Famed for its extreme weather, North Dakota has thunderstorms and sweltering heat in summer and biting cold in winter – along with the odd blizzard. That didn’t deter its 19th-century settlers, who flooded in from Northern Europe to claim homesteads, forcing the Native American tribes into reservations.
In the north, the city of Minot plays host to both the North Dakota State Fair in July and the Norsk Hostfest in October, a lively celebration of the state’s Scandinavian immigrant heritage. Festival-goers munch on lefse and lutefisk as they listen to a somewhat less authentically Scandinavian musical line-up: this year’s acts range from the Beach Boys to Irish crooner Daniel O’Donnell.
Former frontier town Fargo, meanwhile, is best known for its cinematic links. Inextricably associated with the Coen brothers’ film Fargo (even though almost all of the action takes place in Minnesota), the city also holds an annual film festival in its lovely 1920s theatre.
North Dakota’s big tourist attraction, though, is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Beloved of hikers, cyclists and horse riders, its panoply of wildlife includes elk, bison and wild horses.
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North Dakota has hot summers (the record high was 53 degrees Celsius) with little rainfall and periods of drought. The winters are cold, with the average temperature in the single digits in January. Bismarck gets around 111cm (44 inches) of snow. At the top of the tornado alley, North Dakota’s peak tornado season is June, July, and August.
Summer is the peak tourist season in North Dakota, but so few people visit the state that crowds are not bad, even in the Badlands. Summer is also prime canoeing weather.
The North Dakota State Fair is an annual event in Minot in late July. The United Tribes International Powwow is an annual event in Bismarck the weekend after Labor Day and one of the largest powwows in the US.
Autumn and hunting season are popular, but the winters are so harsh that few people seek North Dakota flights during this time.
The least-visited state in the country, North Dakota has more unexplored wilderness than any other state except Alaska. You need a car to see North Dakota. If you are heading for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, US 85 takes you through the North Unit and I-94 through the South Unit. For prairies and missile silos, try US 2 (although you cannot actually see the silos).
For outdoor enthusiasts, the popular modes of transport are hiking, biking, canoeing, boating, skiing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding.
There is very limited train service within the state and somewhat less limited bus service.