In 1873, after being called Edwinton, the Northern Pacific Railway renamed the city to Bismarck, in honor of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. This German heritage can be seen downtown, where the buildings and shops show their German Alps influence.
Bismarck sits 196 miles west of Fargo, ND, slightly southwest of the state’s center. Four colleges and universities are located in the midwestern town, including the United Tribes Technical College, the University of Mary, and Bismarck State College. This small town boasts dozens of state parks and excellent golf courses with sweeping views and rugged scenery.
But enjoying the great outdoors is not the only thing to do in the historic town of Bismarck. You have to have something to do when it snows. Friendly brewpubs and an art gallery or two focusing on local artists are key. Dozens of intimate historical museums highlight a colorful town with a surprisingly complex culture.
Heritage and history are part of Bismarck’s foundation. For an overview of the area, try a ride on one of the Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruises. These lazy boats are enjoyable for the whole family. But, if a four-hour cruise is not what you are looking for, here are a few more of the top attractions and things to do in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Looking for a hotel in Bismarck that offers an indoor pool, a restaurant, and free WiFi? Look no further than Courtyard by Marriott Bismarck North! This hotel is centrally located and just a short drive from the North Dakota State Capitol. All rooms come equipped with a flat-screen TV and cable channels, as well as a work desk, small refrigerator, and coffee-making facilities. And of course, an en suite bathroom with a hairdryer is included for your convenience. The on-site Bistro serves American cuisine for breakfast and dinner, so you don’t have to go far to find a good meal.
Experience first-class comfort at Radisson Hotel Bismarck. The hotel provides easy access to popular attractions like Belle Mehus Auditorium, and we offer a free transfer service to Bismarck Airport for your convenience. In your room, you can enjoy amenities like a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a seating area, a work desk, and coffee-making facilities. The hotel’s en suite bathroom comes stocked with complimentary toiletries for your convenience. For your enjoyment, we also have an indoor pool, a hot tub, and a fitness center on-site.
Looking for a hotel in Bismarck that offers free WiFi and satellite TV channels in every room? Look no further than La Quinta by Wyndham Bismarck! This hotel is less than 1.6 km from the North Dakota State Capitol and features a complimentary breakfast with rotating hot and cold items each morning. Guests can also enjoy a workout in the fitness centre, use the business centre, or take advantage of the guest laundry facilities.
- Most significant landmark – Camp Hancock State Historic Site
- Best park – Sertoma Park
- Best free activity – North Dakota State Capitol
- Best thing to do for kids – SuperSlide Amusement Park
- Best thing to do for adults – Laughing Sun Brewing
- Best food – Pirogue Grille
- Best nightlife – Laughing Sun Brewing
- Best all-around accommodation – Courtyard by Marriott Bismarck
Best & Fun Things to Do in Bismarck, North Dakota
1. Dakota Zoo
Address: 602 Riverside Park Rd, Bismarck, ND 58504
Part of a larger community green space called Sertoma Park, Dakota Zoo is an animal wonderland for kids and adults. Home to over 600 animals of 125 species, this 90-acre zoo complex features local animals and many endangered species.
It will take roughly three hours to see all the animals, including the white tigers, prairie dogs, Mexican Gray Wolves, snow leopards, and grizzlies. A train ride meanders throughout the park, giving visitors an overview of unique habitats. Onsite concessions serve people snacks for a quick refresher.
One of the unfortunate results of cities is the danger to local animals. The Dakota Zoo’s Raptor Rehabilitation program cares for up to 65 of these fierce birds who have been injured on power lines or by automobiles.
These care programs are supported by fundraising efforts and special events. One of the many educational programs, Art with the Animals, allows children and adults to expand their creative talents while learning about the various species at the park and helping the animals.
After a day at the zoo, it’s time to relax. If you are looking for no-fuss accommodations near the animals and downtown Bismarck, grab a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. Basic amenities and easy in and out, all roughly 10 minutes from the Bismarck Airport.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Dickinson, North Dakota
2. Sertoma Park
Address: 300 Riverside Park Road, Bismarck, ND 58505
Sertoma Park is a beloved Bismarck park. Located along the Missouri River, this is the place to play horseshoes, tennis, or sand volleyball. The park has eight playgrounds for kids of all sizes and adventure levels. It is also home to the Dakota Zoo and Adventure Slide Park. For events or educational projects, the indoor community center is available.
