Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Bismarck, ND

  • Published 2023/03/08

With an area of 90 square kilometers and a population of approximately 72,000 people, Bismarck is the capital city of North Dakota.

The city is the ideal combination of an urban landscape with the perfect ambiance and presence of nature.

The amalgamation of political and socially significant history with beautiful art and culture is also another landmark of Bismarck.

The city is loaded with historical monuments, mansions, parks, and buildings.

Simultaneously, Bismarck is also a paradise of nature’s bounty, with its beautiful flowing rivers, green valleys, and nature parks with lush vegetation.

Along with this, the city is filled with amusement parks, galleries, nature parks, shopping malls, and historic towers.

Are you interested in finding out what more North Dakota’s capital has to offer?

These are the best things to do in Bismarck, North Dakota:

Take a Walk through the Chief Looking’s Village

Why not start the journey with a swift walk in the lap of nature?

The Chief Looking’s Village is a historic and beautiful walking area located on North West Burnt Boat Drive.

This place is beautifully located among long stretches of green valleys and lush vegetation all around, with the river crossing nearby.

One can have simple walks with the family at this scenic masterpiece or watch and capture a perfect sunset view.

Hiking is another outdoor activity that is often enjoyed at the Chief Looking’s Village.

Altogether, this walking area is a nature lover’s paradise.

Tour the North Dakota State Capitol

Exterior of State Capitol in Bismarck

Randall Runtsch /

Located on East Boulevard Avenue, the North Dakota State Capitol is one of the most spectacular government buildings in the state.

The entire area is breathtaking, with numerous statues and monuments and a vast green ground for workers and tourists.

For those willing to see the building, regular tours are provided; self-guided tour brochures are also available for convenience.

House of representatives chamber in North Dakota State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

The top floor of the building has an observatory to get an astounding view of the entire surrounding area and the skyline of Bismarck.

The architecture of the North Dakota State Capitol is a treat to see with its statement Art Deco style, and the wooden work in and around the building is another example of fine art.

There is an observatory located on the 18th floor, and the main hall and ground floor halls are filled with beautiful paintings to observe.

Welcome sign of North Dakota State Capitol

Joseph Sohm /

Meet the Animals at the Dakota Zoo

Cute prairie dogs at Dakota Zoo

Karel Bock /

The Dakota Zoo is one of the most sought-after locations in Bismarck.

It was first inaugurated in 1961 with a whopping number of around 100 different animals and 40,000 visitors.

At present, the fame of the zoo has led to its housing more than 600 animals of over 125 different species.

The 90-acre Dakota Zoo receives more than 150,000 visitors every year.

Bald eagle at Dakota Zoo

Amber Earnest /

There are indoor learning centers to learn about the animals, as well as petting zoos where visitors can interact with them.

The zoo also has a beehive, so visitors may observe bees in their natural habitat.

Apart from beautiful white Bengal tigers and other species of tigers, there are huge creatures like bison, camels, reindeers, mountain lions, wolves, baggers, sloths, otters, pumas, musk deer, and more.

There is something for everyone at the Dakota Zoo.

A cougar at Dakota Zoo

Matt Reinbold, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

Exterior of North Dakota Heritage center and state museum

Nagel Photography /

The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum is like a short summarizing point of the entire Bismarck and North Dakota.

Located at 612 E Boulevard Avenue, the area has four galleries that sum up the state’s art history and culture.

The museum is filled with endless artifacts, high-technology displays, beautiful galleries, and indulging exhibits.

Dinosaur skeletons exhibit in North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

State Historical Society of North Dakota, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s home to a spectacular Northern Lights Atrium, which is the only one of its kind in the US.

The outdoor Pembina River Plaza hosts geological specimens from history.

After exploring the museum, one can relax and get some refreshments at the James River Cafe.

Apart from this, one can also buy memorabilia from the museum’s in-house gift shop.

Welcome sign of North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

Steve Cukrov /

Get Informed at North Dakota’s Gateway to Science

North Dakota’s Gateway to Science is one of the finest science museums in the state.

It is the perfect center for entertainment and knowledge for visitors of all ages, making it an ideal place to visit with the whole family.

There are many exhibits to check out and a number of guides to take you through the center.

There are different rooms for kids of different ages filled with science activities.

There are brain teasers that even grown adults may take time to solve.

