Aerial View of Downtown Wahpeton, North Dakota in Summer.

7 Most Idyllic Small Towns in North Dakota

When people picture an idyllic life, they often imagine peacefulness, pleasantness, and simplicity. This can seem like an impossible dream until you cross the border into North Dakota.

This underrated state is known as the Peace Garden State for a very specific reason. It is the place people go to escape the drama of everyday life and simply gaze out over the prairies while taking in the incredible atmosphere.

North Dakota is wild in the best way. You will see bison, wild horses, and prairie dogs. There is more than enough time to explore badlands and endless trails. Drama has no place here, and there is magic, excellent weather, and intriguing history.

If you want to experience a true haven, even if you only visit the Legendary State once in your life, start with the most idyllic small towns.

Devils Lake

Trees on Devil's Lake in North Dakota, USA.
Trees on Devil's Lake in North Dakota.

Devils Lake may not be the most idyllic name, but this small town of 7,000 is one of the best places in the U.S. to become one with nature.

Here, you can cast a line into the water of Devils Lake and forget about the rest of the world. All you need to do is keep an eye out for northern pike, perch, walleyes, and white bass.

If you travel here during winter, you can ice fish to your heart’s content. You can also take a day or two to swim and relax in the sun or explore some of the fantastic hiking trails in the nearby Grahams Island State Park. It is the perfect place for camping or strolling along the lakeshore.

Cap off your visit by teeing off on a local golf course and enjoying the unparalleled starry night sky that blankets the Devils Lake landscape.

New Town

New Town, North Dakota. In Wikipedia.,_North_Dakota By Andrew Filer from Seattle (ex-Minneapolis) - New Town, North Dakota, CC BY-SA 2.0,
New Town, North Dakota. In Wikipedia. By Andrew Filer from Seattle (ex-Minneapolis) - New Town, North Dakota, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikipedia

You will see the stars in New Town, too, as well as calm lakes and rocky shores. New Town embodies the meaning of idyllic living with its oil boom prosperity and scenic location.

New Town still retains its quintessential small-town America look and feel. You will find it on State Highway 23, where Lake Sakakawea crosses the Four Bears Bridge. It is also right at the edge of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

There is so much beauty to admire in New Town while fishing or boating. Just west of the town, you will find the Crow Flies High State Recreation Area, with its magnificent overlook over the water of the lake.

While you take in this unforgettable scene, you might even catch glimpses of Sanish, a town covered entirely by Lake Sakakawea.


Dickinson, ND USA. Editorial credit: Joni Hanebutt /
Dickinson, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Joni Hanebutt /

If you are into unforgettable nature scenes and just relaxing in the outdoors, Dickinson should be one of the stops on your North Dakota visit.

Dickinson boasts more residents, with a population of just under 25,000, but the small-town feel is still there. It is also the gateway to the simply wonderful Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Here, you can explore and contemplate the exact spot where Roosevelt once paced up and down, looking for and finding the inspiration he needed.

You will see the remainder of the enigmatic cultures that once inhabited the badlands, including a bison processing camp and a meticulously placed ring of rocks. These cultures, which include the Blackfeet, Cree, Sioux, and Chippewa, each have their own connection with the badlands.

Speaking of badlands, Dickinson is also home to the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, which features constantly evolving exhibits.

When you have soaked in as much local history and archaeology as possible, head over to the Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway that runs between Mandan and Dickinson. This road trip will soothe your soul with the blue skies seeming closer than ever and the wildlife gazing at you curiously as you drive slowly by.

Valley City

Baldhill Dam. Valley City, North Dakota.
Baldhill Dam. Valley City, North Dakota.

Idyllic looks different to different people. While curious wildlife and clear skies are what some yearn for, some just want to enjoy the open road and whatever comes next.

If Valley City happens to be at the end of that open road, you may just find what you are looking for in this legendary town.

Here, you can go on a tour of eight historic bridges and visit the Medicine Wheel Park. The park features a replica of the Native American solar calendar, reflecting Earth’s spinning journey around the sun.

Continue your journey through Valley City by stopping at the Rosebud Visitor Center, which also happens to be the gateway to the Sheyenne River Valley. One of the most incredible exhibits at the visitor center includes an 1881 railcar with original furnishings. The visitor center also brings Valley City’s railroad history to life with other indoor and outdoor displays.

There is also North Dakota’s only planetarium at Valley City State University, where you will experience the night sky in an entirely new way.


Bottineau, North Dakota. In Wikipedia.,_North_Dakota By Bobak Ha'Eri - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Bottineau, North Dakota. In Wikipedia. By Bobak Ha'Eri - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia.

Bottineau may not be all about the stars and planets, but you will find the endearing Tommy Turtle here. While this may sound like a strange attraction for people looking for idyllic surroundings, keep in mind that it is one of the most photographed statues in town, and maybe in North Dakota.

Tommy stands at the entryway to the Turtle Mountains, so even if giant turtle statues are not your thing, these mountains certainly will be. Located just six miles northwest of the town, you will pass farmsteads and gorgeous landscapes on your way. And, if tranquility is what you are after, you will find plenty of that inside the Turtle Mountain State Forest.

If you are up for a little skiing, the Bottineau Winter Park will be right up your alley. Sitting in the Turtle Mountains, this region earned its informal title of ‘most beautiful area in North Dakota.’


Richland County Courthouse in Wahpeton, North Dakota.
Richland County Courthouse in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

More blissful landscapes await in the beautiful town of Wahpeton. Here, you can visit the Chahinkapa Zoo, which has a massive variety of animal species along the Red River. The infamous Prairie Rose Carousel is also a must-see with its twenty handcrafted wooden horses and two chariots.

You can spend several hours away fishing at the Kidder Recreation Area or test your swing at the Bois de Sioux Golf Course. There is the Richland Couty Historical Museum to explore and the Red Door Art Gallery, both of which form part of the so-called ‘art corridor.’

When you have had your fill of art and history, camp out at the shores of the Red River for a relaxing afternoon of boating and some more fishing.


Rough Riders Hotel in the town of Medora, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Michael Gordon /
Rough Riders Hotel in the town of Medora, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Michael Gordon /

Medora is the last idyllic small town on this list and also the smallest. With 142 residents as of 2024, you do not get much more peaceful than this tiny town.

Medora is small enough to explore with your feet. You can walk just about anywhere, including to the Old Town Hall Theater, where the Teddy Roosevelt statue stands. Roosevelt's presence is felt everywhere, especially at the Rough Riders Hotel, where you can read more about the connection between Medora and America’s 26th president.

You will not want to stay inside, however, regardless of the weather. There are too many canyons, badland landscapes, and other unforgettable attractions to see. And, if you are looking to immerse yourself in Western culture while on a relaxing vacation, this is where you will find it.

These small towns are the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to living the dream, whether permanently or while on holiday. North Dakota abounds with wildlife, national parks, nightly entertainment, and American history. It appeals no matter what type of idyllic dream you are looking for. So, next time you feel burned out and just need a break, head to the Great American West for a memorable experience.

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