11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bismarck
Heritage, history, and the great outdoors are easily found in Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. Features of interest are the skyscraper State Capitol, built with an Art Deco design during the Great Depression, wonderful city parks, and a great zoo, to name just a few. Culture is alive in Bismarck, and the multitude of art shops, galleries, and museums are testament to this fact. Steeped in a frontier and pre-colonial past, the different state parks and historic sites around Bismarck preserve this history and provide access to lush landscapes. For a fun afternoon or evening on the water, the Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruises is a fun experience for the whole family.
See also: Where to Stay in Bismarck
1 North Dakota Heritage Center
The North Dakota Heritage Center contains the permanent collection of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The center focuses on everything from prehistoric times to the 20th century, offering a good overview of North Dakota, and features temporary exhibits, so there is always something new on display. The Northern Lights Atrium is a fascinating piece of architecture within the center, and the Capitol Arboretum Trail winds its way through the landscaped property outside. In addition to the galleries, the Heritage Center also offers educational programs open to the public, and the James River Café provides light fare throughout the day.
Address: 612 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck, North Dakota
2 Dakota Zoo
One of Bismarck's best family tourist attractions is the Dakota Zoo. The zoo has been in operation since 1961 and has grown over the years. It now houses more than 600 animals on a 90-acre facility. The zoo, which focuses on education, allows close-up encounters and offers a variety of scheduled events to make visits even more interesting. Some of the resident animals at the zoo include Bengal tigers, American alligators, arctic foxes, African tortoises, and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
Address: 600 Riverside Park Road, Bismarck, North Dakota
3 State Capitol
The North Dakota State Capitol building is an Art Deco structure, built in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression. It features a landmark skyscraper tower at one end. On the 18th floor of the State Capitol building is an observation deck with views over Bismarck. On the ground floor of the facility, the Rough Rider Hall of Fame recognizes people who have contributed significantly to the state. This building replaced the original State Capitol which burned down in 1930.
Address: 600 East Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, North Dakota
4 Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruises
Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruises offer a pleasant and relaxing way to explore the Upper Missouri River. This 150-passenger paddle wheeler provides a comfortable environment to view the beautiful countryside. Lunch, afternoon, and evening cruises are available. Departing from the Port of Bismarck, this scenic water ride is also popular with large group events including weddings, reunions, and school outings. Cruises operate between May and September, and advanced reservations are recommended. Public cruises last between an hour or two depending on the route.
Address: 1700 River Road, Bismarck, North Dakota
5 Former Governors' Mansion
The Former Governors' Mansion offers a glimpse into the life of a governor in the 19th century. The mansion has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and is decorated in period pieces. It was built in 1884 and housed 20 governors from its inception until 1960. The State Historical Society of North Dakota manages the property and has done so since 1975. The site grounds are open year-round, including the extensive flower garden, and the mansion itself can be toured every day from May through September.
Address: 320 East Avenue B, Bismarck, North Dakota
6 Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
A 20-minute drive from Bismarck and accessed through the neighboring city of Mandan, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park provides an array of historical and recreational opportunities. Many historic structures have been recreated within the state park, including the On-A-Slant Indian Village; General Custer's Victorian-style home; and various military barracks, blockhouses, and granaries. Hiking trails can be found throughout the park, connecting the various structures and attractions. A modern campground is set on the shores of the Missouri River within the park, and tipis and cabins can also be rented for the night.
Address: 4480 Fort Lincoln Road, Mandan, North Dakota
7 Camp Hancock State Historic Site
Camp Hancock was established in 1872 to provide a safe haven for the workers on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Visitors will find the original log building that served as the camp's headquarters here. Inside the building are displays and artifacts from the local area. Bismarck's oldest surviving building, an 1872 supply depot that served many purposes over its life, is also at the historic site, as well as the Bread of Life Church, the oldest church in Bismarck. Admission is free at this grassy, open-space historic site, and the picnic area is great for an outdoor lunch.
Address: 101 West Main Avenue, Bismarck, North Dakota
8 Sertoma Park
Adjacent to the Dakota Zoo, Sertoma is a riverfront park full of play areas and scenic walking trails. Park visitors can often be found playing horseshoes, sand volleyball, or yard games. Running, walking, and biking are popular ways to navigate the natural space, and large picnic shelters are also available to rent. Within the park, the Super Slide Amusement Park is open, with free admission and fun things to do, like miniature golf, bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, and other rides and attractions for all ages.
9 Gateway to Science
Gateway to Science Center is located in the Frances Leach High Prairie Arts & Science Complex. The center features hands-on exhibits on themes such as electricity, magnetism, light, machines, and air pressure. In addition to the regular displays, the Gateway to Science Center also hosts traveling exhibitions. Programs and events offered by the center include STEM adventure camps, after-school science clubs, and a visiting scientist's series. This is a great outing for all ages. Special rates are available for large groups and field trips.
Address: 1810 Schafer Street, Bismarck, North Dakota
10 Keelboat Park
Overlooking the banks of the Missouri River, Keelboat park provides historical and cultural outlets with a landscaped route along the water. Three of the larger installations that are hard to miss include the Thunderbird eagle sculpture, a Lewis and Clark Statue, and a replica keelboat akin to the one the Corps of Discovery used for their travels. Facing west overlooking the river, Keelboat Park is a great place to watch the sunset. Other interpretive information is available along the paved path, and a public boat ramp enables visitors to get out and enjoy the water.
Address: 1605 River Road, Bismarck, North Dakota
11 Belle Mehus Auditorium
Named after a piano teacher from Bismarck, the Belle Mehus Auditorium has been hosting shows since 1914. In conjunction with the Bismarck Event Center, this historic theater is the epitome of community arts in Bismarck. Performances range from professional dance series to the symphony and children's choir Christmas concerts. The theater underwent major renovations in the 90s to return it to its original grandeur. That work, and the history behind it all, is readily apparent the moment you walk into this theater, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 201 N 6th Street, Bismarck, North Dakota
Where to Stay in Bismarck for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels with easy access to the top attractions in Bismarck:
- Sleep Inn & Suites Bismarck I 94: mid-range pricing, great breakfast, heated pool, hot tub, fitness room.
- Wingate by Wyndham Bismarck: affordable rates, great service, indoor pool, comfortable beds.
- Hampton Inn Bismarck: 2.5-star hotel, indoor swimming pool, family rooms, free parking.
- Days Inn Bismarck: budget hotel, friendly staff, breakfast included, fitness center.