20 AMAZING TOWNS IN NORTH DAKOTA, Skirting Canada’s Manitoba and Saskatchewan businesses to the north and South Dakota to the south, North Dakota is an frequently forgotten US state despite being home to some of the most scenic geographies and dressed metropolises in the Midwest. The state came the 39th admitted to the Union.

It was largely unpopulated until the discovery of rich natural reserves drew thousands of fortune seekers and job prospectors to every corner of the Peace Garden State. As a result, cities in North Dakota, such as Fargo and Bismarck, are fast-growing cities with an expanding collection of attractions. Few places embody that quintessential frontier spirit like rough and rowdy North Dakota. Here are the best cities in North Dakota to visit.




aerial view of fargo

The largest city in North Dakota, Fargo truly is the Peace Garden State’s economic, cultural and entertainment hub, with various attractions suitable for travellers of all ages and interests.

Fargo began life as little more than a stopping point for steamboats crossing the Red River during the late 19th century and was officially settled in 1871 as “Centralia”, with the city later renamed in honour of William George Fargo.

Known throughout the late 1800s as the “Gateway to the West” and the Midwest’s “divorce capital”, Fargo is an immensely storied city with tons of frontier tales and legends to discover and learn more about.

Given its size and prominence in North Dakota, Fargo is home to some of its top attractions, including the Fargo Air Museum, the Red River Zoo, the Hjemkomst Center and the North Dakota State University campus.



bismarck green street sign

The second-largest city in the Peace Garden State and the official capital of North Dakota, Bismarck, is in the state’s south-central region, is the state’s legislative hub and is a growing city.

Bismarck was first settled by European arrivals in 1872 and has been The Peace Garden State’s capital since North Dakota was granted its statehood in 1889.

Situated on the banks of the mighty Missouri River, the city was purposefully named after former German chancellor Otto von Bismarck by the Northern Pacific Railway, who wanted to attract German immigrants to Bismarck to work and invest in the railroad.

Bismarck is among the state’s leading cities when it comes to North Dakota culture, arts and history.

The North Dakota State Capitol and the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum are places to visit.


aerial view of grand forks
One of the compact cities in North Dakota, Grand Forks is an easy place to explore.

The city of Grand Forks in North Dakota’s northeast region is the third-largest in the state in terms of population.

It is home to the main campus of the Peace Garden State’s oldest public university, the University of North Dakota.

Grand Forks enjoys a youthful spirit that’s hard to come by elsewhere in the state and is your quintessential American college town mixed with a relatively sizeable laid-back city to create one of the Midwest’s interesting travel destinations.

The city was initially settled by European immigrants in 1870.

It was a significant fur trapping and Western-Native American trading point due to the city’s location along the banks of the Red River.

Grand Forks certainly knows how to charm visitors, with attractions such as the North Dakota Museum of Art, the Alerus Center and Splashers of the South Seas guaranteed to make your stay in Grand Forks enjoyable.


Norwegian church in minot
One of the cities in North Dakota with a Scandinavian pedigree is Minot. Here’s a Norwegian-style church.

Dubbed the “Magic City” due to its meteoric growth and almost haphazard expansion in a very short timeframe, Minot in the Peace Garden State’s north-central region was founded back in 1886 when the Great Northern Railway arrived in town.

The city got its nickname when Minot’s population ballooned to more than 5,000 people just five months after its establishment.

Although initially poorly laid out, much of downtown Minot has been beautifully revived and gentrified in recent decades.

There’s plenty to see, do and experience in and around the city, such as touring the Scandinavian Heritage Association, stopping by the annual North Dakota State Fair or exploring the Taube Museum of Art.


A stone’s throw away from the borders of Canada and Montana, the city of Williston in North Dakota’s northwest corner is the ideal destination to visit if you’re planning to explore beyond North Dakota’s borders.

The city borders scenic Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River and is a popular destination for camping, fishing and boating in western North Dakota.

Best known throughout the state as the host city for the annual Miss North Dakota pageant, Williston was first settled by European immigrants in 1887 and was named in honour of copper magnate Daniel Willis James.