The Lewis and Clark Riverboat docks at the park when it is not giving tours of the river where Lewis and Clark once were over 200 years ago.
Numerous paths and many excellent walking trails wander through Sertoma Park. They connect with Bill Mills Nature Trail, a gravel-paved interpretive path highlighting the area’s unique habitats. Just south of the Horse Park, but still, a part of Sertoma Park, is Atkinson Trail, the 1.65-mile hiking and horse trail. It is lined with interpretive panels and lessons and connects to the existing trail system.
3. North Dakota State Capitol
Address: 600 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505
The tall, mason-white building in the heart of downtown Bismarck is the North Dakota State Capitol. Constructed in 1934, architect Joseph Bell DeRemer designed the Bismarck State Capitol Building for a staggering $2 million.
The iconic structure, a 21-story Art Deco tower, is the tallest building in the state and has gorgeous views from its observation deck. DeRemer also contributed to several buildings on the University of North Dakota campus.
The Capitol grounds complex includes the central tower building and half a dozen other government seats. There is no charge to tour the complex, with is open to the public.
Within the buildings, designated walking routes in Capitol park range from one-quarter mile up to an entire mile loop. A great way to get your steps in and still learn about North Dakota’s history.
Near the North Dakota State Capitol grounds is the starting point of a Let’s Roam Scavenger Hunt. This challenging two-hour activity begins across from the Sakakawea Statue on 1131 N 4th Street and is entirely app-led – no reservations required.
A Bismarck scavenger hunt is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Bismarck. Players visit landmarks, answer trivia and solve challenges. Work at their own pace or compete against the clock. Players must snap pics to prove they have been to all of these fantastic locations.
See Related: Best Things to Do in North Dakota & Places to Visit
4. North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
Address: 612 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505
In Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum chronicles both North Dakota and Native American history from prehistoric to modern times. And visitors to the Heritage Center can choose from four history museums.
The North Dakota Heritage Center contains thousands of exhibits, artifacts, and displays, ranging from a full-sized, ferocious T. Rex skeleton to a Hubble Space Telescope replica. Spend time in the hands-on science exhibits. In between galleries, stop for a quick refuel at the onsite James River Café.
The Northern Lights Atrium is the place to be if you have never seen the awe-inspiring phenomenon that creates the Northern Lights. This steel and glass atrium allows the nighttime spectacle to take center stage.
Catching the Northern Lights is the top attraction in Bismarck, North Dakota. During the spring and summer, the Heritage Center’s Capital Arboretum Trail is a great way to learn about the regional flora.
Just north of the North Dakota Heritage Center state museum are excellent accommodations for solo travelers and families. The Courtyard by Marriott Bismarck offers guests an indoor pool and American Bistro.
Or, if you are feeling adventurous, the Space Aliens Grill & Bar is one of the quirkier restaurants in town. This family-friendly restaurant features excellent space-themed comfort food, a full bar, and an arcade.
5. SuperSlide Amusement Park
Address: 500 Riverside Park Rd, Bismarck, ND 58504
The quintessential amusement park for kids, the SuperSlide Amusement Park has been a part of the Bismarck community since 1967. It is adjacent to the Dakota Zoo, right along the Riverfront Trail.
Kids love amusement parks, and the SuperSlide Amusement Park is one of the best things to do in Bismarck with kids. There is enough to keep everyone busy throughout the day.
Mom and dad can ride the authentic carousel, which is at the heart of a park that started with one super slide. But there are also dozens of kid-centric rides like the Ferris wheel, the teacup, swinging chairs, and a munchkin-sized roller coaster.
Try a few rounds at the 18-hole miniature golf course or a bucket of balls at the batting cages for a family activity. The park has a snack shop for a quick refueling.
But once you are done for the day, grab a bite at Bruno’s Pizza before heading to the Raddison Hotel Bismarck for a night of well-deserved rest. Tomorrow, you can always go to the Bismarck Event Center or the Belle Mehus Auditorium, 250 feet away from the hotel.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Fargo, North Dakota
6. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Address: 564 County Road 37, Stanton, ND 58571
An hour northwest of the Bismarck Mandan area sits the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, an old Mandan and Hidatsa Indians’ campground. Beautiful with a sweeping scenic vista, this area was a vital trading and agricultural center, and three separate villages stood on the grounds. By 1750 it had become a central fur-trading marketplace.
