Aerial View of the Tourist Town of Medora, North Dakota

North Dakota's Best Small Towns For A Weekend Escape

North Dakota, a landlocked Upper Midwest US State that forms a part of North America’s Great Plains region, is distinguished for its expansive flatlands covered by rolling prairies, temperate savanna, badlands, grassland plains, and farmlands. Having a rich heritage influenced by the various indigenous Native American tribes and the enthusiasm of American pioneers, the Roughrider State flawlessly combines vintage allure with the generous hospitality of North Dakotans. Even though the capital city, Bismarck, and the biggest city, Fargo, account for about one-fifth of the population of the entire state, the Peace Garden State is deemed as ‘least touristy’ and not much visited by holidayers in comparison to the adjoining states. Nevertheless, the innumerable postcard-pretty small towns speckled all over the state’s 68,995 sq. mi. terrain are waiting to enchant tourists who tour them either during their extended vacations or short weekend escapades.


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

Stutsman County’s administrative center, Jamestown, is situated at the junction of James River and Pipestem Creek, roughly halfway between Bismarck and Fargo. Founded in 1872 and christened after Jamestown, Virginia, by General Thomas Rosser of the Northern Pacific Railway, this 15,849-resident town is home to the principal campus of the University of Jamestown - a private Christian university that has been a co-educational institution right from its founding. Located at Jamestown’s southeastern extremity is Frontier Village, which has numerous restored pioneer properties, a museum displaying native history exhibits, and a 26-ft tall and 46-ft long statue of an American bison - considered the “World’s Largest Buffalo Monument.” The Jamestown Reservoir at the northern edge of the town is perfect for water-based recreation like fishing, swimming, and boating. Additionally, stop by the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, Jamestown Civic Center, two 18-hole golf courses, Jamestown Arts Center, and the National Buffalo Museum. Unwind after a hectic day of explorations at My Place Hotel - Jamestown, ND.

Valley City

Valley City North Dakota
Bridge over the Sheyenne River in Valley City, North Dakota.

This seat of government of southeastern North Dakota’s Barnes City occupies the Sheyenne River Valley approx. 60 miles west of Fargo. Established in 1874, the town was initially called ‘Worthington’ in honor of its promoter George Worthington, but later renamed after its location in the Sheyenne River Valley. Aside from being the site of the Valley City State University, this dynamic college town proudly upholds its motto: “City of Bridges” regarding the numerous impressive bridges that span the Sheyenne River. Valley City’s most widely known attraction is the 162 ft high and 3,860 ft long Hi-Line Bridge, which, at present, is one of the lengthiest and highest single-track railroad bridges in the nation. When in town, the Valley City State University Planetarium, The Vault - a self-served coffee shop, Medicine Wheel Park, Bjornson Park Public Golf Course, and Rosebud Visitor Center are must-visits. Enjoy your stay at GrandStay Hotel & Suites Valley City, and be sure to be present at the North Dakota Winter Show held every year in the first week of March.


Medora, North Dakota
Medora, North Dakota. Editorial credit: Dennis MacDonald /

With only 121 residents as per the latest US Census, Medora is Billings County’s seat and its sole incorporated place that forms a portion of the Dickinson Micropolitan Statistical Area. Primarily settled by the side of the Northern Pacific Railway’s transcontinental rail line and named after the American heiress Medora von Hoffman, the spouse of French duelist Marquis de Mores, Medora is renowned for its Western culture. Abutted by the unspoiled wilderness of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, adrenaline junkies can soak in the sublimity of the Badlands by engaging in ample family-friendly activities like hiking, horseback riding, and a scenic drive through the extraordinary landscapes of the national park. Do stop by the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Old Town Hall Theater, Harold Schafer Heritage Center, and Maah Daah Hey Trail. Satiate your taste buds at Theodore’s Dining Room, watch a performance by the Medora Musical at the Burning Hills Amphitheater, and de-stress at the Rough Riders Hotel.

Devils Lake

Devils Lake, North Dakota
The charming downtown of Devils Lake, North Dakota. Image credit: Andrew Filer via

The administrative center of Ramsey County, this teeny town in northeast-central North Dakota acclaimed for its awe-inspiring scenery is situated roughly 90 miles west of Grand Forks. First surveyed in 1883 and dubbed Creelsburg to honor the American surveyor, Heber Mansfield Creel, the town was rechristened after its namesake, Devils Lake - the state’s second-largest natural water body. Often called the “Perch Capital of the World,” the endorheic Devils Lake has long been recognized as an angling and watersports paradise. Additionally, play golf at the Creel Bay Golf Course, grab a bite at the Proz Lakeside At the Cove, partake in plenty of outdoor recreations at the Grahams Island State Park and the nearby White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, and get a homelike feel at the Fireside Inn & Suites.


Downtown Walhalla, North Dakota
Downtown Walhalla, North Dakota. Image credit: In memoriam afiler via Wikimedia Commons.

