9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in North Dakota

The rugged badlands, lush woodland settings, and water-fed natural features of North Dakota provide a seemingly endless landscape to explore. As well as stunning scenery, the state presents a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of the region through its museums and historic sites. Opt to spend time outdoors at places like Theodore Roosevelt National Park or Lake Sakakawea, or learn about the culture and history with a visit to the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck or the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. Find more ideas with this list of the top attractions in North Dakota:

1 Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the main highlights of any trip to North Dakota. Named after the naturalist, rancher, and 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt National Park still encompasses the same landscapes that once enamored Roosevelt himself. The Little Missouri River winds its way through the rolling hills and Badlands of the park. Visitors are encouraged to hike, camp, or simply drive through the park to appreciate the natural beauty alongside the free-roaming bison.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is geographically separated into a North and South Unit, as well as the additional Elkhorn Ranch Unit, where Roosevelt himself spent much time among the Badlands. While plenty of hiking trails and designated scenic drives are a big draw to the North and South Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, other tourist attractions are also worth your attention. In the South Unit, the Painted Canyon Visitor Center provides engaging information and one of the best viewpoints in the park.

2 Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum

Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum
Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum mrbillt6 / photo modified

The world's largest, albeit concrete, bison can be seen from afar at the Bison Monument and Frontier Village at the I 94, by Jamestown between Bismarck and Fargo. Its living contemporaries graze at its feet; among them are rare albino bison. Also on-site is the National Buffalo Museum, where visitors can learn everything about the great beasts that once roamed the American West. Frontier Village also includes a collection of old pioneer buildings, with a barbershop, church, drugstore, jailhouse, schoolhouse, post office, and many more. During the summer months, visitors to Frontier Village can tour all the historic sites, enjoy stagecoach and pony rides, and partake at the on-site old-fashioned soda fountain.

Address: 500 17th Street SE, Jamestown, North Dakota

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bismarck

3 Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site minnemom / photo modified

Near Stanton, on an old camping ground of the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, is the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. A number of villages have been rebuilt here in an attempt to preserve their culture. Popular things to do at the Knife River Indian Villages Historic Site include checking out the museum on the grounds, which features artifacts and relics from the village, as well as significant cultural emblems of the people native to the area. Patrons also enjoy walking the Village Trail, checking out the reconstructed earthlodge, and hiking the various trails that wind throughout the scenic landscape. Different activities and events can be found at the Knife River Indian Villages throughout the year, including games, craft shows, and ceremonies, all of which really bring the historic site to life.

Address: 564 County Road 37, Stanton, North Dakota

4 North Dakota Heritage Center

North Dakota Heritage Center
North Dakota Heritage Center minnemom / photo modified

Located in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center offers an overview of the history of North Dakota from prehistoric to modern times. Visitors to the Heritage Center can choose from four museum galleries to peruse, which contain thousands of different exhibits, artifacts, and displays, ranging from a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton cast to a scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope. Other popular points of interest at the Heritage Center include the Northern Lights Atrium; the refreshments at the James River Café; and for the warmer months, the immersive landscapes of the Capital Arboretum Trail.

Address: 612 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck

5 Plains Art Museum

Plains Art Museum
Plains Art Museum ajleon / photo modified

Located in the historic downtown district of Fargo, the Plains Art Museum is home to an impressive collection of works, with pieces by regional and national artists. Contemporary art, as well as traditional American Indian art and traditional folk-art feature prominently in the permanent collection. The museum presents changing exhibitions throughout the year within its 56,000 square feet of space. Youth and family programs are available at the Plains Art Museum, as well as adult workshops. The Plains Art Museum also presents various public art and gardens throughout the city that enhance any visit to Fargo, including the homage-to-history Sodbuster sculpture located downtown.

Address: 704 First Avenue North, Fargo

Official site: http://plainsart.org/

6 Scandinavian Heritage Park

Scandinavian Heritage Park
Scandinavian Heritage Park

The Scandinavian Heritage Park located in Minot offers a unique look at aspects of Scandinavian culture in the countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. This outdoor museum includes numerous replica buildings, statues, and cultural points of interest to explore. Visitor favorites include the replica Gol Stave Church, an 18th-century home transported from Sigdal, and a 25-foot-tall Swedish Dala horse on display. Also on the grounds, the replicas of a Finnish sauna and Danish windmill are popular spots for visitors and photographers.

Address: 1020 South Broadway, Minot

7 Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is a great a place to engage with history, hike some trails, and spend the night next to the water. Fort Abraham Lincoln reflects both its military history and Native American roots through reconstructed buildings, like the Custer House and the reassembled On-A-Slant Mandan Indian Village. For recreation, the nearly seven miles of trails attract hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. To extend your stay at Fort Abraham Lincoln, the state park also offers a modern campground near the shores of the Missouri River, complete with showers and flushing toilets.

Address: 4480 Fort Lincoln Road, Mandan, North Dakota

8 Lake Sakakawea

Lake Sakakawea
Lake Sakakawea dvs / photo modified

Located in the west-central part of the state, Lake Sakakawea is North Dakota's largest reservoir, and with more than 1,500 miles of shoreline, it's a popular place to enjoy the water. Sailing, kayaking, and motorboating are popular activities associated with Lake Sakakawea, and the lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. Two state parks can be found close to the shore of Lake Sakakawea: Fort Stevenson and Lake Sakakawea State Park on the eastern banks. Both offer overnight options, with modern campgrounds, and ease of access to the water, with public-access docks and boat rentals.

Fort Stevenson State Park

Lake Sakakawea State Park

Address: 781 42 1/2 Ave NW, Hazen, North Dakota

9 Maah Daah Hey Trail

Maah Daah Hey Trail
Maah Daah Hey Trail

For avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, the Maah Daah Hey Trail is known as North Dakota's best-kept secret. Attracting hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, the Maah Daah Hey Trail covers more than 140 miles of iconic North Dakota landscapes, such as Badlands, the Little Missouri River Valley, and portions of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Ambitious trail travelers can navigate the entire route over an average of 10 days, and numerous different trailheads allow for scenic day trips.

Official site: http://mdhta.com/

More to Explore in North Dakota

To see more of the natural side of North Dakota, have a look at our article on the best state and national parks in North Dakota. Explore the highlights of North Dakota's most popular cities with our articles on the Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bismarck and Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fargo. Just south of the border, a visit to the South Dakota can extend your trip quite nicely.

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