Fargo North Dakota <3 Being North of Normal …and so will you.

Five ways Fargo explodes the myths about this cool North Dakota city (spoiler alert: expect the unexpected!):

 

Downtown Fargo ND Fargo North Dakota

So far, so good! This city shot to fame around the world among cinema goers when Fargo, the 1996 Coen brothers’ dark comedy film hit the screen and won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

It depicted a cartoon stereotypical picture of a quirky, almost mythically miserable Midwestern town. But Fargo the town wants you to know it’s moved on and suggests you do likewise.

No.1: Fargo North Dakota is a hick town out in the middle of nowhere.

Fargo is actually a bustling progressive university city ( the largest community in North Dakota) only an hour’s drive across the North Dakota border from the large metropolis that is Minneapolis-Saint Paul. It is admittedly fairly flat but far from in the middle of nowhere!  For a midwestern city Fargo is a little off-center: in a good way. Hence the slogan, North of Normal. Visit Fargo and you’ll find it surprising and far above the norm.

Red River Fargo

The Red River devides Fargo form Moorhead, its sister city.

Oh and these days Fargo is formally known as Fargo -Moorhead as it is bordered on the Minnesota side by its sister city. The Red River runs through the two communities and is the natural boundary.

No 2: The weather sucks in Fargo.

Fargo gets cold in winter. Really cold. Fargo is not bitterly cold all year long and is far from the barren tundra depicted in the movie or the TV show of the same name. Did we mention snowmobiling, ice fishing, Frostival Festival??

Snoga- yoga at the Frostival Festival, Fargo, North Dakota     Fargo North Dakota Frostival

Frostival, Snowga, winter, Fargo, North DakotaThere are snowy winters like many similar locations in the US but from April to October Fargo has a short-but-sweet spring, followed by a hot summer (think 80–90-degree days on average), and a spectacular fall or autumn.

No.3: Fargo North Dakota natives speak with a thick accent and say funny things.

Well yes, there is an accent and a charming Midwestern way of saying things that is very appealing. But no, not everyone in Fargo says ‘don’tcha know’ at the end of every sentence!

But contemporary culture of all types abounds in Fargo; Fargo Blues Festival, Fargo Film Festival, Fiber Arts Festival and so much more. If you’re stuck in the 90’s, and the Woodchipper from the film is your must-do thing, you must first of all visit the Fargo Visitors Center where you can still have your picture taken with it wearing the famous trappers’ hats.

RedHawks play Fargo North Dakota    

The woodchipper on display form Fargo the Movie

Fargo movie woodchipper, Credit: North Dakota Tourism

No.4:  There’s nothing much to do in Fargo North Dakota.

Fargo is a mecca for young people and has developed all the vibrant facilities and fun that a university town should have- and then some. There are theaters, museums, breweries and major events, concerts and festivals. There are people here from all walks of life and from around the globe as Fargo (and North Dakota generally) is known for its friendliness.

Attractions are many and varied and appeal to all ages: from the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm, Red river Zoo, The Fargo Air Museum, the Plains Art Museum and the historic  Art Deco theater, to Bonanzaville, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra or Opera, to Fort Abercrombie and the Bergquist Pioneer Cabin, you can satisfy, your craving for art, culture, history and entertainment here.

Fargo ND entertainment  Street Fair Fargo orth Dakota

The FargoDome holds up to 25,000 people and receives popular attractions from Monster Jam to Elton John and Celine Dion.

No.5 You wouldn’t want to live here (but want to know why the locals do)

Well, many people would disagree. In fact,  Fargo North Dakota was  named #8 on Livability.com’s 2020 List of the Top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S. … and 6th Happiest City in the U.S.

It has the amenities of a large city with the attitude of a small one. While centered around agriculture it i s fast developing as a place for diverse and forward-thinking entrepreneurs and tech start-ups ( Fargo has been dubbed the Silicon Prairie).

Fargo art deco theatre Classic Fargo North Dakota  Fargo a thriving modern ND city

If your needs are more prosaic and great food and beverages are your scene, Fargo’s got you covered. Oh, and FYI to translate some local jargon: to some folks here, supper means dinner. Dinner means lunch. But breakfast pretty much still means breakfast.

