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Guest Blog : Undiscovered Travels in North Dakota – A Memeorable RV Experience

This guest blog comes from our friends at El Monte RV Rentals who invite others to explore North Dakota as they did.

Here’s a great way to produce an eyebrow-arching reaction from your friends: tell them that you’re going to take a trip to North Dakota this year. That’s right, North Dakota – home state of bubbly bandleader Lawrence Welk, zen coaching great Phil Jackson and peppery actress Angie Dickinson, to name just a few famous North Dakotans. Those who think the only thing to do in North Dakota is shovel snow 10 months out of the year would be very surprised to find out just how much fun you can have in our 39th state. And because so many still think this way, you’re not going to find the usual suffocating crowds and long lines that plague so many of the country’s top destinations. So pack your bags, rent an RV and get ready for a memorable and truly relaxing vacation.

Begin your trip in the eastern part of the state with a stop at the Prairie Rose Carousel in Wahpeton, open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Even people without kids will marvel at seeing this fully restored 1926 Spillman model featuring 20 intricately painted wooden horses, two chariots and a calliope – it’s one of only 150 working carousels left in the country. And should you fancy a ride, it’s just $1.50.

From there, it’s a short drive to Bonanzaville in West Fargo. Learn about prairie life in the 1800’s as you stroll through more than 40 restored vintage buildings, including homes, schools, stores, depots and banks. On-site museum collections feature tractors, buggies, medical equipment and aircraft, including a C-47 that was used during the D-Day invasion.

To see an amazing collection of vintage aircraft that still fly, check out the nearby Fargo Air Museum, which features the F4-U Corsair, L 39 Jet, TBM Avenger, P 51 Mustang, Fairchild PT-19A, L 19 Bird dog, Bell Helicopter and “Duggy – the Smile in the Sky” DC 3.

courtesy of National Scenic Byways OnlineNext, drive north to Dunseith to visit the International Peace Garden located on the US-Canadian border. Constructed in 1932 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries, the 2339-acre Peace Garden offers vibrant displays of over 150,000 flowers including an 18-foot floral clock. It’s open year-round but the best views are when the park is at full bloom mid-July through August. Take time to park at one of the campgrounds to hike the surrounding Turtle Mountain forests and do some serious bird watching.

courtesy of National Scenic Byways OnlineAlso worth a stop is nearby Lake Metigoshe State Park, where you can enjoy acres of pristine wilderness, a crisp mountain lake and hike the 3-mile Old Oak Trail, the state’s first Recreation Trail. Here you can experience the rugged beauty of nature while you unplug from life’s day-to-day distractions.

After a day or two of true R&R, you’ll be ready to head back south to Bismarck, the state capital and home to a number of can’t miss historical attractions. The North Dakota Heritage Center museum is open year-round, and documents the entire history of the land from its formation and pre-historic dinosaurs to the western expansion era, Indian encounters and industrial age growth. You can also learn about the U.S.S. North Dakota and other nautical interests in the Hall of Honors section of the Museum.

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the InteriorFamed explorers Lewis and Clark travelled the Missouri River (which is actually longer than the Mississippi) through this part of North Dakota with Indian guide Sakakawea, and their adventures are highlighted at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center next to Fort Mandan, just a short drive from Bismarck. You can try on a buffalo robe, learn about the fur trade and view breathtaking watercolors by Karl Bodmer, regarded as one of the best eyewitness illustrators of Upper Midwest Indian Cultures.

In addition to Fort Mandan, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park located on the west side of the Missouri boasts an impressive array of historical attractions, including reconstructed Indian earth lodges and General George Custer’s last Calvary post and reconstructed home. It was from this fort that he rode out to meet his fate at the hands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.

by Mary Brazell, courtesy of National Park Service

The western part of North Dakota is where you’ll find Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a panoramic tribute to our 26th President’s fervent belief in conservation, located near the town of Medora. You can read about the former president’s adventures in his own words and explore his Maltese Cross and Elkhorn ranches, surrounded by the austere beauty of the western badlands. Gain a unique perspective of the area from a saddle –guided horseback tours are available at Peaceful Valley Ranch within the Park.

