If you are looking for an epic Mid-west vacation – I have one for you! Try Medora, North Dakota. I know what you are thinking – it’s probably the same thing I was thinking when traveling to the state of North Dakota for the first time. Why North Dakota? Seriously, it seems to be the state that everyone forgets – or likes to bypass for some of the other places nearby – but I will tell you, that North Dakota and especially Medora, North Dakota changed my mind and won my heart. I’ll go into some of the main reasons why throughout this post, but maybe I can capture some of your wild imagination with a short video below.
Video by Country Pilgrim – Dan Cline
10 Fun things!
1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
This is NOT a surprise! When people come to Medora they are learning that the town is the gateway to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park – literally. One of the main entrances sits just on the edge of town. What I love about this national park is that it is building a reputation as one of the most under-rated, under-valued national parks in the country! If you have a small family – DO NOT OVERLOOK this park! Check out to see what another popular travel blogger – Travel With Sara – had to say about the park.
Perfect for Families
It’s perfect because the park is relatively low traffic (compared to other national parks) and what impressed me the most was the wild life that seemed to pop up at every twist and turn in the road – including bison AND wild horses! Caution: I always like to add a piece of advice in remembering that these are wild animals, and not to approach, and be mindful that we are visitors in their habitat. However, the wildlife is abundant – and photo opportunities are available with mindfulness.
Perfect to experience the Badlands
It’s easy to forget that the Badlands extend through several states and North Dakota is often a place where the Badlands are forgotten by non-locals. However, when approaching the Badlands from the east along Interstate 94 – its amazing how drastic the landscape changes from prairies and plains to canyons and buttes. Make sure to drive slow and take in all the beauty of the park, and be prepared to stop for the wildlife. Below is a short sample of what these North Dakota Badlands look like-in appearance from the second highest point in the park – Buck Hill. You can experience more about Theodore Roosevelt National Park from a video I produced below.
2. Medora Musical
In 1958 – Medora introduced the “Medora Musical” and since that time frame have grown the ever popular musical to produce nightly performances (in the summer months) in a 2,863 seat amphitheater. The production itself is professional and brings in talent from all over the country. It remains a favorite to many who travel hundreds and thousands of miles every year to be in attendance to watch a brand new musical annually. What amazed me the most was the care and consideration that the musical had for those who were either handicapped or had difficulty being mobile – with the use of escalators and reasonable seating to provide access for all.
Perfect Family-Friendly Entertainment
One of the other things that grabbed my attention was the attention to detail towards families – having a show that was not only entertaining for all ages, but allowing participation with children at the same time. The particular show I attended had a family friendly comedian-magician, and it was with delight to hear the laughter and anticipation from all ages in the crowd. DO NOT MISS THE MUSICAL- it’s worth every penny to come experience the musical to all ages alike.
3. The Chateau de Mores
Every step you take around Medora is literally walking on history – and one of the historical stops along Medora’s past is the Chateau de Mores – which was the “hunting lodge” and “western residence to the Marquis de Mores (a French nobleman and entrepreneur who brought his wife and family’s wealth out to North Dakota to start a Beef Packing Industry to rival the Chicago Stock Yards). The thought was that fresh butchered beef from the west would bring a higher quality and value to the market – but three years later the Marquis was out of business in North Dakota. However, the history of Medora begins with the Marquis as he purchased the land around the Little Missouri River to start his Meat Packing Plant and town (which he named after his wife “Medora” van Hoffmann).
Perfect for History Buffs
Not too far away from the Chateau (across the road) is Chimney Park – the old grounds and remains of the meat packing house left by the Marquis – just a sample of Medora History and stories of the past left for tourists to explore, but it gives valuable insight to the area and what launched the existence of Medora!
4. Theodore Roosevelt
No matter where you turn you will experience the finger prints of President Theodore Roosevelt and the mark he left on Medora – from his tragic move from New York to North Dakota, after the loss of his mother (Mittie) to typhoid fever, and his wife (Alice) to Bright’s disease on the same day – to his emergence as a North Dakota Rancher, the history of Roosevelt in and around the area is thick. In fact, he was quoted as saying “I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota”
Spend a few hours walking around the town and you are sure to run into a few Roosevelt reprises’ – and those playing the role of Theodore Roosevelt. You can catch a few different shows starring the President – one at the Old Town Theatre – at the “Teddy Roosevelt Show” and the other outside the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame near the bronco riding statues for “Theodore and Edith” – an interesting twist to catch both Theodore Roosevelt with his wife (Edith) playing games and speaking up close and personal with the crowd. Another new venue for learning about Roosevelt is taking the Pancratz Trail and hiking along Roosevelt in the backcountry of Medora.
