20 Adventurous North Dakota Bucket List Ideas & Activities

Updated

If one of your vacation goals each year is to “get away from it all,” you need to give North Dakota a chance. Granted, North Dakota probably isn’t on very many travelers’ bucket lists—unless they have a goal of visiting all 50 states. However, North Dakota is a great place to go to socially distance. And the state has five nationally designated sites worth visiting.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Take a look at our North Dakota bucket list ideas. However, make sure you read the entire list. Many of the locations would work under several different categories.

North Dakota Bucket List Destinations

Unlike South Dakota, North Dakota doesn’t have a Mount Rushmore that brings visitors to the state. However, it would be a mistake to overlook this beautiful state on the Canadian border. 

Here are some activities and places to consider. 

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only National Park named after an American President. Roosevelt hunted bison in this area in the 1880s. He returned to the site to grieve when both his wife and mother died on the same day.

The National Park has three different sections—rugged badlands, endless grassland, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. Wildlife is abundant in the area, so look for bighorn sheep, wild horses, bison, and elk when you visit. 

Yes, you’ll also learn more about Roosevelt himself when you visit the park. Learn more about Roosevelt’s love for adventure and nature by visiting the President’s Maltese Cross Cabin.

2. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a route across the United States that Lewis and Clark traveled during their expedition in the early 1800s. Although it extends from Pennsylvania to Oregon, you can visit a section of the trail while in North Dakota.

Please understand that the trail is not a surface trail, similar to the Appalachian Trail. Instead, the goal of the Historic Trail is the “preservation of historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the expedition and its place in U.S. and tribal history.”

3. White Butte

Have a laugh with your kids when you tell them that you are visiting White Butte in North Dakota. Once you get there, you can climb to the highest point in the state. Don’t worry—climbing the highest point of North Dakota isn’t as hard as it is in other states. There’s only a 426-foot elevation gain, and the out and back trail is 3.4 miles long. 

Spring and Summer Bucket List Ideas for North Dakota

Be careful of late-spring snow and ice storms in North Dakota. However, once moderate weather makes its appearance, late spring and summer are great times to visit this northern state.

4. North Country National Scenic Trail 

North Country National Scenic Trail is the longest hiking trail in the U.S. When completed, it will run from North Dakota to Vermont. The trail connects state parks, historic sites, and natural highlights. Be one of the first to experience this scenic trail by starting your trek in North Dakota.

5. Petrified forest 

Technically, the most popular section of the petrified forest in North Dakota is in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, we decided that this area gets a special shout-out on our list of places to visit in the state.

Of course, petrified wood is wood that has turned to stone. You’ll see evidence of North Dakota’s ancient landscape when you look at the petrified trees, stumps, and logs. 

6. International Peace Garden

You don’t have to be a geography whizz to understand that North Dakota borders Canada. The International Peace Garden was formed along the border in the 1930s as a tribute to peace and friendship between these two great nations.

Visit the North Dakota side of the 2,300-acre garden. The area features two lakes, hiking trails, wildflowers, and waterfalls. The formal garden has hundreds of thousands of flowers and the American and Canadian floral flag displays. The Peace Chapel is the only building straddling the international border. 

Fall and Winter Bucket List Ideas for North Dakota

Those who love snow, ice, and extreme cold will enjoy North Dakota during the winter. There are plenty of cold-weather activities to be enjoyed in this state. 

However, if you aren’t a fan of bitter wind and negative temps, you might try to go to North Dakota in the fall. Autumn in middle America is beautiful and provides perfect temperatures for outdoor exploring.

7. Winterfest in Cross Ranch State Park

Cross Ranch State Park is beautiful any time of year. However, it’s exceptionally breathtaking during the winter. Dress appropriately for the weather to enjoy the day of outdoor activities, including horse-drawn wagon rides, cross-country skiing, and the snowshoe obstacle course. 

8. Snowmobiling

Like South Dakota, North Dakota has miles of snowmobiling trails. Snowmobile enthusiasts will have a blast zooming over tracks while enjoying the pristine snow-covered terrain. 

