North Dakota

Pristine landscapes, charming towns, and plenty of Wild West vibes: North Dakota is a real insider's tip for adventurous USA travelers. Come with us and explore the middle of the North American continent!

North Dakota facts

Capital: Bismarck
Area: about 183,000 km²
Population: about 779,000
Location: North of the USA
Nickname: The Peace Garden State
Hotspots: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Fort Abraham Lincoln
Time zone: UTC -6 (Central), UTC -7 (Mountain)

North Dakota: location & population

North Dakota state is located in the North of the United States and precisely in the center of the North American continent. In the town of Rugby, in fact, there is a monument that marks the geographic center of North America. North Dakota has three neighboring states: Montana to the West, Minnesota to the East, and South Dakota to the South. To the North is a 580 km long border with Canada.

Overall, North Dakota is rather sparsely populated. While the Peace Garden State ranks 19th among the 50 US states in terms of area, it is only 48th in population numbers. Only Vermont and Wyoming have fewer people.

The population composition of North Dakota is characterized by little diversity: around 83 % of all inhabitants are whites with European ancestors. The majority of them have German, Norwegian, Swedish, Irish, or English roots. There is, however, a comparatively large community of Native Americans in North Dakota. They make up about 5 % of the population here.

The largest cities in North Dakota

Fargo is the only city in North Dakota with more than 100,000 residents. Based on population, the five largest cities are:

City population
Fargo 126,000
Bismarck 74,000
Grand Forks 59,000
Minot 48,000
West Fargo 39,000

Nature and climate

North Dakota can be roughly divided into three major geographic regions: the flat Red River Valley in the East, the rolling plains of the Missouri Plateau in the center, and the Great Plains with the rugged Badlands in the Southwestern part.

Vast expanses of farmland extend in the East of the state. Much of the West is covered by grasslands and rich in fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and lignite. The waters of the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea separate the scenic Southwest, where the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located, from the rest of the state.

North Dakota has a continental climate with cold, windy winters and hot, dry summers. Because of its location in the middle of the continent, the upper Midwest experiences huge temperature differences throughout the year. While the thermometer can climb above the 40 °C mark in summer, it drops to -18 °C in the coldest months.

Best time to travel to North Dakota

When planning your trip to North Dakota, it's best to avoid weather extremes. Spring and fall are relatively mild and offer plenty of sunny days.

North Dakota in spring

In May, the cold winter winds in North Dakotas have finally gone away. Now, the season for hiking, national park visits, and outdoor sports like horseback riding, sailing, and kayaking begins in the Peace Garden State.

North Dakota in autumn

Hotel rates drop in the fall, but you'll still have good conditions and plenty of sunshine hours to explore North Dakota's highlights. And don't forget to treat yourself to a hearty barbecue for dinner!

Traveling to North Dakota

The largest airports in the state of North Dakota are:

  • Hector International Airport (FAR)
  • Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS)
  • Minot International Airport (MOT)
  • Grand Forks International Airport (GFK)

North Dakota's main airport in Fargo is used by about half a million passengers annually. However, it is of little importance for international air traffic, so you will definitely make at least one stopover in another major American city on your trip.

Many routes from Europe go via Chicago, but sometimes you can also find flights connecting through Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, or Denver. Plan on spending between € 850 and € 1,200 on your tickets.

Flights from the Asia-Pacific region, e.g., from Tokyo or Seoul, usually include two stopovers. In addition to the stop in Chicago, you often make a second one on the US West Coast, e.g., in San Francisco. You can find rather cheap tickets for these flights: United Airlines offers connections from Seoul to Fargo starting at about € 740.

Flights to North Dakota

Travel authorization North Dakota

If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a visa or ESTA to enter North Dakota.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Airport transfer in North Dakota

Hector International Airport is located about 6 km northeast of downtown Fargo. Once there, you have the following transfer options to get to your accommodation:

Public transport from Fargo Airport

There is no public transportation to Fargo Airport. To get to the city, you can use a rental car, cab, or hotel shuttle.

Shuttle from Fargo Airport

With a free hotel shuttle, you can save on transfer costs. Check before your journey if your hotel offers this service.

Taxi from Fargo Airport

There are several cab services operating in Fargo. To avoid waiting times at the airport, it is recommended to book a taxi in advance by phone. Taxi prices in Fargo are $ 4.50 for the base fare and $ 0.99 for each kilometer driven.

National Parks and State Parks in North Dakota

North Dakota's biggest attraction is undoubtedly Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but interesting State Parks also await you in the Peace Garden State.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota's only National Park was named after the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt, and it covers the Southwestern part of the state. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is primarily divided into two main parts Northern Unit and Southern Unit. In between lies the Elkhorn Ranch, where Theodore Roosevelt spent much of his time. To get to the pristine Northern Unit, you have to leave the main roads. In exchange, you can expect endless grasslands, colorful rock formations, wild horses, and bison herds as far as the eye can see. The Southern part is more visited but just as spectacular in terms of scenery. A popular starting point for park explorations is the Painted Canyon Visitor Center in Medora, where you can also enjoy excellent steaks and the evening show "Medora Musical."

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park on the banks of the Missouri River opened in 1907, which makes it the oldest State Park in North Dakota. Here, you can not only engage in outdoor activities such as horseback riding, biking, hiking, fishing, or camping but also gain exciting insights into American history. On the grounds of the park, you will find six authentic replicas of the huts of the Mandan Indians, who once lived in the region, as well as reconstructions of the buildings of the European settlers, e.g., Fort Abraham Lincoln, the Custer House, several restored barracks, granaries, and a commission warehouse.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in North Dakota

Have you seen North Dakota's top ten attractions yet? If not, add them to your travel list..

