Snug in the Souris River Valley at the junction of US-2 and US-83, Minot (pop. 49,450; rhymes with “Why not?”) grew so rapidly after the Great Northern Railway came through in 1887 that it was dubbed “Magic City.” Perhaps “Event Capital” would be more apropos today, for despite the city’s importance in other areas, most people visit during the huge state fair (near the end of July) and during autumn’s burgeoning Norsk Høstfest, “North America’s Largest Scandinavian Festival.” The fairgrounds, along the grandly named Burdick Expressway (Business US-2) a half mile east of downtown, also hold the small Pioneer Village and Museum (June-Aug. Tues.-Sat. 12pm-5pm, by appointment the rest of the year) with the usual assembly of turn-of-the-20th-century buildings and artifacts gathered from all over the county.
Minot also has all the traditional homespun attractions of most Great Plains downtowns, with stores selling cowboy hats and Western wear, along with the world-class collectibles (including baseball cards, old magazines, and more than 120,000 classic comics) on sale at Tom’s Coin & Gem Shop (2 SW 1st St., 701/852-4522).
On US-83 south of town, Minot’s newest attraction, Scandinavian Heritage Park (1020 S. Broadway) is set in a pleasant, tree-shaded city park and includes all sorts of things tracing—guess what?—Minot’s Scandinavian heritage: a 230-year-old house from Sigdal, Norway; a Danish windmill; statues and eternal flame honoring famous Scandinavian skiers Casper Oimoen and Sondre Norheim; a waterfall; and a statue of that famous Viking wanderer, Leif Eriksson. Towering over the whole ensemble is a beautiful (and huge!) wooden replica of the medieval Gol Stave Church in Oslo, Norway, and there’s a 25-foot-tall red Dala horse, symbolizing Minot’s Swedish heritage.
In summer, when daytime highs hover in the mid-90s, Minot’s most enticing attractions are the expansive gardens of Roosevelt Park, along the banks of the Souris River between the fairgrounds and downtown Minot. The park, like everything else in North Dakota, is named for Teddy Roosevelt, and there’s a larger-than-life statue of him, astride a horse in full Rough Rider regalia. The shady green space also holds a large swimming pool with a 365-foot-long water slide, a slacker’s dream of a skateboard park, a rideable miniature train, and a 25-acre zoo with a Northern Plains habitat.
To rent bikes and explore the trails of Roosevelt Park, try Val’s Cyclery (222 E. Central Ave., 701/839-4817).
Along with the usual crossroads barrage of franchised fast-food places, Minot supports a couple of local cafés, including a retro-styled train car diner, Kroll’s Diner (1221 SE 20th Ave., 701/839-4111), just off US-2, and a great old 24-hour truck stop, Schatz Crossroads Restaurant (1712 SE 20th Ave., 701/852-0810), farther east on US-2.
Downtown, the longstanding favorite is Charlie’s Main Street Cafe (113 S. Main St., 701/839-6500), just a couple blocks east of US-83, its fluorescent-lit pink vinyl booths full of Minot residents catching up on the local gossip. A couple blocks north, across from the old Soo Line train depot, any big-city superiority complex you might bring with you will disappear during a meal at the warm but sophisticated 10 North Main (10 N. Main St., 701/837-1010), where a wide range of dishes (from locally raised elk and bison steaks, to exotic, line-caught Tasmanian salmon!) is complemented by fine wines and smart cocktails.
After dark, choose from over a dozen haunts, from bingo parlors and low-stakes casinos to country-western honky-tonks and low-key beer bars like the Blue Rider (118 1st Ave. SE, 701/852-9050), a friendly, smoke-free pub with what may be rural North Dakota’s best selection of bottled brews—look for the Grain Belt Beer sign.
Motels are scattered along the congested arteries of both US-83 and US-2, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to sleep (except perhaps during the state fair). To cope with the extreme weather on the northern Great Plains (winter cold and summer heat), locals seek relief in the Dakota Square Mall, southwest of downtown, where room rates at the “World’s Largest” Sleep Inn & Suites (2400 10th St. SW, 701/837-3100, $99 and up) include free use of the Splashdown Dakota Super Slides water park, which has 24,000 square feet of water slides, swimming pools, and a 48-person hot tub.
East of downtown Minot near the fairgrounds, there’s a nice Holiday Inn (2200 E. Burdick Expressway, 701/852-2504 or 888/465-4329, $77 and up).
The Minot Visitors Center (1020 S. Broadway, 701/857-8206), on US-83 south of downtown near the Scandinavian Heritage Park, has complete listings and detailed information on events and activities. Being so central to the state, Minot hosts everything from chili cook-offs to the state softball championships, and there’s usually something going on.