It’s hard to imagine a playground as large as North Dakota, until you take the kids outside to play. Instead of merry-go-rounds, there are scenic drives where they’ll see wildlife of all kinds. Instead of slides and swings, there are hiking trails, peaks and streams to conquer. And rather than kids coloring at the table, take them to Yunker Farm in Fargo for some hands-on experiences. Summer is a perfect time for a different kind of learning, and for memories that will last a lifetime. For more family friendly North Dakota activities, contact North Dakota Tourism at NDTourism.com or call 800-435-5663 or 701-328-2525.
1. Fun at the Fish Ponds
The look of joy on a kid’s face when holding their first catch is unforgettable. Share those fishing moments with your children at Game and Fish’s OWLS pond in Bismarck or at the State Fair Pond in Minot. The pond on the fairgrounds is open spring through fall. For a more traditional outing, find the nearest body of water and take the family on an adventure to remember.
2. Theodore Roosevelt National Park/Medora
Lil’ buckaroos fascinated with cowboy life will enjoy western North Dakota. The Badlands provide a spectacular backdrop for the frontier town of Medora, where the wild history of the West lives on. Kid-friendly activities abound from sun up to sun down. Activities range from horseback riding, buggy rides, swimming, water activities at the Family Fun Center, miniature golf and much more.
Enjoy a unique western meal at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue, served with all the fixin’s. Afterward, check out the nightly Medora Musical, a professionally produced musical variety show at the modern Burning Hills Amphitheatre. Kids are free Wednesdays and Sundays.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, adjacent to Medora, has great opportunities for take-your-breath-away horseback riding, hiking, biking and scenic viewing. The rugged 70,000-acre park honors Theodore Roosevelt, who ranched in the Badlands and later became President. The park offers outstanding wildlife viewing, and kids can participate in the Junior Ranger Program.
3. Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm:
The bright red barn is just one of the attractions at this learning museum for children in Fargo. More than 50 hands-on exhibits are designed to engage, educate, stimulate creativity and encourage interaction between children and the exhibits. From the puppet theater to the planetarium to the bee hive, children can explore their universe. Rated as one of the top 25 children’s museums in the United States by Child magazine.
4. Lake time at Lake Metigoshe, near Bottineau
North Dakota boasts many lakes, but the forested, rolling hills along the U.S.-Canadian border is the perfect setting for lake time. Prime recreation and camping meets great eating and accommodations in a beautiful lakeside setting at Lake Metigoshe and nearby Bottineau. Lake Metigoshe State Park offers great summertime activities, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking and bike trails. Enjoy a water skiing performance by Club de Skinautique, the local ski team. And, cool off with a bite of freshly made ice cream at the local creamery, Pride Dairy.
5. Do you ‘dig’ dinosaurs?
Those who like getting their hands dirty can participate in a fossil dig in the Pembina Gorge near Walhalla. Dig 80-million-year-old fossils during a scientific, professionally conducted fossil excavation. Participants can spend a full day or half day at the dig, and must be age 10 or older and accompanied by an adult. Find more information at www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/.
Stop by the Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson to see 10 full-scale dinosaurs, as well as complete rhinoceros and bison fossils, fossil plants, mammals and reptiles.
6. Enchanted Highway, Regent
Drive a 30-mile gallery of the world’s largest metal sculptures, representing North Dakota’s hunting, fishing and farming heritage. Stay at the whimsical Enchanted Castle in Regent. Formerly a 1960s-era brick school, the building now boasts a grand castle façade, a drawbridge, knights in armor and kingly décor accented with purple and gold inside. The former school gym is perfect for playtime, including shooting hoops.
7. Forts, history and heritage
Round out your family adventure in a place Lewis and Clark, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and American Indian tribes once called home – the Missouri River valley in central North Dakota. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, is rich in both military and early Native American history. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry rode from this fort on their ill-fated expedition to the Little Big Horn. www.fortlincoln.com Just down the hill is On-A-Slant Indian Village, which was occupied by Mandan Indians between 1575 and 1781. Today, reconstructed earthlodges overlook the Heart and Missouri rivers, giving a sense of scale and lifestyle. A small museum offers a wonderful interpretive exhibit. www.ndparks.comFor a fun, unique way to get to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, take the Fort Lincoln Trolley. This restored trolley car that once ran in Bismarck now offers a unique trip through the scenic Heart River bottoms to and from the park. 701-663-9018.
8. Antelope to zebras
Did you know Dakota Zoo is home to more than 600 animals, including 125 species? Or that the Red River Zoo features both exotic and endangered species? And did you know that the Chahinkapa Zoo has animals from six continents? Or, that the Roosevelt Park Zoo is home to more than 200 mammals, birds and reptiles from around the world? In addition, the zoos have Edventures (educational adventures) throughout the season.
9. Dive into a tropical paradise – right in North Dakota
Splash around and burn some energy at North Dakota’s outdoor and indoor water or adventure parks. Some to hit include:
Splasher’s of the South Seas, Canad Inns, Grand Forks: This 40,000-square-foot waterpark is the state’s largest indoor waterpark. It features a cannonbowl slide, activity pool, kiddy pool, slide pool, lazy river, hot tub and more.
West River Community Center, Dickinson: Spend the afternoon with a relaxing ride down the “lazy river” or cruising your way down the two water slides. The rock climbing wall also adds the perfect adventure.
Raging Rivers Waterpark, Mandan: Wild and wet fun await families at this outdoor water park. Relax on the lazy river; play in the kiddie pool featuring interactive play, water geysers and more, or splash down the assortment of 45-foot-high waterslides.
Northern Air Family Fun Center, Grand Forks: OK, this one doesn’t have water. But it does have tons of fun. Its 94 trampolines equal 10,000 square feet of jumping, flying, bouncing fun! Dunk a basket, start a high-flying dodgeball game or just catch some air. The Fun Center also has an inflatables section featuring slides, an obstacle course, games and more.