North Dakota Holiday Planning Guide
A primarily rural state, North Dakota is the ancient home of the Lakota tribe. Norwegian settlers once made up the European population in this area, and one of the state's major attractions is the Norsk Høstfest, the largest Norwegian festival in the United States. The vast plains and never-ending sky inspire the many orchestras that call the state home. The spirituality of the music is second only to the spirituality of the people, as the state has the nation's highest percentage of churchgoing residents. North Dakota’s open fields are conducive to fishing, hunting, and winter activities.
Places to Visit in North DakotaFargo
: Submerge yourself in the heart of the state in Fargo, the state's biggest city and cultural, medical, and economical hub. Named after the Wells Fargo founder, the city is also home to the state university and is packed with museums, theme parks, and shopping. Dickinson
: Scenic and outdoorsy, Dickinson is a melting pot of cultures, brimming with hiking trails, camping grounds, and fishing holes. Bismarck
: As the state's capital, Bismarck is hub of culture, history, and shopping. This growing metropolis is a recreational hotspot, and is equally scenic as it is historic. Grand Forks
: This riverside city serves as a large urban center with much to offer in the way of shopping and dining. You’ll find much to do on your North Dakota vacation, as the city has everything from biking and birding to cross-country skiing and hockey. Minot
: Sought out for its wildlife and gardens, Minot is a scenic town a little off the beaten track that’s known as the "magic city." It has a small-town feel but a growing population, and is a significant railway hub. Jamestown
: Affectionately known as the "Pride of of the Prairie," Jamestown is a history buff's dream, as it's packed with museums; but it's star attraction, however, is the World's Largest Buffalo. Finish your North Dakota trip off with some good, old-fashioned hunting and fishing. Williston
: Williston, with its small-town charm, is home to a handful of significant historic sites and its riverside position provides access to ample natural beauty.
Things to Do in North Dakota
Popular North Dakota tourist attractionsRalph Engelstad Arena
: Home of the Fighting Sioux, this impressive arena is a must on any hockey fan's North Dakota itinerary, as you can tour the arena and hop on the ice through the academy. North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
: Take in all the history the state has to offer at once at the North Dakota Heritage Center, which includes exhibits covering pre-historic times, important vessels, and birds of North Dakota, among many others. Painted Canyon Overlook
: You'll find yourself speechless at this North Dakota attraction; Painted Canyon Overlook is a scenic viewpoint looking out over Theodore Roosevelt National Park for views of a stunning, endless prairie landscape. University of North Dakota
: This quaint university campus is packed with charm, and surrounded by lovely gardens and walkways to meander through. Opt to take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the campus. Enchanted Highway
: This scenic stretch of country highway is lined with larger-than-life country-themed sculptures, a great route if your North Dakota holiday includes a family road trip. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
: Loaded with American history, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is a popular addition on any history buff's North Dakota itinerary, where you can tour the historic fort and chat with friendly rangers. Scandinavian Heritage Park
: Go international at Scandinavian Heritage Park, a park celebrating the heritage of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden complete with replica buildings from each of the five countries. The Dakota Zoo
: This quaint zoo is just right in size for young travellers, little visitors can walk from exhibit to exhibit or take a train ride. There's plenty of animals to be seen, including tigers, deer, horses, otters, bears, foxes, and big cats. Petrified Forest Loop
: Hiking enthusiasts should look no further than the Petrified Forest Loop, where a gravel road will take you to a long, scenic hiking trail over badland terrain, and past petrified wood and trees with the views of buffalo herds on the horizon. Old Town Hall Theater
: See history come alive at Old Town Hall Theater, where a live stage performance brings North Dakota's favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt, back to life in a single-actor production. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
: Get up and close personal to nature at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where you can spot wildlife such as prairie dogs, sheep, elk, wild horses, and bison all in their natural environment on your North Dakota holiday.
Planning a North Dakota Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in North Dakota with Kids
North Dakota is a vast state with a sparse population, so you'll never have to worry about overcrowding on your North Dakota vacation. The state has plenty to offer in the way for family-friendly fun, such as zoos, wildlife refuges, live albino buffalo, outdoor activities, fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, and history on everything from dinosaurs to Sakakawea.
North Dakota's big agricultural industry has, in turn, yielded an agritourism industry--where visitors on a North Dakota holiday can have the chance to work and play at one of the state's many farms or ranches. If your North Dakota itinerary includes a stop in Fargo
, check out the Children's Museum-Yunker Farm
, where kids can explore the nature trails and pumpkin patch as well as interactive and educational museum exhibits.
Or, visit Bismarck
when travelling with kids on your North Dakota vacation; you’ll find zoos, wildlife refuges, parks, and water parks.
Tips for a Family Vacation in North Dakota
North Dakota's vast wilderness is the highlight of the state, but remember that creatures must be approached with caution--like rattlesnakes, bison, cougars, and mountain lions--which can be dangerous if not respected.
North Dakota can also be prone to severe weather, mainly thunderstorms, hailstorms, and tornadoes. If travelling through during the spring and summer months, monitor weather conditions regularly.