Williston is renowned for its world-class outdoor recreational opportunities, however, there’s more to Williston than just its natural surroundings, with attractions such as the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site and the James Memorial Art Center to visit as well.


Bordering Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwest North Dakota, Dickinson is a thriving mid-sized city that has been growing since the North Dakota oil boom kicked off in 2006.

Home to about 26,000 people, Dickinson is a pretty diverse city despite its lack of size.

It features a large Ukrainian community, which visitors can learn more about at the one-of-a-kind Ukrainian Cultural Institute.

Dickinson is among the most visited cities in the Peace Garden State’s southwest region and places to stop by include the Dickinson Museum Center and the Patterson Lake Recreation Area.


Despite the city’s modest population of just over 6,000 permanent inhabitants, Watford City is among the most important cities in North Dakota as it serves as the headquarters of several large energy companies operating in the nearby Bakken Oil Fields.

The city is very much seen as the epicentre of North Dakota’s recent oil boom, however, there’s plenty more to Watford City than just its profitable resources, with stunning landscapes and that palpable frontier spirit synonymous with Watford City.

Watford City is also a burgeoning tourism hub, with places to visit, such as the River Bend Overlook Trail and the McKenzie County Heritage Park & North Dakota Oil Museum.


Nicknamed the “City of Bridges”, Valley City in North Dakota’s southeast region is known throughout the Peace Garden State for its variety of bridges spanning the width of the Sheyenne River.

The city enjoys a lively atmosphere thanks to the local Valley City State University campus, which, combined with the city’s 6,500 inhabitants, makes Valley City feel less like an uptight city and more like a quintessential American college town.

Valley City was first established in 1874 when the railroad arrived in the region, with Valley City’s name derived from the city’s geographic setting within the scenic Red River Valley.

61 miles (98 km) west of Fargo, Valley City is the ideal weekend getaway destination with several noteworthy attractions, including the Medicine Wheel Park, the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway and the Hi-Line Railroad Bridge.


16 miles (25 km) outside downtown Fargo, the city of Horace in North Dakota’s southeast corner is a low-key destination on the scenic banks of the Sheyenne River.

Horace received its first post office in 1875 but wasn’t officially established as a city until 1882, with the city named after the former editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley.

Surrounded by several award-winning vineyards, Horace is a popular weekend getaway destination thanks to the city’s small-town feel and proximity to the creature comforts of nearby Fargo.


A core suburb of the Bismarck metro area and one of the most populated independent cities in North Dakota, Mandan was placed on the map when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by in 1804 and 1806.

Mandan was first officially settled in 1879, some 70 years after the expedition last passed through the region, with the city named in honour of the area’s native Mandan people.

The city treats travellers to all the amenities and world-class venues regularly found in the bigger cities in North Dakota, including the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and the historic Custer House.


The quirky city of Jamestown in North Dakota’s Stutsman County is nicknamed the “Buffalo City” due to Jamestown being home to the world’s largest buffalo statue.

Named after Jamestown, Virginia, the city of Jamestown in the Peace Garden State’s south-central region was first settled in 1872.

Shortly after, the Northern Pacific Railroad rode into town, with the city conveniently located halfway between Fargo and Bismarck.

This North Dakota city is home to a larger-than-life buffalo statute and a large population of real-life buffalo, which visitors to Jamestown can learn all about at the esteemed National Buffalo Museum.


In the middle of North Dakota’s “Powerbelt” region, Beulah is a small-sized city shaped by German, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish and Irish immigrants who settled there during the late 19th century.

Beulah is a significant coal hub in the Midwest.

It is just a stone’s throw from the United States’ largest lignite mine, owned and operated by the North American Coal Corporation.

Despite its reputation as a coal hub, Beulah has a blossoming tourism area with attractions such as the Pfennig Wildlife Museum and the nearby Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

Lake Sakakawea is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. and is popular for boating, fishing and camping.


Surrounded by the fertile farmland of the Red River Valley in the Peace Garden State’s northeast corner, the city of Grafton is the ideal destination to visit if you’re looking to swap city life for the scenic Midwest outdoors.

