Often overlooked, North Dakota is one of those destinations that is quite magical once you decide to dive in. The place has beautiful scenery and plenty of amazing attractions to keep anyone busy for weeks on end. In fact, there’s so much to see and do here, we recommend making a North Dakota bucket list in order to keep track of what you want to experience most during your time there.
Of course, you have to have some idea of what your options are before you can begin to build a travel bucket list. Lucky for you, you’re in the right place.
Below is our North Dakota bucket list. This travel list has all of the things we think everyone should see while in the state. Pick and choose from these bucket list ideas, or do them all. Either way, you’re sure to have an amazing time in the Flickertail State.
What is a Bucket List?
Before you go any further, let’s pause for a minute to answer a burning question some of you may have: What exactly is a bucket list? Really, a bucket list can be anything you want it to be, but the basic idea is that it’s a list of places you want to visit and things you want to do before you die.
We like to make travel-specific bucket lists for each place we plan to visit. This North Dakota bucket list is an excellent example of that, and should serve as good inspiration for creating your own bucket lists for travel.
— Bucket List Vacations: North Dakota’s National Parks —
In our opinion, our country’s national parks sites are some of the very best things to check out. This is just as true in North Dakota as anywhere else, and many of the state’s NPS sites have made it onto our North Dakota bucket list.
#1. Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
Once the most important trading post on the upper Missouri River, Fort Union Trading Post was very well used between 1828 and 1867. This is where the Native American tribes of the Northern Plains could trade furs for goods from around the world. Today, it stands as a reminder of a once-peaceful coexistence.
#2. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Now the perfect place to explore the lives of the Earthlodge people, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site was once an important trade center for Native Americans. These days, the site serves as a place for field trips, camps, and other learning opportunities that help keep this bit of history alive.
#3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
President Theodore Roosevelt helped create a conservation policy that we still benefit from today. This policy was shaped in major part by Roosevelt’s experiences in the wilderness of Dakota territory. Theodore Roosevelt National Park does an amazing job of preserving some of this wilderness for future generations to enjoy, as well as passing down the story of Teddy Roosevelt.
#4. National Trails
North Dakota is also home to two beautiful national trails. Both are well worth seeing—even if you can only manage to catch a section—and both offer some amazing photo opportunities.
The trails are:
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- North Country National Scenic Trail
— More North Dakota Bucket List Experiences —
Of course, there are many more options besides the NPS sites listed above. Whether you’re looking for museums, zoos, or something else entirely, you’re sure to find something awesome to put on your North Dakota bucket list.
Try these on for size:
#5. Climb White Butte
The tallest point in North Dakota, White Butte is well worth climbing. The top of the butte offers amazing views, and the hike to the top on Highpoint Trail is easy enough for most people to enjoy. We recommend leaving a small donation in the box so the trail remains open for all to enjoy.
#6. Stroll the International Peace Garden
Looking for a place where you can feel completely at peace? The International Peace Garden is a wonderful place to do just that. This gorgeous 2,300-acre garden features all kinds of beautiful plants, including some cacti.
#7. Visit Chateau de Mores State Historic Site
Chateau de Mores is an amazing 26-room hunting lodge originally built in 1882. It overlooks Medora—the town which homeowner Marquis de Mores named after his wife—and still contains many of its original furnishings.
#8. Drive the Chan Sansan Scenic Backway
Do you enjoy a beautiful drive? If so, you’re sure to love the Chan Sansan Scenic Backway, which offers gorgeous views of the James River Valley. Additionally, this road offers plenty of opportunities to see historic sites that allow you to get a feel for what life was like for Native Americans and early settlers.
#9. Cruise the Enchanted Highway
Another amazing North Dakota drive is the Enchanted Highway. Here, large metal sculptures adorn the highway and beautiful scenery is around every corner. See a sculpture that you adore? Stop in the gift shop in Regent to buy a miniature.
#10. Snap a Photo of the World’s Largest Man-Made Turtle
Those looking for quirky roadside attractions will appreciate the fact that North Dakota is home to the world’s largest man-made turtle. This giant turtle is made from over 2,000 steel wheel rims, and has been standing since 1982.
#11. See the Medora Musical
A fun musical that takes audience members back to the old west, the Medora Musical is a spectacular performance. This outdoor show has been running for years now and plays to a full house on a regular basis.
#12. Learn at the North Dakota Heritage Center
North Dakota has a surprisingly fascinating history. Learn about the animals that called the spot home during prehistoric times, as well as the human history of the place. You’re sure to appreciate the many engaging exhibits in this amazing center.
