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What to Do in Bismarck

Updated on February 18, 2013

Those traveling to the Northern Plains would do well to check out the state of North Dakota. The state is quite a large landmass, but still has less than 700,000 residents. This leads to much in the way of wide open space.

Decent hotels tend to be centered in the larger urban centers. One of the leading urban centers in North Dakota is the Bismarck/Mandan area, which straddles the Missouri River. The city of Bismarck serves as the capital of the state, and as such, has many of the leading governmental attractions.

North Dakota Heritage Center

On the grounds of the state capitol complex is the North Dakota Heritage Center. This wonderful attraction is currently under renovation, but will re-open to the public in late 2013. The historical displays at the center go back to the days of the earliest Indian inhabitants and deals with their lifestyle on the Northern Plains.

The interpretation goes into the future and looks at the life of the earliest white settlers in the region. From this era, the years of homesteading and the Depression get much of the floor space in the Heritage Center. The center also contains a gift shop that contains many souvenirs related to North Dakota culture.

Buffalo Sculpture at the North Dakota Heritage Center with the State Capitol in the Background
Buffalo Sculpture at the North Dakota Heritage Center with the State Capitol in the Background | Source

The Skyscraper on the Prairie

One of the shocking aspects of the North Dakota capitol complex is the capitol building itself. During the winter of 1930, the original state capitol building burnt to the ground. The state built the new capitol over the period between 1931 and 1934 and sold off one-half of the capitol grounds to defray the cost.

The capitol building of North Dakota is called the Skyscraper on the Prairie and reaches a height of 19 stories. During December red and green shades are patterned to make the building look like a Christmas tree.

Guests can take tours of the capitol building on a daily basis. The views from the top floors give a wonderful view of the lower terrain as the capitol sits on a hill overlooking the city of Bismarck.

The Skyscraper on the Prairie--the North Dakota Capitol Building
The Skyscraper on the Prairie--the North Dakota Capitol Building | Source

Former Governor's Mansion

Visitors to Bismarck who have an interest in political history will like visiting the Former Governor's Mansion. This 2.5 story Victorian house served as the home of the governors of North Dakota between 1893 and 1960. Overall, 20 former governors inhabited this residence.

The Former Governor's Mansion is now the property of the State Historical Society, which renovated the interior of the house. The public can tour the mansion and a carriage house that are on the grounds. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is free to visit and is located at 320 East Avenue B.

North Dakota State Library, Bismarck
North Dakota State Library, Bismarck | Source

Lewis and Clark Riverboat

Those who are in the mood for a nice ride down the Missouri River should book a cruise on the Lewis and Clark Riverboat. While this steamboat books events like weddings and business dinners, the general public can buy tickets for afternoon and evening cruises, some of which include a meal.

The Lewis and Clark Riverboat website gives directions to the Port of Bismarck, which is the point of embarkation for all cruises. Of course, this attraction is seasonal, as most winters will find the Missouri River frozen over.

An Older Church in Downtown Bismarck
An Older Church in Downtown Bismarck | Source

Buckstop Junction

History buffs are sure to like Buckstop Junction. This historic village is home to a number of buildings that exhibit the past for those who visit the Bismarck area. Included among the buildings at the site are an old schoolhouse and an old church.

Dakota Zoo

One of the best attractions for kids is the Dakota Zoo, which is one of four zoos in the state of North Dakota. The Dakota Zoo sits on a 90-acre site and has a wide variety of animal species for review by people of all ages.

The Dakota Zoo is over 50 years old, and the animal population has reached over 600. In all, 125 species from the animal kingdom are on display. Included in the animal population are grizzly bears, tigers, and snow leopards. Around 130,000 people visit the zoo on an annual basis.

Have you ever visited Bismarck?

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What to Do in Bismarck

Bismarck is one of the more populous cities in all of North Dakota. The city has a nice variety of wonderful lodging options. There are also several attractions that people can enjoy during all seasons of the year. The city can also serve as a base to travel to a few more remote areas in the state, although a family can find plenty to keep busy for a few days without leaving town.


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