There are areas dealing with sound waves and the human brain, along with magnetic equipment that is bound to get you hooked.

Have Fun at Keelboat Park

Sculptures at Keelboat Park

Kwanchanog Noiinwong /

Once you land at Keelboat Park, you are bound to get a strong taste of American history, heritage and culture.

The whole area is like a water spot with the river running beside it, and the center of attention is the massive Keelboat kept safely as a heritage symbol.

Keelboats have a long history in the American lifestyle, much before modern ships and cruises.

A keelboat displayed on the grounds of Keelboat Park

Steve Cukrov /

These were used to transport goods and people.

Especially on this route of the Missouri River, the use of keelboats was highly significant.

You can take rides from here and take all the pictures you want of the beautiful view, the historic monument, and the boats.

Kids are allowed to go around it and play.

Thunderbirds sculpture at Keelboat Park

Steve Cukrov /

See the Beauty of the Belle Mehus Auditorium

The Belle Mehus Auditorium is one of the most regal auditoriums in North Dakota.

It is named after Belle Mehus, a piano teacher from Bismarck.

The very exterior of the building is a mixture of Art Deco and classic European architecture, while the indoors are incredibly spacious and comfortable with a deeply classical ambiance.

The auditorium was constructed in the form of a gallery, with a beautiful chandelier that makes the entire area look golden.

This stunning venue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

An endless array of shows takes place here, from performances featuring Beethoven’s music to Italian operettas to screenings of Birth of a Nation.

Let Super Slide Amusement Park Amuse You

In between tours and sightseeing around Bismarck, make sure to take a break every now and then and have some fun.

For that, there is hardly any place better than Super Slide Amusement Park.

Located just next to the Dakota Zoo, this place has so many fun rides to try out that you might end up having to stay the night here.

The staff is very friendly and accommodating.

There are swings, miniature golf, bouncy houses, and water slides.

In addition, Super Slide Amusement Park has jumping rooms and wall climbing facilities.

Set aside a whole day to have a fun-filled time there!

Step into History at Camp Hancock State Historic Site

A house at Camp Hancock State Historic Site

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Camp Hancock State Historic Site is located on East Main Avenue.

It is known for preserving part of a military installation called Camp Greely, which was established in 1872 to protect those constructing the North Pacific Railroad.

It is astounding to see how some of the log headquarters still stand tall with the help of several modifications.

The site is practically where Bismarck had begun.

To date, the grounds manage to look breathtaking with their classic red-brick architecture and the beautiful locomotives kept as valuable artifacts.

The 1894 weather station can still be witnessed here, too.

While standing here, one might feel like they have gone back to the olden times.

Test the Waters on a Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruise

Signage of Lewis and Clark Riverboat

Steve Cukrov /

The Lewis and Clark Riverboat can safely be called the best passenger vessel in the upper Missouri Area.

The best way to spend one of your days in Bismarck must include taking a nice ride on a riverboat.

Everything about the Lewis and Clark Riverboat Cruise is beautiful.

Lewis and Clark Riverboat docked for winter

Steve Cukrov /

The scenes you’ll see are breathtaking, including green valleys and a beautiful river.

If you plan to go on a sunset ride, you’ll get to witness double the beauty, as the sunset views are ethereal.

The cruises are incredibly well-equipped, with sitting areas and tables for convenience and guides to help you with information.

Visitors may also listen to audio guides that speak of the history of the Missouri River.

Sit by the Missouri River

A bridge over Missouri river

John Brueske /

After spending much time amid the city’s hustle and bustle, simply sitting by the Missouri River is something one might want to do.

If you prefer, you also have the option to take a peaceful drive by the river.

The area around the river has a beautiful railroad bridge and extremely scenic views.

It is a perfect place for couples to sit by and watch soothing sunsets.

The area also is also surrounded by beautiful sculptures.

Sunset over Missouri River

Carter Tomac /

The river is one of the most peaceful streams in North Dakota, providing a perfect place for families and individuals to enjoy all sorts of activities.

You can simply take your family here and have a nice picnic by the river.

One can even go and take a nice swim or dip at the river for fun.

Apart from admiring its scenic beauty, you can also enjoy various water activities here.

The Missouri River is a fine area for activities like kayaking, boating, waterskiing, and more.

Check Out the Former Governor’s Mansion

Exterior of Former Governor’s house

Plazak, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From 1893 to 1960, more than 20 executives and their families stayed at the Governor’s Mansion.

