JAMESTOWN, NORTH DAKOTA - 3 OCT 2021: Sign at the entrance to Frontier Town, old style western town with original buildings from the frontier villages ...

7 Coolest Small Towns in North Dakota for a Summer Vacation

North Dakota, also known as the Flickertail State, the Peace Garden State, and the Rough Rider State, boasts wide open, picturesque landscapes, a rich history and Native American culture, and diverse wildlife. The state wows with its breathtaking scenery, such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands, but tourists flock to the area for its historical sites, monuments, and museums, such as Fort Buford State Historic Site.

The fourth least populated state in the United States, North Dakota houses largely undeveloped land, ideal for a picturesque and remote getaway in the summer months. Situated in the Upper Midwest and bordering Canada, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Montana, the state offers endless opportunities for summer fun and adventure.


A street in Garrison, North Dakota
A street in Garrison, North Dakota

Garrison is a small, charming town most well known for its fishing and hunting scene. While anglers and hunters appreciate the area for its natural landscape, hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor adventurists do as well. Traverse through Nux Baa Gaa Trail and marvel at the breathtaking views or take a trip to the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum for a bit of interesting and unique history. Fort Stevenson State Park is the ideal location for family-friendly fun in the sun, including boating, camping, fishing, biking, and more. The Garrison Golf Club offers a bit more relaxation, not to mention a game of 18 holes. For refreshments and a bite to eat, stop by Four Seasons Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor, Ye Olde Malt Shoppe, or Jimmy's Pizza and extend your stay in charming spots such as The Cabernet Inn, Garrison Motel, or camp out in Stoney Hill RV Park.


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

One of the best small towns to visit in North Dakota, Jamestown brands itself "the heart of the North Dakota Prairie," featuring awe-inducing expansive plains, where buffalo once roamed, but if you are lucky you may spot a few. Alongside its natural beauty, the town is home to the World's Largest Buffalo statue, as well as the National Buffalo Museum. For a glimpse into the military history of the area, visit Fort Seward Military Post and the Stutsman County Memorial Museum. The Sports Hall of Fame is a great spot for sports enthusiasts, while The Arts Center may pique the interest of those who love the arts. For picnics, swimming, boating, and biking trails, the Jamestown Reservoir is the place to be. The annual Kitefest comes to town each June, as does the James River Rodeo.

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.

One of the oldest founded towns in North Dakota, dating back to 1872, Valley City offers an escape like no other. Learn all about the town and the Red River Valley at the Rosebud Visitor Center, and then head out on a walking tour of the City of Bridges, as there are 13 bridges to see. The North Country Trail is America’s longest scenic trail, traversing 440 miles or two-thirds of North Dakota, ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and backpackers alike. Be sure to enjoy a relaxing drive along the Sheyenne River Scenic Byway and find refreshments at the Brockopp Brewery. For an afternoon well spent, peruse the charming downtown, stopping in the little shops and restaurants that line the streets.


Downtown Bottineau in North Dakota

Located just 10 miles from Canada, Bottineau is one of the prettiest small towns in North Dakota. Nestled in the Turtle Mountains near the International Peace Garden, the town offers year-round activities, though it is especially charming in the summer months.  Mystical Horizons, the "Stonehenge of the Prairie," is just outside of town, as is Lake Metigoshe, where visitors enjoy biking, BBQs, and swimming, and Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway. Lining the vibrant downtown area are unique shops, such as Golden Rule, Rummage Shop, and Barely Basics Boutique. Don't forget to stop for a round of golf at Bottineau Country Club Golf Course. Enjoy local dining, such as Family Bakery and Restaurant's doughnuts, Denny's Pizza for fresh pies, and Pride Dairy for a scoop or two of ice cream.

New Salem

Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, was built in 1974 to honor local dairy farming industry. The roadside attraction, off I-94 is free to the public, via JWCohen / Shutterstock.com
Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, was built in 1974 to honor local dairy farming industry. The roadside attraction, off I-94 is free to the public, via JWCohen / Shutterstock.com

New Salem is one of the friendliest towns in North Dakota, well known for a community that "goes above and beyond their expected civic responsibilities." On top of its welcoming charm, there are a number of attractions that draw visitors in during the summer months. One of the most popular is Salem Sue," the World's Largest Holstein Cow, which reaches 38 feet high and 50 feet long. There is also the Red Trail Links Golf Course, where locals and visitors alike indulge in a game or two of golf. The New Salem Historical Society and Custer Trail Museum share a glimpse into the town's past, featuring a 1910 house, railroad depot, and replica farm. Crown Butte Lake sits just outside of town, offering visitors a relaxing and peaceful day on the water, picnicking and hiking. 


Hillsboro courthouse in North Dakota

Hillsboro is an adorable North Dakota town, "founded on friendliness" and well-known for its charm and hospitality. The Traill County Museum Complex is the ideal location to learn all about the town's past, and it is also a historic site itself, being a  breathtaking 1897 three-story Queen Anne-style brick mansion. For those with an interest in sports and working out, check out the Sports Center and its eight-lane running track and vaulting and throwing areas. There is also a large swimming pool in Woodland Park, perfect for some fun in the sun with the kids. Extend your stay in the Campground and RV Park, enjoying rustic activities such as cooking s'mores over the fire, exploring the woods, and searching for different plants, birds, and animals.


Downtown Wahpeton in North Dakota

One of the most picturesque small towns in North Dakota, Wahpeton sits on the banks of the Red River, the ideal place to fish, swim, and bask in the sun. The town also houses a number of kid-friendly attractions, such as the Prairie Rose Carousel, a 1926 Spillman Carousel restored to its former glory, the Chahinkapa Zoo, where there are a number of animals you might find in the Red River, and "Wahpper," the world's largest catfish found in the Kidder Recreation Area. The Bois de Sioux Golf Course is an especially unique location to play a round of golf, with the first nine holes in North Dakota and the other half in Minnesota. Be sure to grab a bite to eat at one of the town's locally owned restaurants, such as Boiler Room, Prante's, and Wahpeton Fryn' Pan Family Restaurant.

Enjoy a Summer Vacay in North Dakota!

North Dakota offers views of breathtaking plains and an abundance of wildlife, but the charm of these small towns might just sweep you off your feet. The state is an excellent summer destination, ideal for camping trips, event-going, and simply enjoying the beauty of the area. There are endless activities to enjoy, including boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, and more. Whether the history of Valley City draws you in, or the Largest Holstein Cow of New Salem piques your interest, there is something for everyone in North Dakota.

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