It's worth mentioning that North Dakota has seen an increase in crime in recent years,with Dickinson
, being the two notable crime hotspots because of the state’s recent oil boom.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in North Dakota
Cuisine of North Dakota
The state's local specialities are largely influenced by its European ancestors--particularly German and Norwegian--and also by the Native American tribes that first founded the state. It's not uncommon in the Midwest for meals to be served in a smorgasbord style rather than as courses.
Churches also play a large part in the cuisine of the state, many hosting annual Norwegian dinners as a fellowship open to the community. The largest such dinner takes place in Williston
Visitors on a North Dakota holiday can indulge in sausage; Kuchen--a sweet cake dessert; fleischkuekle--a meat pie; and knoephla--a dumpling soup--which are all local specialties of German descent. Lefse, a crepe-like flatbread; krumbkake, a waffle cookie; lutefisk, a dried whitefish dish; and raspeball, a potato dumpling are all local speciality of Scandinavian descent.
Shopping in North Dakota
The state's most-populated city, Fargo
, is home to West Acres Regional Shopping Center
, a shopping center packed with brand names, high-end shops, and a comprehensive food court. Grand Forks
has something for every shopping enthusiast on a North Dakota trip, including those who like bargain hunting, brand name retailers, mega shopping malls, independent boutiques, and specialty shops. Here you'll also find Widman's Candy Shop
, where you can satisfy your sweet tooth with their variety of candy and chocolate offerings, including their signature Clippers.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to North Dakota
History of North Dakota
For thousands of years, Native American tribes, including the Lakota tribes, inhabited North Dakota. It wasn't until 1738 that European explorer French-Canadian Le Vérendrye, set foot in the present-day state. Between 1762 and 1802 the region was part of Spanish Louisiana. The Dakota Territory was settled sparsely by European Americans, mostly of Scandinavian descent, until the late 19th century. Scandinavian Heritage Park
pays tribute to those some of those European settlers.
The Enabling Act of 1889 saw North Dakota and South Dakota, along with three other states, admitted into the union on November 2. Separating the two regions, however, sparked a dilemma between the two rivals, as it was purposefully undocumented which state was admitted first. However, North Dakota is often declared the 39th state purely due to alphabetical order.
Following World War I, unrest among wheat farmers and Norwegian immigrants alike led to a radical political movement in the Non Partisan League. The movement tried to insulate North Dakota from the power of out-of state banks and corporations by founding in-house powerhouses of their own, such as the Bank of North Dakota and North Dakota Mill and Elevator. A state-owned railroad line also emerged, along with anti-corporate laws preventing corporations and banks from owning title to farmland. The laws still exist today, proving to have been very powerful in protecting North Dakota's farmland.
In the 1950s, a round of federal investment and construction projects began, including the dam and two Air Force bases that the state is known for today. In the 1970s and 80s, North Dakota saw a boom in oil exploration, which has since been a profitable natural resource for the state.
Add North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
to your North Dakota itinerary to learn more about the state's fascinating heritage and history.
Landscape of North Dakota
North Dakota's "Great Plains" location means it is, for the most part, flat terrain. However, you’ll find dramatic landscape changes along the western side of the state, known as the Badlands. Here you'll find the state's highest point at 3,506 ft (1,069 m) and the stunning scenery of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
offers another great area for scoping out the Badlands landscape, with its signature dry terrain, sedimentary rocks, and clay-rich soils that have been extensively eroded by wind and water leaving soft, pyramid-shaped hills. The low ground between the Badlands is intertwined by wild bushes and grassy walking trails.
Central North Dakota features a prairie plateau landscape. The eastern part of the state is home toNorth Dakota's large agriculture industry, as land becomes more fertile because of drainage and runoff from the neighboring rivers and lakes. Here the landscape is mostly grasslands and crops, with some hills.
Holidays & Festivals in North DakotaMinot
annually hosts the Norsk Høstfest, the largest Norwegian festival in the United States in October. Visit during this time of year to sample many Scandinavian dishes--including the popular lutefisk--along with many other ethnic foods.
Many cities annually host pumpkin festivals and Oktoberfest celebrations. In the summer, you'll find the same is true for farmers markets and county fairs.
Craft shows are also very popular in North Dakota, held annually in many cities across the state Specifically, Fargo
, Grand Forks
, and Bismarck
offer festivals where visitors can pick up a unique, locally crafted souvenir.
Every March, Valley City hosts the North Dakota Winter Show, an agricultural spectacle, while in May Garrison hosts a kite flying festival, called the Sky Fest Over Fort Stevenson.
North Dakota Travel Tips
Climate of North Dakota
North Dakota enjoys a continental climate, yielding hot summers and cold winters. Being a landlocked state in the center of the Northern Hemisphere, the state experiences extreme temperature differences between the winter and summer months. North Dakota is also prone to severe weather in the spring and summer months, with thunderstorms, hailstorms, and tornadoes occurring in isolated but not unexpected incidences.
Transportation in North Dakota
The best way to experience a North Dakota vacation is by car, because of the state’s vast expanses of open land. The major interstate highways all pass through Fargo, the state's most populated city. You can also opt to travel by train, as the Amtrak lines run through a couple of the major cities.
Your other option is to travel by rural bus, which connects the cities via the interstate. There are few companies to choose from.