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North Dakota was my 50th state visited. If you’re reading this blog post, maybe you’re interested in visiting all 50 states too. Or maybe you’re just looking to explore more of the midwest and want to learn about places to go in North Dakota? Either way you’ve come to the right place! This blog post is going to cover the top destination highlights of the state, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the capital city: Bismarck, and lastly Fargo — the home of the Best For Last Club… an exclusive club you can join if you visit all 50 states and save North Dakota for last. Keep reading to learn more!
Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by the Fargo-Moorheard Tourism Board. I partnered with the tourism board during my visit to Fargo for content and was hosted on the itinerary below. As always, all opinions written here are my own. I worked with my first few hotels / tourism boards at the start of my #50stateschallenge, so it’s really full circle I was able to land a partnership for #50! Thank you all for reading… your support means the world!
North Dakota Basic FAQ
Where is it located?
North Dakota is a midwest US state bordered by Canada in the north, Minnesota in the east, South Dakota in the south, and Montana in the west.
What is the state known for?
North Dakota is home to the Red River Valley and the Missouri Plateau, the highest region in the state. This area is where the ND Badlands are located, not to be confused with Badlands National Park — one of the best things to do near Rapid City, South Dakota. Theordore Roosevelt was once a cattle rancher in this area, hence the name of the national park. Here you can also find roaming bison, bighorn sheep, and moose.
What are the major cities here?
The capital of North Dakota is Bismarck, which is located centrally in the state. The biggest city however, in terms of population, is located in the east. Fargo-Moorhead splits the North Dakota-Minnesota border, and is the city the movie “Fargo” was named after.
What is the climate like?
North Dakota is known for its wide variety in temperature. January is the coldest month, where temperatures average from 2° F in the north to 17° F in the southwest with an average of fifty days below 0°. July is the warmest month with temperatures averaging 67° F in the north and 73° F in the south. Temperatures over 90° are common. You’ll want to pack accordingly depending on the time of year and the activities you plan on doing here.
Places to go in North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Visiting this national park was never on the initial itinerary, but if you work your way directly north from the Rapid City area for a few hours, you’ll find yourself only 20 minutes from the Visitor’s Center of the park, so add a stop here to your list!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is split into 3 units: the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The South Unit is the most popular area to visit. The main Visitor’s Center here is located in the town of Medora. I always recommend beginning any national park visit at the Visitor’s Center to get a park map and learn the history of the area. Here, you can read all about Theodore Roosevelt and how he found solace in the area to hunt buffalo as an escape from his political life in New York after the deaths of his mother and wife (on the same day). He eventually bought the Elkhorn Ranch here, and put the area on the map. In the 70s, this state park became an official US national park.
This national park is HUGE and is quite barren — most of this land has been completely untouched by humans, so when exploring remember to carry in / carry out to preserve the natural beauty here. Due to the size of the park, it can be best explored by driving along the 48 Mile Scenic Drive. There are also several hiking trails in the area, with the most popular being the Painted Canyon Nature Trail. It’s 0.9 miles round trip, takes about 45 minutes to hike, and will take you down into the Rim.
Places to go in North Dakota: Bismarck
From the national park, Bismarck is a 2 hour long drive directly east on 94. Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota, but isn’t the largest since its population is only about 75,000 people. My dad and I stopped in here just for a few hours on our way to Fargo, but here are a few highlights for you if you plan on visiting:
The North Dakota Capitol building is quite unique as it’s an 20-story Art Deco skyscraper with an observation tower. On the grounds nearby you can find the governor’s mansion and the North Dakota Heritage Center / historic museum. Bismarck is also known as a site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and is home to the Dakota Zoo.
As for a restaurant recommendation, check out Peacock Alley right near the art alley / main street in downtown Bismarck! This building was once a historic hotel that was frequented by many of the US Presidents. It was a popular spot for gambling and illegal drinking during the Prohibition Era in the early 1900s, and even had a tunnel connecting it to the nearby train station. Today, it’s a fantastic restaurant and bar! If you ever find yourself in Bismarck, this is definitely one of the places to go in North Dakota.
Pro-tip: Bismarck has a major airport in North Dakota, although Hector International in Fargo is the busiest.
Places to go in North Dakota: Fargo
North Dakota’s largest city, Fargo, is located all the way east in the state along the Minnesota border, about a 3 hour drive directly east on 94 from Bismarck. This was my Dad and I’s last stop on our road trip, after spending a week visiting Nebraska, South Dakota, and various places in North Dakota. Not only did I save North Dakota to be my 50th state, I wanted to visit Fargo so I could join the Best For Last Club!
What is the Best For Last Club?
After noticing that a lot of tourists were visiting North Dakota as their 50th state, the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center capitalized on this and created the Best For Last Club, the official club for those who’ve completed their quest of visiting all 50 states. Since 2013, hundreds of travelers have visited the Visitors Center to be welcomed into the Best For Last Club, receiving their commemorative Best For Last t-shirt, an official certificate, and round of applause from staff. When I heard about this club a few years ago, I figured North Dakota would be one of my last states visited anyways, so I knew I had to save it for last and join. I officially joined the club on June 25, 2023 — a little over two years after kicking off my #50stateschallenge, and one month before my 25th birthday!
Visiting all 50 states? I hope this post encourages you to save North Dakota for last!
Where to eat & drink in Fargo, ND
For coffee, head to Beans Coffee, a local chain with delicious latte flavors. Don’t miss Brewhalla for lunch / a fun activity in the area. Brewhalla is a food hall, event space, and brewery that stemmed from the original Drekker Brewery located here. It’s the perfect place to try different cuisine for lunch, browse some shops, and of course — sample a flight in the brewery and play some games.
The main road in downtown Fargo is Broadway, which is scattered with cute boutiques, hotels, and bars. This is where the bar Fort Noks is located, which has a super fun patio with picnic tables and cornhole to enjoy on a nice day. This is also where the Blarney Stone Pub downtown location can be found. We had dinner here one night in Fargo and loved their selection of appetizers. Try the wings!
Looking for another dinner recommendation? Head to the Rosewild restaurant at the Jasper Hotel on Broadway. This boutique hotel has a chic hotel bar, complete with a swanky restaurant that offers a locally-sourced menu. We absolutely loved eating here during our last night in Fargo. It was to be at the top of my recommendations for places to go in North Dakota!
Visiting Moorhead, Minnesota
Finally, on the Moorhead, Minnesota side, check out the Riverside Park area and the Dairy Queen. Sounds random? This is one of the original locations that has preserved the pre-franchise heritage menu. This spot also invented the oh-so-famous Dilly Bar.
That brings me to the end of my blog post of places to go to in North Dakota! I hope this post answers all of your pressing North Dakota travel queries, and also encourages you to join the Best For Last Club! Visiting my 50th state was such a surreal feeling. I think all Americans should strive to complete this in their lifetime. The US really is the most beautiful country in the world!
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