variety. From quaint, small towns and farm festivals to concerts, sports and outdoor recreation, there is no reason to be bored in North Dakota.”
While there is an endless number of North Dakota-specific things to do, we’ve narrowed it down to the 20 things you must do in your first year of living in the state. By the time you get through these, you’ll feel like a true North Dakotan.
1. Look for prairie dogs and wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Go for a hike in Theodore Roosevelt National Park around sunset, and you will be dazzled by all the colors bouncing off rocks in the Badlands. This park is vast and quiet, but keep your eyes peeled for prairie dogs and wild horses, which can be seen roaming the park’s 70,448 acres.
2. Get your photo with the famous woodchipper from the movie “Fargo.”
Remember that scene from “Fargo”? Stop by the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center and grab a photo with the actual woodchipper from the cult classic. Located in a grain elevator, the visitor’s center is unlike any other and is also home to an eccentric Celebrity Walk of Fame.
3. Learn about the state’s Native American history at the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation’s Interpretive Center.
Located on the banks of Lake Sakakawea, named for the famous interpreter who assisted Lewis and Clark, the Interpretive Center offers visitors an experience embedded in the culture, oral traditions and history of the MHA Nation. The center also offers traditional foods, educational classes and an amphitheater. Also, explore the earth lodge village, event venue and casino and lake cruises.
4. Catch a hockey game at the world-class Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Watch the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in style at the Ralph, dubbed the “Taj Mahal of Hockey.” With granite floors, cherry wood and leather seats, and classy pubs, watching a hockey game here is a must for any sports fan.
5. Attend the annual Norsk Høstfest, the largest North American Scandinavian festival.
Held annually in Minot at the end of September, the Norsk Høstfest is a massive celebration recognizing North Dakota’s large Scandinavian population. Tens of thousands attend from all over the world to experience Nordic entertainment, artisans making and selling unique Scandinavian art, authentic food and even a Viking village.
6. Check out some dinos at the North Dakota Heritage Center.
Where else can you see life-size casts of a T. rex and Triceratops battling? None other than the “Smithsonian of the Plains,” the North Dakota Heritage Center. The museum is chock-full of North Dakota history that dates back 65 million years. Don’t miss Dakota, an extremely rare mummified Edmontosaurus.
7. Attend the Medora Musical in the Burning Hills Amphitheater.
The stunning Burning Hills Amphitheater is a fantastic setting to watch the “Medora Musical,” a super fun country-western variety show. The show is a must-see and harkens back to the good old days, but the setting is also a star. The outdoor theater was carved into the side of the badlands and features sweeping views of the landscape.
8. Hike a portion (or all of) the Maah Daah Hey Trail.
Made up of nine trail units, the Maah Daah Hey Trail system has a trail for every difficulty and spans across some of the country’s most gorgeously scenic terrain. The most iconic is the challenging 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail. The trails can be traversed via mountain bike, horseback, hiking or backpacking.
9. Shop for fresh food at one of the state’s many farmers’ markets.
North Dakota is an agricultural hub of the country, so it makes sense that it would have amazing farmers’ markets dotted across the state. Check out Lena’s Fresh Market in Rolla, Town Square Farmers Market in Grand Forks and Watford City’s market.
10. Tailgate and watch the Bison at the FargoDome.
Head to the FargoDome to cheer on the North Dakota State Bison, the most awarded DI football program in the league. Be sure to get there a few hours early and enjoy the tailgating, one of the best (and most fun) Fargo fall activities. Then find your seat and watch the Bison win!
11. Relax in the International Peace Garden.
The state isn’t called the Peace Garden State for nothing! Tucked away near the Turtle Mountains, the 2,300-acre International Peace Garden sits half in North Dakota and half in Canada, symbolizing the countries’ friendship. Spend an afternoon hiking past waterfalls and wildflowers, and don’t miss the highly impressive Formal Garden with 155,000 flowers on display.
12. Walk in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Lewis and Clark Trail winds throughout the state and features many museums and historical sites along the way, showcasing how the famous explorers lived in and interacted with the wild North Dakota lands. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn is a great place to start.
13. Sip a craft brew at Drekker Brewing Company.
While there are many craft breweries dotting the prairies, Drekker Brewing Company in Fargo offers a complete visitor experience. Drekker pours out many different styles of beer in spacious digs, but it is especially good at sours and fruity beers, and it even has a slushie sour on the menu.
14. Go fishing for perch and walleye at Devils Lake.
One of the best places to fish in the state, Devils Lake is home to northern pike, white bass, walleye and, of course, perch. It’s known as the “Perch Capital of the World,” and anglers travel from all over the world to go ice fishing here in the winter.
15. Explore downtown Fargo and grab a bite of local flavor.
Downtown Fargo is unique and charming, packed with great shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Walk around and try to see all of the city’s famed murals before grabbing a bite at The Boiler Room and catching a show at the iconic Historic Fargo Theater.
16. Take a drive down the Enchanted Highway.
Located in Regent, this fun 32-mile drive features impressively large scrap metal sculptures along the way. Each sculpture is one-of-a-kind, but some more notable ones are Geese in Flight and World’s Largest Tin Family.
17. Do a roadside attraction crawl.
North Dakota is known for its roadside attractions. Be sure to check out The World’s Largest Buffalo (it’s actually a bison) off of I-94 by Frontier Village. Known by locals as “Dakota Thunder,” he weighs about 60 tons. And don’t forget Salem Sue, a 38-foot-tall Holstein cow statue located in New Salem that is dubbed the “World’s Largest Cow.”
18. Spend an afternoon at the North Dakota Museum of Art
The official art museum of North Dakota is on the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks. The North Dakota Museum of Art has free admission, although there is a suggested donation of $5 per person. You’ll find exhibits of regional, national and international art, with special attention paid to contemporary Native American art. The museum hosts art classes for adults and children, and you don’t want to miss lunch at the Museum Cafe, either.
19. Explore the great outdoors in winter.
True North Dakotans know how to have fun outside, even when it’s below zero. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling are just some of the ways residents get fresh air in the winter. Downhill ski or snowboard at Frostfire Park in the Pembina Gorge, a stunning place where the hills suddenly erupt out of the plains. Just be sure to bundle up!
20. Soak up even more history at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
Here, visitors can explore the reconstructed On-a-Slant Village and learn about the Mandan Native Americans and see what life was like for frontier soldiers at Fort Abraham Lincoln and Fort McKeen. Hiking is also popular in the oldest state park in North Dakota.
This article was sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.