From up-and-coming local craft breweries to uniquely local dining options you’ll be spoilt for choice. From Himalayan Yak, to Sons of Norway to Twenty Below Coffee, it’s a culinary voyage of discovery. Or take advice from a local foodie and sample charcuterie, coffee sand creamery delights: https://www.fargomoorhead.org/food-drink/article/a-locals-guide-to-where-to-eat-in-fargo-andrea-from-proof-distillers/

Fargo is a hidden gem of nightlife, food, art, and frankly, fun.

Or if sport is your jam?

Fargo has 17 ice rinks, 7 full size golf courses, 58 basketball courts and 30 baseball fields; well, you get the picture! If you’re a spectator, the Fargo Force is a tier one Ice Hockey team and there is baseball, horseracing, American football and on it goes.

American football in Fargo North Dakota  Fargo North Dakota has 7 golf courses

So,  geez, come and experience Fargo, North Dakota; you just might want to stay awhile, doncha know?  You betcha!!

Find out more

Frago North Dakota- North of Normal

 

 

Here are three northern ski areas in Idaho sure to surprise you.

Are you a skier or snowboarder? Or do you simply love that white powdery stuff! And that oh-so- crisp winter air and the dramatic beauty of winter in the mountains. Then here are three lesser-known Idaho winter destinations that should get you heading to pack your bags.

Oh wait, you can’t travel again yet? Well hold that thought and plan, and book for next northern season. Or when it’s again safe for you to travel.

North Idaho, or the northern panhandle as it’s known, is home to three amazing, and very different, ski resorts.And all of them should be put on your list. Why? Every skier knows the thrill and excitement of a new hill, different terrain and bragging rights for a place their friends are yet to visit.

In essence these areas are lesser known, less crowded and easily accessible from the popular ‘powder highway’ resorts of British Columbia.

Furthermore, here’s what you need to know:

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint ID: Idaho’s largest ski resort.

The mountain is best known for expert bowls, chutes and glades with gorgeous views and no crowds.

This is a full-service resort with upscale amenities and a mountain village for slope-side accommodation and access to first tracks, the last chair and of course, après ski.

Schweitzer also has 32km of cross-country trails and twilight skiing from 3-7.00pm.

 

It’s an easy trip from Canada to Schweitzer Idaho, with two different border crossings; East Port and Porthill. Or only 1.5 hours from Spokane WA or 3.5 from Missoula MT by car, both with good air connections from the west coast.

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/alpine-skiing-snowboarding/schweitzer-mountain-resort/

Silver Mountain, Kellogg ID: two Idaho mountains in one.

Silver offers varied terrain for all abilities. The upper mountain and slopes are accessed from the gondola village at the base of the mountain. This is North America’s longest scenic gondola ride!

The resort offers bowl and top-notch tree skiing and long-lasting powder, averaging 300+ inches annually.

The easiest access of any ski mountain you will visit, just 1 minute off the i90, one hour drive from Spokane WA or 2 hours from Missoula MT

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/snow-tubing/silver-mountain-resort-2/

Look Out Pass, Mullan ID : the Idaho locals’ resort which gets the most snow

In contrast Look Out Pass is a smaller, cool, locals’ ski resort. And it’s located 5 miles east of Mullan Idaho. On the border of Montana.

Additionally, Lookout Pass has the enviable reputation for receiving the most snow in northern Idaho.  It’s also known for learner friendly slopes, progressive terrain parks.

Moreover as an added bonus: this is an all-seasons resort, set in unspoiled national forest. In summer Lookout Pass also operates the Route of the Hiawatha Scenic Bike Trail.

Often referred to as “the most scenic stretch of rail-to-trail adventure in the USA”. This awesome mountain bike adventure offers 10 dark tunnels and 7 sky-high trestles and is 15 miles long: all downhill.

Accessed via the Interstate 90, Lookout Pass is approximately 90 min on i90 drive from entry airports at Spokane WA or Missoula MT.

For more: https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/alpine-skiing-snowboarding/lookout-pass-ski-recreation-area/

Images courtesy of North Dakota Tourism and Caroline Davidson

 

In my dreams I ride into Medora on my Appaloosa pony, hot and dusty from the trail. The second part is true, but I actually drove into town on road trip through the Great American West, not knowing what to expect.

