Aerial view of Jamestown in North Dakota.

9 Lovely Small Towns to Visit in North Dakota This Summer

North Dakota is a charming US state bordered by the famed Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the north, the American states of South Dakota to the south, Minnesota to the east, and Montana to the west. From above, North Dakota appears to be an endlessly flat land or rolling prairie, with black earth from cultivated lands, a green blanket of new crops, and yellowed fields of ripened grain. This is unsurprising, considering nearly 90%, or 39.1 million acres, of the state's land area is dedicated to ranches and farms. This makes the entire state one of the best locations for agritourism, and many of the small towns within the state are lovely to look at.

Those interested in seeing the agriculture for themselves or who want to enjoy small-town charm, cuisine, and local attractions this summer should consider the lovely small towns in North Dakota featured on this list. These small towns offer an exciting look into the state's rich history, culture, and great outdoors.


The Botno Theater in Bottineau, North Dakota.
The Botno Theater amidst small businesses in the town of Bottineau, North Dakota By Bobak Ha'Eri - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

There is no denying that Bottineau is one of the loveliest small towns in North Dakota. It is known for its fun winter park, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and year-round seasonal activities. Founded in 1883 as Oak Creek, Bottineau has grown from a small customs station and overnight stagecoach stop to a charming town with a population of about 3,000.

Bottineau is known as the "Four Seasons Playground" because there is never a shortage of outdoor activities, no matter the season. The nearby—but not directly in the town—J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest in the US and is located in the Souris River Basin. This refuge offers a variety of habitats to explore, including grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands.

Another outdoor activity worthy of your time is a trip to Mystical Horizons, North Dakota's very own Stonehenge. This astronomical site offers views of the surrounding landscapes and numerous photography opportunities. But if indoor activities are more your style, you'll love touring the Bottineau County Museum with its local historical exhibits.


Trading Post in Walhalla, North Dakota.
The Walhalla Trading Post, a historic landmark in Walhalla, North Dakota. By Elcajonfarms at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Walhalla, the second-oldest community in North Dakota, is a few miles from the Canadian border. It is known as the 'Heart of the Rendezvous' region and is a place history buffs will enjoy visiting in the summer. Some of the best historical attractions include the 1843 Kittson Trading Post, one of the oldest and most historically valued buildings in North Dakota. Then, there is the 1845 Gingras Trading Post Historic Site, where one can admire some of the oldest Euro-American structures in the state.

After touring the historical attractions, visitors should plan some time outdoors. The Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area offers miles of hiking trails and horseback tours for adventurous travelers. At this state recreation area, one might also like to fish, hunt, tube along the Pembina River, go geo-cashing, or participate in primitive camping.


View of the Garrison Dam in Garrison, North Dakota.
View of the Garrison Dam along the Missouri River in Garrison, North Dakota.

Garrison is a lovely small town founded in 1905 with the expansion of the Great Northern Railway and officially organized into a village in 1907. The town boasts a quaint population of 1,500 and is well known for its location in one of the US's biggest man-made lakes, Lake Sakakawea. It is sometimes called the "Walleye Capital of the World" because of its amazing fishing opportunities. To this end, fishermen from far and wide make their way to Garrison every summer to try their luck at fishing in Lake Sakakawea. During their angler expeditions, many are lucky enough to catch a few walleye, northern pike, chinook salmon, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch. Besides fishing, the lake is perfect for water sports, swimming, and boating. There is also the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame, which is found in Garrison and houses significant artifacts of sports fishing.

Visitors to Garrison also flock to the Garrison Dam, which is the birthplace of the Sakakawea Lake engineering project. Those who visit can learn more about how this dam plays a vital role in the town's irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectric power generation. Then there is the Heritage Park and Museum, where visitors can see what life was like in the 20th century. This open-air museum is home to an old county school, a country church, and the town's first telephone office.

Devils Lake

Devil's Lake in North Dakota.
Barren Trees in Devil's Lake near the town of Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Outdoorsy vacationers will want to add Devils Lake to their small-town travel bucket list. This town of approximately 7,000 people is known for being a haven for lovers of water sports and angling. Since the town lies near Devils Lake - yes, the town shares a name with it - all who visit can look forward to everything from kayaking, water boating, swimming, and fishing to golfing, birdwatching, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

History enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the Lake Region Heritage Center, which shares the life and culture of pioneers with visitors. After a trip to this center, downtown Devils Lake is the perfect place for an afternoon of shopping and eating at any of the local restaurants. Roosevelt Park is another must-see location if you want to dip in the local town pool while having a picnic on the lawn.


