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15 Best Things to Do in North Dakota & Places to Visit

Experience the best and most fun things in North Dakota! This unassuming Midwestern state is full of incredible sights and attractions not to overlook!

North Dakota has a wide range of activities and excursions, ranging from museums to roadside attractions, to the stunning scenery of the rural landscape that is the stuff of dreams.

North Dakota has it all for you, and visiting the state means embarking on a tour and travel trip that you won’t soon forget!

Stumped about what to do in North Dakota? Check out some North Dakota attractions in this list of the best things to do in North Dakota!

Best things to do in North Dakota & Places to Visit

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Address: North Dakota, United States

Of all the national parks in the US, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is perhaps the most famous and beautiful in the country and arguably the most famous of all North Dakota tourist attractions. Exploring the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is among the best things to do in North Dakota, for the park offers an array of exciting and engaging outdoor adventures and savage, frontier beauty.

The vast Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The breathtaking scenery and awe-inspiring outdoor recreation options are just a few of the highlights of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is home to magnificent creatures great and small from mighty bison to scurrying prairie dogs.

You can tour the park at any time of day or night throughout the year, though the visitor center operations may vary based on the season.

Campgrounds, on the other hand, are open throughout the year. There are also periodic road closures due to snow and ice during the winter months.

There are no restaurants or motels in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but food and housing can be found in the surrounding settlements nearby this historic site. You are good to take your pet pooch to the national park if it remains on a leash and does not venture off the paths.

The fun things to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are family-friendly activities such as the Junior Ranger Program, hiking trails, horseback riding, and other ranger-type activities like hiking or biking Maah Daah Hey Trail which links the North Unit with the South Unit.

Visit Prairie Dog Town, Little Missouri River, Oxbow Overlook and the Edge of Glacier Pullout. You can also behold the overlooking views of Badlands from the Visitor Center of Painted Canyon; check out the Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin owned by President Theodore Roosevelt and the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive.

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2. Salem Sue

Salem Sue North Dakota

Address: New Salem, ND 58563, United States

Salem Sue is a gigantic Holstein cow statue in the charming town of New Salem, North Dakota. The sculpture of Salem Sue was constructed in 1974 to honor the dairy industry. She’s also the first of three giant animals in our list of North Dakota attractions, and at least one of two “World’s Largest” animals designed by Dave Oswald in North Dakota.

The old girl cost approximately $40,000, funded by contributions from local farmers and citizens and sponsored by The New Salem Lions Club.

The sculpture is recognized as the World’s Largest Cow, and it is New Salem’s pride. It has become a famous landmark in town and a popular thing to see in North Dakota.

The fiberglass cow sculpture is visible for miles and large enough to amaze even next-door neighbor Paul Bunyan! Sue sits 38 feet in height and 50 feet in length atop the School Hill on the outskirts of New Salem.

Regarding big animal statues, Salem Sue exceeds in height and weight Pettibone’s bull, Bottineau’s turtle, and Dunseith’s turtle.

To check out the towering cow sculpture is among the best thing to do in North Dakota.

You won’t just be astounded with the Cow’s vastness but you’ll also be presented with picturesque views of the surrounding countryside.

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3. Badlands Overlook

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Badlands Overlook North Dakota

Address: Medora, ND 58645, United States

If you’re seeking a scenic destination to visit, Badlands Overlook is one of the most beautiful attractions in North Dakota. It provides the opportunity to take in spectacular views of the landscape. Badlands Overlook is located in the fascinating town of Medora, in the state of North Dakota.

The Badlands Wall, an erosional structure that extends from near the village of Kadoka on the eastern side to the Wall on the west located in the eastern region of the Badlands, is among the most specular views in the state.

This magnificent scenic area in North Dakota is a very popular tourist destination. Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt National Park provides a view of the Badlands.

On clear days in the site, the Eagle Nest Butte can be seen on the southeast horizon, adjacent to Wanblee, South Dakota.

This is another great destination in North Dakota to view the harsh charm that characterizes much of the state.

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4. Scandinavian Heritage Park

Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota

Address: 1020 S Broadway, Minot, ND 58701, United States

Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique park in Minot’s Upper Brooklyn district in North Dakota. This heritage center was created by the Scandinavian Heritage Association, an organization founded in 1989 to honor Nordic culture and is open to the public.

If you are interested in uncovering Scandinavian facts, and enjoying fun and engaging outdoor leisure, this North Dakota heritage center is the ideal destination to blow off some steam.

The park’s unique attractions include the stunning replica Gol Stave Church Museum, a Finnish sauna, and a Danish windmill.

