Travel Guide: Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck is the state capital of North Dakota, and is North Dakota’s second largest city. In a Cambridge University Study Bismarck was one of the safest cities in America to live. With a population of 61,389, it is located adjacent to the “Big Muddy” Missouri River.


How to get in:

A new Bismarck Municipal Airport was completed in late 2005 and is now fully operational. It is served by Allegiant Air, Delta, Frontier and United.

What to do:

The Missouri River is a favorite with locals for fishing, swimming, and other water sports. Please keep in mind that rivers can be dangerous. It is important that young children wear life jackets and all people are conscious of those around them.

Lewis and Clark Riverboat is a 150-passenger paddle wheel riverboat based at the Port of Bismarck, River Road, Bismarck. Afternoon and evening round-trip cruises on the Missouri River from the historic Port of Bismarck to Fort Lincoln and the On-A-Slant Mandan Village. Dinner and beverage service available for regular cruises and charters. Narrations and reenactments provided during cruises. Call for regular scheduled cruises from April through October.

The Desert is a local hangout in the summer. The desert is located on the east bank of the Missouri south of the University of Mary. It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the desert by car. A boat ramp (Kimball Bottoms) is located in the area, and continuing past the boat ramp while following the shoreline for about another mile will bring you to a large sandbar beach where you may park your car and camp. This area is often extremely crowded during the summer, especially on holidays and weekends. During the week, it can be much more relaxing. A large area is located adjacent to the beach that is used by off-road vehicles, including dirt bikes and 4-wheelers.

While generally North Dakotans are very respectful and generous people, when large amounts of people are at the desert, it can be a hard place for families to enjoy time together. There is often plenty of partying and alcohol consumption. If you have small children, this is an area best avoided on weekends and major holidays (mainly the 4th of July), especially when the weather is good.

Play Cro-Shoes. This is a great river tradition. The game was invented by Vern Peterson, a local, in 1987. The game combines elements of horse shoes and other games to provide a unique sandbar game. Game sets are available at Scheel’s Sports, located at Kirkwood Mall.

Huff Hills Ski Area, located in the buttes on the western banks of the Missouri River, is the largest downhill ski area in North Dakota, with a vertical drop of 450 feet. Huff Hills is located 18 miles south of Mandan on ND State Highway 1806. The scenic drive takes around 45 minutes from Bismarck, and around 30 minutes from Mandan.

Dakota Zoo is located between Sertoma Park and the Missouri River in southwest Bismarck. It offers many fascinating exhibits, including moose, bears, and river otters.

Superslide Amusement Park offers a superslide, ferris wheel, carousel, batting cages, tubs, swings, bumper cars, critter track, whisper carts, mini-golf, bankshot basketball. Open from May through mid-September, weather permitting.

What to eat:

Keep in mind that most of Bismarck’s commercialized restaurants are off of I-94 Exit 159 (Hwy. 83/State St.) or near Kirkwood Mall on the south side. For a more unique dining experience, explore restaurants in the historic Downtown area. This district’s Fiesta Villa, in the former train station, or Peacock Alley, in the former Patterson Hotel are local favorites.

Many North Dakotans are meat eaters and these restaurants do not disappoint in this area. Pasta entrees and seafood are quite popular as well, rounding out most menus. Due to ND’s landlocked location, seafood must be flown in regularly, so a seared ahi tuna steak is likely to be at least ‘good’. However northern pike, walleye, buffalo, and pheasant are likely to be local and fresh. These items are worth a try to capture a more authentic taste of North Dakota.

The Walrus has been a locally owned restaurant for over 10 years and is a local favorite. Try any one of their signature pasta dishes, unique pizzas, house-made soups, or select from the 20+ beers that they have to offer in addition to their reasonably sized wine menu.

DiDonna’s is an excellent Italian restaurant located just off the Bismarck Expressway. Most pasta dishes range from $10-$13 while seafood costs slightly more.

Peacock Alley American Grill and Bar is located in the historic Patterson Hotel Building, within walking distance of the Bismarck Civic Center and Bismarck’s downtown events. Peacock’s dining room reflects the original glamour of this historical jewel. The wide variety of American entrees are individually prepared to perfection using the freshest local ingredients available. A healthy fresh lunch menu is available daily. Voted the best martini year after year and featuring 23 different tap beers.

Pirogue Grill offers Midwest regional cuisine that changes with the seasons. Featured menu items include walleye, bison, duck, and house-made venison sausage. Great selection of desserts and breads, all made in house; extensive wine list featuring many different varietals.


What to drink:

Bismarck has multiple local adult establishments. Popularity shifts as frequently as the weather. If you’re into the nightlife, you’d be better asking the locals where most people in your age group hang out. Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse, simply called Bucks, is consistently popular with 20- and 30-somethings. The Elbow Room can be a veritable local high school reunion on some weekend nights.

If you like a variety of beers, try O’Briens, Sport’s Page, or Peacock Alley.

The hangout for politicians when the state legislature is in session is the Peacock Alley Bar, located in the historic Patterson Hotel building in downtown Bismarck. Government-types have been calling the “Peacock” their after-hours home for more than half a century. The regular crowd includes a variety ranging from 20-somethings to middle-aged downtown business folk, generally people that appreciate the atmosphere, good conversation, and variety of libations the location has provided since first opening in 1911.


Stay safe:

Bismarck is a relatively safe town. Your biggest danger is the winter weather.

In the winter don’t forget proper clothing for harsh weather. For 20 days between January and February 2004, the temperature did not get above 0 degrees F. The coldest temp was in Minot, ND, at -45F (-75 windchill) while Bismarck was at a “balmy” -43F.

If your car has a block heater, remember to plug it into a wall outlet. Local rental cars will have block heaters installed. If you don’t know what to look for, ask the rental place; they will know. Block heaters will keep the car from freezing up during sub-zero temps.

From April-October, most of the state will conduct its road construction projects. During this season, plan for occasional delays in the city of Bismarck and on the roads to get to the city.


Text courtesy WikiTravel, Creative Commons License



Published: April 16, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 01