Medora lives up to my ideal of an authentic western town, so much so, that I’ve made my way back there several times, proving it’s not that hard to get to, even from Australia.

I’ve distilled my several visits into one, to share my top best things to do and see in Medora when you’re lucky enough to get there. But don’t leave it too long; even the best little town in the west can change.

 

  1. The natural western scenic beauty. Medora is set on the outskirts of the badlands. A scenically stark but aridly beautiful and naturally eroded landscape, formed over many centuries. Medora has the geographic formations of canyons and mesas. But is also surrounded by trees and grasslands that herald the entrance to North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Surprisingly the only park named for person. Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy was to appreciate and preserve this tract of land in its pristine state for future generations to enjoy.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

  1. Medora is a western town looking as it should. Complete with wide roads (some still packed earth where horses are often still the main form of traffic), wooden sidewalks and swing-door saloons. And a sheriff with a badge. Even if he now drives a pickup. Excitingly, there are two main choices of hotels in which to soak up the western vibe. Firstly, there’s the Badlands Motel. A fifties-style drive-up basic but hospitable. And the more genteel Roughriders Hotel, serving (in my mind) the wealthy landowners come to town.

 

 

  1. There is a local outfitters, Dakota Cyclery. For those intrepid adventurers setting out on the 120 mile Maah Daah Hey Trail on foot, horses, camping or on mountain bikes? There’s a general store of all your ‘vittles.’ And fabulously a bookstore, Western Edge Books, which houses a treasure trove of western literature, local authors, historical accounts and colourful local stories. Easy to send a day browsing, lost in its delights. So make sure to include it on your list of must see spots.

  1. South Unit, TRNP. Moments outside town and announced by a historic log cabin built for and lived in by Teddy Roosevelt on his many visits. Welcome to the entrance to the South Unit of the park. Stop in at the ranger-run Medora Visitor’s Centre at the park entrance for excellent info. And to tour the President’s original cabin. Take the loop road and enjoy the scenic vistas, natural beauty and the wildlife. What’s common to see on a visit in spring, summer and autumn? Try buffalos, wild horses and donkeys. And prairie dog cities, antelope and deer. And an astonishing variety of birdlife. To name a few. But remember, the park closes for the winter around mid- September to late May.

South Unit, TRNP

Buffalo crossing the river in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

  1. The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame is in Medora. Of course, it is. Where else would it be? Preserving the culture, traditions and history of ranchers and rodeo stars, Native Americans and cowboys and girls in North Dakota. Half history lesson, half museum and 100% a tribute to the State’s colouful western heritage. Check the website for regular induction events, National Days of the Cowboy and Plains Indians and don’t miss the Medora’s Old Fashion Cowboy Christmas.

North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

 

  1. Chateau de Mores State Historic Site; how the ‘other half’ lived. This two storey, 26 room frame building is now an historic house museum and was built in 1883 as the summer residence of Antoine de Vallombrosa, the Marquis de Mores and his family. The Marquis was a businessman with interest in many of the key essential products and service so the time including a beef packing plant, a stagecoach line, a freighting company, refrigerated railway cars, cattle and sheep raising, land ownership, and a new town which he called Medora, in honor of his wife. The Chateau is a fascinating glimpse into the past and contains many of the original furnishings and personal effects of the de Mores family. Visits are currently by appointment only but check the website for updates.

Chateau de Mores State Historic Site

  1. Medora Riding Stables or Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Just kidding. Undoubtedly, for the cowboys and gals among us, there is of course no contest! For a safe group trail ride tour with great views over the town. Great for any level of rider, particularly good for families. But if horses are not your thing, well, you can opt out and play golf on one of the best courses in the State and country.

Medora Riding Stables

  1. The Old Townhall Theatre and Medora Musical for pure Americana- style entertainment charged with patriotism, sprinkled with song and served with a dose of the local history, both shows are highly recommended. The one man show at the restored, intimate and cosy, live theatre will have you spellbound. As you hear ‘first-hand’ Teddy Roosevelt’s life story and story-telling. It’s a great introduction prior to visiting his namesake national park. The Medora Musical, held nightly throughout summer in a stunning natural outdoor amphitheater setting, will have you keen to join in the irresistible, if over-the-top, ‘Oklahoma’-style musical fun.