Today, it functions as a museum and is open for the public to explore.

The top-notch architecture is breathtaking, and the soft green mansion gives a proper Victorian aura.

Everything in the mansion is marked and labeled with information.

There is a basement and a beautiful staircase that will lead you to the classic gorgeous film-like environment in which the inhabitants used to live.

All the rooms are beautifully arranged for showcasing to the public.

There are areas where the servants worked, the families lived, and the kids played.

The Former Governor’s Mansion has exhibits that showcase the beautiful architectural style, as well as the historical, social, and political significance of the place.

Find Peace at McDowell Dam Recreation Area

McDowell Dam Recreation Area is another peaceful spot in the heart of Bismarck.

The nature park, located on 93rd Street, is loved by locals and tourists.

This area is a stretch of nature located by the water, so there are loads of fun-filled activities to enjoy here.

To add to this, there is a playground where kids can have fun with slides and swings.

Most tourists enjoy surfing, boating, fishing, or kayaking at McDowell Dam Recreation Area.

It’s also an excellent place to have a picnic with the family or simply enjoy some quiet time.

Hit the Ball at Hawktree Golf Club

How about enjoying some golf in the lap of nature?

The Hawktree Golf Club stretches over 7,000 yards and is home to an 18-hole golf course.

The area looks like a piece of heaven and is unbelievably large, lush, and smooth with water fountains and nice prairie grass.

Hawk Tree Golf Club’s course is considered the number one golf course in North Dakota.

The place also comprises a clubhouse where you can come to relax and have a bite after a good game.

Go Shopping at Kirkwood Mall

In addition to touring, fishing, picnicking, and fun-filled sightseeing, you would surely not want to miss out on your Bismarck shopping.

Kirkwood Mall, near the expressway and 7th Street, is your best bet.

The place is drop-dead gorgeous, with numerous coffee shops and restaurants for your refreshments.

Fine brands like Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle Outfitters and many more retailers are available here.

Experience an Incredible Dinner at the Walrus Restaurant

The Walrus Restaurant on North 3rd Street offers some of the best craft beers in the area, and you have to try them out if you get the chance.

Their food isn’t half bad, either; it’ll definitely fill you up and leave you wanting more.

Their Santa Fe chicken and Bailey Burger, for example, are delectable delights that will make anyone’s mouth water.

They also serve different kinds of pizzas and pasta, so pick your favorite and order that.

But of course, the craft beers are the star of the show, so check out their beer and wine menu when you arrive and try the ones that are most appealing to you.

View Artistic Works at Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative

You’ll find Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative at 222 North 4th Street.

This establishment aims to seek out local artists who share the same vision and bring them together to help the public gain curiosity and appreciation for the local art scene.

The space is operated by and for these artists, giving them a much more accessible and creative environment than they would otherwise have.

This attitude shows in the imagination and inspiration they have on display in the different exhibited pieces.

Wander through History at Buckstop Junction

Buckstop Junction is an open-air museum located east of the Bismarck Expressway.

The site is filled with old buildings that were constructed by some of the people who first moved to the prairies of North Dakota.

Hear their stories and find out about their struggles and victories.

The buildings weren’t from this site originally but moved here to give the feel of a town that existed centuries before.

Wandering the area feels like a trip back to the past where you can see what it was like for Bismarck’s early settlers.

Spend a Relaxing Day at Sertoma Park

Sertoma Park, which is found at 300 Riverside Park Road, is one of the most beloved parks in the city.

It’s the perfect spot for people looking to have a nice and relaxing time with their family and friends.

The area also has several playgrounds where kids can run around and burn off some extra energy after a full day of traveling and sightseeing.

You can even find some sand volleyball courts in the park.

Give those a shot and play a game with your traveling companions; show off your skills and prove yourself to be the best at the sport.

Have a Fine Dining Experience at Pirogue Grille

Pirogue Grille opened in September 2005 and has shown its culinary expertise and passionate desire to provide the best dining experience to all its patrons since its inception.

They have an extensive menu, so be sure to check that out while you’re there and see what you’re craving.

If you can’t seem to choose, ask about their weekly specials and let them narrow down your options for you.

The restaurant also offers its patrons an extensive wine list to make the dining experience all the more rich and fulfilling.

