In the 19th century, Theodore Roosevelt visited the widely unexplored North Dakota territory. He looked around the rugged, spacious landscape and said, “it was here that the romance of my life began.”
From rolling prairies to sprawling Midwestern wilderness, North Dakota is a state home to an explorer’s paradise. Though it’s one of the least visited states and least populated, there are endless things to do in North Dakota that will educate and inspire people of all ages.
Explore North Dakota’s rugged geography and encounter Midwest wildlife at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Or discover indigenous peoples’ culture and the history of settlement in the region at the North Dakota Heritage Center.
From prairies filled with colorful wildflowers to the legacy of the Old West, the discoveries are endless with must-see North Dakota attractions. Get started on your unforgettable adventure with these top 20 attractions in North Dakota.
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When U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the North Dakota territory, just nine years before it entered statehood, he discovered the sprawling Badlands while hunting bison.
He fell in love with the Western landscape, so it only fitted that the region was named after him when it became a park open for all to explore.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park features three separate areas in the Badlands of western North Dakota. Visitors can take a scenic drive along with rocky formations or hike through the backcountry. However, the most significant attraction that made it one of the best places to visit in North Dakota is wildlife viewing.
Encounter iconic western animals, including bison, elk, wild horses, prairie dogs, and much more. Coyotes and bobcats wander at night, and lucky visitors might get a glimpse from afar of these majestic animals.
Address: Medora, ND 58645
Also Read: What to Pack When Going to a National Park
Have you ever dreamed of following the footsteps of famous explorers Lewis and Clark? At the Fort Mandan Overlook, you can take in the scenery of the area where the two adventurers established their winter headquarters from 1804-1805.
During that time, Fort Mandan was a cultural exchange location between Lewis and Clark and other explorers and the region's Native Americans. It’s also where Lewis and Clark met Sacagawea, who joined them on the rest of their expedition to the West Coast.
Today, Fort Mandan (named after the indigenous people of the region) is one of the top attractions in North Dakota, welcoming visitors to experience what it was like for the Corps of Discovery all those years ago.
About 10 miles from the overlook, visitors can explore a modern reconstruction of Fort Mandan, including an interpretive center that brings you back in time to the historic journey.
Address: 8th St SW, Washburn, ND 58577
For adventurers and bikers looking for things to do in North Dakota, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is a must. The 144-mile trail stretches through some of the Badlands' most breathtaking features.
While the path is open to biking, hiking, and horseback riding, it's best known as one of the country's top mountain biking experiences.
The trail begins at the Burning Coal Vein Campground (about 30 miles south of Medora) and winds its way to the CC campground (about 16 miles south of Watford City). There are nine campgrounds along the way, where adventurers can hitch horses and build a campfire.
Bikers ride past towering buttes, flat grasslands, and past Western marvels, including Medora and Old West town with a charming Western feel.
Address: Medora, ND 58645
Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, the North Dakota Heritage Center should be on your list of places to visit in North Dakota.
As the state's largest museum, the center is dedicated to showcasing the region's history, from geological formations that took place millions of years ago to recent historical events.
In addition to a theater, atrium, reading room, and more, there are four main galleries at the North Dakota Heritage Center:
With so much to explore and learn about at the Heritage Center, you’ll be glad it’s on your list of North Dakota attractions.
Address: 612 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58501
In the Old West town of Medora is a historic homestead built by Marquis de Mores, the city's founder. The 26-room home was the Marquis' summer family home.
Today, it's one of the top attractions in North Dakota, where visitors can step back in time and experience the Wild West of the 18th century.
The home features original artifacts that visitors can learn about on a guided tour. Nearby, the De Mores Memorial Park features a bronze statue of the Marquis. Chimney Park commemorates the meatpacking business the Marquis operated for many years.
Learn about the origins of the town of Medora and the Marquis and his family. Discover furnishings used by extinguished guests, including Theodore Roosevelt.
Address: 3426 Chateau Rd, Medora, ND 58645
Jamestown, North Dakota, is home to the world's largest buffalo, a towering 26-foot-tall monument of the Western animal. Nearby, the National Buffalo Museum is one of the best things to see in North Dakota, where you can learn about this majestic frontier beast.
The National Buffalo Museum focuses on teaching visitors about the bison’s history in America. Exhibits guide visitors through the bison’s role in Native American culture and how the species escaped extinction.
The museum also maintains a live buffalo herd, and passersby can see them wandering near I-94.
After diving into bison history at the museum, the gift shop sells bison-themed products, from clothing and art to home goods and jewelry.
Address: 500 17th St SE, Jamestown, ND 58401
In 1932, the United States and Canada commemorated their peace and friendship by creating the International Peace Garden, a scenic attraction nestled on the two countries' border.
Walkthrough 2,300 acres of wildflowers, waterfalls, and lakes. Hike or drive along trails where you can view different North American species.