Wrap up your tour by taking in a performance of the Medora Musical – a rollicking family-friendly entertainment adventure with singing, dancing and even live horses in a show that reflects upon the time Roosevelt spent in the area. The show is performed nightly during the summer months, and includes a mix of modern country, gospel and patriotic songs.

Amusing, restful, historic and panoramic – all very suitable words you can use to describe your journey through the quietly remarkable state of North Dakota.

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals.  You can see more great RV vacation ideas in their Monty’s Musings RV Travel Blog and be sure to check out their Camping Pictures

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Spooky times in North Dakota

Fort Abraham Lincoln has a reputation as one of the most haunted places of North Dakota.  Rumor has it that when Custer House (where General George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libby lived) was reconstructed in 1989 the men and women who long ago lived and died at Fort Lincoln were themselves resurrected. Interpreters and tourists both reported paranormal experiences from the beginning, and as more buildings were added, so too were hauntings to the chronicles of the strange and unexplained at Fort Lincoln. A woman wearing a black dress is seen looking out a second-floor window of the Custer House; footsteps are heard pacing the sergeant’s quarters in the Barracks; the voices of weeping women echo along the boardwalk; a shadowy figure stalks the Commissary at night; horses’ hooves stomp the dirt of their stalls in the Stables.

Paranormal activity has continued for years; occasionally a new phenomena is documented, like floating orbs in photographs. In 2002, Haunted Fort was created at Fort Abraham Lincoln – giving visitors the opportunity to have a spooky, hair-raising good time at a fascinating (and haunted?) historic site.

Haunted Fort will be open October 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29.  Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is a great visit at all times of year.

More Scary Situations and Fall Travel Ideas

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Attractions, Entertainment, Events

 

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Welcome to North Dakota!

Two-hundred-seven (207) years ago today, the Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed into what is now North Dakota.  During their time, it was known as the Upper Missouri, or the Great Bend of the Missouri, or Upper Louisiana.   For Lewis and Clark, North Dakota was the transition zone between the familiar and the unfamiliar, between lands that had already been mapped, named and described and terra incognita.

They hadn’t originally planned to winter with the 4,500 Mandan and Hidatsa Indians of the Knife River earthlodge villages.  Clark planned to get as far as the “Rock mountains” before winter and Lewis expressed uncertainty about where they would stop.  But when the captains began to notice ice forming on their rowing oars and experienced their first northern plains snowfall on October 21, 1804, they realized that they must soon establish winter quarters.  Five days later, they made their first substantial contact with the Mandan Indians, who had a reputation for being friendly to visitors.  And they ended up staying 197 days on that outward journey.

North Dakota continues to have a welcoming and friendly reputation.  In fact, Cambridge University called North Dakota the most friendly state to visit.  And here, the Lewis & Clark story can be discovered by modern explorers.

A reconstructed Fort Mandan is a full-size replica refurbished in the era.  (The original fort burned down sometime before the expedition’s return voyage in 1806.)

At Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Stanton, visitors can step into a reconstructed earthlodge, walk to the Sakakawea Village site, and in the modern visitors center, view traditional clothing, tools, art and more.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn is the comprehensive stop to learn, see and experience the Corps of Discovery.  These sites are open year-round and winter events at Fort Mandan mean you can step back into the period when Lewis and Clark walked the same trails.

Details of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in North Dakota can be found in the book, A Vast and Open Plain, written by Clay Jenkinson.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Attractions, History

 

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Hostfest is happening!

Not only is Norsk Hostfest the most happening Scandinavian festival in North America, but it literally is going on as planned.  Next week (September 27-October 1), visitors can indulge in Nordic culture and entertainment.  More than 200 internationally recognized artisans, crafters and chefs participate.

This year’s entertainers include Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, the Judds, Bill Gaither and Charley Pride.  Limited tickets are available online and by phone.

