Have a long weekend coming up but not sure how to use it to its fullest potential? North Dakota might have just the places for you! People may think that they have to go out of state on a mini-vacation to use up their long weekend well, but they may be totally missing the perfect short trip opportunity right here on the prairie. From a visit to the big city to a trip out into the wilderness, here are 8 awesome spots that are the optimal choice for that long weekend:
1. Devils Lake
What better place to spend your long weekend than at the lake? And this isn't just any lake, of course, it's Devils Lake! It is North Dakota's largest natural lake and is known for its fantastic fishing, beautiful scenery, and of course the lake resorts that are perfect for that mini vacation. The city of Devils Lake has a great downtown area and plenty to see. There are multiple nature parks, as well, for you to fully experience the area - such as Sullys Hill National Game Preserve and Grahams Island State Park. Plus, there are historic sites like Fort Totten and numerous small towns surrounding the lake that you can explore. There is a whole lot more than just one long weekend to see and do here, so your visit will be packed!
Experience the city life by taking a trip to North Dakota's biggest city. The downtown area of Fargo is absolutely loaded with shops, restaurants, museums, and unique places like the iconic Fargo Theatre or the Hotel Donaldson. Fargo also has a zoo and many recreational activities, all along the beautiful Red River of the North. Places like the Lindenwood Park are great for camping, or there are plenty of hotels - both hip and upscale to quaint inns - to stay at.
3. Sheyenne River Valley
Not far west of Fargo is the gorgeously scenic Sheyenne River Valley. You can take a long drive on the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway and stop at many places along the route. Spots like the tiny towns of Fort Ransom or Kathryn are great pieces of North Dakota small town life to experience. Plus, the Fort Ransom State Park has amazing trails, cabins, yurts, campsites, and even historic homesteads and farms you can visit. Valley City is a bigger place in the Sheyenne River Valley that is worth stopping by while you're in the area, too. This "city of bridges" has 11 historic bridges over the Sheyenne River, and you can visit them all. The list goes on - this area is a must see!
We can't have a list with North Dakota weekend getaway ideas without mentioning the most popular vacation destination in the state, of course. That would be Medora, located among the breathtaking badlands and loaded with history. It'll make you feel like you're stepping in an old wild west town, which at one point it was, and one that Theodore Roosevelt himself walked through and adored. Speaking of Teddy, a big draw to Medora is North Dakota's one and only national park, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Historic sites like the Elkhorn Ranch and Chateau des Mores are also awesome spots to add to your list to see while in the area. Restaurants such as the Theodore's Dining Room, The Farmhouse Cafe, Maltese Burger, and Medora Fudge and Ice Cream Depot are all great options for food there. And the list goes on - Medora is just loaded!
Of course there is one particular experience that is unmissable when spending time at Medora, and that's the Medora Musical. It isn't just seeing the outdoor musical, it's also experiencing part of the town and the unique Pitchfork Steak Fondue.
5. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
The busiest state park in North Dakota has way more to see and do than your average park, and that makes it perfect for a long weekend. Other than being situated on the Missouri River with stunning views, great nature trails, and awesome campgrounds, the park also has so much history to experience. There are quite a few fort buildings, Custer's House, and the On-A-Slant Village of earthen lodges. Plus, this park has North Dakota's only operating trolley ride that will take you through the prettiest sections of the park. There is so much to do here, a long weekend might not even cover it all.
Experience the walleye capital of the world in Garrison, North Dakota. This town of around 1,500 people is situated right on North Dakota's biggest lake, Lake Sakakawea, near the Garrison Dam that created it. Lake Sakakawea is exceptional when it comes to fishing and you could visit many places along its coastline, but Garrison is definitely one of the best. Explore the charming downtown or experience Fort Stevenson State Park, located nearby. Garrison is appealing to visit year round, as other than being the walleye capital, it also becomes the Christmas capital of North Dakota when it has its Dickens Village Festival each year. This town might not be very big, but it sure has a lot to offer.
7. Walhalla & Pembina Gorge
One of the prettiest places in North Dakota is the Pembina Gorge. Located right up against the Canadian border, this hilly forested spot becomes a gorgeous array of colors in the fall and transforms into one of the state's most popular ski areas in the winter. The Frost Fire Ski Area has great slopes for all ages and skill levels. The nearby town of Walhalla is one of the oldest settlements in the entire state and has plenty to offer on its own.
Jamestown is one of those underrated cities to visit in North Dakota. It may not be the biggest, but it has so much to explore. The downtown area has plenty of shops, restaurants, and more. What really brings people to visit is the National Buffalo Museum, its World's Largest Buffalo, and live bison herd. That particular herd was home to one of the only true albino bison in the world and still has white bison within it. With bison being one of North Dakota's most well known "mascots," so to speak, there is no better place than here to immerse yourself in all things bison. It doesn't end there, though. The Pioneer Village is right next to the museum and giant bison statue and it'll make you feel like you've stepped back in time to North Dakota's early settler days.
Where is your favorite spot to visit in North Dakota on a long weekend? If you don’t have the time for a visit that long, here are some
great day trip spots in the state that’d be perfect for a single afternoon.