Aerial View of the Tourist Town of Medora, North Dakota outside of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

6 Small Towns in North Dakota With Big Charm

Bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba sits the state of North Dakota, known for its breathtaking landscapes and well-preserved historical sites. Whether it be the geographical center of North America or the bridges of Valley City, visitors will surely find must-see destinations throughout the state. Eye-catching monuments such as Jamestown's buffalo monument also add a whimsical touch to the state's landscape. North Dakota has so much American heritage and culture waiting to be discovered, so prepare to be inspired as we delve into the captivating stories and sights of these six charming small towns.

Valley City

A scene from Valley City, North Dakota. Image credit: In memoriam afiler via Wikimedia Commons.
A scene from Valley City, North Dakota. Image credit: In memoriam afiler via Wikimedia Commons.

Home to a number of historic and monumental bridges, Valley City is nicknamed the "City of Bridges." The most notable is the Hi-Line Bridge, which stands above all the other bridges, with a height of 162 feet (49.38 m). This prominent bridge was built in 1902 and was used during both world wars for transporting supplies and soldiers. It is a truly impressive marvel. Another must-see landmark is Medicine Wheel Park, located on Valley City State University's campus. Started as a project for Professor Joe Stickler's students in 1992, the medicine wheel has 28 spikes, representing the number of days within the lunar cycle. Six of the spokes extend beyond the wheel, aligned with the sunrise and sunset locations of the four seasons. Within the park, you will find Native American burial grounds dating back 2,000 years, a Meridian calendar, and a walking trail. Lastly, visit the infamous unmanned coffee shop named The Vault. Opened in November 2022, there are no employees working here; instead, patrons pay via the honor system, grabbing their goods and paying before they leave the store.


Downtown Medora, North Dakota, USA. Image credit: Acroterion, via Wikimedia Commons.
Downtown Medora, North Dakota, USA. Image credit: Acroterion, via Wikimedia Commons.

Founded in 1883 on the edge of what would later be Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the town of Medora. Within the aforementioned National Park is the Teddy Roosevelt Maltese Cabin, a hunting cabin that former President Theodore Roosevelt once used for hunting when he arrived in the North Dakota badlands in 1883. Inside the cabin today, there is a replica of Roosevelt's writing desk, where he wrote several of his books. The Cowboy Hall of Fame opened in 2005. It aims to preserve and promote the history and culture of the Native Americans of North Dakota, ranching, and rodeos. The Hall of Honorees pays homage to not only the men and women but also the livestock and events that made contributions to North Dakota's legacy, culture, and lifestyle. There are features within the Hall of Fame that give visitors the chance to learn about the culture and heritage within Medora. Château de Mores was once the home of the Marquis de Mores, a French nobleman who came to North Dakota in 1883 and built this stunning two-story, 26-room home. Today, it stands as a house museum that houses many of the original furnishings from when the Mores family resided there. In downtown Medora, there is a bronze statue in the Château de Mores Memorial Park dedicated to the Marquis de Mores.


Geological center of the United States obelisk in North Dakota. Editorial credit: Dirk Wierenga /
Geographical center of the United States obelisk in North Dakota. Editorial credit: Dirk Wierenga /

The proclaimed geographical center of North America is located in Rugby; a 21-foot-tall pyramid monument marking its place was erected in 1932. Another monument worth checking out is dedicated to honoring the Aurora Borealis, which illuminates the night skies. On-site is a kiosk where visitors can learn more information about the Aurora Borealis and viewable photos taken by an expert. The Prairie Village Museum is a must-stop location where time seems to stand still. With more than 20 historic, original, restored buildings ranging from jails to shops that showcase what the early pioneer villages were like, with objects from households and Native Americans, Many of the buildings were moved from other small towns to be showcased in this recreation. Catch a photo in the museum's gift shop with a replica of Clifford Thompson, who was one of the world's tallest men.


Aerial view of Jamestown, North Dakota.
Aerial view of Jamestown, North Dakota.

The 9th most populated city in North Dakota is Jamestown, which was founded in 1872. It is home to the world's largest buffalo monument, named Dakota Thunder, standing at 26 feet (7.92 m) tall and weighing 60 tons. Dakota Thunder has been watching over the town since 1959 when it was created by sculptor Elmer Petersen. Also on site is the National Buffalo Museum, where visitors can gain knowledge on exhibits about the United States' national mammals through the many exhibits available. Jamestown contains the oldest surviving courthouses in the state of North Dakota. The Stutsman County Courthouse, built in 1883, predates the state by six years. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its distinctive Gothic Revival architectural style, as well as its use of pressed metal interior walls, make it a unique building in North Dakota and perhaps even the Midwest. The courthouse is a valuable reminder of the 1880s statehood movement, as it is the only remaining building associated with this period in time.


Walhalla Trading Post in Walhalla, North Dakota.
Walhalla Trading Post in Walhalla, North Dakota.

Walhalla is the second-oldest town in North Dakota, having been founded in 1871. Frost Fire Park is an absolute must-visit in Walhalla. It opened in December 1976, and its popularity since then has skyrocketed. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from skiing to snowboarding to the arts. Yes, Indeed, you read that correctly. There is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts plays and musicals in the summer. The Gingras Trading Post State Historic State was built in 1845 and was once a trading post and the home of Métis legislator and fur trader Antonie Blanc Gringas. It has been restored since, and now located within the home are interactive panels as well as exhibits in which patrons can access knowledge about the Gingras and Métis heritage as well as the fur trade. The Kittson Trading Post, however, is the oldest building in North Dakota. In 1843, an American fur company agent named Norman Kittson built this trading post and established three other trading posts in the area, one of which may have been supervised by the previously mentioned Antonie Blanche.

New Salem

Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, was built in 1974. Editorial credit: JWCohen /
Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, was built in 1974. Editorial credit: JWCohen /

New Salem is home to the world's largest Holstein cow, erected in 1974 to honor and advertise the dairymen of the New Salem area. Salem Sue is the second-largest roadside attraction and the largest of all of North Dakota's large animals, as she stands at a whopping 38 feet (11.58 m) high. The New Salem Historical Society and Custer Trail Museum house ten different buildings, ranging from two schoolhouses to a blacksmith shop. A 27-minute drive from Salem is a monument dedicated to Hazel Miner, a woman who, at age 15, sacrificed herself during a blizzard so that her younger siblings could live. The monument honoring Hazel was erected in 1936 in front of the Oliver County Courthouse, 16 years after her heroic death.

Small towns in North Dakota are brimming with charm and character. Whether you're a history enthusiast, nature lover, or just looking for a peaceful retreat, North Dakota's towns are wonderful to traverse and explore. Unique destinations such as Medora's tribute to its cowboy heritage and New Salem's iconic Salem Sue are what make these North Dakota towns truly stand out. Each town has something to offer visitors, allowing them to discover the rich history and heritage of North Dakota. 

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