Aerial View of Grand Forks, North Dakota in Autumn

10 Adorable Small Towns In North Dakota

North Dakotans have worked hard to stoke the flame of rugged frontier spirit into the 21st century. Known for its vast prairies and badlands, North Dakota may not seem inviting at first glance. This could not be farther from the truth, however. The sense of community which allowed the pioneers to survive during harsh winters is also alive and well today, and nowhere is that better found than in North Dakota’s small towns. 


Garrison, North Dakota
Garrison, North Dakota. By Andrew Filer -, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Sitting on the northeastern shore of the pristine Lake Sakakawea, Garrison is a lovely little town that has continued to draw tourists each summer year after year thanks to its warm atmosphere and amenities. This small North Dakota town is an angler’s paradise and is even called the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Garrison’s downtown area radiates small-town Americana and is a delight to explore on foot. Swim in the lake and visit the Heritage Park and Museum. Learn about the history of maple tapping and eat fresh pancakes on Maple Sugaring Day. For even more history, attend the Dickens Village Festival, a Victorian-themed event perfect for all ages. Ride a horse-drawn carriage and marvel as Garrison’s history gets brought to life.


DICKINSON, NORTH DAKOTA - OCTOBER 4: Fast food restaurants off Interstate Highway 94
DICKINSON, NORTH DAKOTA - OCTOBER 4: Fast food restaurants off Interstate Highway 94. Editorial Credit: Frank Romeo.

The town of Dickinson, known for its vibrant community, offers much to do both within the town and in the nearby Badlands. The enormous Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can embark on a two-hour scenic drive through the South Unit, followed by hikes on the self-guided nature trails. Camping at the park is also an inviting option. Furthermore, Dickinson is home to a renowned dinosaur museum, perfect for aspiring archaeologists and children of all ages. This 13,400 square-foot museum houses a complete triceratops skull found west of Dickinson. After a day of exploration, visitors can cool off at the West River Community Center Outdoor Pool or savor local flavors at one of the town’s many wineries.


Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Wilton
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Wilton. By Andrew Filer from Seattle (ex-Minneapolis) - Wilton, North Dakota, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A close-knit community with Hallmark-esque vibes, Wilton is a perfect place to escape the claustrophobic feeling of big-city living and traffic jams. Visit the Ukranian Greek Orthodox Church and take in the charming architecture of North Dakota’s quintessential small towns. Enjoy the many parks and small-town grocers, and relax by the water in peace and quiet. The Chain of Lakes Recreation Area has plenty of campsites and lots of fishing opportunities. Grill, fish, swim, and take in the amazing natural beauty of North Dakota in Wilton. There are plenty of campgrounds in Wilton as well. The Wilton Mine State Game Management Area is open to hunting, nature study, hiking, and primitive camping.

Fort Ransom

The Black Viking statue under brilliant sunrise skies in Fort Ransom, North Dakota, USA
The Black Viking statue under brilliant sunrise skies in Fort Ransom, North Dakota, USA. 

Established in 1867 to protect travelers between Minnesota and Montana, Fort Ransom today is a small town with immense natural splendor nearby. The town has a population of around 100 people, but do not let that fool you. Fort Ransom has plenty in store. History buffs will love the historic buildings and local museums. Want to ditch the hotel for unique frontier accommodations instead? Stay in a yurt for a surprisingly luxurious experience harkening back to the state’s Indigenous heritage or in a wagon in Fort Ransom State Park. The park itself is the main attraction here. Hike across miles of trails year-round along the Sheyenne River or even ride on horseback. Fort Ransom is a jewel in the North Dakota wilderness.


Hillsboro, North Dakota
Hillsboro, North Dakota. By In memoriam afiler -, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Hillsboro is an undeniably adorable town, a fast-growing community that hasn’t lost its small-town charm. This town is said to have been “founded on friendliness,” and for good reason. Hillsboro is the kind of town where warm, inviting people are more than happy to point visitors in the right direction. Hillsboro Days is just one event put on by the town where collegial spirit and a sense of community are on full display. Join in on the 10-kilometer run, the parade, the tractor pull, or any of the activities being hosted. The Traill County Historical Society maintains the Plummer House Museum and holds an ice cream social every July on the grounds of the Plummer House, and the town’s Woodland Park is an excellent place for a picnic in the summer or ice skating in the winter months.


