minot north dakota

8 Most Underrated Towns In North Dakota

The upper Midwest state of the US is bounded by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west. North Dakota is also known as the Peace Garden State, while the word "Dakota" translates from a "friend" in Sioux Indian language, its first inhabitants before the European arrival. The small state with a capital of Bismarck is strewn with underrated towns replete with big city amenities and top-notch services.

Mingle with friendly residents who are happy to share their prideful towns through sights and attractions on par with inspiring mottos. Seek-out small town charm along the artsy scape with deep history and cultural insights on any-day stroll, or visit for the annual festivals amidst thousands of other curious visitors, and you will not be disappointed. These towns come veiled in immense natural surroundings, unique to this part of the country, to enjoy the most pristine nature through your favorite wet and dry outdoor pursuits during summer, along with wintertime skiing at the nearby resorts.


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

The lakeside town on the Lake Sasakawea is a worthy year-round destination, famed as the state's Christmas Capital. Explore the charming scape complete with a cute Main St. and the Dickens Village Festival after Thanksgiving with Victorian era feel and festivities. Garrison is also the Walleye Capital of the World with fishing ops a-plenty and the mascot, Wally the Walleye statue.

Street in Garrison, via https://www.garrisonnd.com/community-info/history/
Street in Garrison, via https://www.garrisonnd.com/community-info/history/

Come summertime, the town moves to the shores for swimming, kayaking, and boating. The water-bound Fort Stevenson State Park is one of state's best for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and wet pursuits. Immerse in regional culture at the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame, North Dakota Firefighters’ Museum & Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial, and the Heritage Park & Museum.


Post office in Jud, North Dakota
Post Office in Jud, North Dakota, Photo by Andrew Filer via Wikipedia (license CC BY-SA 2.0)

The cute town with about 60 people to its name is essentially one big work of art. Jud's eye-catching scape is strewn with displays and installations along vibrantly-decorated streets. Find the picturesque enclave in rural LaMoure County, northwest of Edgeley in North Dakota. The must-stop for true art lovers today was founded in 1904, named after Judson LaMoure, one North Dakota's first state legislature members.

Abandoned house in Jud, North Dakota
Abandoned house in Jud, North Dakota, via ghostsofnorthdakota.com

Jud is a perfect weekend escape for sight-seekers with intricate side murals on buildings of nature scenes for Instagram-worthy selfies and photo shoots. The friendly residents take great pride in their City of Murals, happily sharing the town's offerings like the Dagen’s Grocery store from 1905. Visit this former post office, department store, and hotel, now a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.


Downtown Kenmare in North Dakota
Downtown Kenmare in North Dakota

The small city in the Ward County with just over 1,000 residents sits sorely underrated in nature's picture-perfect embrace. Feel the old-school vibe on a historic stroll through Kenmare with reconstructed pioneer town and the nostalgic toy museum. Visit for the annual GooseFest event in the leaf-peeping month of October, or during summer for fishing, boating, and hiking trails with wildlife near the Lake Darling. Set camp in the area and explore the nearby Mouse River Park, Perch Pond, and along the Kenmare’s Scenic Trail for views.

Kenmare is a perfect respite from the big city bust to enjoy simple life with your favorite pursuits and some R&R at the wellness centre with golf and a swimming pool. Take a wistful stroll through the heart with small town sights like six churches, an old movie theatre, and even a windmill. The lovely town is also famed for birding opportunities, where different varieties migrate over the area.


Business district in Kulm
Business district in Kulm, Photo by Andrew Filer via Wikipedia (license CC BY-SA 2.0)

The small town with modest beginnings from a train depot was settled around 1890s by German Bessarabians and named after their original home in South Russia. Klum thrived by transporting people and products around the area, that left legacy in businesses and residents today comprising a growing art colony. Stroll through the artsy scape to seek historical and cultural landmarks like the Kulm Mill from 1894, in operation until 1950.

Street in Kulm, North Dakota,
Street in Kulm, North Dakota, Photo by Andrew Filer via Wikipedia (license CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trek the new hiking and biking trails with deer sightings amidst trees and eagles in the sky, followed by a picnic spread amidst the scenic surroundings of the "home of the wind farms." The prideful town with around 350 people and a motto of a "Small Town With A Big Heart" has a lot to offer. Head to recharge at the Kulm Tasty Treats & Cafe, proudly serving delicious home-cooked food and ice cream for over two decades. 