There are monuments copied from each of the five Scandinavian and Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the park is the first outdoor museum in the world to do so.

Other tourist attractions in this interpretive center include a Norwegian log house about 240 years old and a copy of Stabbur, a giant, red and beautifully decorated Swedish Dala horse about 27 feet tall.

For those looking for a taste of Northern Europe, outdoor activities, a mini getaway holiday with the family, the park also has a picnic shelter, hiking trails, and a gift shop where they can pick up themed gifts.

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5. The Enchanted Highway

Pheasants on the Prairie  Enchanted Highway Regent North Dakota

Address: 607 Main St, Regent, ND 58650, United States

The Enchanted Highway is a series of the world’s biggest scrap metal statues, and it is located in the town of Regent, Western North Dakota.

32 miles of two-lane roadway from Gladstone to Regent were set aside for a collection of unique, scrap metal sculptures, spaced at regular intervals.

Take a trip down the Enchanted Highway to peek at classic roadside artworks, which among the one-of-a-kind fun things to do in North Dakota.

Driving the highway is a travel adventure not to miss, for it provides scenic landscapes as well as the art. Best of all the road leads you to the Enchanted Castle, which is one of the most popular and fascinating attractions in Regent.

Notable sculptures to see on the way on the Enchanted Highway are World’s Largest Tin Family, Geese in Flight, Deer Crossing, Teddy Rides Again, The Fisherman’s Dream, Grasshoppers in the Field, and Pheasants on the Prairie – each a metal masterpiece!

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6. Sandy – The World’s Largest Sandhill Crane

Flying Crane

Address: 255, 299 5th St NE, Steele, ND 58482, United States

North Dakota has an almost limitless number of roadside attractions, particularly along Interstate 94, surely designed to entice unsuspecting motorists to pull over and snap a few photos! One such attraction is Sandy, the world’s most giant sandhill crane, the world’s largest bird of prey.

This lanky rolled steel Sandhill Crane is the tallest crane in the world. The sculpture is one of Steele’s most well-known and often visited attractions.

Sandy World's Largest Sandhill Crane Steele North Dakota

The sculpture stands around 40 feet tall, weighing approximately 4.5 tons. It was constructed between 1998 and 1999 by James Miller, a self-taught ironworker. Not bad work James, not bad at all!

The Sandhill Crane has some significance in North Dakota and may be found in North Dakota’s wetlands, farms, and plains.

If you’re taking a road trip through North Dakota, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Sandy and snap photographs with Sandy.

Ok, the world’s largest cow? Check. World’s largest sandhill crane? Check. World’s largest…?

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7. World’s Largest Buffalo & National Buffalo Museum

World's largest Buffalo North Dakota

Address: 404 Louis Lamour Ln, Jamestown, ND 58401, United States

…Buffalo! Well, bison. What is the dxifference between a buffalo and a bison? Well, you can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.

Did you know there are no buffalo native to North America? That means Buffalo Bill slew the grand total of zero buffalo during his career; American Bison on the other hand…

Among North Dakota’s is rich bevy of spectacular natural beauty and gigantic sculptures, is the World’s Largest Buffalo, which is located in the state’s capital…and despite the name, is a bison.

At the Frontier Village in the old town of Jamestown, North Dakota, there is an enormous artwork depicting an American Bison that is easily the most notable sight in the town.

The World’s Largest Buffalo (Bison) sculpture can be seen from Interstate 94, which runs over the James River valley and provides a panoramic view of the city. See what I mean about I-94?

The Buffalo (Bison) is about 26 feet in height, and it weighs approximately 60 tons and was created by artist Elmer Petersen in 1959.

The World’s Largest Buffalo (*sigh* Bison) is also known locally as Dakota Thunder, which is about the coolest nickname ever nicked. A visit to this hefty artwork is a must for people interested in these noble beasts, because it is also close to the National Buffalo Museum and Frontier Village, making it an excellent stopover.

A poster of National Buffalo Museum

The National Buffalo Museum focuses on teaching visitors about the Northern Plains Indians and bison’s (wait, which one is it?) history in America. Exhibits describe the bison’s role in Native American culture and how the species barely escaped extinction. The museum also has a gift shop and maintains a live buffalo herd.

Did I mention that it’s actually a bison herd?

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8. North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

Entrance to North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
Source: Tripadvisor

Address: 612 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505, United States

The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum is a fascinating museum that serves as North Dakota’s official history museum, found in the charming city of Bismarck, North Dakota. It is also recognized as the largest museum in the state and one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Dakota.

The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum features four museum exhibits that trace the state’s long heritage from its oldest geologic development 600 million years ago to the present day and a museum store.

