Minot, North Dakota, a small town an hour from the Canadian border, has undergone several transformations over the past century. It was previously nicknamed the "Magic City" as a result of its rapid growth, but it also gained the moniker "Little Chicago" after it became a hotbed of cross-border criminal activity during Prohibition.
Today the town has lost the underworld excitement of its past, but another element of its history – its large population with Scandinavian ancestry – is marked in the unexpectedly wonderful Scandinavian Heritage Park. There are also a couple of nature reserves just beyond the town’s bounds.
North Dakota has a large community of residents with Scandinavian ancestry, and a remarkable 31% of the state’s population claims Norwegian ancestry. A real gem in Minot is the Scandinavian Heritage Park, set up to honor and evoke the cultures of Scandinavia. It is full of interesting features, statues, buildings, even landscaped gardens and a sauna, all modeled on traditional Nordic designs. Most spectacular of all is a life-size replica of the architecturally-astonishing Gol Stave Church in Norway.
Established in 1920 with the arrival of a bison from Montana, the Roosevelt Park Zoo is something of a Minot institution. It’s very kid-friendly, a welcoming and clearly well-run zoo. The animals are quite eclectic: there are bears, a leopard, an African lion, a giraffe, a kangaroo, gibbons, a Chilean tarantula and a Scottish Highland Cow. There are also occasional educational events such as a Zoo Camp.
Established in 1986 in a large hangar-like museum space, this exhibition displays an impressive range of both military and civilian planes. These are carefully looked after and there is usually a knowledgeable staff member around to discuss the exhibits. The museum also has restoration projects and plays a role in the region’s air shows.
Photo via their official FB page.
Minot is a far cry from becoming a destination for the world’s gourmets, but it does have a small smattering of decent places to eat. One of these is Ten North Main, across the street from the historic Soo Line Train Depot. This cozy and comfortable restaurant serves a mix of straightforward and satisfying meat, fish and pasta dishes.
Aptly named with its rose-hued facade and substantial garden, the Dakotah Rose is a welcoming bed and breakfast in the center of town. As with its culinary scene, Minot is not exactly packed with luxury hotels, but the Dakotah Rose is a very nice place to pass a few nights.