There is no better place to feel the mark of Theodore Roosevelt than through the park named after him – Theodore Roosevelt National Park – but if you take time to stop at the visitors center (just by the entrance of the park in Medora) you’ll experience more of Roosevelt’s story in Medora and the Badlands, including his Maltese Cabin. You can walk through the cabin today and learn more about Roosevelt and his life as a North Dakota cattle rancher.
Don’t Forget the New Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Coming in 2025!
5. The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame
One of the most interesting places to visit while walking around and experiencing Medora is the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. What I loved the most about this place was the housing of the Hall of Fame, and the museum that made up the entire building, from learning about cowboy history, rodeo history – to learning about Native American History in and around the Dakota’s. If you are a rodeo enthusiast, this place is a MUST stop, but even if the rodeo scene isn’t your jam, walking around and learning gives a much bigger appreciation and understanding of what is a big part of North Dakota history today. Insider Tip: Don’t forget to take in the video/movie as you enter the museum (it’s to your immediate left as you enter the main check-in point). Following the movie – you wander through the amazing museum but DON’T FORGET to head upstairs for the Cowboy Hall of Fame!
6. Carriage Rides
One of the beautiful things about Medora is the quaint small-town feel you get while walking the streets and neighborhoods. If you’re from small-town America – you’ll feel right at home – EVEN if you are from the BIG CITY – you’ll STILL feel right at home! One of the things you will see are horses (some running wild around Theodore Roosevelt Park, but some right in the town!) Don’t miss your chance to ride horseback, and if you get the chance don’t miss a horse-drawn carriage ride. The experience of riding in historic Medora by horse – is too surreal to miss! You’ll love the experience and ride, and mostly the opportunity to see the town from a different perspective! Insider Tip: Get a picture with the photogenic beauties! If you’re lucky – and ask nicely – they might let you pet them as well. They were extremely gentle – and one of my favorite parts of walking around the town – it just gave you the western badlands feel.
7. Shopping and Dining
If you are a foodie – then you have come to the right place in the North Dakota Badlands! Medora has a full array of choices to meet the different tastes of all, whether you are thinking Pizza or just a nice appetizer sampler with a glass of wine – no matter what you’re in the mood for – Medora most likely has it! If not – not to worry – you’ll find something to suit your fancy! Below is a small list of fantastic finds in town –
Farmhouse Cafe, Badlands Pizza and Saloon, Boot’s Bar & Grill, Little Missouri Saloon and Dining (Little Mo’s!), Medora Uncork’d, and a full list of others.
If you are looking for a great breakfast – give The Farmhouse Cafe a try! Just remember if you are there in the summer during their busy season – to get there a little early. The thing that grabbed me about The Farmhouse Cafe was the service was top notch with a smile and a personal touch. I was lucky enough to even have the cook give me a smile and a North Dakota hospitality wave as I left! Insider Tip: The French Toast.
Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!
If it’s pizza you’re look for – than the best place to go is Badlands Pizza & Saloon! Once again, the service was top notch – but the food was a slice of Italy right in the heart of Medora! Insider Tip: Badlands Pizza is terrific about working around your dietary needs – they have all sorts of options – so be sure to ask. I loved the variety! It also provides a nice a great place to beat the heat – grab a seat – and grab a drink!
Go ahead – take a seat and order a drink!
If you are looking for a great place to just hang out – order some good food – and have a drink – whether mixed, beer, or wine – I have 3 great options for you with a Country Pilgrim biased tip.
Boot’s Bar & Grill – Insider Tip: Try the Montana Mule – just like it sounds – with a little Badlands twist! If you like it (which you will!) ask for it to go – as I hear they package this special little nectar in cans for your enjoyment later, whether camping or relaxing back at the hotel! My wife tried the Watermelon Lemonade – which was super refreshing after a long day! Don’t forget some of that delicious food from the menu!