North Dakota's second-oldest town, Walhalla, occupies the Pembina River banks in Pembina County, around 45 miles from the state boundary with Minnesota and 5 miles from the international border with the Canadian province of Manitoba. Steeped in the fur trading heritage of the Red River Valley, the town rightfully lives up to its motto: “Heart of the Rendezvous Region.” Located in the Walhalla State Historical Park is the state’s oldest building - the Kittson Trading Post, set up in 1843 by the American Fur Company agent Norman Kittson. When visiting the town, do not forget to discover the Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site, Frost Fire Ski & Snowboard Area, Walhalla-Masonic Scenic Overlook, Frost Fire Summer Theatre, the 9-hole golf course of Walhalla Country Club, and Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area featuring several acres of untouched wilderness and many trails for hiking, off-road motorcycling, mountain biking, ATVing activities. Taste delectable dishes at the Waters Family Restaurant & Bakery and relax after an eventful day at the Sanctuary Guest House & Tearoom.


Downtown Bottineau North Dakota
Downtown Bottineau, North Dakota. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Bottineau, christened in honor of the Metis pioneer Pierre Bottineau, is situated at the base of the Turtle Mountains close to the International Peace Garden, approximately 10 miles south of the US-Canada international boundary. Nicknamed “Four Seasons Playground,” this seat of Bottineau County invites holidaymakers to visit some of its notable attractions, including the Bottineau Winter Park, the 30-foot-tall iconic “Tommy Turtle” - the largest turtle statue in the world, Lake Metigoshe State Park, the astronomical-themed site Mystical Horizons, and Bottineau Country Club Golf Course. Relish the scrumptious cuisines offered at the China Inn Restaurant and rest for the night at the Cobblestone Inn & Suites.


Main Street in Lisbon, North Dakota
Main Street in Lisbon, North Dakota. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Lisbon, the seat of government of Ransom County, is nestled in the Sheyenne National Grasslands at the meeting point of State Highways 27 (5th Avenue) and 32 (Main Street). Labeled by founder Joseph L. Colton after his better half’s hometown, Lisbon serves as a gateway to the southern terminal of Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway and Fort Ransom State Park. The 591-mile-long Sheyenne River meandering freely through the town highlights the marvelous outdoor recreation opportunities that the area offers, in addition to marking off the pleasant downtown chock-a-full of quirky shops, eating establishments, a renovated opera house, and The Scenic Movie Theater - the country’s oldest continuously running theater. Picnickers can watch kayakers paddle the flowing Sheyenne River at Sandager Park while adventure enthusiasts must not miss the Sheyenne River Speedway, Lisbon Bissell Golf Course, Sheyenne State Forest, a picturesque byway, and the adjoining Fort Ransom State Park. For comfortable accommodation, check out Super 8 by Wyndham Lisbon and try to be there at the Ransom County Fair hosted by the town every August.


Garrison, North Dakota
Garrison, North Dakota. Image credit: Andrew Filer via

Laid out at the time of the extension of the Soo Line Railroad, this McLean County community is set alongside the northern shores of Lake Sakakawea. Travelers on a visit to this 1,462-resident town are at the outset welcomed by a 26-foot-long statue of “Wally the Walleye” on Main Street’s northern extremity that promotes Garrison as the self-proclaimed “Walleye Capital of the World.” Vacationers must not forget to tour the Fort Stevenson State Park, North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame, North Dakota Firefighter’s Museum & Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial, Garrison Golf Club, and the modern SACA KOTA Theater. Luxuriate in a unique lodging experience at the North Shore Inn & Suites and participate in the Dickens Village Festival, a Christmas-themed event that takes place on three consecutive Fridays and Saturdays between late November and mid-December.


Downtown Kenmare, North Dakota
Downtown Kenmare, North Dakota.

A portion of the Minot, ND Micropolitan Statistical Area, this serene settlement in Ward County, called after its namesake town in Ireland, has only 961 inhabitants as per the latest US Census. At the core of Kenmare’s business district in the downtown park square stands the town's most popular attraction - an authentic Danish windmill constructed in 1902 by a Danish immigrant farmer. Also, gain knowledge about the area’s past at the Lake County Pioneer Village Museum, make a note of the different toys from the bygone era at the V & R Toy Museum, and watch movies at the Kenmare Theatre. The 19,500-acre Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge and its 14-mile-long scenic byway provide abundant opportunities for wildlife watching aside from a chance to observe more than 250 species of birds. Travelers must savor mouthwatering pizzas at M&K’s Pizza Hub, be present at the Kenmare Goosefest - a yearly eight-day hunting festival in October, and spend the night at the San Way Ve Motel.

From Bottineau - the “Four Seasons Playground” to Garrison - the self-professed “Walleye Capital of the World,” the countless gorgeous small towns in the nation’s 19th largest and 4th least populous state have something for vacationers of every age and interests. Boasting incredible natural sceneries, fascinating histories, outstanding cultural attractions, dozens of outdoor recreational activities, and finger-licking local cuisines, these captivating Flickertail State communities are ideal locales for a rejuvenating weekend getaway.

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