Grafton was first established during the 1870s by homesteader Nils Monson, who walked from Winnipeg in Canada’s Manitoba Province to modern-day Grafton, becoming the first official resident of Grafton when he acquired his 160-acre (65 ha) homestead.

Today the 15th-largest city in North Dakota in terms of population, Grafton has a historic downtown with old-world architecture, including the historic Strand Theatre (built in 1946).

Have a round of golf at the Fair Oaks Golf Course or if you’re visiting in the winter, head to the Grafton Winter Sports Arena for hockey or figure skating.


The former hometown of five different North Dakota governors, Casselton is a small and unassuming destination in the Peace Garden State’s southeast region situated less than 24 miles (39 km) from the hustle and bustle of downtown Fargo.

Casselton has been intertwined with farming and agriculture since the city’s establishment in 1876 and is at the forefront of cutting-edge advancements in agricultural technology.

There’s plenty more to this city than just farming and governors, though, such as the Maple River Winery and the Cottonwood Golf Club, making it the ideal weekend getaway destination to disconnect from life in the city.


Home to the world’s largest snowmobile and perched along the shores of the scenic Lake Metigoshe, Bottineau is an epic outdoor recreation destination featuring some of the best fishing, hiking and skiing opportunities available in North Dakota.

Bottineau was initially established as “Oak Creek” in 1883 before being renamed in honour of Minnesota frontiersman and Métis pioneer Pierre Bottineau just a year after the city’s establishment.

Bottineau has several places to visit, from the sprawling Bottineau Winter Park to the world-class International Peace Garden outside Bottineau-proper.


The city of Devils Lake, on the shores of North Dakota’s largest freshwater lake with the same name, offers world-class fishing, boating and sailing right on the city’s doorstep.

The native Dakota people inhabited Devils Lake before the region’s official settlement began during the mid-1800s, with the city itself founded in 1882.

The city has a charming downtown with local shops, restaurants and the historical Devils Lake Carnegie Library.

Fort Totten State Historic Site provides insights into military and Native American history in the region.

This North Dakota city also has a golf course and the nearby Sullys Hill National Game Preserve is where nature enthusiasts can see bison and elk and go birdwatching.


The city of Carrington in North Dakota’s Central Flyway region is a popular destination among bird watchers throughout the Dakotas.

It is among the six Birding Drives Dakota trails available throughout the Missouri Coteau.

Carrington has a small population of just over 2,000 people, making it a quieter experience from cities such as Fargo or Bismarck, however, it’s this tranquillity that is part of its attraction.

Despite the city’s small size, a few interesting attractions exist, such as the National Register of Historic Places-listed Putnam House and the Foster County Museum.


The unofficial gateway to North Dakota’s Fort Ransom State Park and Sheyenne National Grassland, the city of Lisbon was not named after the Portuguese capital but rather Lisbon, New York, by the city’s founder Joseph L. Colton, who settled in 1880.

Fort Ransom State Park is excellent for camping, hiking, fishing and horseback riding.

You can also visit the restored 19th-century homestead, Sunne Farm, to see historical demonstrations showing how the region’s farmers once worked.

Lisbon’s other attractions include the Lisbon Opera House (built in 1895) and the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway.

The latter is a stunning drive that is breathtaking in the fall when the foliage changes colour.


Once the geographic centre of the United States before South Dakota’s Belle Fourche snatched that title away from it, Rugby is a quirky low-key city in North Dakota.

It was the birthplace of Clifford Thompson, one of the tallest men in the world and the tallest actor to ever portray a role in a Hollywood film.

Although Rugby’s self-appointed title as the geographic centre of the US is dubious, it’s fun to stop by the city’s Geographical Center of North America Monument.

The Prairie Village Museum has over 20 historic buildings and items offering a peek into life on the prairie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


One of the youngest mid-sized cities in North Dakota, the city of Lincoln in the state’s south-central region serves as a middle ground between urbanity and rural Midwest, with downtown Bismarck just a 7-mile (11 km) journey away.

Lincoln has a population of almost 5,000 people despite only being established in 1977 and forms part of the suburban sprawl of North Dakota’s capital city.

One of the key events is the annual Lincoln Days, a community celebration with a parade, games, food and other festivities.

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