Lisbon Opera House
Lisbon Opera House. By Jon Roanhaus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Close to Fort Ransom State Park and the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway, the town of Lisbon has a lot going for it, including its serene ambient feel and abundant natural beauty. The winding Sheyenne River flows through the town of Lisbon, and trees with thick foliage grow on both sides of the riverbank. Stop by the town’s quaint downtown area. There, a recently refurbished Lisbon Opera House is a testament to the town’s dedication to preserving its history. Sheyanne State Forest nearby has 509 acres along the scenic byway’s wooded hillside. Walk among the ironwood and green ash trees while your body’s natural rhythms reset in the lush forest. As a fun excursion, the Sheyenne River Speedway hosts high-octane, turbocharged fun for car lovers looking to watch dirt track racing.


Old Main on the campus of the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Red River Valley University
Old Main on the campus of the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as Red River Valley University. By Anon a mouse Lee - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The town of Wahpeton has so much to do and see for residents and visitors alike. This southeastern North Dakota town has plenty of character. The interactive Dakota Avenue Mural on Dakota Avenue and 4th Street is highly engaging, and there are more than 20 “hidden” objects to be discovered. Go fishing in the Red River or visit the nearby Chahinkapa Zoo. Wahpper, the world’s largest catfish, is available for photo opportunities at the Kidder Recreation Area and weighs over 5,000 pounds. Wahpeton is home to a restored 1926 Spillman Carousel which is one of only three still operating in the U.S. Fort Abercrombie is nearby and can be explored for a family-friendly and educational day trip.

Devil's Lake

Barren Trees on Devil's Lake in North Dakota, USA make for a rather eerie sight.
Barren Trees on Devil's Lake in North Dakota, USA. 

North Dakota is known for the great plains, but the town of Devils Lake is next to the largest natural body of water in the state. It is absolutely enormous and should not be missed on a visit to North Dakota during the summer months. The lake is the perch capital of the world, and the fishing continues even in winter. The adjacent Devil’s Lake State Park bluffs are also great for climbing; the quartzite rock gives an incredible view of the lake below. Go window shopping in downtown Devils Lake, rest after descending from the cliffs, and stop by White Horse Hill National Game Preserve for a tour. Spot the majestic bison and elk and many species of birds only 12 miles south of the town.


Mayville State University June 5, 2021 Mayville, North Dakota
Mayville State University June 5, 2021 Mayville, North Dakota. Editorial Credit: Tammy Chesney via Shutterstock

The best part of Mayville is its location, the town feels so connected to the surrounding areas, it feels bigger than it actually is. For example, the nearby Mayville State University hosts six varsity sports teams and a respected theater department for viewing. Foodies will also delight at the sheer variety of eateries available in Mayville. Everything from classic pizza to steak and Mexican is on offer in Mayville. The town’s lovely downtown area has a great feel and comes complete with a movie theater and light-up marquee. Mayville is small-town Americana at its finest. Visit the trails at Island Park and walk by the edge of the Goose River. It is the perfect place for a picnic.


Stave church of Norwegian design found in Minot, North Dakota with architecture similar to structures found in Norway.
Stave church of Norwegian Design in Minot, North Dakota, with architecture similar to Norway's structures.

Known as “Magic City,” the town of Minot has parks and wildlife to spare, as well as a rich Scandinavian, which it displays proudly. Minot’s population boomed in the late 19th century as if by magic, hence its nickname. The town acts as a hub for the six national wildlife refuges nearby. Explore them all and return to town to recharge and refuel. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is a full-scale replica of the Gol Stave Church, a Norwegian storehouse built in Norway in the 1770s. The church has a fully functional sauna, and the grounds are pet friendly! It is not an exaggeration to say something always happens in Minot, such as arts and crafts fairs, scavenger hunts, and organized bike rides!

Discovering the Endearing Charm of North Dakota

North Dakota has big skies and natural beauty in spades. Besides the noble bison and shimmering riverways, there are also incredible endearing towns in North Dakota that are just waiting to be discovered. Traipse through downtown shopping quarters and taste old-style ice cream, or ride through national forests on horseback before falling asleep in a luxurious, full-size yurt. Whatever your interests, North Dakota has something in store for you.

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