Reliably, there will always be something to see in Dickinson, North Dakota. Like the Badlands: 110 desolate square miles of layered rock formations rising around the Interstate 94, dusty canyons and patches of grass, eagles circling the unobstructed blue skies above. Even nicer in the winter, if you can stand it, when it’s just miles and miles of silvery mounds reaching out into the abstract horizon. Dickinson also has plenty of small-town charm, with a western flare and dedication to historical preservation. Visitors can learn about the dinosaurs that trampled through the area 65 million years ago; wander the historical sites and museums that commemorate celebrate the textured history of Native Americans, early ranchers, settlers and more.
Medora, on the other hand, is a small town just a 30-minute drive west of Dickinson that’s smack-dab in the middle of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Dakota Badlands. Medora only has 131 residents, but it has a ton of the area’s tourist attractions, like the Medora Musical and the Bully Pulpit Golf Course.
Photo John Hamilton via Flickr.
Two significant visits made by Theodore Roosevelt to these badlands helped establish the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and of nature conservancy in America in general: the first in September 1883 when he brought home a bison and invested $14000 in the Maltese Cross Ranch. A year later, following the tragic death of both his mother and wife, he retreated to his newly-acquired Elkhorn Ranch. This place is remote, and desolate – humps of layered canyons sparsely topped by dry foliage. It’s beautiful, too, and replete with Great Plains wildlife like bison, feral horses, elk, bighorn sheep, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Birdwatchers will also love it, as they can see golden eagles and sharp-tailed grouse circle the blue skies. Visitors will also want to stop by Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which is right by the visitor’s center and is furnished with original period pieces.
Photo by Dola via Flickr.
An almost inconceivable amount of time ago the North Plains, including North Dakota, were the stomping grounds of dinosaurs. Big ones. And there’s no better place to learn about these massive creatures than at the Dakota Dinosaur Museum, where visitors can see the largest intact triceratops skull in the world, weighing in at 1,500 pounds, and a 65-million-year-old complete T-rex hind leg. The museum also provides some kind of supplementary historical context with information on how archeologists and palaeontologists dig up these prehistoric bones.
Photo by Sunsetchaser1 via Flickr.
Get a big ole’ slice of Americana at the Medora Musical, a rollicking country-western revue honoring the story of Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota. Permanently stationed in Medora in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park with a natural backdrop of endless rolling badlands, this campy but delightful show features singers, dancers, a live on-stage band and live horses. Outside, grab the bull by the horns and an oil-soaked steak by the pitchfork (adequately called Pitchfork Steak Fondue). The Medora Musical runs nightly and has been a local family treasure since 1965.
Photo via their official FB page.
This big brick building on the corner of Willard St. and Sims St. in the heart of downtown Dickinson was built in 1915 and now stands as a warm, sophisticated seafood and steak place. The food is fresh and seasonal (fans of fish should try the ahi tuna), and the wine list is extensive, which makes for a fairly ideal date or girls’ night (they also serve special martinis).
Photo by Chuck (Dennis) Collet via Flickr.
One of the most unique golf course locations in the United States, Bully Pulpit is situated over meadows, woodlands, and badlands threaded along the Little Missouri River. The views from their 7,166 yards are gorgeous from any angle, from the grassy canyons to the winding river. Ranked one of America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses, golfers visiting the area don’t want to miss this one.
Photo via the Medora.com site.
The Rough Riders Hotel is a historic, Western-themed hotel in the middle of downtown Medora. The hotel has been newly renovated, so it’s not nearly as rough as it sounds, and offers 68 modern guest rooms and 8 historic-style guest rooms. When visitor aren’t out exploring the wilds of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, they can kick back at the hotel’s Theodore’s Dining Room or TR’s Tavern.