 

  1. Pitchfork Fondue. So you want to be a cowboy you’re going to have to eat like one! Outsize steaks skewered on actual pitchforks and broiled in oil- yep with all the trimmin’s. Served in a breath-taking setting! No cowboy or girl need fear going hungry. And if there’s a special occasion Theodore’s Dining Room at the Roughrider Hotel is worth putting on your Sunday best for.

 

Sun Valley knows how to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Images: courtesy Caroline Davidson and Idaho Tourism

 

Make your perfect ski getaway from Australia to Sun Valley Idaho. Here’s how:

 

Choose Your Getaway timing

Undoubtedly, December is the perfect month to head to Sun Valley. Aussies are staying home for Christmas, but you’ll be back in time! The snow season is well underway in Idaho. So usually means there’s an abundance of powder ready for your visit. The holiday season has started in Idaho, so decorations and lights make the getaway to Sun Valley even more spectacular: like they are celebrating your arrival. Flights and accommodation are cheaper and more available before Christmas.

Hollywood celebrities were first to discover the delights of Sun Valley.

 

Accommodation is Plentiful

Unquestionably, your perfect ski getaway should include the best accommodation for your needs. Whatever they may be!

Sun Valley Resort is for those wanting luxury, old world style and glamour. And easy access to the slopes. As a result Hollywood, celebrities, the rich and famous all make Sun Valley their home away from home.

Sun Valley Resort Pool

Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley Resort at night

Sun Valley Resort at night

 

The Limelight Hotel in nearby Ketchum is the latest, modern luxury hotel blending style, comfort and a central location to both Dollar and Baldy Mountains with the charm of this small town location.

Apartment or condo-style vacation stays are plentiful and offer the ease of self-catering. Book here.

 

Epic Skiing or Boarding on your Perfect Getaway in Sun Valley

 

The Slopes

Sun Valley Slopes

Sun Valley is a magical place to ski or board whether you are a first-timer or a veteran advanced powder junkie. Importantly, the resort is famous for no lift lines and no clouds. And for its snowmaking! So if the snow gods have not been kind, no worries, the snow cover will still be spectacular. The sun is nearly always out- and so will you be. Furthermore, Sun Valley is part of Epic Pass- incredible value for skiers and boarders around the world.

Sun Valley Skiing

 

Skiing at Sun Valley

 

Baldy Mountain 

Undoubtedly, Baldy Mountain is the main game. Bald is for skiers of all levels with a great variety of terrain, all downhill with no flats or plateaus. Go fast or slow but go downhill.

Downhill, cross country, ice-skating; the choice of winter thrill is yours.

Dollar Mountain Sun Valley

Dollar mountain is where skiing learned to ski and the best place for new skiers and boarders to do the same… It has the world’s first chair lift along with four more, beginner- friendly, treeless, sunny slopes and plenty of vertical to keep everyone smiling.

The dedicated Ski & Snowboard program available in Sun Valley offers endless opportunities for group or private lessons to learn and get the most out of your perfect winter getaway in Sun Valley. Higher Ground is the adaptive snow sports provider in Sun Valley and provides on-snow opportunities for people of all ages with cognitive, physical, and developmental disabilities.

 

The Day Lodges – For Palaces in the snow

 

River Run

At the base of Baldy is a dedicated mini-village for everything ski-related you need, and then some. Tune or wax your skis, buy that special beanie or your new snowboard or stash your kit before heading off for the day. Relax here for après by the roaring open fire with a local beer, wine or enjoy wood-fired pizza or try the sushi. Live entertainment ups the energy on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

 

   

Seattle Ridge Day Lodge

The place to stop for lunch with a side of breath-taking views of Wood River Valley nearly 9,000 feet below.

 

Warm Springs Day Lodge

Fully renovated in 2018 is the local’s pick for the famous freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, best eaten on the sun-drenched patio or while listening to the live entertainment inside

 

Carol’s Dollar Mountain Day Lodge

The family friendly venue an easy walk from the village, with something for everyone. Also a great breakfast or lunch spot, inside or outside on the heated patio.

