North Dakota is the 19th largest State by area yet the 4th least populous State in the country, making the region a mine of untapped natural and human-made wonders just waiting to be explored. The State is part of the Great Plains region, known for geographical features such as broad prairies, temperate savannas, and farmlands. This opens the State to various beautiful landscapes and many opportunities to indulge in the outdoors. Veer away from North Dakota's big cities and head into the more welcoming, smaller towns that offer a unique blend of outdoor adventure, historical wonders, and interesting architecture to make for an artistically curated itinerary through the region.
Medora, a historic town in Billings County, North Dakota, invites visitors to explore the acres of natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle it offers. Begin a journey into this town at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which has multiple biking and hiking trails as well as serene spots to camp and picnic. Here, visitors will also be able to interact with a variety of wildlife, including species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and more. The old west atmosphere lives on in this town, where tourists can go horseback riding in the Badlands or delve into the cowboy history and culture by exploring the various exhibits at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Make sure to catch the Medora Musical, which takes place every night in the summer, to enjoy the music of the West as well.
New Salem is quite a small town that is part of the BisMan metropolitan area in North Dakota. The town is most famous for the world's largest Holstein Cow statue, which, at 38 feet high, is visible for miles and is often the first destination for tourists. After taking in this humungous fiberglass lady cow, enjoy a picnic at outdoor fun in the neighboring countryside. Then, head to New Salem Historical Society's Custer Trail Museum to dive into the town's history and explore historical buildings, such as a school, church, blacksmith shop, houses, and more from the 19th century. The town also has the North Park Campground and Neidhardt RV and Mobile Home Park for the more adventurous souls looking to sleep under the naked sky.
Valley City, also nicknamed the "City of Bridges," lies in the Sheyenne River Valley and is famous for its water activities and, of course, its bridges. Start by taking a walking tour of the city, which will take you through all the famous bridges, including the famous Highline Bridge, which is one of the longest single-track railroad bridges in the country. Then, visit the 30-acre Medicine Wheel Park to indulge in the solar system model and solar candle, as well as enjoy an outdoor walking trail, perennial garden, and a scenic viewpoint overlooking the valley. Hikers can enjoy a hike up the North Country Trail, the longest trail in the National Trails System. Unwind by kayaking on the Sheyenne River or golfing at the Valley City Town and Country Club.
Bottineau is located at the foot of Turtle Mountain, North Dakota, and is only 10 miles away from the American-Canadian border. This is another town on the list with its unique human-made animal landmark - the Tommy the Turtle. The landmark is a 26-foot-tall turtle in a snowmobile, which has also become the region's mascot. After taking some pictures with Tommy, head to the "Stonehenge" of the prairie, Mystical Horizons, where visitors will find stone and cement structures that are designed to identify the summer and winter solstice as well as the equinox. Bottineau Winter Park invites tourists to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, and ice fish during the snowy season, while the nearby Lake Metigoshe State Park offers outdoor experiences, such as hiking, biking, and camping in the summer.
Devils Lake is the town on the largest natural body of water in North Dakota that invites tourists to a host of fishing, birding, boating, and hunting adventures. The lake is one of the most famous fishing spots in the region and is known as the "Perch Capital of the World," but it is also abundant in walleye, northern pike, and white bass, making this a sweet haven for fishing enthusiasts. Visitors should head to the Grahams Island State Park to enjoy nature walks, wildlife viewing, hiking in the summer, and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. History enthusiasts can delve into the town's past at the Fort Totten State Historic Site, and those looking for a bit more fun can try their luck at the Spirit Lake Casino.
Lisbon is located in the grasslands of the Sheyenne River Valley, inviting tourists to explore its untouched natural beauty. Take a relaxing stroll along the Sheyenne River running through the town before stopping to explore the historic yet lively downtown area. Here, tourists will find the Lisbon Opera House from the 1890s, which is open to visitors and occasionally hosts community events. Make sure to catch a show at the Scenic Theatre, which has been open since 1911, making it the oldest continuously running theater in the United States. End your trip by having some family fun in the playgrounds and picnic areas at Sandager Park.
Jamestown is located at the intersection of the James River and Pipestem Creek in Stutsman County, North Dakota. The town is most famous for its huge structure of the world's largest buffalo, in keeping with the State's apparent theme of big animal structures. This concrete giant was built in 1959 and stands 26 feet tall. Delve deeper into the history of buffalos in Jamestown at the National Buffalo Museum. For history buffs wanting to explore the town's history further, the Stutsman County Memorial Museum and the Fort Seward Military Post are both great sites to tour. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy picnic shelters, beaches, miles of walking and biking trails, and fishing at Jamestown Reservoir. End the trip with a stroll on Main Street and head to Simply Home to find a unique souvenir to commemorate the trip.
Dickinson is the 7th most populous city in North Dakota and also the principal city of the Dickinson Micropolitan Area. This town is known for its connection with dinosaurs, which can be explored in detail at the Dickinson Museum Center, which houses life-sized dinosaurs and a variety of fossils. After a trip into the past, head out into nature at the Patterson Lake Recreation Area, where visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, water skiing, disc golf, hiking trails, and even the multi-surfaced, adventurous Crooked Crane Trail, among other outdoor activities. For wine connoisseurs, the Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery offers locally produced wines and spirits, which are a must-try when in town.
Thus, North Dakota's small towns are full of wonders to be explored. Visitors to these towns will not only enjoy the many attractions and activities they offer but also do so in a less crowded and tranquil atmosphere. The vast natural landscapes surrounding these towns abound in natural beauty and can be enjoyed by outdoors lovers to the core. So, just add the eight towns mentioned above to your travel list and start exploring them on your next big vacation!