There’s a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum which is definitely one of the most impressive displays to see. There are also displays of Mars mission spacesuits and other displays that are more historically oriented.

The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum’s tractor cab simulator, which you can use to get a personal experience of farming, and the world’s largest gigantic fossil of a squid are two of the highlights to look forward to in the museum.

In addition to the exhibits, North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum has a gift shop and café where visitors can purchase souvenirs and refuel before or after visiting the exhibits.

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9. Fort Totten State Historic Site

Fort Totten State Historic Site North Dakota

Address: 417 Calvary Cir, Fort Totten, ND 58335, United States

Fort Totten State Historic Site, situated in Fort Totten in North Dakota, is one of the best-preserved border military installations in the United States.

Although the fort was constructed between 1868 and 1873 as a military base, it spent most of its time as a boarding school for Native Americans. In 1971, the landmark was added to the National Register of Historic Sites.

Fort Totten State Historic Site is a well regarded historic site, and a well-preserved base with 16 of its original structures still surviving, as well as reconstructed military buildings. These structures served as officers’ headquarters, dormitories, and more. Also, the state historic site includes a museum complex that is housed in the historic hospital building.

The fort was built on the southeastern bank of Devils Lake to defend the Totten Trail and the road that ran throughout Dakota Territory. Moreover, the fort was responsible for controlling and protecting the Indian Reservation in Totten.

The structures of this historic site were formerly used as a health care institution and Native American boarding school until 1959. For historical purposes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs handled most of the fort site to the state.

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10. Fargo Air Museum

Avenger Fargo Air Museum North Dakota

Address: 1609 19th Ave N, Fargo, ND 58102, United States

Whether or not you’re an aircraft enthusiast, visiting the Fargo Air Museum is one of the best things to do in North Dakota. It is a fascinating museum located in the northern portion of West Fargo, near Hector International Airport.

The aviation museum houses numerous vintage aircraft, 90 percent of which are still in airworthy condition thanks to dedicated, expert restoration, and maintenance.

The museum’s mascot is a yellow Douglas DC3 “Dakota”, a civilian and military (known as the C-47 to the US Military) passenger and cargo transport plane, famous the world over, that is also still airworthy.

The aircraft on display, ranging from vintage to contemporary. You can see the Wright Brothers’ Flyer exhibit, which was the world’s first successfully powered aircraft.

There are tons of military aircraft from the history of the North Dakota Flying Aces and the North Dakota Air National Guard, and has exhibits on cloud manipulation and agricultural aviation.

Besides being a family-friendly attraction, the museum also welcomes visitors with dogs and cats!

As you take a stroll through the museum’s displays, you can choose to explore on your own with the assistance of an audio guide or to tour the Fargo Air Museum with a tour guide.

11. Plains Art Museum

Pollinating Honey Bee North Dakota

Address: 704 1st Ave N, Fargo, ND 58102

One of the best attractions in North Dakota for admiring unique Native American art is at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo housed in the old International Harvester warehouse building since 1997. The museum features several rotating exhibitions, such as the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival which draws tons of visitors every year.

The Plains Art Museum is one of the largest art  galleries in the state, and one of the best things about it is the free entry, making it a great budget activity where you can salve your soul.

At this terrific Native and fine arts museum, you’ll get to admire nearly 4,000 pieces by both regional and national artists, such as impressionist works from Mary Cassatt and paintings from contemporary Native artists like George Morrison. You’ll even find works from legendary names such as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.

The Plains Art Museum frequently holds talks, lectures, and art seminars, and has also become a very popular site for weddings and other events.

Since 2009, the Plains Art Museum has established a delightful pollinator garden to help pollinating insects, bugs, and birds space to lose themselves and help a process in which every species of terrestrial fauna relies upon – pollination.

The Plains Art Museum also has a fantastic gift shop on-site, selling wonderful trinkets, books, and other arty souvenirs.

12. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

Address: 15550 ND-1804, Williston, ND 58801

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, located near the town of Williston is one of the most popular attractions in the entire state.

This incredicle attraction, once considered the grandest fort on the Missouri River, was one of the most important fur-trading posts in North America during the 19th Century. It was famously home to John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company, which cornered the market on the fur trade on the upper Missouri River between 1829 and 1867.

In more peaceful times, many traders from Native American tribes, (including Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Cree, Crow, Hidatsa, Lakota, Mandan, and the Ojibwe) flocked to Fort Union Trading Post to exchange beaver and bison skins for European goods, particularly alcohol, tools, cutlery and British smoothbore muskets.