 

Must-Dos Off the Slopes – Explore Ketchum

This small town is full of wonderful surprises, great dining, entertainment and has as cool western feel.

Ketchum

 

Apres Ski

The “Pio” to locals, the Pioneer Inn is classic authentic western saloon. And great place to meet the locals! In addition, Grumpy’s for beer-can lined walls, an authentic local feel and celerity-spotting opportunities or the Warfield Distillery & Brewery for craft cocktails, local brew and excellent locally sourced pub grub.

The Pioneer Inn Sun Valley

 

Carol Singers and Sleigh Ride Dinner

Christmas in Sun Valley comes complete with roving carol singers around the main venues but for the full experience rug up and don’t miss a sleigh-ride dinner at the Trail Cabin. A rustic hideaway reached by horse-drawn sleigh and featuring north-western fare and the best carol singers around.

Christmas sleigh ride Sun Valley

Sun Valley sleigh ride

Carols in Sun Valley

 

Art and Culture

Famed author Ernest Hemingway has tributes of booze, flowers and coins left on his simple otherwise unadorned grave site near Ketchum. He wrote “The Sun Also Rises” during a lengthy stay at the Resort and committed suicide in 1961 after a full life of writing, hunting, boozing & womanizing.

Ernest Hemingway Grave

 

Trawl the treasure at the Gold Mine

Visit this community run op shop in downtown Ketchum, legendary for finds of expensive ski wear for a fraction of the cost.

Gold Mine Shop

The famous Gold Mine op shop, Ketchum

 

Sun Valley Hiking

 

Get Up and Go: To Sun Valley Idaho.

  • You can be in Sun Valley the same day! Depart Sydney to LA, and fly into Hailey ( SUN) arriving the same date.
  • Hailey (or officially Friedman Memorial) Airport ( SUN) is located outside Ketchum and provides direct flights to Boise and beyond.
  • Boise Airport ( BOI) is a two hour drive from Sun Valley and has direct flights ( also approx. 2 hours ) from LAX.
  • Finally, for more information on your perfect ski getaway to Sun Valley Idaho go to: greatamericanwest.com.au; VisitIdaho.org and SunValley.com

The First Reason to Visit North Dakota: Nature Wild as It is Meant to Be

 

Reasons to visit North Dakota? There are so many reasons. But here are eight of the best.  First off, North Dakota has the only national park named for a person, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Furthermore, it immortalises President Theodore Roosevelt who put national parks on the agenda (and on the map).

The two separate units of this spectacular tract of nature, north and south, remain pristine, with no buildings or man-made structures. However, the wildlife abounds in its natural habitat, including buffalo, horses, elk, white-tail and mule deer, prairie dogs. Over 186 kinds of birds can also be found here. Take the loop road to view the wildlife best, but take it slow and enjoy the spectacular scenery without the crowds. You’ll encounter more wildlife than you believed possible, but don’t forget, it is WILD! Stay your distance and stay safe.

Buffalo grazing at sunset in North Dakota

Buffalo grazing at sunset in North Dakota

The Second Reason: The Best Little Cowboy Town in the West

Undoubtedly, Medora is one of the best places in the continental USA to channel your inner cowboy or girl.  Here’s why: it has original wooden sidewalks, the National Cowboy Museum, a place to stay called the Badlands Motel (or alternatively the Rough Riders Hotel); horses are still used as town transport and the Pitchfork Fondue is a popular dining option. What more could you possibly want?

Medora town sign on the mountainside

Medora: the best little western town in ND

Oh, you like a five-star golf course? Check! Bully Pulpit Golf Course is a challenging course. Surrounded by the spectacularly rugged scenery of the Badlands. It is rated one of the 100 best public courses in the U.S. THis comes as no surprise to locals.

A golfer putting on Bully Pulpit golf course ND

Bully Pulpit- one of the best golf courses in the U.S.

 

You’d like a national park on the doorstep? Check! Medora is literally the gateway to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

You need a running/hiking/biking trail to challenge the best? Check! The Maah Daah Hey trail is 150 miles of some of the best single-track in the world. It traverses the Badlands, Little Missouri Grasslands, private land and the North and South units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Finally you want a nightly entertainment spectacular? Check! The Medora Musical  is held in a natural amphitheater outside town every evening in summer and is a living slice of Americana. It’ll have you hootin’ and hollerin’ in your seat.