#13. Step Back in Time at On-A-Slant Indian Village
Want even more awesome history lessons? On-A-Slant Indian Village might be just the place. This attraction features five reconstructed earth lodges built on the site of a 400-year-old Mandan Indian Village. The Mandan tribe was an amazing one that thrived in North Dakota for over 200 years.
#14. Attend the International Pow Wow
A pow wow is a spectacular celebration of Native American cultures. The International Pow Wow in North Dakota is one of the biggest in the country and brings many tribes together for an enormous celebration that is well worth attending.
#15. Explore the National Buffalo Museum
The bison is quite possibly the most iconic North American animal there is. These amazing creatures have quite a history and you can learn all about it at the National Buffalo Museum. While you’re there, see if you can find White Cloud. This buffalo is both the world’s largest buffalo and a rare albino bison!
#16. Discover the Dakota Zoo
Zoo days are always fun days, and the Dakota Zoo is one we love to visit. This awesome zoo is chock-full of amazing animals. We especially love the mountain lions, moose, and grizzly bears.
#17. Get Outside at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Another wonderful place to see animals is the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This place is home to one of the largest breeding colonies of American white pelicans, as well as a number of other beautiful native birds. Be sure to bring binoculars!
#18. Ride the Lewis and Clark Riverboat
A relaxing ride aboard a 150-foot-paddle-wheeler boat is the perfect way to end any day of exploring. The gorgeous Lewis and Clark Riverboat offers lunch cruises, dinner cruises, and cruises purely for sightseeing. Any one of these is sure to offer an exciting adventure.
#19. Kayak the Missouri River
Avid kayak enthusiasts will love the challenge offered by the Missouri River. This river is also known as the “Big Muddy” and is becoming increasingly popular with kayakers as they discover the fun and challenging paddle offered by the river.
#20. Try Ice Fishing at Devils Lake
Because it is so far north, North Dakota gets very cold in the winter—so cold, in fact, that the lakes freeze pretty solid, making ice fishing a popular winter pastime here. Try your hand at this unique sport while you’re in town. We recommend Devils Lake as an excellent spot to ice fish.
#21. Enjoy Dinner at Pitchfork Steak Fondue
The food is pretty good at this unique restaurant. That said, people visit more for the experience than for the food. You see, the steaks served here are cooked on pitchforks, and you get to watch the whole interesting process. We highly recommend eating here just before seeing the aforementioned Medora Musical.
#22. Time Travel at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
For a time, Colonel George Custer served at Fort Abraham Lincoln. Check out the rebuilt Custer house when you visit this park and wander through the partially recreated earth lodges that once housed the Mandan Native American tribe that called this spot home.
#23. Educate Yourself at Scandinavian Heritage Park
Believe it or not, North Dakota is home to quite a few Scandinavian people. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the Scandinavian Heritage Park exists in the state. This is the perfect place to learn about Scandinavian culture. It features a Danish windmill, a replica of the Gol Stave church, and more.
#24. Admire Works at Plains Art Museum
Have an art lover in your travel party? Be sure to visit the Plains Art Museum. Here you can admire contemporary art alongside traditional Native American artwork. Additionally, the museum features rotating exhibits, so stopping by on each visit to the state is worthwhile.
#25. Experience Paul Broste Rock Museum
Have you ever been to a rock museum? It may not sound all that interesting, but the Paul Broste Rock Museum is actually something you might want to see. The museum stands on a hilltop, is built entirely out of rocks, and features some unique architecture. Inside, you can see the amazing “Infinity Room” which features a wide variety of rocks.
#26. Tour the Laughing Sun Brewery
No visit to North Dakota is complete without at least one brewery tour. There are several good ones to choose from, but we especially like Laughing Sun Brewery for an interesting tour and a great local brew.
#27. Relax at Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery
Are you more of a wine person? If so, you’ll likely love Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery. Here, you can enjoy a glass of amazing wine while relaxing in one of the many flower gardens of fruit plots on site. It is beautiful, energizing, and an excellent way to reset.
#28. Dine at Kroll’s Diner
Finally, we must mention Kroll’s Diner. This ’50s-style eatery serves up German and American dishes that people just love. The restaurant has been around since 1972 and now has several locations across the state.
As you can see, there are tons of things to put on your North Dakota bucket list. In fact, there are so many things to see and do, we recommend staying in an RV during your visit to the state. This will allow you to hop from one place to another and see as much as possible during your trip.
Of course, not everyone has an RV of their own. If this is the case for you, you can always book one of our many North Dakota RV rentals. We have tons to choose from, meaning there’s sure to be one that’ll suit your needs as you check items off your North Dakota Bucket list. Why not book today?