The botanical garden features various gardens with different flora and fauna, a conservatory and interpretive center, a historic lodge, a 9/11 memorial, a peace chapel, and more. Spend a few hours or the entire day exploring this excellent site.
Anyone can visit the peaceful grounds of the International Peace Garden. If it’s on your list of places to visit in North Dakota, make sure to bring a driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport to re-enter the country.
Address: 10939 US-281, Dunseith, ND 58329
The Fargo Theatre is a historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Opened in the mid-1920s, the art deco theater offers various shows throughout the year and hosts the annual Fargo Film Festival.
Tickets for films are just nine dollars, so you can take in a historic architecture piece while enjoying a great show.
The theater was originally built as a cinema and vaudeville theater to entertain crowds. Today, it’s one of the top attractions in North Dakota. Visitors can catch an independent or foreign film or attend a concert.
The 1926 pipe organ, the Mighty Wurlitzer, is a prized possession in the theater, as it’s the largest theater organ between Minneapolis and Seattle.
In addition to being the best place to catch a live show in Fargo, the theater is the most photographed location in the city.
Address: 314 Broadway N, Fargo, ND 58102
If you love animals or have kids looking for a fun adventure, add the Dakota Zoo to your list of North Dakota attractions to visit. Nestled along the Mississippi River in Bismarck, the zoo is home to 125 animal species, from birds and insects to reptiles and mammals.
Hundreds of acres offer expansive enclosures for animals to roam while you take in their beauty. The zoo also hosts various events throughout the year, including wine and beer tasting for adults and breakfast and Halloween parties for children.
What began as a small farm in 1961 has evolved into a sprawling homestead for numerous animals to live. With a mission to instill and inspire a better understanding of animals and nature, the Dakota Zoo has become a place where animals and humans can encounter each other.
Address: 602 Riverside Park Rd, Bismarck, ND 58504
As the oldest state park in the state, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is one of the top North Dakota attractions for explorers of all ages.
The Visitor Center Museum offers insight into the region’s culture and history through unique artifacts. Reconstructed earth lodges give visitors a glimpse into the past with the Mandan Native Americans.
History buffs can explore Fort Abraham Lincoln and Fort McKeen to discover what it was like living as a frontier soldier. And there's plenty to do for outdoorsmen, too!
There are more than 100 campsites situated along with the scenic Heart and Missouri Rivers. You'll also find great fishing spots along the way.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park features a 6.75-mile trail system open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. In the winter, the trail is open to snowshoers. The trail features loops, twists, and turns that connect to each other and provide breathtaking views of North Dakota’s wilderness.
Address: 4480 Fort Lincoln Rd, Mandan, ND 58554
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks in the United States
Have you ever wondered what it was like to live as a Native American in the Western frontier? The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site offers the chance to go back in time and discover the culture, history, and lifestyle of the people who first settled this land.
It’s one of the best North Dakota attractions to learn about Native American hunting, the fur trade, and much more. The site's museum explores the Hidatsa people's history, a tribe local to the North Dakota area.
Get up close to real artifacts and marvel at beautiful pieces of art created by the Northern Plains Indians. Outside, explore reconstructed earth lodges, gardens, and villages very similar to what the Hidatsa people would live in.
There are also several hiking trails ranging from two to six miles, where you can find unforgettable views of the surrounding land, including the Missouri River. The site also allows anglers to try their hand at catching fish in the Knife and Missouri Rivers.
Address: 564 County Rd 37, Stanton, ND 58571
If you love art, you can’t miss the Plains Art Museum, one of the best attractions in North Dakota for admiring local masterpieces.
The museum features several rotating exhibitions, from a beautiful North Dakota mural to the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival.
Located in Fargo, the Plains Art Museum is the largest in North Dakota. Entry is free to all, and visitors can enjoy more than 4,000 local, regional, and national works. Many Native American pieces are included in the exhibitions, too.
Guides are available to tell the history and background of any work you're interested in learning more about. The museum also offers classes in making pottery to create your own piece of art to take home.
Address: 704 1st Ave N, Fargo, ND 58102
Also Read: 20 Best Art Museums in the USA
Explore the only outdoor museum in the world in the heart of Minot, North Dakota: the Scandinavian Heritage Park. The park features artifacts and replicas from the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.
Explore Danish windmills, statues, a Finnish sauna, and the Gol Stave Church Museum. The park's biggest attraction is a 240-year-old log house transported all the way from Norway.
The park was created by the Scandinavian Heritage Association, an organization founded in 1989 to honor the Nordic culture.
The association hopes to celebrate the culture of those who immigrated to the New World, forced to bring very little material treasures with them. The park honors those peoples' strength and resilience above everything else.
Address: 1020 S Broadway, Minot, ND 58701
Lake Sakakawea State Park is one of the top North Dakota attractions for camping, fishing, hiking, and additional outdoor activities.
The park features miles of lakeshore paradise where visitors can swim, camp, and boat. It’s also a popular spot for sailboats and windsurfing!