Medora Musical on outdoor amphitheater stage in Medora North Dakota

Medora Musical in a spectacular outdoor setting

The Third Reason: Authentic American History you Always Wanted to Learn

History is only as old as yesterday’s birding adventure in North Dakota or  a Badland’s trail ride. Reach back to the Jurassic Period or into Lewis & Clark’s exploration of the West to discover the stories of great leaders like Sitting Bull and Theodore Roosevelt.

Badlands rugged terrain North Dakota

Badlands North Dakota

The Fourth Reason: Forts and Five Tribes

You can visit many of the forts around North Dakota along the itinerary of your next road trip. They are historically accurate relics of an earlier age of the cattle barons, railroads, the push west and conflicts between settlers and Native American tribes. Here are a few of the most interesting:

Fort Abraham Lincoln at night

Fort Abraham Lincoln

Fort Abraham Lincoln  

is conveniently located outside North Dakota’s capitol, Bismarck. Its an excellent choice for a one-stop history lesson. The Native Americans’  authentic On-A-Slant Village recreation allows visitors to get an up close and personal glimpse of the way of life of the Mandan people and their cultural heritage. And on the ‘other side of the fence’, step inside the faithfully recreated General and Mrs Custer’s house with an army aide. He will show you around while they are out; all taking place as if you are really back in their day (rookie tip: don’t mention mobile phones).  Ask all the questions you want and check out exactly how a General lived back in the 1800s.

Forth Berholdt Indian Reservation

is located in the central West of North Dakota. Home for the federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.   They are also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. The reservation includes lands on both sides of the Missouri River.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site

is considered the grandest fort on the Upper Missouri River. Between 1828 and 1867, Fort Union was the most important fur trade post in the area. Here, the Assiniboine and six other Northern Plains Indian Tribes exchanged buffalo robes and smaller furs for goods from around the world, including cloth, guns, blankets, and beads. A fortress of peaceful coexistence, the post annually traded over 25,000 buffalo robes and $100,000 in merchandise.

Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota

Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota

Fort Buford State Historic Site Fort Buford

built in 1866 became a major supply depot for military field operations. Fort Buford, located near present-day Williston, is one of a few military posts established to protect overland and river routes used by immigrants settling the West. However, it is best remembered as the place where the famous Hunkpapa Sioux leader, Sitting Bull, surrendered in 1881.

 Lewis and Clark

Explorers Lewis and Clark were among the earliest visitors to North Dakota. The expedition spent 214 days in North Dakota on two separate visits. The group spent 146 days on its outbound trip in October of 1804, when it set up a winter camp near Washburn. The second visit was on its return from the Pacific. The expedition stopped again in August of 1806. This was when Sakakawea was returned to her home. One quarter of the expedition was spent in what is now called North Dakota. They have mapped out a trail for you to follow that takes you on their route.

The Fifth Reason: Native American Tribes and Experiences

North Dakota is home to five federally recognized Native American Reservations and tribes. These include: Mandan, Hidatsa, & Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes), the Spirit Lake Nationthe Standing Rock Sioux Tribethe Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation.

Check out some of the enriching experiences you can enjoy:

The United Tribes Powow

draws tribes from around the U.S. to take part in drumming, dancing and costume displays based on a rich tribal culture and tradition. The event runs over three days in early October and is an eye-opening way to immerse in living, evolving, Native American culture. Be sure to respect the people and the traditions and you will be richer for the experience.

Dancer at United Tribes Pow wow North Dakota

Dancer at United Tribes Pow wow North Dakota

Stay in a yurt or a teepee (you know you want to!)

When it comes to ‘yurting’ North Dakota has you covered! Three state parks feature yurts as part of their lodging packages: Cross Ranch State Park near Washburn, Lake Metigoshe State Park near Bottineau and Fort Ransom State Park near Fort Ransom. So when it comes to finding a unique winter stay you will be spoilt for choice. Yurts fall somewhere between a tent and cabin and they have transformed winter camping in the state. The yurts in North Dakota’s state parks are luxurious with a rustic backwoods charm. They have heat and electricity, meaning there’s no need to stoke the fire after returning from a chilly hike.

