Midwest

Places to Visit in North Dakota: 6 Great Places to Visit in the Peace Garden State

The most intriguing places to visit in North Dakota are unassuming and untamed.

I’ve lived in this low-key state for more than a decade and it still surprises me with unspoiled spots along quiet trails, quirky restaurants, shops and roadside stops and vibrant art and neighborhoods.

Head west for an off-the-grid getaway. Rust red scoria crunches underfoot as you trek along the craggy buttes and colorful bluffs of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and deeper into the badlands and backroads beyond. Eastern North Dakota is the opposite – flat, green farmland dotted with urban enclaves perfect for a romantic retreat or a family-friendly weekend.

The rich history of the Missouri River Valley bridges east and west, while the northern edge is dotted with glittering lakes, thick forests and a garden that stretches into Canada.

There’s magic in this place of wide-open spaces and endless skies. Just pick a spot to start and let yourself wander.

Taste the west in Medora, North Dakota

The tiny western village of Medora perches on the edge of the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt State Park. The park’s rugged badlands bluffs, eerie petrified forest and photogenic wildlife (think chattering prairie dogs and graceful wild horses), as well as the small town’s quaint cowboy atmosphere combine to create North Dakota’s most popular tourist destination.

The Scenic Loop Drive, accessible overlooks and beginner-friendly hiking trails whisk nature newbies to the top of craggy cliffs and over the postcard pretty Little Missouri River Valley with minimal effort. Hardier types can explore the backcountry trails and hike through a coal vein inside the park, or set out for Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and the rugged, 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail just outside its borders.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Medora

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Where to stay

This compact town is best explored on foot, so stay in the heart of the action at Hotel AmericInn of Medora. Guests enjoy continental breakfast, a large pool and a hot tub within walking distance of the gift emporiums, museums, ice cream parlors and candy shops that draw visitors back year after year.

Hotel AmericInn of Medora

Medora
8.4 Very good (1461 reviews)

Family-friendly history in the Missouri River Valley, North Dakota

The Missouri River and its tributaries shaped the landscape and history of central North Dakota. Bismarck-Mandan serves as a base for exploring interactive sites on the land where indigenous nations built empires and Lewis and Clark wintered on their journey west.

Tour a Mandan earthlodge and hear meadowlarks sing high above military installations and riverside trails at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Wave to the wolves, camels and primates from the train at Dakota Zoo, then head to the free North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum to see dinosaurs and Ice Age creatures, hear indigenous languages and drive a tractor simulator. Or drive to Washburn to step into history (and a reconstructed winter camp) at the hands-on Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Bismarck

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Where to stay

Wake up with continental breakfast and fresh brewed coffee, stay active in the gym or indoor pool, then unwind by fire on the gracious outdoor terrace at Home 2 Suites by Hilton. Colorful, spacious suites hold cooking utensils, refrigerators and microwaves.

Home2 Suites By Hilton Bismarck

Bismarck
9.2 Excellent (188 reviews)

Family fun in Grand Forks, North Dakota

This northern North Dakota college town has long been a popular destination for sports fans and Canadian tourists who come for UND hockey (the hottest ticket in town) and affordable shopping. However, Grand Forks is also great option for an active family vacation.

Snack on covered potato chips from Widman’s Candy Shop as you stroll past the sculptures in the tiny pocket parks. Indulge in locally-sourced comfort food on the Ely’s Ivy patio before walking to The Greenway along the Red and Red Lake Rivers. It’s larger than Manhattan’s Central Park and dotted with parks, public pools, shore fishing spots and miles of mixed-use trails. See the city from the water with canoe, kayak and paddle board rentals from the Boathouse on the Red.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Grand Forks

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Where to stay

The patio, outdoor fireplace, and hot tub make it easy to relax at SpringHill Suites Grand Forks, while the gym and indoor pool keep active travelers busy. Enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast, a grab-and-go pantry and comfortable suites with separate zones for working, sleeping and food preparation.

SpringHill Suites Grand Forks

Top rated
Grand Forks
8.9 Excellent (1243 reviews)

Art, eats and urban energy in Fargo, North Dakota

North Dakota’s largest city pulses with energy. Packed with accessible art, great restaurants, and revitalized outdoor spaces, it’s an easy and affordable weekend getaway for couples and culture lovers.

Take a photo under the Fargo Theatre marquee, then check out dozens of interactive murals, sculptures and sidewalk mosaics on a public art walk. Purchase art from regional makers at UngluedGallery Four or Dakota Fine Art, visit the free Plains Art Museum, then window shop the curated shops and boutiques. Hit Broadway Square for outdoor movies, live music and a Saturday farmers market and access a bike share station to pedal the riverside trails. Or drive to Lindenwood Park to rent bikes and kayaks.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Fargo

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Where to stay

Stay at the Hotel Donaldson, the city’s first boutique hotel. The historic building features local artists and an unbeatable downtown location. The rooftop patio and hot tub, complimentary pastries, wine and cheese and decadent turndown truffle service take a romantic weekend to the next level.

The Hotel Donaldson

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Fargo
8.6 Excellent (36 reviews)

A nature escape near Watford City, North Dakota

Nature lovers who want to see more bison, longhorn cattle and bighorn sheep than other humans will love the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, outside Watford City. It’s quieter and greener than its southern counterpart and even less crowded. A 28-mile scenic byway passes secluded hiking trails and two of the most striking overlooks in the entire state.

Go deeper into nature by hiking or biking the gorgeous and grueling single-track Maah Daah Hey Trail, which skirts ice caves, riverbanks and backcountry camping spots. Fuel up with locally sourced steak and potatoes at Outlaws Bar and Grill.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Watford City

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Where to stay

Teddy’s Residential Suites welcomes adventurers with fully equipped kitchens and dining room tables, as well as a hotel gym, restaurant and bar. The plush lobby and understated room décor are more luxurious than the typical digs in this no-frills western town.

Teddy's Residential Suites Watford City

Watford City
8.6 Excellent (188 reviews)

Peaceful forests and gardens along the Canadian border of North Dakota

1/3

The towering trees, lush gardens and crystal-clear lakes along the Canadian border are a breath of fresh air. Cruise the gently rolling hills of the 53-mile Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, the backbone of this leisurely, outdoor-oriented road trip.

Hike idyllic Lake Metigoshe State Park’s 15 miles of wooded trails or rent kayaks and canoes to paddle the gentle waters. Another 18 miles of multi-use trails and 10 miles of ATV terrain weave through Turtle Mountain State Forest. Then straddle the North Dakota-Manitoba border at the International Peace Garden. It’s home to more than 155,000 flowers, cacti and succulents and quiet, meditative spaces.

Hotels & Vacation Rentals - Bottineau

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Where to stay

Stay at Cobblestone Inn and Suites in Bottineau for free breakfast before hitting the road. Also included are a fridge and microwave for stretching your food budget and laundry facilities for when the trails get muddy. Stop at the hotel bar for a nightcap.

Cobblestone Inn & Suites - Bottineau

Top rated
Bottineau
8.6 Excellent (293 reviews)