Ransom County Courthouse in Lisbon, North Dakota.
Ransom County Courthouse in Lisbon, North Dakota. By Andrew Filer - Flickr: Lisbon, North Dakota, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Visitors would be hard-pressed to deny that Lisbon is one of the most beautiful towns in North Dakota, especially during the summer. This small town, founded in 1880, has a population of about 2,000 people and is well known for its historic buildings, charming atmosphere, friendly townspeople, and outdoor opportunities that range from wine tastings and tours to birding and wildlife spotting. Lisbon's biggest attraction is undoubtedly its Opera House, built in 1889. This opera house hosts numerous concerts, plays, and community gatherings throughout the year, including the summer.

Visitors can also stroll through Sandager Park to enjoy the fresh air or head to the nearby Sheyenne National Grassland. For those interested in architectural landmarks, the Ransom County Courthouse might also be worth visiting, and the Lisbon Bissell Golf Course is another option, boasting a relaxing golfing experience in the sunshine.


Aerial view of Jamestown in North Dakota.
Aerial view of Jamestown in North Dakota.

Nicknamed the "Pride of the Prairie," Jamestown is one of the biggest small towns on this list, with a population of about 15,800 people. It was founded in 1872, and the town boasts a long, engaging, and influential history, which visitors can learn more about at the Stutsman County Museum. Yet, before visiting the museum, most people stop by the Dakota Thunder, a 26-foot buffalo sculpture erected in 1959 and the largest known bison monument in the world. It's the perfect spot to take a few pictures and mark the beginning of your explorations of this stunningly beautiful small town.

Another attraction worth your time is the Jamestown Frontier Village. Visitors are treated to reenactments showcasing how life on the prairie used to appear. While at this village, one can also explore the Louis L'Amour Writers Shack. This location pays homage to the author famed for his American Western novels.

Valley City

The Hi-Line Bridge in Valley City, North Dakota.
The Hi-Line Bridge in the town of Valley City, North Dakota.

Anyone who has wanted to visit a city of bridges will be eager to explore Valley City. Although technically a town with a population of around 6,500, Valley City near the Sheyenne River is famous for its many bridges. According to local insights, the town has over a dozen bridges, the Hi-Line Bridge and the Valley City State University Footbridge being the most popularly visited. Of the two, the Hi-Line Bridge is the most impressive, considering it is an engineering wonder, measuring a whopping 3,860 feet long and 162 feet high. It is not only one of the tallest rail bridges in the country but also a designated landmark according to the National Civil Engineering system.

After the various bridges, one can head to Medicine Wheel Park and explore the Native American medicine wheel and solar calendar created by a local university professor and his students. Meanwhile, those who want to learn about the town's history can visit the Barnes County Historical Society Museum in the historic downtown area with its charming shops, restaurants, and historic buildings.


Aerial view of Medora in North Dakota.
Aerial view of Medora, a popular tourist town in North Dakota.

Medora is a tiny town within the boundaries of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Since the town is tiny, it's unsurprising that it holds less than 200 year-round residents, but this doesn't mean there isn't much to do when you visit. With its location inside a national park, it also shouldn't come as a surprise that Medora is one of the top tourist destinations in North Dakota, especially during the summer.

Medora is also filled with intriguing history, best experienced at Chateau de Mores, which used to be owned by the founder of Medora and was his summer home. Other attractions for those interested in history include the immersive North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Maltese Cross Cabin, where you can learn about Theodore Roosevelt and his life during the late 1800s.

It's also a good idea to check out Pitchfork Steak Fondue, a charming and scenic restaurant that serves some of the best steak. The 19th-century meat packing plant is also quaint and interesting, and you'll no doubt enjoy a show at the Burning Hills Amphitheater found alongside the Missouri River valley if you're lucky enough to catch a show.

New Salem

Salem Sue, the World's largest Holstein Cow statue.
Salem Sue, the world's largest Holstein cow statue. Editorial credit: JWCohen /

New Salem in North Dakota is not to be confused with other Salems in the US. This small town, founded in the early 1880s, has a population of around 1,000 people, with most of the people living in the town being retired couples and those who love the beauty and quietness of nature. Besides its small population, it has much charm and is widely known for being home to Salem Sue, the largest inanimate Holstein cow in the world. When you visit this statue, you’ll first notice how tall it is, reaching a whopping 38 feet tall and 50 feet long.

While out and about, you might also want to wander into the Historic New Salem Depot, which now serves as a museum, or visit New Salem City Park, where you can enjoy a picnic, walk around, or play Frisbee with your friends and family.

Wrapping Up

From the eye-opening bison statue in Jamestown to the historic and scenic bridges of Valley City, every lovely small town on this list found in North Dakota is worth visiting. Each town offers visitors a unique experience and plenty of summer-worthy activities. So, pack your bathing suit, hiking boots, and a map, and prepare for the outdoor adventure of a lifetime, no matter which town you choose to visit!

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