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

The 7 Most Picturesque Small Towns In North Dakota

North Dakota might not be the most popular "small town" destination. Still, the state has some surprises in store for those willing to take in the charm of the Great Plains state. Quaint, vintage main streets and breathtaking landscapes are some of the best-kept secrets this incredible place has in store for travelers and tourists. The state offers an array of historical locales and wild landscapes tucked away from the often crowded and expensive larger metropolises. These seven most picturesque small towns in North Dakota provide distinctive and appealing attractions, sights, and activities.


Historic home built by the Marquis de Mores in 1883 as a hunting lodge and summer home in Medora, North Dakota
Historic home in Medora, North Dakota.

The quaint and small town of Medora is on the western side of North Dakota. It is a paradise compared to the vastly different landscape that surrounds it. Medora offers a trip back in time with its Old West streets, unique shops, and rustic architecture. One of the city's highlights is the Medora's musical, a theater performance that takes place outdoors, amusing and entertaining visitors and locals who gather in the Burning Hills Amphitheater. The performance shows Roosevelt's adventures in the region, featuring several skillful musicians, actors, and singers.

Medora offers plenty of activities and adventures for outdoor lovers. Travelers can enjoy plenty of horseback riding, biking, and hiking along the Badlands or a relaxing and tranquil round of golf at the Bully Pulpit Golf Course, the perfect place to take in the jaw-dropping surrounding views. 


Geological center of the United States obelisk
Geological center of the United States obelisk. Image credit Dirk Wierenga via Shutterstock

The town of Rugby is historically known as the geographical center of North America. The city offers beautiful sights and a side of North Dakota's countryside that is ideal for those who love fields of sunflowers, wheat, and rolling hills. Rugby gives visitors plenty of opportunities to take breathtaking pictures that capture rural America's beauty.

Rugby has a particular spot for history buffs; the Prairie Village Museum offers a chance to explore and study the region's history and culture. The museum includes a historical collection of local buildings featuring a schoolhouse, a homestead cabin, and a traditional church, all carefully preserved to their original condition. The town offers a taste and plenty of options for visitors looking to see first-hand life in a small town in the country's heartland.


downtown street of Grafton, North Dakota
Grafton, North Dakota. Image credit Andrew Filer via Wikimedia Commons

The quaint city of Grafton is in northeastern North Dakota. Grafton usually comes to mind for its vast parks, colorful cultural scene, and traditional historic architecture. The town is near the Park River, providing excellent views and memorable sightings of many city activities and attractions. Grafton is also home to the Leistikow Park Disc Golf Course. The park includes a vast playground, picnic areas, hiking trails, and a fishing pond with various fish.

Grafton also features some options for Art lovers. There is the nearby Walsh County Historical Museum in Minto, an art gallery with a vast collection of regional and local artwork ready to marvel at many year-round visitors. Some of the exhibits in the museum include various agricultural and historical local depictions, pictures, and some movies displaying transportation and Native American culture.


Aerial View of Downtown Wahpeton, North Dakota in Summer
Wahpeton, North Dakota.

The city of Wahpeton is close to the border with Minnesota. The town is nearby the banks of the Red River, which is the ideal take for a quaint and memorable picture when visiting the area. Wahpeton's downtown is full of historical and picturesque scenes that combine perfectly with many of its parks and exclusive art scenes. One of the city's highlights is the Chahinkapa Zoo, a reduced but imposing zoo home to many animals, including exotic lions, giant tigers, and playful monkeys.

Like many other North Dakota towns, Wahpeton offers visitors and locals its fair share of historical and cultural places. The Richland County Historical Museum features local and regional exhibits that display transportation, agriculture, and the characteristic Native American tribes that have long lived there. The museum is a must-see spot to get a first-hand glimpse of local history and the city's development.


Replica Cannon on the grounds of Fort Stevenson, Garrison, North Dakota
Fort Stevenson, Garrison, North Dakota.

Among the many North Dakota cities, Garrison is in the middle of the state. The town is close to Lake Sakakawea, which features stunning nature, unique sites, and plenty of activities for outdoor lovers. Garrison tops the list for explorers who want to experience North Dakota's best offers. The town provides the best qualities of America's countryside all in one place.

One of the top Garrison attractions is Fort Stevenson State Park, offering plenty of recreational opportunities. Travelers can bike or hike through the park's various trails, go boating or fishing on Lake Sakakawea, or take advantage of the winter sports, such as cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. The park spotlights a rebuilt late 1800s-era fort that travels back to the time of North Dakota's frontier past.

Valley City

This Bridge runs over the valley in Valley City North Dakota
Bridge in Valley City, North Dakota.

The small town of Valley City is on the eastern side of North Dakota, right in the Sheyenne River Valley. The place spotlights a quaint, colorful downtown, glorious parks, and traditional and historical architecture. The town is easily one of the most welcoming and charming places North Dakota offers.

Valley City offers a well-kept secret that travelers can use when visiting the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway. The 63-mile road travels through some of the state's most stunning scenery. Along the way, there are plenty of recreational areas and parks, including the famous Sheyenne National Grassland and the Fort Ransom State Park, well-known for offering unique and fun recreational activities. Overall, the city provides the right mix of fun, adventure, and historical knowledge to marvel visitors willing to get to know North Dakota.


Front view of the Cooper Theatre Cooperstown, North Dakota.
Cooper Theatre Cooperstown, North Dakota. Image credit Andrew Filer via Wikimedia Commons

The village of Cooperstown in east-central North Dakota is well-known for its colorful downtown, charming architecture, and vast cultural heritage. The town originated in the late 19th century, has closely preserved its historical essence, and is one of the most picturesque small towns in the state.

Topping the attractions in Cooperstown is the Griggs County Courthouse, an excellent and historical Beaux-Arts-style structure dating back to the 1880s and on the National Register of Historic Places. The courthouse highlights a majestic clock tower and is an easily recognizable-building when exploring the city. The city also offers many options for culture and art enthusiasts, home to plenty of galleries and performing venues. 

North Dakota might lack the physical infrastructure other better-financed states enjoy. Still, it has plenty of picturesque small towns that are welcoming and friendly to visitors. The region can easily offer numerous rewarding and unique traveling experiences that amaze and marvel anyone willing to explore the state's hidden gems. From the distant rugged terrains of Medora to Cooperstown's historic and colorful structures, each small town has its particular character and charm. North Dakota delivers great activities for people interested in outdoor recreation, arts, history, or adventure.

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