Medora, North Dakota, near the Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Editorial credit: Dennis MacDonald /

7 of the Most Charming Small Towns to Visit in North Dakota

North Dakota was first acquired by the Americans in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase. Settlers would arrive in the region by the 1850s and on March 2, 1861, the Dakota territory was formed. The borders of the Dakota territory would evolve, eventually shaping what we know as the Northern and Southern states. November 2, 1889, marked the official date President Benjamin Harrison admitted the state of North Dakota into the American Union.

North Dakota is located in the North Central region of the United States. Just south of the Canadian border, North Dakota is west of the state of Minnesota and to the east of Montana. North Dakota is composed of 783,926 residents. The biggest cities in the state are Fargo, with 127,319 residents, and Bismarck, with 73,694. There are 53 counties in North Dakota, with the state capital of Bismarck in Burleigh County.

North Dakota is a lovely scenic state. Many figures have called it their home. The list includes former basketball coach Phil Jackson, who attended high school and University in the state. It also includes American President Theodore Roosevelt, who moved to the state as a young adult to hunt. All across the state are towns with their own unique culture and charm. Uncover seven such locales.


The Golden Valley County courthouse, a historic brick building in Beach, North Dakota, USA.

The Golden Valley County courthouse in Beach, North Dakota, US. Editorial credit: Logan Bush /

The town of Beach is located within Golden Valley County, in the western part of the state. The town was named after Captain Warren Beach, a key part of an expedition through the region in the 1880s. Settlers would arrive in the early 1900s, and the growth of the community would lead to its incorporation in 1909.

The Municipal Swimming Pool on Beach was first dedicated to the public in 1998. Today visitors can enjoy a warm summer day splashing in the cool water the pool provides. Amenities include a 60 foot waterslide, and a kiddie pool with an umbrella waterfall.

Prairie Fire Pottery is a studio showcasing the designs of local potter Tama Smith. These creations were handmade by Smith and marked with her trademark of three horizontally lined dots. Inside Prairie Fire Pottery, tourists can peruse around mugs, bowls, and vases, all available for varying prices.

Golden Valley County Museum is an homage to the region's history. Since 1970, the county has committed to collecting and showcasing items that symbolize the community's previous history. The place allows visitors to get a glimpse into how the earliest generation of residents once lived.

Wild Vines Market offers a variety of consumer needs. The list includes food items like a Breakfast Sandwich, to a variety of floral arrangements.

New Salem

Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, built in 1974 to honor the local dairy farming industry, in New Salem, North Dakota, USA.
Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow, is in New Salem, North Dakota, US. Editorial credit: JWCohen /

New Salem lies with Morton County, in the Southern part of the state, nearly thirty miles from Bismarck. The history dates back to 1883 when the first pioneers arrived by railroad. From those arrivals grew a distinctive community with its own culture.

In 1974, the city of Salem erected Salem Sue, a 38 foot high Holstein Cow. At a cost of $40,000, the pride of the town can be seen for many miles. The Cow is meant to honor the dairy farmers within the region.

The largest Country Music Festival in North Dakota takes place each year in New Salem. In 2024, this years festivities will take place from July 10-13 in the Morton County Fairgrounds. The list of performers include Ty Herndon, as well as Easton Corbin.

Gaebe Pond is a body of water built in the 1930s. It provides visitors with a space for fishing featuring species such as Rainbow Trout, and Catfish. Another spot for outdoor recreation is the Red Trail Links Golf Course. The 9 hole par 38 course offers tourists a perfect day as they hit the links.

Custer Trail Museum houses decades of prior history. It is the work of the New Salem Historical Society, which was first organized in 1969. Soon after, they purchased the property and would house their artifacts there. Today, visitors can explore the land, which is home to ten different buildings, from an old schoolhouse to a blacksmith shop.


Aerial view of downtown Wahpeton, North Dakota, in summer.

Aerial view of downtown Wahpeton, North Dakota, in summer.

Wahpeton sits within Richland County in the southeastern part of the state, right along the Minnesota Border. The first settlements were established by Morgan T. Rich in 1869. Over the next decades, the region would grow, helped by a railroad line within the vicinity. By 1887, Wahpeton officically had been incorporated as a city. Today, Wahpeton is a town highlighted by its outdoor recreation activities.

The largest catfish in the world are local to Wahpeton. The Red River is the best spot for fishing. It is home to as many as 50 different species, including Catfish and Walleye. Another spot for outdoor recreation is the Bois De Sioux Golf Course. Situated on the Red River, the 18-hole course has a unique feature. While the front nine is located in Wahpeton, the back nine is situated in nearby Breckenridge, Minnesota.

Chahinkapa Zoo is a delightful feature in Wahpeton, with a history dating back to the 1930s. Located on the premises are 200 animals from 6 different continents. The list includes an orangutan and a zebra. The Zoo provides a schedule of events and field trips for all interested parties.

Built in 1965, the Richland County Historical Museum displays numerous artifacts detailing the region's history, dating back to its early pioneers. One of the featured artifacts is a Rosemade Pottery collection by artist Laura Taylor Hughes.

Valley City

This bridge spans over the valley in Valley City, North Dakota.

This bridge spans over the valley in Valley City, North Dakota.

Valley City lies in Barnes County. The land was first surveyed in the 1870s before a community was established. Eventually, by 1881, Valley City had been incorporated as a locale. It was known as an important strategic location for travelers making their way across the Sheyenne River. Following its incorporation the town has continued to thrive.

One of the unique attractions in Valley City can be found at Medicine Wheel Park. Visitors to the park are greeted with a device which showcases how ancient cultures kept track of the changing seasons. Other attractions at Medicine Wheel Park include a model solar system.

