View of the main street in the historic town of Medora in North Dakota, United States. Image credit EQRoy via Shutterstock

10 Small Towns In North Dakota Were Ranked Among US Favorites

North Dakota, a midwestern US state sharing a border with Canada, boasts several small towns with clean air, impressive natural beauty, many attractions, rich history and culture, and amazing locals. Some of these towns are lesser-known across the US, and since North Dakota is one of the country's least-visited states, these small towns have fewer populations, which makes their attractions even more enjoyable. From Garrison's proximity to Lake Sakakawea to Bottineau, the gateway to the Turtle Mountains, these towns rank among the favorites in the US.


Downtown street Garrison, North Dakota, July 2009
Downtown street Garrison, North Dakota. Image credit Andrew Filer, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The beautiful town of Garrison was named after Garrison Creek and is particularly exciting due to its border with the large artificial Lake Sakakawea. One of the largest in the US, Lake Sakakawea is a popular tourist destination in the state and a hub of activities such as fishing, kayaking, camping, boating, hiking, and other water-based fun activities. Beyond the outdoor fun, enjoy history at Heritage Park Museum, an open-air museum reflecting life in the area in the 1900s. In addition, several public parks are nearby to explore, like Stevenson State Park, about 3 miles away, houses a guardhouse interpretive center with a life-size rifle cannon.


Mayville State University June 5, 2021 Mayville, North Dakota
Mayville State University. Image credit Tammy Chesney via Shutterstock

Mayville in Traill County might be lesser-known and only with a few residents, but visitors could be in for a surprise when they visit. Named Mayville after the first white child born in the area, the town is particularly famous for hosting the Mayville State University, an ideal place to visit, tour, and watch theatre performances by the school's drama club. The town also scores high when it comes to recreation, as it has many parks and recreation centers, the largest being Island Park, which has a picnic area and playground. Others include Rainbow Garden, featuring several beautiful gardens and interesting sculptures, and Mayville Water Park, a great place to cool off with exciting water activities.


Downtown streets of Lisbon, North Dakota
Downtown Lisbon, North Dakota. Image credit Andrew Filer CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lisbon is a small town just south of Valley City, which was a former bustling town and a significant rail corridor for the 19th-century North Pacific Railroad. Now, it's a laid-back and charming city with a handful of attractions for visitors. Thanks to its small population, it's a great place to take in the fresh air and enjoy a walk, as it is devoid of the chaos of larger cities. Be sure to check out the 19th-century opera house, which still stands, and represents the town’s rich cultural heritage. For outdoor fun and natural scenery, head over to the nearby Sheyenne National Grasslands Area to enjoy activities like hunting, hiking, horseriding, and camping. Or join some locals for memorable wine-tasting experiences at the Prairiewood winery, which is about 6 miles from the town. 

Fort Ransom

Fort Ransom Wildlife Management Area
Fort Ransom Wildlife Management Area. Image credit Danita Delimont via Shutterstock

Just west of Lisbon, the town of Fort Ransom is one of the smallest in North Dakota, with a population of less than 100 people. However, the city is big on natural attractions, history, and culture. It is one of the hamlets on the Sheyenne River Valley, and that boosts its natural appeal. Visitors to this town can get intimate with nature and history at the Fort Ransom State Park, which was established as a military outpost in 1867. Exciting activities in this park include paddling on the Sheyenne River, camping, boating, snowmobiling, and watching wildlife. Depending on the season, visitors to Fort Ransom can partake in the town’s exciting festivals, such as the Sodbuster Days and the Sheyenne Valley Arts and Crafts Festival, featuring interesting activities and great scenery.

Devil's Lake

High water at Devil's Lake, North Dakota.
High water at Devil's Lake, North Dakota.

Devil's Lake is a small town by a lake of the same name. Thankfully, a creature with a pitchfork and feathers is not waiting to terrorize visitors here. Instead, the town is a paradise for watersports and a wide range of other outdoor adventures, as the Lake is North Dakota's largest water body. Enjoy an unforgettable time here by fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating in the lake. For more excitement, visit the nearby Graham Island State Park for more scenery and adventures, and Fort Totten Little Theatre in St Michael to witness interesting summer shows.