Little Missouri Saloon and Dining – Insider Tip: You’re going to love the atmosphere of this place. Everything from the cowboy hats hanging from the rafters to the autographed dollar bills dangling from the ceiling. When you come to Little Mo’s (as the locals call it) you are coming half for the food and drink, and half for the experience. Go grab a drink and appetizers and head on upstairs to check out the balcony – where you can take in the fresh Medora nightly air – or head downstairs during the day to take a break from the heat. Either way, you are setting yourself up for good break in the day! If you are putting down some of those amazing appetizers make sure you try the fried pickles! They were the best I’ve ever had – and I love the fact that they take whole spears and fry them in their special way – they are so big you could make a meal of them! I was also partial to the Avocado Bites! Don’t leave the place without looking around though – and get a feel for a badlands saloon – with a full six piece revolver greeting you as the door handle! If that doesn’t say “saddle up cowboy” – I’m not sure what does?
Uncork’d – Of course, you can’t go wrong with a little wine! Thankfully – Medora has the right place to gather for some wine and good food. No matter what pleases your palate the most (dry or sweet) they have it at Uncork’d! Insider Tip: After having some of their tasty wine – go for some amazing appetizer! Try some of the Jalapeno Poppers (which were absolutely divine) or go the extra mile and experiment with a surprise pizza! BBQ Blueberry Meatball! Seriously – it will surprise you with its tasty goodness!
It doesn’t take long while walking around Medora to run into the shopping scene. You could easily spend half a day wandering into each shop – and they have a little bit of everything – from a candy shop, coffee shop, gift shop, to a full cowboy boot store! If shopping is your thing – Medora has you covered! Insider Tip: Make sure to stop in and grab a memento from your trip – whether a t-shirt sporting the famous name “Medora” or a simple coffee mug – but you’ll want a keepsake to help remind you of the little slice of North Dakota heaven you discovered in the Badlands!
Magic and Illusion
If you want to try some optical illusion fun – Perception has it! You can try different illusion stations from the “Big and Small” room (seen in the picture above) to a full “slant house” further down the street – where the whole cabin is slanted – playing all sorts of tricks on your mind and giving completely different perception on balance! The fun is for the entire family – Insider Tip: While we were there they had an in-house magician. Don’t forget to check out the magic show! Also – if you have balance issues or suffer from dizziness – some of the attractions at Perception might need to be skipped. Slant House is awesome! Just be careful to avoid motion sickness it can throw your equilibrium off!
9. The Billings County Courthouse Museum
A Fun Historical Museum
Calling all museum enthusiasts! Remember when I wrote that Medora has it all? They even have a museum downtown that has a decent sized collection of tools, barbed wire and other time pieces from around the county. Touring the Billings County Court House Museum definitely had me on my toes while walking through the building. Two areas that you don’t want to miss while touring the building – the jail (which has two different jail cell areas – and the upstairs courtroom. It was creepy walking through the jail – but gave a feeling of what it was like years ago.
Beyond walking through jail cells, you get a variety and a different part of history with Medora as you walk through the museum. All in all – I had a good time with this attraction and it gives you a different twist in experiencing Medora. Insider Tip: If you ask nicely at the front desk they’ll tell you stories of the place. It’s definitely a cool experience and learning the back story behind some of the names gives an added touch. Be prepared but enjoy the museum – it’s something outside the box, but adds to the allure and mystery of Medora.
10. Pitchfork Fondue
Last – but not least – the famous Pitchfork Fondue! North Dakota Tourism “Be Legendary” has a nice piece on their website about it – but if you want to experience a tasty, entertaining meal (it’s steak – you can’t go wrong) and a fantastic, entertaining show following the meal (The Medora Musical) than you have come to the right place because following the Pitchfork Fondue is the Medora Musical! Simply follow your way around the walking paths to the escalators below to the Medora Musical Amphitheatre. It makes for a fabulous and tasty evening. Would you like to get a glimpse? I put both the Pitchfork Fondue and the Medora Musical in a short video – it gives you an idea of why you don’t want to miss either of these! I have the steak fondue as #10 – but in reality, it should be right up there in the first two or three things to experience in Medora! Insider Tip: Don’t miss the “Backstage Pass” it gives you a behind-the-scenes look and up-close view of the Medora Musical. You’ll get to walk backstage, and walk on the stage, and learn facts and history of what makes the musical what it is today!
If you’ve never been out to Medora – or experienced the North Dakota Badlands, or the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, now is the time to bump this area up on your bucket list. I could easily go on and on about WHY this is perfect for families and individuals alike – but it’s one of those chief moments in life where you need to experience it for yourself to completely understand. I have 10 Fun Things To Do in Medora listed above, but in reality – there are more like 20! The list could be endless, but nothing quite makes the perfect list as seeing Medora first hand! Go out and check them out – and experience the magic of Medora, North Dakota!