Lake Sakakawea is the third-largest manmade reservoir in the United States. At 368,000 acres large, there’s plenty of space to head out and escape from life’s worries.
It’s home to one of the best places to fish in the state, and anglers can try their hand at catching walleye, northern pike, and chinook salmon. A full-service marina, convenience store, and fish cleaning area offer everything fishers need.
The state park is also a part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a 4,600-mile trail that crosses seven states from North Dakota to New York. It’s the perfect spot to take a walk and find scenic views.
Address: Pick City, ND 58545
From the early to mid-1800s, Fort Union Trading Post was one of the top fur trade stops along the upper Missouri River. Regional Native American tribes traded their buffalo robes and furs for treasures and goods from across the world – anything from guns to blankets.
Today, the site is a national historic site and of the best attractions in North Dakota. The site features a partial reconstruction of what the post would have looked like in the 19th century.
Upon arrival, guests watch an orientation film that displays the fort's history and how it was such an important trading spot between Northern Plain Tribes and Euro-American traders.
The Trade House offers a real insight into the fur trade. A living history interpretation educates visitors on the stories and feasts that were held in the building.
Address: 15550 ND-1804, Williston, ND 58801
In the heart of Medora is one of the unique attractions in North Dakota. The state is home to Native American, ranching, and rodeo cultures, and the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame aims to preserve the history of each community.
Conceived and opened in the 1990s, it’s one of the best places to dive into the state’s western heritage. Included in the center is the Hall of Honorees, a list of inducted members who epitomized the heart of the western frontier throughout history.
There are also various exhibits, including a gift shop, cultural archives, and an event space.
From replicas to real artifacts, the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame offers so much to learn about. What are you waiting for? Channel your inner cowgirl or cowboy and ride off to learn about inspiring people who shaped the region.
Address: 250 Main St, Medora, ND 58645
You can’t visit the Fargo area without stopping at Bonanzaville, USA, a museum complex dedicated to sharing the history of Fargo and the surrounding region.
Original buildings visitors can encounter include Fargo’s first schoolhouse, a fire state, general store, church, and more. An aircraft and automobile museum dive into the history of both transportation vehicles.
There are hundreds of thousands of exhibits and artifacts and 40 historic buildings to explore that display the United State's history through the eyes of North Dakotans. It's one of the largest historical attractions in the nation and the largest in the region.
Learn about how pioneers lived on the prairie and talk with period actors who will tell you all about their lives on the frontier. Visitors will spend hours exploring buildings and learning new things about local culture and national history. It’s truly a historical “bonanza!”
Address: 1351 Main Ave W, West Fargo, ND 58078
Metal sculptures and unique roadside art await drivers heading down the Enchanted Highway. As one of the most memorable North Dakota attractions, various pieces of art capture your attention as you drive off Interstate 94 and along this mystical road.
Look for a giant metal sculpture of geese in flight, and marvel at a beautiful work depicting deer crossing a fence. Admire towering grasshoppers and follow the pheasants lined up across the prairie.
Although it’s not a real highway, the Enchanted Highway is a magical road that transports you to a beautiful place.
The Enchanted Highway began construction in 1989 when local artist Gary Greff came up with the idea of a sculpture-lined roadway. He created eight sculptures in total that line the highway.
In 2012, he opened the Enchanted Castle, a hotel in Regent, North Dakota, that continues the theme of local art and abstract sculptures in a unique place.
Address: 607 Main St, Regent, ND 58650
Also Read: The Most Scenic Drives in the USA
There’s no show like the Medora Musical, accurately known as “the rootin’-tootinest boot-scootinest show in all the Midwest." The show was created to pay homage to President Roosevelt's trip to the Badlands and recognize the Old West's living culture.
Performers put on the show outdoors every summer evening in Medora. The audience is treated to living singing and dancing, country music, live horses, variety acts, a Roosevelt reenactment, and much more.
The grand finale event includes patriotic fireworks that will have you oohing and ahhing at the night sky.
The musical revue first premiered at the Burning Hills Amphitheater in 1965 as an evolution of previous shows about Roosevelt’s visit to North Dakota.
It’s such a popular attraction in North Dakota that more than 100,000 people see it each summer.
Address: 3422 Chateau Rd, Medora, ND 58645
Bismarck is North Dakota's beloved state capital, and you can learn a lot about the state's origins at the North Dakota State Capitol building.
The 21-story tower and its surrounding 160-acre campus have their own history, too. Built-in an art deco style, it's the tallest habitable building in North Dakota.
The Capitol grounds have various walking paths that wind around the campus and take you on a self-guided tour. The Arboretum Trail takes you through a wooded area and past a petrified tree estimated to be about 60 million years old.
The Prairie Trail takes visitors north of the Judicial Wing and into grassy fields filled with wildflowers.
If you wish to go inside, the Capitol offers tours to take visitors through public areas and educate them about the building’s history and state origins.
Address: 600 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505