A family approaching a yurt accommodation in North Dakota

‘Yurting’ in North Dakota,

Ranch Stay with Brad Pitt (OK not really, but close second).

Black Leg Ranch cowboy rounding up cattle

Black Leg Ranch cowboy rounding up cattle

Black Leg Ranch, just south of Bismarck, is one of the oldest working cattle ranches still in operation today. Additionally, it is home to over 17000 acres of grassland prairie near the Missouri River. With buffalo wallows, the ghost town of Brittin, abandoned farmsteads, post office foundation, quicksand, 1800’s wagon trails, abandoned railroads and trestles, native American teepee rings and artifacts and much more. Equally important to note is that it is a family-owned ranch with a rich and legendary history including outlaws.

a cowboy riding at Black Leg Ranch ND

Black Leg Ranch, ND

When I first visited, the Doan family’s three sons, were hardworking cowboys (the real deal) and one, Jay, had even had a starring role in a movie (and, to me, was the nearest thing to Brad Pitt).

The ranch offers cabin accommodation for visitors keen to fish and hunt, and ‘dudes’ like us wanting to learn the arcane arts of the cowboy; ropin’ ridin’ and ranchin’.

Over the years since then, the ranch has grown and diversified and gone from strength to strength with a new lodge, a brewery and many significant awards under their collective belt. Now it’s renown as the place to enjoy the local brew, locally-raised grass-fed beef or buffalo …or to even get married (once yout find your own cowboy or girl)

 

The Sixth Reason: Fargo (Seen the Movie? Now visit for real).

The woodchipper on display form Fargo the Movie

Fargo movie woodchipper, Credit: North Dakota Tourism

Yes, fans, the real woodchipper from the movie can be viewed at the art-deco theatre in Fargo. But this should be an added extra. Fargo the town has much more to offer from a quirky Frostival festival held in winter with more fun family activities than the temperatures suggest, to the Fargo Air Museum, loads of breweries and craft beers, the Hotel Donaldson, a boutique gem.

Downtown buildings of Fargo ND

Streets Alive in downtown Fargo opens city streets to foot traffic.

After some outdoor adventures? Be sure to check out Lindenwood Park. This is the largest multi-use park in Fargo, and it is located on Roger Maris Drive along the Red River. The Universal Playground is a large playground that is accessible to all children. It features several shelters fitted will amenities that can be used for picnics as well as baseball fields. There are several trails in the park including skating trails, and bicycles can be rented during the warmer summer months. The park also has a scenic campground.

For family fun pack up the kids and head to the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm. Located on 28th Avenue North in Fargo, the Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm offers hands on exhibits and many other attractions that keep curious children entertained while learning.

The best part… it all comes neatly summarised best by the town slogan: Fargo: North of Normal!

Snowga at Frostival winter Festival Fargo ND

Frostival, Snowga, winter, Fargo, North Dakota

The Seventh Reason: Agritourism (Fun with Farming)

Agritourism, the combination of agriculture and tourism, is the practice of inviting guests to visit and/or participate in normal farm or ranch activities. It is growing in popularity and diversifying. It now includes working farms and ranch visits, vineyards, wineries and breweries, pumpkin patches, orchards for farm festivals, corn mazes and u-pick fun. North Dakota has become a standout destination for agritourism. This is no surprise with the region ranking first in the production of spring wheat, durum wheat, sunflowers, barley, honey and other crops.

Agritourism-wheatfields in North Dakota

Agritourism-wheatfields in North Dakota

The Eighth Reason: Nordic Dakota; the Scandinavia of the US (and we don’t mean IKEA)

One in three North Dakotans; 38% of the populations has Nordic heritage, the highest percentage in the US.  They settled along the main line of the Great Northern Railroad ,

immigrating from the 1870s to the north and central part of the state,

The Scandinavian Heritage Park   in Minot (rhymes with Why not!) North Dakota is the only living outdoor museum in the world to feature all five Nordic countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. It’s free, spread over parklands and features a Norwegian wooden stave church and a Danish windmill; well worth a day’s exploration.

And if you arrive in fall, be sure to check out Norsk Hostfest; the largest Scandinavian event on the continent, celebrated in Minot.