Sunrise over Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Sunrise over Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Image credit Zak Zeinert via Adobe Stock

Medora is like a place taken out of a Mars movie, as it is located in the Badlands of North Dakota. The town is also surrounded by major attractions like the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Little Missouri National Grassland which means there’s scenery and adventures at every turn.

In addition, the town is an excellent place for history lovers who can start by visiting Chateau de Moris, the former summer home of the founder of the town, who named it after his wife, Medora. Visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, which offers a good look at the Western Heritage of North Dakota, and also check out the Maltese Cross Cabin, which tells the story of how former President Theodore Roosevelt lived his life in the town in the 1800s. Those visiting in summer can head over to the Burning Hills amphitheater opposite the Missouri River Valley to Medora Musical, featuring amazing musical performances reminiscent of the Wild West.


Downtown streets of Walhalla, North Dakota.
Downtown Walhalla, North Dakota. Image credit In memoriam afiler, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Positioned on the banks of the Pembina River, Walhalla is the second-oldest town in North Dakota, as it was established in 1845. As one of the state's oldest towns, it packs a good number of historical sites for history buffs. The most prominent is the Kittson Trading Post, which stands in the Walhalla State Historical Park as the oldest building in North Dakota. 

Spend a memorable day in Walhalla at the Pembina Gorge State Park by hiking and biking on its numerous trails. Next, head over to Pembina River for a peaceful float. For even more excitement, head over to Tetrault Woods State Forest to camp and enjoy scenic views of the natural surroundings.

Valley City

A bridge over the Sheyenne River in Valley City, 'The city of Bridges,' in North Dakota.
Sheyenne River in Valley City, "The city of Bridges," in North Dakota.

Valley City is a favorite small town in North Dakota that sits by the banks of the Sheyenne River and offers mesmerizing natural scenery. The town is renowned for its many iconic bridges, earning it the title "city of bridges." One of these bridges to visit is the High Line Bridge, which crosses over the Sheyenne River. This railroad bridge was completed in 1908, and with a length of 3,860 feet (1,180 m), it is one of the longest singletrack viaducts in the US. 

Additionally, the town is the starting point of the Sheyenne River Valley National Byway, which stretches for 63 miles and is lined up with trees, rolling hills, and charming towns


Jud, North Dakota, post office building.
Jud, North Dakota, post office building. Image credit Andrew Filer  CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jud is a small town in the LaMoure County of North Dakota named after Judson LaMoure, who was one of the state’s first legislators. The town became a favorite due to its striking beauty, quaint atmosphere, and its small population of fewer than 100 people. What the town lacks in population, it more than compensates for with its artistic appeal made possible by the few residents. Every house in this town is decorated with murals, and walking through its streets literally feels like walking through an art gallery. Visitors come here armed with cameras to get inspired and take beautiful pictures of the art-decorated buildings, and the scenic nature that surrounds them. Be sure to come with a camera. That alone makes this town worth visiting. 


"Tommy Turtle" symbol of Bottineau, North Dakota.
"Tommy Turtle" symbol of Bottineau, North Dakota. Image credit Bobak Ha'Eri  CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bottineau is a favorite in North Dakota not just because it is the gateway to the Turtle Mountains but also due to its laid-back atmosphere and evergreen scenery. Also known as the town of Four Seasons Recreation, this town features interesting attractions like the 30-foot-tall statue of Tommy the Turtle, the tallest turtle statue in the world, and Pride Diary, the last small town creamery in North Dakota. Don’t miss a visit to the nearby Lake Metigoshe where activities like boating, fishing, and kayaking, are offered. For those visiting in winter, Bottineau Winter Park is available for unforgettable snowboarding and skiing adventures.

These locations in North Dakota have much to offer, and despite being a lesser-known state, these towns show the true spirit of the Peace Garden State. As an underrated state, these attractions will be uncrowded and their natural endowments will remain unspoiled. Whether you are looking for a place to live, retire, or escape from larger cities and spend time in nature, these towns are the perfect choices, ranked among US favorites.

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