North Dakota Road Trip: Through the land of the giants

Automobile travel is making a resurgence as more and more travelers are choosing to vacation by personal vehicle to visit areas where social distancing is easy. North Dakota’s enticing outdoor recreation, national and state parks, historic attractions and unique roadside art are just what travelers can find when they follow their curiosity, not the crowds.  

Here is another great road trip that includes exciting things to see and do, quaint places to stay and delicious dining options. Let this be your starting point for a multi-day adventure.

Interstate 94 

Interstate 94 is more than just the main east-west route through North Dakota. Its route between Fargo and Beach (that’s right, who says there’s no beach in landlocked North Dakota) leads through vibrant cities, rich history, stunning scenery and some really big animals – alive and otherwise.

Day 1

Start your day with breakfast at Twenty Below Coffee Co. then off to the Fargo Air Museum where vintage planes and stories of daring-do fill the museum. Shop downtown Fargo boutiques and unique eateries like Beer & Fish Co. or Rhombus Guys or ip a glass and have a burger at Pounds (recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). Enjoy the antics of the iconic Red Panda at Red River Zoo, peddle a bike around Lindenwood Park or paddle a kayak on the Red River. Get a real taste of college-town vibe in the evenings along and near Broadway before ending the night with dinner at Mezzaluna. Overnight downtown at the Jasper Hotel.

Day 2

Rise early this morning to catch the first wave of flakey goodness at Nichole’s Fine Pastry. Get in a little shopping along the 13th Avenue corridor between Fargo and West Fargo then step back in time at Bonanzaville before the road trip begins. You can’t miss the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown, which guides travelers to the National Buffalo Museum and its live herd. Eat a savory lunch at Sabir’s Buffalo Grill before stopping to see where soldiers overseeing the building of the railroad camped at Fort Seward. Then it’s off to Steele where Sandy the Sandhill Crane stands as a testament to the area’s plentiful waterfowl. Next stop is Bismarck-Mandan. Take your pick of walleye, bison or house-made pasta at Piroque Grill or savor the butttery goodness of basket of Butterhorn’s signature rolls. Experience the city’s vibrant nightlife and get a captivating view of Bismarck from the rooftop bar, the LÜFT. Find the hidden speakeasy cocktail bar, 510.2 or taste a local brew and enjoy local musicians at Laughing Sun or Gideon’s before retiring to the Radisson Hotel Bismarck.  


Day 3

Kick-start your day with Le Big Bird at Terra Nomad then immerse yourself in our rich history at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum where the state’s past, present and future is on display. At the state capitol, the Rough Rider Hall of Fame features prominent North Dakotans and the 18th-floor observation deck offers a 360-degree view of the cities and surrounding country, including Fort Abraham Lincoln and Custer House and On-A-Slant Indian Village. This was home to the 7th Cavalry and George Custer, who embarked from there bound for the Little Bighorn. On-A-Slant Village existed there long before Lewis and Clark visited. Earthlodges provide a glimpse into the lives of the Mandans who lived there. Return to Heritage River Landing to book a sunset or dinner cruise on the Lewis and Clark Riverboat.

Day 4

Eat a hearty omelet at Kroll’s Diner or all things waffle at Copper Dog in Mandan before the search for the “big cow.” Salem Sue, the world’s largest Holstein cow, overlooks the interstate at New Salem. Drive up for a closeup look and a photo op. The next larger-than-life display is Geese in Flight at Gladstone. The large metal sculpture heralds the start of the Enchanted Highway and 30 miles of sculptures between it and the town of Regent. Upon arriving in Dickinson, enjoy lunch and a glass of wine at Fluffy Fields Vineyard then study the life-sized dinosaurs at the Badlands Dinosaur Museum. See a baseball game if the Badlands Big Sticks are in town or play a round of golf at Heart River Golf Course. Proceed on to Medora where you’ll watch the sun set at Painted Canyon Visitors Center and dine at Theodore’s Dining Room before getting a good night’s sleep at the Rough Riders Hotel.

Day 5

Have a big stack at Cowboy Café to get the day in the Badlands started. Activities can include a ride on a zipline, horseback riding or mini golf (or big-time golf at renowned Bully Pulpit). Visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame before going into Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where you will see bison, wild horses, deer, prairie dogs, eagles and hawks. Be sure to take lots of photos at Buck Hill and Wind Canyon. The evening concludes with a steak at the Pitchfork Fondue and an evening under the stars at the Medora Musical.

This is just a sampling of the interesting things to see and do and places to eat. Create your own road trip using these tips, or go to for more options as you follow your curiosity, not the crowds.


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