Looking for a legendary way to spend your summer? North Dakota is the place to go! Here are nine of our favorite hot spots to spend a sunny day in the Roughrider State.
Dakota Dinosaur Museum – Dickinson
Roaming the halls of dinosaur bones never goes astray with our children. The fact that many of the dinosaurs in the Dakota Dinosaur Museum were found locally adds an awesome twist to this great adventure in learning and makes it a stop we love to make when we are in the Dickinson area.
There is a children’s corner, which is a fun place to sit and take a break from the excitement, and a park outside for running around on the grass after.
Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for kids 3-12. Watch your dates, though – the museum closes for the season on Labor Day.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of our favorite places for wildlife viewing in North Dakota. Bison roam freely, which is usually the only kind of traffic you will encounter. We were excited to learn that 186 species of birds call the park home, too! How many can you spot? And don’t forget the Prairie Dog Town! Watching the black-tailed prairie dogs is well worth the hike.
There is lots more to see, too. Drive the scenic loop, check out the visitors centers, and lots more.
There are two units of the park – the North Unit is located 14 miles south of Watford City on Highway 85, and the South Unit is accessible from exits 24 and 27 off Interstate 94, near the Montana border.
Entrance is $20 per vehicle, or use your National Park Pass.
Tip: If you don’t already have a National Park Pass, we highly recommend it – it is a bargain at $80 and gets you into national parks for a year. We make a point of visiting national parks whenever we can, and the experiences are well worth it!
North Dakota Heritage Center
For learning about the history of this beautiful state, no location has more to offer than the legendary¬ North Dakota Heritage Center, on the capitol grounds in Bismarck. There are thousands of exhibits chronicling the state, including art, interactive exhibits, and lots of technology. In addition, learn about the energy development that is currently evolving the state into a destination for workers from across the globe.
Plan to stay a while, and pop into the James River Cafe for a bite to eat midway through. As you are leaving, be sure to look up – you are standing next to the tallest building in North Dakota! You are more than welcome to walk the grounds, which are a part of the capitol’s Arboretum Trail.
Knife River Indian Village
Spanning nearly 1,800 acres near Hazen, the Knife River Indian Village is the place to go to see archaeological remains from the Northern Plains Indians. We love to explore the exhibits, including going inside the earthlodges we had previously only seen in books. There are lots of tools and other items to see, and the ranger talks are very informative.
In addition to the Native American history, Lewis and Clark came through here in October of 1804, camping nearby at Fort Mandan, so this free site is a fun place to add to your Lewis and Clark knowledge.
International Peace Gardens
The International Peace Gardens have a little something for a range of tastes. With historical sites, beautiful flowers, an interpretive center and so much more, there is sure to be something to please everyone in the family. Plus there is lots of room to run off some energy! Take the time to explore one of the park’s many hiking trails, wander through the Formal Garden, or wander through the peace poles to read “May Peace Prevail” in 28 different languages.
Located near Dunseith on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba, the Peace Gardens are a symbol of the relationship between two countries. The park is sprawling – check out this map to plan your visit, and visit the Prairie Style File for lots of great details on the park.
A daily pass is $15, and a season pass is $30.
Note that you are crossing through Canadian customs on the way back from the park, so bring along the family’s passports to make for smooth sailing. If you don’t have passports, photo ID is required, and you may spend a little extra time at the crossing.
National Buffalo Museum
Jamestown, North Dakota is home to the National Buffalo Museum, a can’t-miss stop along I-95. The bison (or American buffalo) played a significant part in the area’s history, and this site offers the opportunity to learn more through a series of exhibits and artifacts.
Plus there is a live herd, featuring the only true albino bison in the world, named White Cloud. And of course the world’s largest buffalo! The 26-foot tall concrete bison, weighing more than 60 tons, has been standing over Jamestown since 1959.
There is also a frontier village and gift shop. The museum is $5 for adults.
Geographical Center of North America
Have you ever wondered where the geographical center of North America is located? If you’re driving along Highway 2, you’ll soon learn it is in Rugby, North Dakota. Everyone needs to pile out of the car and take the obligatory family photo next to the 15 foot obelisk that marks the site!
Fort Union and Fort Buford
This is really three sites in one. Start by checking out the Confluence Center, located at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers 20 miles west of Williston. The center features traveling exhibits (at a charge of $5 per adult and $2.50 per child, which also includes Fort Buford), and a beautiful view of the rivers.
Next door, explore Fort Buford State Historic Site, the remnants of a military fort built in 1866. There is a stone powder magazine, cemetery site, and an officers quarters building, where visitors can now explore a museum. A few times a year, there are also reenactments at the fort, which are a special treat.
Fort Union Trading Post is a few miles to the west, on the border with Montana. The fort was an important fur trade post between 1828 and 1867, and is filled with interesting nooks and crannies to scope out. Watch a blacksmith hammer out a horse shoe, climb to the top of the fort and look out over the river, and visit the exhibits inside the Bourgeois house on the site where seven Native American tribes traded buffalo furs and smaller furs for goods from around the world. During the summer months there are often tepees set up out front, for added interest.
A list of North Dakota attractions wouldn’t be complete without mentioning historic Medora, located near the western edge of the state. Options for a real cowboy-inspired experience abound. Check out the website to learn more.
Where have your North Dakota adventures taken you? Share your favorite spots in the comments, we’d love to read them!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by North Dakota Tourism. All of the opinions expressed are our own!
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a post originally shared on our former blog in 2015.