Consider making a day trip for your Norsk Hostfest and Minot fun!  The Scandinavian Heritage Park with its full-size replica of the Gol Stave Church is a “don’t miss” attraction.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Events, Family Fun, History

 

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Fargo AirSho takes flight this weekend

Me circa 1995 - a ride on a stunt plane at the Fargo AirSho

In 1995, I was an intern reporter for The Forum and had the unique opportunity to fly in a two-person, bi-wing, aerobatic plane – one of the Pitts S-2B aircraft in the Sierra Aces Aerobatic Team performing that year.  The ride was thrilling – to say the least.

The Sierra Aces won’t be performing in Fargo this year, but the renowned US Navy Blue Angels will be, along with War Birds, Blackhawks and other stunt pilots and teams.  More than 15,000 spectators are expected each day of the show – taking place Saturday and Sunday, August 13-14, at the Hector International Airport in north Fargo.

The Fargo AirSho has an incredible schedule and good forecast ahead of it.  Visitors will find interesting aviation exhibits and tours and should also consider stopping by the Fargo Air Museum.

The FM RedHawks also have a home stand this weekend against Minnesota rivals the St. Paul Saints.  Tickets are still available.  For more great options in Fargo-Moorhead, stop by the Convention and Visitors Bureau – featuring the original woodchipper from the movie Fargo.

If vacationing takes you across the state – find many more things to do at www.NDtourism.com.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Events, Family Fun

 

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Summer travel tips

If you’re traveling North Dakota this summer, look for state tourism personnel in unlikely places – like rest areas and gas stations.  We’ll be out-of-the-office Fridays in July, providing traveler assistance in terms of route and destination information as well as asking for brief travel information – like how long you’ve been planning your trip and if you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

And speaking of travel tips – here are a few resources to keep in mind as you’re planning your summer getaway.

Several travelers have been asking about flooding affecting their favorite North Dakota city or attraction.  The Tourism Division is keeping tabs on all affected routes and sites.  If you have questions, we can help.  Call our travel counselors at 1-800-435-5663.  Here are some hot updates:

For more North Dakota news – be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

And a quick “congratulations” to North Dakotan Amy Anderson who finished 63rd in her first professional golf tournament – the U.S. Women’s Open.  Golf the legendary courses that Amy has played in North Dakota – affordable, accessible, scenic golf in the state with the most courses per capita.

 

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Choices choices for the long weekend

We’ve got some great ways to enjoy the Independence Day weekend in North Dakota!  Celebrate Americana with a big ol Yee-Haw at Mandan Rodeo Days or Dickinson Roughrider Days.  These legendary events are part of “Cowboy Christmas.”  Or get thee to Medora where your celebration can include parade, fireworks, the famed Medora Musical, pitchfork fondue, golf, hiking Theodore Roosevelt National Park, touring the Chateau de Mores and much more!

Or perhaps you’re craving the tranquility of water at a picturesque lake.  From Lake Metigoshe on the North Dakota-Canadian border to great fisheries like Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake – you can find your piece of chill served with a big walleye.

One of my personal faves for the weekend is the “Quasquicentennial” celebration in Hankinson.  I may not know how to pronounce the word for 125th anniversary but I do know organizers have planned a lot of fun events including a wife-carrying contest!  Talk about funny!

Find more events highlighted in our “What To Do” news release and on our website.

Flooding concerns?

Perhaps you’ve heard about floods and water issues affecting a few North Dakota towns and cities.  Rest assured, a vast majority of our attractions, events and visitor services are OPEN!  Our travel counselors are maintaining a great list of the areas affected and we’ve detailed the impact in this press release along with links to the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation for highway information and the ND State Parks and Recreation website for campground info.

We encourage visitors to plan ahead and check routes and services to ensure their vacation is filled with legendary fun!  Our free Travel Guide is a great planning tool.  Order it, along with maps and other free brochures, online.  Or stop at a North Dakota rest area and pick one up!

 

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