As one of the more challenging states to write about for the On the Road Again series, North Dakota’s tourist hotspots are lesser known than other states’ throughout the country. Here’s how to spend seven days in the Peace Garden State.
Day 1: Arrive in Fargo, Head to Grand Forks
Being a rectangular state, North Dakota is easy to tour if you don’t mind a bit of lengthy driving. Summertime is the best time to visit, as colder months can bring harsh weather to the near-Canadian state, making getting around difficult. I highly recommend flying into Fargo’s Hector International Airport (FAR) and booking a rental car to be returned at the same location. From Fargo, drive an hour and 15 minutes north to Grand Forks to spend the night, in order to best position yourself for the rest of the week’s activities. Grand Forks is notorious for the Original Red Pepper restaurant, which is home of the legendary and well-known “Grinder” sandwich, often topped with taco meat, cheese, special sauces, and other deli meats. One of my good friends Brian attended college in North Dakota and continues to have Red Pepper ship Grinder sandwiches to him in North Carolina on occasion (for a hefty fee, of course!).
Day 2: Drive to Devil’s Lake
From Grand Forks, a popular fishing and summer recreation destination is Devil’s Lake, making it a great location to arrive early in the day and spend the night after a day of fishing. Walleye fish are commonly found in this area, with fishing charter tours filling up quickly during the summer months. Perch Eyes is notorious for its fishing charters, providing bookers with a 20-foot boat stacked with bait, fishing poles, tackle, life jackets, and a licensed guide to the lake. Perch Eyes employees also clean catches, so no need to get down and dirty with the fish you catch and plan to eat. It’s best to book ahead to find availability on the dates you’ll be in Devil’s Lake, so visit www.percheyes.com to read more about fishing charters and how to make a reservation.
Day 3: Arrive in Medora
The tiny town of Medora is an excellent spot to visit the western side of the state. A lengthy drive from Devil’s Lake, the road trip taken to Medora gives visitors plenty of opportunities to see all of North Dakota’s landscape by car. There are not many accommodations to choose from, and since summer travelers fill up hotels and rentals quickly, book as far in advance as possible. Medora is often a tourist’s gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but also offers mini golf, a point-to-point zipline, and a lazy river to those who want to relax before sightseeing.
Day 4: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
With a blend of history and nature, Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers park visitors the opportunity to see North Dakota’s prairie lands and badlands. Additionally, lucky visitors have the opportunity of sneaking peeks of bison, elk, deer, bobcats, porcupines, and pronghorns, which are the second fastest land animal in the world (with cheetahs coming in first place). Pack plenty of snacks and sunscreen, as sun in the badlands can be intense during the summer.
Day 5: Leave Medora, Overnight in Bismarck
After checking out of your Medora accommodation, break up the lengthy drive back to Fargo by spending the night in the city of Bismarck, the state capital. Spend additional time outdoors along the Missouri River, visit the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, and stop by Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park during your short time in the city.
Day 6: Return to Fargo
In preparation for your flight home the following day, spend your sixth night in Fargo and grab a beer at Fargo Brewing Company downtown. The Toasted Frog is a North Dakota local eatery serving its famous Fried Cheesy Pickles with a side of sriracha. Another popular Toasted Frog dish is the Buffalo Chicken Lavosh, which is an unleavened flat bread topped with grilled buffalo chicken, Havarti cheese, and other toppings. Finally, walk along the Red River to burn off extra calories consumed before heading to bed.
Day 7: Depart FAR
On your final day, return your rental car to FAR and catch your flight back to your home state. Be sure to eat a full meal ahead of your lengthy flight across the country, and hopefully catch a peek of more of the country’s beauty out the plane window.