View of the main street in the historic town of Medora in North Dakota, via EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
View of the main street in the historic town of Medora in North Dakota, via EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

The viciously underrated townscape boasts envied location within the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the Midwest's best. It encompasses the state's most sheer natural beauty along unique landscape with a ton of wildlife, and North Dakota's mountains. Explore around the buttes and badlands of the gorgeous valley with sightings of wild horses, bighorn sheep, and bison roaming through their natural habitat.

Historic home built by the Marquis de Mores in 1883 as a hunting lodge and summer home for his family and guests
Historic home built by the Marquis de Mores in 1883 as a hunting lodge and summer home for his family and guests

Medora is home to under 200 lucky residents living their best life while perusing the outdoors during everyday activities. Join them for skiing or snowshoeing in winter, and return on a summertime camping trip amidst the glorious scape. The town is a treasure cove of historic sites and museums, like the famous North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Billings County Courthouse Museum, and the Maltese Cross Cabin, home to Theodore Roosevelt in the late 1800s. There is also the charming Sully Creek State Park, and the well-beloved Medora Musical. 


Scandinavian heritage park in minot North dakota
Scandinavian heritage park in Minot, North dakota

The “Magic City” of Minot was founded in 1887 from the Great Northern Railway camp that thrived in just five months to a bustling population of 5,000. Today, the large town is home to a century-old Minot State University, the Minot Air Force Base from the 1950s, and nearly 48,000 citizens. Mingle with them and thousands others in July at the most populated event, the North Dakota State Fair. Come any other day for a crowd-less townscape replete with big city amenities with top-notch service, and attractions to enjoy at your convenience, like bakeries, fine dining, and local pubs with flavors from around the globe.

Steel truss railroad bridge west of Minot, North Dakota on a summer day.
Steel truss railroad bridge west of Minot, North Dakota on a summer day

Say hello to the animals at the Roosevelt Park Zoo and stroll through five countries at the scenic Scandinavian Heritage Park with a full-size replica of the Gol Stave Church. Stop-by the insightful Dakota Territory Air Museum, and the newest family-friendly attraction, the Magic City Discovery Center interactive science museum for kids with over 150 engaging activities. Visit Minot's 65-piece symphony Norsk Høstfest, and seek more culture at the “Norwegian fall festival,” the largest annual Scandinavian festival in North America with traditional cuisine, entertainment, and international visitors. 


Ray, North Dakota
Ray, North Dakota

The underrated town of Ray is a dream-come-true destination for all the foodies and nature fans. The forgotten scape is still renowned for the Lund’s Landing with seasonal juneberries or Saskatoon berries. Choose a friendly accommodation on a summer weekend escape and fulfill your year-supply of vitamins. After a sunny hike along the bushes, head waterside for a real dinner with many restaurants serving homemade fare. 

There are also countless local bakeries and cafes in town, each with their own spin on the delicious pie to savor with a morning coffee throughout the year. Pack a picnic for an afternoon along the Macleod Lake with kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and bird-watching ops around. There is also golf and campsites to set base and spend a few more days enjoying the lovely town and loading-up on the superfood.  


Photo of Walhalla, via https://www.ndtourism.com/all-cities/walhalla
Photo of Walhalla, via https://www.ndtourism.com/all-cities/walhalla

The mystically-named town with the "Heart of the Rendezvous Region" motto sits neatly tucked along the Pembina River near the Canadian border. Walhalla is the state's second oldest, wildly underrated town that was the entry point for the first European settlers into the Rendezvous Region. The town founded by the Germans is home to relevant heritage sights, and around 1,000 residents today. Seek-out the state's oldest building of the 1843 Kittson Trading Post within the Walhalla State Historical Park.

Enjoy great ski runs at the nearby Frost Fire Lodge and Ski Area along with amazing lodge and restaurant, or go snowboarding at the Tetrault Woods State Park. There's plenty of summertime opportunities for outdoor recreation like hiking, biking, and photography. Tame the river with a kayak or canoe and explore the nature trails through surrounding parks on a hike, including the beautiful Pembina Gorge. Walhalla’s plentiful nature and history offerings comprise a memorable escape into a small-town atmosphere complete with many lovely places for a night's rest.

These small cities in North Dakota sit sorely underrated with most unique nature and history of the state. Home to small populations of proud residents, they offer artsy scape and renowned heritage sights, including first point of entry for the Europeans into the Rendezvous Region. Seek various heritage sights from former residents, including Germanic and Norwegian, along with relevant attractions and festivals of the day. Choose any of the crowd-less towns for its unique flavor or your taste of pursuit, and make a lifetime-worth of memories with the loved ones on a respite from the city.

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