The Village was also home to Sakakawea, an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition. The onsite museum features an introductory video of her life, village artifacts, and relics identifying the Hidatsa people. The reconstructed earth lodge and other historic buildings highlight their daily lives.
Knife River Indian Villages hosts various events throughout the year, including indigenous games, craft shows, and cultural ceremonies.
7. General Sibley Park & Campground
Address: 5001 S Washington St, Bismarck, ND 58504
General Sibley Park & Campground is a community green space four miles south of downtown Bismarck. Dedicated in 1967, it commemorated General Henry Sibley, a late 19th Century United States General who was sent to the area to protect the settlers of the Euro-American migration West.
The 138-acre park complex offers a wide range of free activities and amenities. There is an easy-access canoe ramp to the Missouri River and space for horseshoe competitions.
Picnics are a vital part of life in Bismarck, and General Sibley park lives up to expectations with pavilions and picnic tables. There are also sand volleyball courts and playgrounds to work off the potato salad. A walking trail surrounds an 18-hole disc golf course.
If a day at the park isn’t enough, the area offers free tent camping and reserved RV camping each summer. And for a relaxing evening read, the park is also home to a Little Free Library.
General Sibley Park is also a favored Poetry Box location. A creative idea supported by the Dakota West Arts Council, a poetry box allows for the exchange of poems. There are about a dozen at the parks throughout Bismarck.
See Related: Fun and Best Things to Do in Grand Forks, North Dakota
8. Keelboat Park
Address: 1605 River Rd, Bismarck, ND 58503
Keelboat Park is an upbeat park on the banks of the Missouri River. It has one of Bismarck’s most popular hiking trails and is part of the Missouri Valley Millennium Legacy Trail.
The Legacy Trail begins in Bismarck at Chief Looking’s Village and continues to Fort Lincoln State Park. This regional hiking route connects all things recreational, historical, and cultural along the Missouri River.
The park’s feature exhibit is a bright red keelboat replica. The keelboat was the Lewis and Clark riverboat and the expedition’s main vessel until the spring of 1805, when the boat mysteriously returned to St. Louis without its sailors. Keelboats were practical riverboats throughout the Missouri River Valley because they could be propelled by oars, sails, poles, and towlines.
Other park sculptures include a tribute to Lewis and Clark and a Thunderbird Eagle Sculpture created by United Tribes Technical College students. The park’s boat ramp offers easy access directly into the Missouri River.
In addition to Keelboat Park, Steamboat Park and Pioneer Park are other Missouri River parks in Bismarck offering relaxing hiking and walking trails. These peaceful parks provide a unique opportunity to learn about the area’s riverboat history and cultural elements.
9. National Buffalo Museum
Address: 500 17th St SE, Jamestown, ND 58401
The National Buffalo Museum is located east of Bismarck on Interstate 94, about 100 miles. No, it is not part of Bismarck proper. But if it fits into your plans, it is worth the side trip to learn about the cultural and ecological significance of the North American plains bison.
The 6,000-square-foot museum details the story of these incredible beasts whose herds once blanketed the American West.
Exhibits detailed bison anatomy and physiology while explaining the difference between bison and buffalo. A separate gallery is dedicated to the near extinction of these powerful creatures, with examples of ongoing North American preservation efforts.
The North Dakota pottery exhibit highlights the work of individual artists. These creatives have chosen to incorporate North American bison themes into their work. On display are sculptures, pottery, and carving styles from the past century.
The museum also houses an authentic Frontier Village. This unique area contains a collection of restored pioneer buildings, with a prairie post office, barbershop, jailhouse, and church.