Norsk building in Scandinavian Heriateg Park, Minot ND

Scandinavian Park; credit North Dakota Tourism

 

Moreover one thing is certain, the people in North Dakota are incredibly hospitable and proud of their state.

Dueling accordions! North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel, takes on one of the Norsk Hostfest's finest at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND.

Dueling accordions! North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel, takes on one of the Norsk Hostfest’s finest at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND.

Your Next Road Trip in North Dakota: Fast Facts

  • You can fly into Bismarck from LA via MSPB or Denver and hire a car, motorbike or campervan
  • An east-west road trip across the i90 highway will touch on many of the above reasons to visit but our tip: get off the beaten path and explore scenic byways. Head up north for much of the history, Native American and Norse culture experiences
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park was named the #5 on the New York Times’ list of must-see places in 2016
  • In Rugby, North Dakota, you will find the geographical center of North America. That is right, the center to the entire continent is here in North Dakota!
  • Jamestown, North Dakota is home to the world’s largest buffalo (statue)
  • More info com and greatamericanwest.com.au

A ‘Thelma-and Louise’ style girl’s road-trip itinerary west through Idaho, from Yellowstone National Park

  1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Devils Tower, Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film about a UFO, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, features Devils Tower National Monument; a spectacular 867-foot rock which formed from volcanic lava millions of years ago.

  1. Shane (1953)

Grand Teton National Park, Credit: @randy_straka_photography

Another film shot in Wyoming, Shane (1953), was based on Wyoming’s 1892 Johnson County War. Many scenes were shot in Grand Teton National Park and the fictional town and homestead were constructed in Jackson Hole.

  1. Django Unchained (2012)

National Elk Refuge, Credit: Chad Coppess, Dakotagraph

Several modern films were also shot in Wyoming, including Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Winter scenes were filmed in wonderful locations including Grand Teton National Park, Kelly Warm Springs, and the National Elk Refuge.

More info at https://travelwyoming.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. Dances With Wolves (1990)

Black Hills, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Many well-known films have been shot in South Dakota, including epic western film Dances with Wolves which features Kevin Costner as an Army Lieutenant who is assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost. The movie was filmed in beautiful South Dakota locations near Pierre and Rapid City at Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River Area. You can go on a free tour of the set and view original buildings used in the film at Fort Hays.

  1. Armageddon (1998)

Badlands National Park, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Another film that featured the striking Badlands National Park was science fiction film Armageddon starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. It is about a group of oil drillers who are sent by NASA to prevent an asteroid from hitting earth and killing everyone.

  1. How the West Was Won (1962)

Custer State Park wildlife loop, Credit: South Dakota Department of Tourism

Epic-western film How the West Was Won follows four generations of a family as they move from New York to the Pacific Ocean. The film showcases herds of buffalo in the picturesque Custer State Park. Today, you can drive Custer State Park’s 18-mile Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway to see buffalo, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and coyote up close!

More info at https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

Fargo (1996)

1996 comedy thriller Fargo, starring Frances McDormand, has become a cult classic and much of it was filmed in the magnificent snow-covered landscapes of north-eastern North Dakota as far north as Grand Forks.

Even though none of the movie was filmed in Fargo, you can visit the original prop from the famous woodchipper murder scene at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors’ Center. This quirky stop is the perfect place to take a photo with the legendary prop – friendly locals will give you a trapper hat to wear while you pretend to push a fake leg into the Fargo chipper.

More info at https://www.ndtourism.com/ or https://greatamericanwest.com.au/

  1. A River Runs Through It (1992)

Gallatin River, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Oscar-winning film A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, is about two fly-fishing sons growing up in rural Montana. The film was shot in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman, and features picturesque scenes at the upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers.

  1. Forrest Gump (1994)

Glacier National Park, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Multi award-winning film Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, also featured Montana with scenes in Cut Bank and Glacier National Park’s St. Mary entrance.

  1. Always (1989)

Kootenai National Forest, Credit: Montana Office of Tourism

Steven Spielberg’s romantic comedy, Always, featured Montana’s aerial ‘smokejumper’ elite firefighters. The film was shot in northwestern Montana in Kootenai National Forest, Libby, and Bull Lake.

More info at https://www.visitmt.com/ or  https://greatamericanwest.com.au/