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Budget-Friendly Road Trips in North Dakota

Road trips have long been a summertime staple as the need for adventure beckons people to hit the open road, and North Dakota Tourism invites road trippers to traverse the state with affordable trip routes offering awe-inspiring landscapes, larger-than-life roadside attractions, and the opportunity to attend summer events.

Here are three legendary and affordable road trip experiences:

Bismarck to Medora

Start in Bismarck where learning about the state’s history takes center stage at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum. As one of eight stops making up North Dakota’s Dinosaur Tour, the museum’s fossil exhibits trace the history of life in North Dakota from millions of years ago to present day. Explore nearby Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park located along the Missouri River. The park’s trail system covers more than 15 miles in a series of loops and connecting segment trails perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding prairies and woodlands atop one of the park’s three historic blockhouses.

Next, head west on I-94 towards Medora. Make a detour near Gladstone where the state’s Enchanted Highway begins. A larger-than-life metal structure, called “Geese in Flight”, is the first of seven roadside sculptures spread out over 30 miles. Back on I-94 continue west to the charming town of Medora, which sits on the cusp of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Hike the park’s south unit by day before enjoying food and the beautiful views at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue. No visit to Medora is complete without an evening under the stars at the Medora Musical.

Grand Forks to Bottineau

A road trip through northeast North Dakota offers a mix of urban adventure and small-town charm. Start in Grand Forks and set out on a bike ride on the Greenway’s all-season trail system. The Greenway offers visitors an opportunity to explore more than 2,200 acres in the heart of the city. Paddle along the Red River with a rental from Boathouse on the Red and spend the night at the recreation area’s on-site campground. Delight in the agricultural bounty of the region at the Downtown Forks Farmers Market. Hosted every Saturday mid-June through September, the market features fresh local food from local growers and makers along with live entrainment. Next, head west on US-2 towards Bottineau with a stop in Rugby. Snap a photo in front of the marker designating Rugby as the geographical center of North America and pay a visit to the nearby Northern Lights Tower and Interpretive Center.

Continuing east, Bottineau offers plenty of main street charm amid a plethora of outdoor recreational activities due to its proximity with the scenic Turtle Mountains. Bottineau is the closest town to the International Peace Garden, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary with an event taking place the last weekend in July. Bottineau is home to Tommy the Turtle – a 26’ statue of the world’s largest turtle riding the world’s largest snowmobile. Not only is he a local mascot, but he also marks the gateway to the Turtle Mountains. Enjoy rides, food and more at the Bottineau County Fair, taking place June 16-19, or be entertained at the LandoLive Music Festival on the shores of Lake Metigoshe July 16.

Devils Lake to Garrison

Water enthusiasts will delight in a road trip route packed with lakeside fun in the sun. Begin in Devils Lake – aka the “Perch Capital of the World” – with a stay at the Woodland Resort. Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota and has been ranked as one of the top five fishing lakes in the U.S. Spend a day on the water or traverse the trails at nearby Grahams Island State Park and White Horse Hill National Game Preserve. Head into town for a refreshing pick-me-up at Liquid Bean and dine at the resort’s Proz Lakeside restaurant where the Woodland Walleye dish pairs perfectly with lake views. Summer events include the Devils Run Car Show, Ribfest and the Woodland Resort’s Fourth of July celebration featuring fireworks and live music.

Head west on US-2 with a stop in Minot to tour the only outdoor museum in the world dedicated to all five Nordic countries, the Scandinavian Heritage Park. It features a 240-year-old log house from Norway, a 27-foot-tall Swedish Dala horse, a Danish windmill and more. Continuing on to Garrison, road trippers will find Fort Stevenson State Park where cabins and campsites are just steps away from the scenic views of Lake Sakakawea. While in town, meet Wally the Walleye – a 26’ fiberglass walleye statue celebrating the town’s designation as the “Walleye Capital of the World” – play a round of golf at Garrison Golf Club and mountain bike on the newly constructed Nux Baa Gaa Trail. For additional summer fun, plan a visit around the park’s lighted boat parade on July 30.

Don’t miss a chance to hit the open roads of North Dakota this summer in an affordable way with the budget-friendly trip ideas above.

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