The 10 Biggest Lies the Guidebooks Tell You About North Dakota

North Dakota
by Alicia Underlee Nelson Jan 19, 2016

1. North Dakota is basically the same as South Dakota.

“The Dakotas” are not a thing. We are only a unit in guidebooks and travel articles, not in real life. Our similar names mean that we’re neighbors, not freaking life partners. (No offense, South Dakota. It’s not you — it’s us.)

2. The state shuts down in the winter.

The fact that the Hotel Donaldson’s rooftop hot tub is open year round illustrates our winter attitude perfectly. When other states close the highways because there’s too much snow, North Dakotans hit the snowmobile trail, grab a six-pack and go ice fishing or load the family into the car and head out for dinner. We have four-wheel drive. It’ll be fine.

3. Everybody speaks in a folksy dialect.

According to U.S. Census records, more than a quarter of us were born in another state. And North Dakota leads the nation in per capita refugee resettlement (135 refugees for every 100,000 people) so don’t expect an “uff da” from the coffee-sipping UND aviation student, the roustabout with a southern drawl, or the teenagers in skinny jeans and headscarves at West Acres.

4. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only attraction worth seeing.

We know the Badlands’ buttes and painted canyons are our most famous attractions. But (confession alert) lots of us haven’t actually gotten around to seeing them in person. We’re too busy shopping in Fargo, fishing on Devils Lake and screaming our heads off for UND hockey. (And no, we still can’t say “Fighting Hawks” just yet. Give us minute. We’ll get there.)

5. We’re all cowboys.

Sure, some of us make a living on a ranch. And you can find boots and bling-butt jeans everywhere out west. But most people in the eastern part of the state wouldn’t know where to find a rodeo if you paid them.

6. It’s a meat and potatoes food scene.

Finding locally-raised beef and bison on the menu at Pirogue Grill or 10 North Main is a given. But we’re equally into midnight brunch at Mezzaluna, The Toasted Frog’s fried cheesy pickles, endless, vegetarian-friendly pizza options at Rhombus Guys and Somali, Liberian, Moroccan, Thai and Middle Eastern offerings from some of our newest neighbors.

7. Lawrence Welk is the most famous North Dakotan.

Um, maybe if you’re over 70. The rest of us proudly claim actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel as our NDSU/UND T-shirt wearing, hometown restaurant owning, North Dakota promoting goodwill ambassador.

8. North Dakota is only for outdoorsy types.

Most of the customers sipping craft beer and artisan cocktails on the rooftop at Luft don’t have gun racks on their pickups. The Kittsona fashion queens probably aren’t hiking in those adorable boots. And if someone in the crowd at an Aquarium show or a Theatre B world premiere does wear camo, we just assume it’s meant to be ironic.

9. The Bakken is an industrial hellscape of oil rigs and man camps.

Skip the western part of the state and you’ll miss panoramic views from the Oxbow Overlook in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit near Watford City, walking in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps outside of Williston and the quirky mom and pop shops that have anchored oil patch communities since way before they were boomtowns.

10. There’s nothing to see outside of Fargo and Bismarck.

Sure, keep thinking that. We’ll just keep our 10 scenic byways, 63 wildlife refuges, and 13 state parks to ourselves. More fun for us!

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