Today, the partially reconstructed Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site restored to how it may have looked at the height of its significance in 1851 and offers a living history experience, with reenactors showing what life at Fort Union Trading Post might have been like 160 years ago.

The Trading Post and the area around it are also considered active archeological sites, as the National Park Service is constantly uncovering artifacts in the area to add to the site’s collection.

As well as a meticulously reconstructed native village, there is a splendid Indian Arts showcase and young ranger programs for kids, as well as thousands of digitally preserved collections.

This well-known landmark attraction also has a great bookstore and gift store.

13. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Custer House Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park North Dakota

Address: 4480 Fort Lincoln Rd, Mandan, ND 58554

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is another one of North Dakota’s most stunning and popular state parks. It is a great place to learn more about North Dakota’s Native and military history, as well as hike, camp, or even go horseback riding.

It is most famous for being the final departure point for Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his doomed 7th Cavalry Regiment on their way to the Battle of Little Bighorn, or the Battle of Greasy Grass as it is known to the victorious Sioux.

The state park’s history goes back over 3 centuries. It was once home to the Mandan tribe and then a site for a Union Army fort, maintaining guard over trade routes and home to between 1 and 2 battalions of soldiers during the mid 19th Century. Visitors can find reconstructed buildings, like the reassembled On-A-Slant Mandan village, with reconstructed earth lodges.

Guests can also admire the reconstructed Custer House, a faithful restoration of Colonel Custer’s home from when he was posted to the fort.

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is an amazing place if you’re planning to explore over a number of days, notably due to the great overnight options here.

As well as cute wood cabins to rent for as little as $60 a night, there are over 100 campsites in the park, where you have the opportunity to sleep in a genuine Cheyenne tipi by the banks of the Missouri River.

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14. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site North Dakota

Address: 564 County Rd 37, Stanton, ND 58571

North Dakota is rich in fantastic attractions and landmarks that illustrate the history and culture of the region’s Native American population, and life on the wild frontier.

There are few better sites to learn about these fascinating people and the history of the region than Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, established in 1974.

This magnificent attraction, built on the ruins of an ancient Indian village is also the famous meeting place of 16-year-old Sakakawea (commonly and erroneously known as Sacagawea or Sacajawea in English) the Lemhi Shoshone woman who aided Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark complete the Corps of Discovery Expedition, more commonly known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is also one of the best free things to do in North Dakota!

On meeting the US Army expedition, Sakakawea, her French Canadian explorer husband, and their young son agreed to accompany the party and help them reach the Pacific Coast.

It is hardly any secret that without Sakakawea’s expertise in pathfinding and forging cultural connections with Native tribes along the way, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would surely have ended in failure, potentially even slaughter.

Today Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site is home to a modern museum featuring wonderful exhibits on Native American culture, art, and other artifacts, as well as exhibits on the local flora and fauna and their significance among the people of the Plains Nations.

There is also a picnic pavilion, a tourist information center, a museum store, a reconstructed earth lodge, as well as visible remains of ancient earth lodges to explore.

See Related: Best Things to do in South Dakota

15. Fort Mandan Historic Site & Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Fort Mandan in North Dakota

Address: Fort Mandan, 838 28th Ave SW, Washburn, ND 58577

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center North Dakota

Address: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, 2576 8th St SW, Washburn, ND 58577

Lucky you, we’ve got another double here! Technically, these are two different sites, but as they are both relevant to the same topic and closely situated near the town of Washburn, the pair make for a fantastic day out in North Dakota, particularly if you’re interested in the adventures of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Fort Mandan is a reconstructed replica of the original hastily constructed fort made by the Lewis and Clark Expedition so that they had a secure base to survive the winter of 1804-1805.

From here, Captain Lewis and Second Lieutenant Clark, (with no doubt plenty of help from Sakakawea and her family) also attempted to engage in diplomatic efforts with other neighboring tribes, with the goal of establishing trade relations.

The fort, recreated with huge attention to detail, provides a snapshot back to a time of what life was like during that cold winter, featuring replica map-making tools, wooden furniture, equipment, clothes, and weapons. The fort also offers tours April through September and hosts reenactors who help bring the history to life.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Headwaters Visitor Center, first opened in 1997 also focus on the harsh winter of 1804–1805 and how the Expedition survived the cold and forged friendships with the natives.

It is chock full of authentic artifacts from the Expedition and local tribes, as well as a sizable collection of Native American artwork. It also has a great museum store to find souvenirs.

This outstanding museum also details other aspects of the state’s history, including the history and culture of the Mandan and Hidatsa Plains Nations, the fur trade at Fort Clark Trading Post, as well as the later expedition by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied through the state in the 1830s.

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