Though North Dakota is the least visited state in the USA, it is not without locations of pure magic and beauty. North Dakota is home to more than just wild buffalo and lakes. You can visit some stunning small towns with remarkable culture and historical value. Here are the 10 most beautiful small towns in North Dakota to add to your travel bucket list.
For those who love nature, Medora is a place like no other in North Dakota. Because Medora is completely within the limits of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the entire town is encircled by nature. With only 150 residents and a plethora of activities, Medora never gets boring. You can stroll the town, visit Chateau de Mores—a historical building belonging to the original founder of Medora—then check out the 19th century meat-packing plant nearby. There’s also the Burning Hills Amphitheater, an open-air performance hall with 2,900 seats, nestled beside the Little Missouri River Valley.
Picturesque Jud is the very epitome of “small town.” Moreover, Jud is a town of murals that have been created by the less than 100 residents over the years. Every building has a unique painting on the edifice, giving the town an ambiance that you wouldn’t expect. There are images of stamps, cottages, breathtaking landscapes, patriotic scenes, and even cartoon characters. Just walking around feels like an art gallery.
Located along the curvy Sheyenne River is the City of Bridges, otherwise known as Valley City, ND. If you love bridges, you will want to head here, because there are 11 historical bridges leading into the town limits. The most famous would be the wooden Valley City State University footbridge and the designated landmark of the National Civil Engineering System, the Highline Bridge. In Medicine Wheel Park, you can see sacred Native American burial grounds and two ancient solar calendars. Then spend a day driving the 60 miles of the Sheyenne River Valley National Byway, where you can find dozens of outdoor excursions to participate in.
Just a few miles from the Canadian border is the second oldest community in North Dakota. History lovers will find the Heart of the Rendezvous Region, known as Walhalla, to be a wonderful destination for learning. The oldest building in ND, the Kittson Trading Post, is in Walhalla, as well as the Gingras Trading Post State Historic site and Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area. There are miles upon miles of trails lined with historically significant buildings and wildlife. Hike, ride horseback, or go tubing along the Pembina River. Campers who want to rough it should check out the Tetrault Woods State Forest, too.
Nicknamed the “Four Seasons Playground,” Bottineau is a land of sloping hills, blue skies, and boundless nature. No matter when you arrive in Bottineau, there is something to do. Not only is there two wildlife refuges on either side of the town’s boundaries, it is also the final stop before entering the Turtle Mountains. Adrenaline junkies on their way to said mountains should commemorate their passing through Bottineau by taking a picture with the 26 foot tall mascot, Tommy the Turtle.
Found in 1882, New Salem is a charming town with one of the higher populations on this list. There are under 1000 people dwelling in this quiet Morton County town. Check out the marvelous fiberglass statue of Salem Sue, a famous cow, before tasting some dairy products from the surplus of dairy farmers in the area.
Alongside Lake Sakakawea, one of the largest man-made lakes in the US, Garrison is a location suited for history buffers and anglers. Nicknamed the “Walleye Capital of the World,” avid fishermen and women head to Garrison to catch walleye, pike, and smallmouth bass. There is also the open-air Heritage Park and Museum that is dedicated to early 20th life in the town. Aside from that, you can visit during the Dickens Village Festival, which transforms Garrison into a Victorian era daydream complete with parades, costumes, and horse-drawn carriages.
Angling and watersports is the main draw for residents and visitors of Devils Lake. The town spans over 160,000 acres and is the largest body of water in the entire state, making it a prized location for record-breaking fish catches and other outdoor recreational activities. Those who don’t like fishing can head to Graham Island for bird-watching, people-watching, and camping. Or just spend the day wandering the Devils Lake downtown, including the Lake Region Heritage Center, to learn all about the pioneering days.
This historic midpoint between Bismarck and Fargo was founded in 1872 and has been dubbed the “Pride of the Prairie.” Experience what the pioneering days were like at Jamestown’s Frontier Village, a recreation of prairie town life according to the novel “Writer’s Shack” by Louis L’Amour. There is also the world’s largest buffalo monument to photograph, and the National Buffalo Museum, where the world’s only albino bison grazes happily.
In 1880, this small town was founded by Joseph Lynn Colton and was a huge hub for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Presently, the town is still pivotal in history for the preserved homes and structures, such as the beautiful Lisbon Opera House. Lisbon is the host of many concerts, community plays and events, making is a great place for families to visit. Nature lovers will find Sandager Park, which overlooks the Sheyenne River, to be a summertime wonderland of campgrounds and pools. And for the parents? Check out Prairiewood Winery for tours and tastings.