1. Crash the Fargo Marathon Party.
Fargo Marathon Day: Where you can score a breakfast burrito, drink a mimosa, and check out a band (or Native American drummers or fire dancers or gymnasts) before 8 a.m. Cheering spectators and early-morning party tents line the curb, so bring a lawn chair to sit on the edge of the action.
2. Eat like a cowboy.
Yeah, Medora’s Pitchfork Steak Fondue is touristy. But cooking giant hunks of steak on pitchforks is freaking cool and the sweeping view of the badlands bluffs from the outdoor terrace is beautiful, so get over it and eat.
3. Get tipsy at a barn dance.
Arthur’s Barn has hosted all-ages, BYOB parties for generations, so you know they’re doing something right. Pack a cooler and your cowboy boots, follow the chain of glowing taillights to the middle of nowhere (technically a farmstead between Arthur and Hunter), and get ready to dance all night.
4. Straddle the U.S. and Canadian border.
Once the thrill of standing with one foot in the U.S. and one in Canada wears off (it can take a while) there are over 2,300 acres of gardens, lakes, trails and picnic spots to explore at the International Peace Garden.
5. Scream your head off at a UND hockey game.
The atmosphere inside Grand Forks’ Ralph Engelstad Arena is electric, the fans’ passion is legendary, and the guys on the ice are consistently outstanding. Chances are, a few on the roster will go pro, so you can say you saw them when.
6. Drive the Enchanted Highway.
Public art gets wonderfully weird along the 32-mile drive between Gladstone and Regent, where giant grasshoppers, leaping deer, and other massive scrap metal sculptures rise up out the prairie.
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7. Snag a Monster Fish.
The western waters of Lake Sakakawea contain rare and positively prehistoric-looking paddlefish. They’re huge (a guy snagged a 131 pounder this year) and you can only catch them during a short season in May. (Don’t worry, there are lots of other fish to keep you busy the rest of the year.)
8. Tailgate before a NDSU Bison Game.
Fargo celebrates its über successful football team (five back-to-back NCAA Division I FCS National Championships) with a killer tailgating bash on home game Saturdays, so bring a plastic cup and something to share and join the party.
9. Dance in a Powwow.
The swirl of colors, booming drums, and wailing voices will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end in the best possible way. Learn the steps alongside 1,500 dancers from over 70 tribes during the United Tribes International Powwow in Bismarck. Everybody’s welcome during intertribal dances.
10. Drink Local Fruit.
Pretty much everybody’s grandparents made dandelion or chokecherry wine (or used North Dakota grapes or plums or rhubarb), so pouring a glass or two is just continuing a family tradition, right? Right? Yeah, let’s go with that. Pointe of View Winery in Burlington and Maple River Winery in Casselton are good spots to stock up.
11. Go from sunset to stargazing.
Sunset colors look amazing painted across North Dakota’s ocean of sky. Views are equally good from a rooftop patio or a pickup bed (it’s a mostly flat state), so spread out a blanket and watch nature do its thing. Central North Dakota has extremely low light pollution, so if you stick around, you’ll see a blanket of stars and maybe even the northern lights.
12. Get on the Missouri River.
Summer in Bismarck-Mandan officially starts when the first boat (or kayak, canoe or paddle board) hits the water, no matter what the calendar says.
13. Eat a donut at Sandy’s in Fargo.
Sandy’s Donuts makes between 8,000 and 9,000 of its cult classic donuts a day, so get in line early at either location (West Fargo or downtown Fargo) to nab one of the 70+ varieties before they sell out. Buy a few – they’re weirdly addictive.
14. Bike The Maah Daah Hey Trail.
You can get some of the best views of the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Little Missouri National Grasslands from a mountain bike saddle. The nine-trail system is still a well-kept secret, so you might just have it — and a quiet campsite — all to yourself.
15. See badlands and bison.
The 14-mile Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit Scenic Byway south of Watford City takes gorgeous scenery to another level with panoramic views of the badlands, weird rock formations shaped like cannon balls, and roaming herds of wild bison.
16. See a movie at Fargo Theatre.
The Fargo Theatre’s marquee is a super popular selfie spot, but the Art Deco interior is the real star. Special events even feature an organist on The Mighty Wurlitzer, just like back in the day.
17. Sleep in a Tipi.
Have a rustic tipi camping experience at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park or Cross Ranch State Park or go glamping at Lund’s Landing on Lake Sakakawea, where non-motorized watersports, breakfast, and dinner (and sometimes amazing Juneberry pie) are included.
18. Play on the Greenway.
If you eat too much at dinner in downtown Grand Forks, just hop on the 20 miles of multi-purpose trails that run along the Red and Red Lake Rivers — boom, instant workout. There are lots of pretty spots to camp, picnic, play disc golf and go fishing if you want to stay and play.
19. Saddle up.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s endless stretch of badlands and colorful painted canyons is a pretty place for a trail ride and Medora Riding Stables is located just a few blocks from the park’s entrance.
20. Gorge on street food at the Downtown Fargo Street Fair.
Over 280 artists and makers take over downtown Fargo every July. But the heart of the seven-block party is on 2nd Avenue North and Broadway, where 40+ vendors peddle a totally tempting array of street eats, from Uff-Da Tacos to artisanal ice cream.
Featured image by Travel North Dakota .