There is even a pioneer-style schoolhouse. Stagecoach and pony rides keep the kids entertained, and treats from the old-fashioned soda fountain round out the visit.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Medora, North Dakota
10. Camp Hancock State Historic Site
Address: 101 E Main Ave, Bismarck, ND 58501
Constructed in 1872, Camp Hancock State Historic Site has been known by many names – Camp Hancock Historic Site and even just Camp Hancock. In 1972, the site was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Camp Hancock boasts the oldest building in Bismarck. It also houses an 1880s church and a steam locomotive. These historic sites were initially built as Camp Greeley, charged with protecting the Northern Pacific Railroad work gangs. It was also the site of a regional United States Weather Bureau Station, in service from 1894 to 1939.
Less than a mile from Camp Hancock is the Laughing Sun Brewing Company for a relaxing pint after a day of historical lessons. Great hand-crafted beer and excellently prepared BBQ.
And for in-house entertainment, reserve an axe-throwing lane. It’s no wonder Laughing Sun Brewing makes for a perfect evening.
11. The Castle House
Address: 2000 14th Ave SE, Mandan, ND 58554
Who said that the United States does have royalty? Or Royal scandals? In the nearby town of Mandan, North Dakota, sits the infamous area landmark, The Victorian-styled Castle House. The structure’s hilltop panoramic views are stunning in all four seasons.
One of the more exciting attractions in the Bismarck area, Castle House, was commissioned in 1903 for a European Count. But builders soon discovered nefarious games afoot when the ‘Count’ proved to be a commoner who had stolen the Count’s money and his wife!
Hiding in North Dakota, they were eventually found out and mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind an unpaid bill.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Fargo, North Dakota
12. Former Governors’ Mansion State Historic Site
Address: 320 E Avenue B, Bismarck, ND 58501
As the state capital, Bismarck is home to the State’s Governor’s Mansion. The Former Governor’s Mansion State Historic Site houses an impressive two-and-a-half story, gabled, and turreted Victorian home and carriage house. The mansion museum is a fascinating example of upper-class Victorian life in North Dakota.
The stately home was initially built in 184 by Asa Fisher as a private residence. But he sold the property in 1893 for $5,000.
North Dakota Governors used it as a residence from its purchase in 1893 until the new home was completed in 1960. And it housed a total of 20 chief executives between 1893 and 1960.
Visitors can enjoy the historic buildings by taking a self-guided tour or downloading a Former Governors’ Mansion Scavenger Hunt from the website.
13. Riverwood Golf Course
Address: 725 Riverwood Dr, Bismarck, ND 58504
Riverwood Golf Course is an 18-hole, par-72 course just off the Missouri River. One of four public courses in the area, this parkland-style golf course offers wide, tree-lined fairways and abundant wildlife. There is also an outdoor driving range and putting green next to chipping and pitching practice areas for those golfers who need a little more practice before tee time.
Once you have finished for the day, under par, of course, you will probably be ready for an excellent meal. Roughly two miles east of Riverwood Golf Course, in downtown Bismarck is the Pirogue Grille. This upscale red-brick eatery features seasonal fare prepared from locally sourced ingredients in an intimate setting.
The menu includes bison, shrimp, hand-crafted cocktails, and an impressive wine list. Riverwood’s clubhouse is open to all players and offers equipment rentals and concessions for snacks.
Or, to wind down with something a bit more casual, grab a sandwich and a pint at The Pier Bar & Grill overlooking the ever-changing Missouri River.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Bismarck, North Dakota?
Kids love amusement parks and outdoor activities, and the SuperSlide Amusement Park is one of the best things to do in Bismarck with kids. There is enough to keep everyone busy throughout the day.
An authentic carousel is at the heart of the park, starting with a super slide. The park has a snack shop and an 18-hole miniature golf course.
What are some things to do in Bismarck, North Dakota when it’s raining?
Bismarck is full of unique and quirky history museums to keep the family busy when it rains. The best places to visit are the museums of The North Dakota Heritage Center.
This popular four-museums-in-one location contains thousands of interactive exhibits and artifacts, covering North Dakota from prehistoric to modern times. There is a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and a scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope.
What are the best tourist attractions in Bismarck, North Dakota?
Who said that the United States doesn’t have royalty? Castle House is an example of the colorful history of the area. A European nobleman supposedly built it. But scandal hit when builders discovered that the Count was a commoner and a thief!
Another one of the top things to do in Bismarck is the Dakota Zoo. Great for a few hours or an entire day, many of the inhabitants are on the endangered species list.
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