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  • Sightseeing at Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota
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    Interactive Fun and Local Charm in Fargo

  • Indigenous American dancers competing in the annual United Tribes International Powwow in Bismarck, North Dakota
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    History and Heritage in Bismarck-Mandan

  • Watching the Medora Musical performance set in a scenic valley in Medora, North Dakota
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    A National Park, Plus Dinner and a Show in Medora

  • Taking in scenic lake views in Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota
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    Indigenous Cultures and Scenic Sights in New Town

Touring Theodore Roosevelt National Park by car and spotting bison along the way in North Dakota
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North Dakota Road Trip: From Fargo to New Town

By Jason Macumber

  • Route distance:
    1,023 km
  • Suggested Time:
    5 days

History, culture and breathtaking landscapes make for an unforgettable road trip in scenic North Dakota.

Home to rugged badlands and expansive prairies, as well as compelling cultural sites and welcoming towns, North Dakota offers a glimpse into the past and present of the Western USA. Fly into Fargo’s Hector International Airport (FAR), rent a car and start your journey. Before you know it, you’ll be taking a scenic drive along the Missouri River, hiking the ridgeline of a craggy butte, and learning about history and heritage as you tour majestic North Dakota.

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Sightseeing at Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota
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Interactive Fun and Local Charm in Fargo

Your North Dakota road trip begins in Fargo, the historic and hip town of movie and TV fame in eastern North Dakota just across the Red River from Minnesota. Start your day in West Fargo at Bonanzaville, a museum and village that highlights the story of the West’s pioneers. Named after the expansive bonanza farms that cultivated wheat in the Red River Valley, this attraction features 41 buildings and more than 400,000 artifacts. Explore the pioneer village, chat with guides in period costumes, and snap photos of recreated and historic buildings like a blacksmith shop and old-fashioned drug store.

Back in Fargo, enjoy the friendly vibe of Drekker Brewing Co. The spacious taproom features an array of fun pinball machines, as well as a spacious outdoor area. Sample Drekker’s unique beers from creative sours to hoppy IPAs and choose from a variety of delicious small bites. If you’re visiting on the first Saturday of the month, sign up to take a Grains-to-Glass tour, where you’ll learn about the intricate brewing process, marvel at the massive tanks and sample a few beers too.

End your day in downtown Fargo, where you can savor a meal at a local restaurant or catch a movie or concert at the Fargo Theatre. Opened in 1926 as a cinema and vaudeville theater, it was restored in 1998. Make sure to snap a photo with the theater’s iconic marquee before you head toward your next stop, Bismarck-Mandan.

214 km
2 hours by car
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Indigenous American dancers competing in the annual United Tribes International Powwow in Bismarck, North Dakota
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History and Heritage in Bismarck-Mandan

The day kicks off with an easy drive west to the Bismarck-Mandan area for a fun-filled day of local history and idyllic scenery. At Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, the oldest state park in North Dakota, take a journey through time and learn about the Mandan tribe and U.S. military history. Explore the exhibits and see artifacts at the Visitor Center Museum, then tour the On-A-Slant Indian Village featuring six reconstructed Mandan buildings including the Council Lodge. Tour a fort that served as a U.S. military post, see the former home of Gen. George Custer, and climb the observation deck for picturesque views. The extensive trail system also provides opportunities to hike, bike or ride horseback to take in the breathtaking scenery.

Hit the road for scenic views of the rolling grassy plains and marvelous Missouri River. If you’re visiting on or around the second weekend in September, carve out time to experience the annual United Tribes International Powwow. Held at United Tribes Technical College, the powwow brings together Indigenous American singers and dancers to compete for prizes in one of the largest outdoor events in the northern Great Plains. Visitors can watch men and women's traditional dances featuring authentic clothing. Vendor booths provide the opportunity to shop authentic Indigenous American arts and crafts – perfect for gifts and souvenirs to bring home.

206 km
2.25 hours by car
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Watching the Medora Musical performance set in a scenic valley in Medora, North Dakota
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A National Park, Plus Dinner and a Show in Medora

After a sunrise drive to the historic Wild West town of Medora, it’s time for adventures where the Great Plains merge with the rugged badlands – Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Offering scenic drives, hiking trails and wildlife viewing, the park is divided across three expansive sections. Start with a brief trip to one of the three visitor centers, where you’ll find ranger resources, trip planning, backcountry permits and souvenirs. If you want to take in the scenery without leaving your vehicle, the South Unit offers a 77-kilometer loop within the Little Missouri Badlands, while the North Unit offers a 45-kilometer drive that ascends to the historic River Bend Overlook featuring incredible views of the prairies and Badlands. Keep an eye out for roaming bison, white-tailed deer, elk, prairie dogs and longhorn cattle, easily identified by their horns that can extend up to 2 meters. More adventures await on the park’s trails. Skyline Vista and Buck Hill are ideal for beginners, while experienced hikers may want to pursue Caprock Coulee, a two- to three-hour excursion atop a grassy butte with panoramic views of the park.

Wrap up the day with a delicious and unique buffet dinner experience at Pitchfork Steak Fondue. Dine on mouthwatering steaks that are loaded up on pitchforks and dipped into a vat of hot oil, fondue-style, as a tribute to the frontier cooking of the Wild West. Pair your steak with all the comfort food sides you can eat, from baked potatoes to Texas toast. After you’ve had your fill, check out the Medora Musical starring the Burning Hills Singers and music by the Coal Diggers Band, complete with live horses, thrilling reenactments and a toe-tapping finale featuring a colorful fireworks display. After a fun-filled day of breathtaking nature, good eats and entertainment, rest up before the final leg of your trip.

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Taking in scenic lake views in Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota
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Indigenous Cultures and Scenic Sights in New Town

Once you’ve arrived in New Town, the largest city on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (home to the MHA Nation), stop by the MHA Interpretive Center. Featuring interactive exhibits and kiosks that celebrate the cultures of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, the center provides guests with guided and self-guided tours as well as an opportunity to check out the Oak Tree Gift Shop. Next, take a short walk over to the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Tourism Earth Lodge Village to see an authentic reconstruction of an earth lodge situated on a bluff overlooking Four Bears Bay and the Missouri River. These lodges could house up to 20 people and were made from willow branches, dried prairie grass and sod.

Your final stop is Lake Sakakawea State Park for gorgeous views of the third-largest man-made reservoir in the USA. Take a swim, hike on the trails, stroll along the expansive shore or take out a sailboat to watch windsurfers glide across the lake. A popular fishing destination, the lake is home to walleye, northern pike and chinook salmon. Outdoor enthusiasts should venture into the park’s wilds on the Western Terminus of the North Country Scenic Trail. This trail stretches across eight states at 7,403 kilometers. After a day in the park, drive just over an hour (114 kilometers) back to Bismarck for a flight home from the Bismarck Airport (BIS).

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Footbridge crossing over the Red River
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Destination

Fargo

Railroad bridge crossing the Missouri River

Destination

Bismarck

Sunset at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park

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Layers of rocky beauty meet the sky at Dead Horse Point State Park

Destination

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Downtown aglow with the Wasatch Range peaks in the distance

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