Valley City is defined by its nickname, the "City of Bridges." Visitors to the city are offered a tour across a selection of the bridges. One of the premiere features is the High-Line Bridge. The Bridge measures 3,860 feet long and was crossed for the first time in 1908. During the Second World War, the Bridge was under guard due to threats of sabotage.

Each year, Central Avenue is host of the annual Summer Nights on Central festivities. With games, food vendors, and live musical acts, this free event is a great way to experience the community. The 2024 live musical performances include October Road, and Two Weeks Notice.

The Barnes County Historical Society Museum showcases and documents the region's story for all interested parties. Tourists can browse through dozens of informative exhibits, as well as examine detailed family histories of residents based in the area. The Museum also houses several other exhibits, from Gundy the Triceratops, to a model of the High-Line Bridge.


Aerial view of Jamestown, North Dakota, along Interstate 94.

Aerial view of Jamestown, North Dakota, along Interstate 94.

Located along the James River, within Stutsman County, is the town of Jamestown. It was first settled in the 1870s by the North Pacific Railway. Soon after, Fort Seward was established so American soldiers could protect the railroad workers. On April 20, 1883, Jamestown officially became incorporated as a city. Jamestown has been home to many infamous figures through the years, one of which is author Louis L'Amour, who published infamous works from "Hondo," to "The Walking Drum."

The defining feature of Jamestown is a 26-foot-high Buffalo monument. In 1957, the idea was first thought out by local residents. Taking inspiration from a Paul Bunyan statue in nearby Minnesota. The project was undertaken by local art teacher Elmer Peterson, and was completed by 1959. In 2010, the monument recieved the name "Dakota Thunder."

Jamestown is home to the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was first established on January 13th, 1989. Throughout the years, they have committed to enshrining figures who have had an innumerable effect on the growth of sports within the state. Hall of Fame inductees include MLB alumnus Roger Maris.

Jamestown has plenty of locations to participate in exciting athletic activities. One spot is Pit Stop Sports. This establishment features a wide array of amenities, highlighted by four golf simulators, and four axe throwing stations. Another spot is Klaus Park Disc Golf Course. The 18 hole course sits along the James River, and has a par of 64 for amateur participants.

The Spiritwood Resort Lake Jam is a popular local event that takes place over the summer months. The two-night event is scheduled for June 21st and June 22nd, 2024. The show is highlighted by its Musical acts. Matt Aakre & the Dirty Little Secret and XPEDITION perform on the first night, while Out of Line and FireHouse are scheduled for the second.


Aerial view of the tourist town of Medora, North Dakota, outside of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Aerial view of the tourist town of Medora, North Dakota, outside of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Medora is in Billings County, within the Badlands. It was discovered in 1883 by French nobleman Antoine de Vallombrosa. He would name the town after his wife. It was in Medora where Theodore Roosevelt visited in 1883, and had his life forever altered. As Roosevelt himself later put it, "I have always said I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."

For people who desire a good game of golf, Medora offers the Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Situated within the Badlands, the course is the vision of architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan. An 18-hole, par 72 course, Bully Pulpit is considered one of the best public golf courses in the country.

The Old Town Hall Theater is a 220-seat auditorium. It is most known for hosting the Teddy Roosevelt Show. People are treated to a grand historical performance as they watch the story of one of America's most noteworthy figures. The theater also offers tours for all interested parties.

Medora Riding Stables offers the opportunity to explore the badlands. The available guides lead all interested parties along the unique terrain, providing an enjoyable adventure.

The Chateau de Mores State Historic Site commemorates the life of the founder of Medora. Tourists are able to explore the 26-room building, which De Mores built as his summer residence. Another commemorative site can be found at De Mores Memorial Park. Located, there is a bronze statue of De Mores donated by his children in 1926.


International Peace Garden split between North Dakota, USA, and Manitoba, Canada, located in Rugby, North Dakota.

International Peace Garden in Rugby, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Jacob Boomsma /

The town of Rugby lies in Pierce County. It is considered by many to be the geographic center of North America. Its name comes from a town of the same name in England. Rugby was first settled in 1886, and soon afterward, a post office was established. In 1905, Rugby was officially incorporated as a town.

The Northern Lights Tower showcases the natural phenomena. During the evening, multi-colored lights are visible on the 88-foot-tall tower, which mimic the Aurora Borealis. The adjoining interpretive center provides curious guests with expert information on the topic.

The Niewoehner Bell Tower is a unique local feature. The Tower stands at 30 feet tall, and is composed of 15 bells varied in size. The bells are rung primarily on Sunday mornings and special occasions. Each bell tells its own unique story of origin, which can be found in a book related to the topic.

Prairie Village Museum presents a unique look at the story of the Pioneer Era. The Museum is the culmination of decades of efforts in collecting antique items done by the Pierce County Historical Society. Today, people are able to explore the artifacts and walk through the historic buildings.

Explore North Dakota

North Dakota is filled with beauty and wonder, offering unique experiences in its charming small towns. Each town provides a distinct taste of local culture and history. From the artistic pottery in Beach and the towering Salem Sue in New Salem to Wahpeton's fishing and wildlife at Chahinkapa Zoo, there's something for everyone. Valley City boasts the impressive High-Line Bridge and Medicine Wheel Park, while Jamestown features the monumental Dakota Thunder and sports heritage. Medora’s Badlands offer the Bully Pulpit Golf Course and historic sites, and Rugby, the geographic center of North America, showcases the Northern Lights Tower and Niewoehner Bell Tower.

Ready for an unforgettable journey? Explore these delightful towns and uncover the hidden gems of North Dakota, where every destination promises a unique adventure filled with charm, history, and natural beauty.

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