9. Skiing

You don’t have to travel to the Rocky Mountains or Vermont for great skiing. Instead, get out of the crowds and go skiing in North Dakota. 

Kid-Friendly Bucket List Ideas for North Dakota

North Dakota is a great place to visit with kids because there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy and wide-open spaces to explore. Here are some places to take your kids when visiting North Dakota.

10. Red River Zoo

Located in Fargo, the Red River Zoo is home to many animals whose native climates are similar to North Dakota’s. The zoo specializes in the care and breeding of some of the world’s rarest cold climate species.

11. Bonanzaville, USA

Bonanzaville, USA, allows kids to take a close-up look at North Dakota history. The site has 41 historic buildings and over 400,000 artifacts, including antique cars, farm equipment, and airplanes. Your kids can imagine what life was like for early settlers by taking a look inside a real sod house. 

Bonanzaville is located in West Fargo, North Dakota.

12. National Buffalo Museum

There are kid-friendly activities and displays at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota. You’ll learn the story of the North American Bison when you watch the museum’s film and peruse the exhibits. 

Take time to take pics with the kids next to the Worlds’ Largest Buffalo—a 60-ton concrete statue of this magnificent animal located outside of the museum.

13. North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum

Give your kids the opportunity to learn more about the Plains Indians by visiting the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum located in Bismarck. There’s a special section for attended preschoolers called “The Treehouse.” 

Your little ones can climb into a child-sized treehouse to get a bird’s-eye view of the area before sliding down to enjoy the rest of the exhibits. In addition, they’ll have fun playing in the kid-friendly bank, fire station, steamboat, locomotive, and flight simulator.

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in North Dakota

Where do you eat when you visit North Dakota? We’ve scoured online food bucket lists to determine the most popular restaurants and food in the state. Here’s what we found. 

14. Charlie’s Main Street Café 

Charlie’s Main Street Café in Miot is known for its “kuchen,” a thick custard poured into dough crust. This German/Ukrainian dish was brought to the area by immigrants to North Dakota in the 1880s and can be a sweet or savory offering. 

15. Chippers

If you are a fan of salty and sweet, you’ll love Chippers or chocolate-covered potato chips. 

You can buy these North Dakota favorites at Widman’s Candy Shop in Grand Forks and Carol Widman’s Candy Co. in Fargo.

16. Maple River Winery

We know that chokecherries don’t sound particularly appealing, but they are North Dakota’s official state fruit. Maple River Winery has created a popular semi-sweet wine from this tart fruit. Pick up your bottle of chokecherry wine in Casselton.

17. Kroll’s Diners

Kroll’s Diners are known for 1950s decor and knoephla soup. The soup is made with chicken and potato broth, hearty vegetables, and dumplings. Those who live near a Kroll’s Diner think of knoephla soup as the ultimate in comfort foods.

Fargo Bucket List Ideas

If you have never been to the city of Fargo, the word might evoke memories of the movie from the late ‘90s. Fans of this cult classic will be happy to know that they can get their photo taken with the Fargo movie wood chipper at the I-94 Visitors Center. While this is a must-do for movie fans, there’s more to enjoy in Fargo. Here are some places to visit.

18. Plains Art Museum

This museum appears at the top of must-dos on the Fargo list of attractions. Art-lovers will enjoy viewing Native American, folk, and contemporary art.

19. Fargo Air Museum

Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy the Fargo Air Museum. The museum features two hangers full of mostly-working aircraft. You will see a Wright Brothers’ flyer as well as the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. 

20. Lindenwood Park

Even though Lindenwood Park is a lovely place to spend some time any time of year, check out the holiday light display at the park if you travel to Fargo during December.

Don’t Overlook North Dakota

Those new to creating travel bucket lists may only include obvious tourist destinations, such as Yellowstone, Disneyworld, and the Empire State Building. However, once you have traveled to popular worldwide destinations, you might be more charmed by places off the beaten path.

That’s why it would be a mistake to overlook North Dakota. This wide-open country and pristine landscape might be just what you need to escape the realities of your life.

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