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit
  • Chateau de Mores State Historic Site
  • Fort Abraham Lincoln
  • The Enchanted Highway
  • Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Maah Daah Hey Trail
  • North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
  • Dakota Zoo
  • Red River Zoo

City highlights in North Dakota

While traveling through North Dakota, you will see beautiful landscapes as well as interesting cities like Fargo and Bismarck.

City highlights Fargo

If you're craving the hustle and bustle of a bigger city after your outdoor adventures, a visit to Fargo will be just what you're looking for. North Dakota's largest city is the cultural and economic center of the state and offers many interesting museums, theaters, restaurants, and cafés. With a little luck, the Fargodome may even be hosting a Broadway musical or sporting event.

These city highlights are waiting for you in Fargo:

  • Plains Art Museum
  • Red River Zoo
  • Fargo Air Museum
  • Bonanzaville USA
  • Hjemkomst Center

Accomodation in Fargo

City highlights Bismarck

In the heart of North Dakota, you'll find its capital, Bismarck, with its unique Capitol building built in the Art Déco style. Spend some time in the restaurants, cafés, and stores in the charming downtown area and then explore nearby Sertoma Park on the banks of the Missouri River. From here, you can also visit the historical sites of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Don't miss the highlights in Bismarck:

  • North Dakota State Capitol
  • Fort Abraham Lincoln
  • North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
  • Raging Rivers Waterpark
  • Dakota Zoo

Accomodation in Bismarck

Roadtrip in North Dakota

After visiting the most important parks and cities in North Dakota, we start our road trip in the Northern part of the state. In the town of Rugby, you'll have the opportunity to take a picture of yourself at the geographic center of the North American continent. You certainly won't miss the spot because it is marked by a 4.5 m high obelisk.

We then continue west to the town of Minot, where we can learn more about North Dakota's Scandinavian immigrant culture. The Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot includes an open-air museum, statues, cultural exhibits, and various buildings such as replicas of a Finnish sauna and a Danish windmill. But you're sure to be particularly impressed by the reconstruction of the 18th-century Gol Stave Church.

For the next stop on our tour, we head south to Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota's largest reservoir. With a shoreline of over 2,400 km, the huge lake is perfect for sailing, kayaking, powerboating, or fishing.

We end our tour in the Southwest of the state on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, an absolute insider's tip for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The trail is about 225 km long and leads you past the characteristic rock formations of the Badlands and through the Little Missouri River Valley.

Instagram hotspots in North Dakota

These are our five tips for taking the best photos during your North Dakota trip:

  • Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Obelisk in Rugby
  • Medora L
  • ake Sakakawea
  • Maah Daah Hey Trail

Food and drinks in North Dakota

If you like hearty meals, you'll feel right at home in North Dakota. Some of the signature dishes may even look familiar, as the Peace Garden State's cuisine is heavily influenced by the specialties of European countries.

Enjoy these local favorites in North Dakota:

  • Knoephla (creamy dumpling and potato soup)
  • Fleischkuekle (deep-fried dumpling similar to the Crimean Tatar cheburek)
  • Hotdish (dish made of potato or noodle, meat, and vegetables mixed with a canned soup)
  • Lefse (traditional Norwegian flatbread made of potatoes, flour, butter, milk, cream, or lard)
  • Hot beef sandwich (bread, warm meat, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy)

North Dakota fun facts

You probably haven’t heard these interesting facts about the US state of North Dakota:

  • The word Dakota comes from the Sioux language and means friend or ally.
  • North Dakota is the least traveled state.
  • The city of Bismarck was named in honor of German politician Otto von Bismarck.
  • North Dakota does not differentiate between cities and villages. Officially, every place is a city. That's why Maza, North Dakota's smallest town, has only 5 residents.
  • North Dakota has the highest percentage of churchgoers and the highest church density in the United States.
  • In Western North Dakota, about 25 billion tons of lignite coal lie beneath the earth's surface. That would supply the region's coal needs for about 800 years.
  • North Dakota is the state where the most sunflowers grow.
  • Highway 46 south of Fargo is the longest straight road in the United States. It runs 50 km without any curve or bend, always straight ahead through the countryside.

Immigrate to North Dakota

If you're considering settling down in North Dakota, our tips on living and working in The Peace Garden State will give you some ideas on how to make your wish come true.

Working in North Dakota

North Dakota has large resources of raw materials such as lignite, oil, and natural gas. Especially with the emergence of hydraulic fracturing technology in the early 2000s, the state experienced an economic boom.

Otherwise, the region is very agricultural. North Dakota's extensive farmlands produce mainly wheat, barley, oats, sunflower seeds, canola, and flax seeds, but also beans, honey, lentils, peas, and sugar beets are grown.

Living in North Dakota

Nature, tranquility, and plenty of space – living in North Dakota has many advantages. Another one is the low cost of living. According to the Cost of Living Index, you'll live about 10 % cheaper in North Dakota than, on average, in the United States. You can particularly save on transportation and housing costs.

You may have a hard time deciding between the many idyllic towns when you start looking for your new home. Good picks are Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, and Minot.

To North Dakota with a Green Card

Are you dreaming of a life in North Dakota? Well, you need a Green Card to stay in the USA indefinitely. The American government gives away 55,000 Permanent Resident Cards every year through the Green Card Lottery. Sign up now, it's just a few clicks!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!