Eat, Drink and Have Fun at Laughing Sun Brewing Co.

Laughing Sun Brewing Co. is the perfect spot to enjoy good food, beers, and some company, too.

This brewpub restaurant is located on East Front Avenue and is the first of its kind in Bismarck.

They’ve been serving hand-crafted ales and specialty beers since 2012 in a relaxed, community-friendly space.

Take a glimpse of local artwork displayed on the walls or play some board games while sipping beers.

Test your skills in axe throwing and level up with spears, ninja stars tomahawks, or cards; of course, you need to be 18 years old and older to get into the game.

Food items range from shareable like LSB House Pretzel, Slider Trio, and LSB Wings in different flavors to full-meal LSB Bowls like Brisket, Pulled Pork, or Buffalo Turkey Loaded Mac, Soup of the Day, and Garden Salad.

Try assorted sandwiches, BBQ Plates, and their popular BBQ Brisket, Pulled Pork, Smoked Turkey, and St. Louis Style Ribs; likewise, have room for desserts.

Otto’s Lager, Sultans Revenge, and Cosmic Panther are just some of the draft brews you can try in the Taproom; they also have house-made sodas and sparkling water, and wine selections you can try.

Laughing Sun Brewing Co. also features live music performances, Open Mic Nights, and Wednesday’s Trivia Nights.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at General Sibley Park and Campground

A playground at General Sibley Park and Campground

Willandm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take your family for a day of outdoor fun at General Sibley Park and Campground.

Located on South Washington Street, the park’s day-use area is available to visitors all year round.

Pack some lunch and have a picnic at the shelters, then stop by the interpretative trails to learn a bit of local history.

You can explore the Missouri River and launch your canoe or kayak from the park’s boat ramp.

Enjoy hours of disc golf, horseshoe, or sand volleyball; likewise, you can go geocaching or have some fun with little ones on the playground.

For something more laidback, you can look for the Little Free Library and read the poems on the Poetry Boxes dotted around the park.

If you’re planning to camp, they offer RV campsites with hook-ups, or you can go primitive camping at the designated tent camping area.

Have a great campout at General Sibley Park and Campground.

Browse Through Fine Art Pieces at The Capital Gallery

Spend a day for art appreciation and visitThe Capital GalleryonNorth 4th Street.

This fine art gallery is open daily and has been welcoming art lovers and featuring local artists since 2016.

Originally operated by the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, the gallery is now overseen and run by The Capital Gallery Foundation, aiming to continually share art with the public.

You can catch talented featured artists showcasing their original works from inspiring oil paintings to amazing sculpture pieces.

View the exhibits and admire the creations of Ellen Diedrich, Bev Franz, and Kate Baldock, to name a few.

Take time to see the detailed sculptures works of James McCulloch and Michael Westergard, and so much more.

Have an enjoyable art experience at The Capital Gallery.

Discover the Meaning of Bismarck’s Eagle Sculptures

View of steamboat park's Eagle Sculpture

Steve Cukrov /

TheEagle Sculptures in Bismarck’s community parks were built in collaboration with some students from United Tribes Technical College, the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District, and the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The plan to enhance the public’s park and trail experiences started during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebrations.

Walk the trails, enjoy the views, and discover the story behind the sculpture pieces.

You’ll find the Thunderbirds on Keelboat Park which represent the giant birds that were often related to thunderstorms, but to the Native Americans, they were enormous gods who were part of the Great Spirit.

See the Gathering of Visions, the mosaic art at Sertoma Park which symbolizes the diverse culture in North Dakota; you’ll also catch a glimpse of The Keeper at this park which represents the uniqueness of the local community, the state, and the country.

Head out to Steamboat Park and you’ll find the Reflections, the sculpture which reminds everyone to treat every living being with respect.

The last of Bismarck’s Eagle Sculptures is the Rising Eagle located in Pioneer Park; you can sit on the benches connected to the circular wall to reflect and appreciate the art figures.

Get the Best Local Produce at Capital Farmer’s Market

From June to October, you can catch the weeklyCapital Farmer’s Market for some fresh and unique local products.

Come by and visit Tatley Eagles Park every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from late morning to early afternoon.

Likewise, you can drop by on Saturdays at the Tractor Supply Co. parking lot from morning until noon.

Shop for fresh food ingredients or buy something to give on a special occasion.

You’ll find rows of vendors selling homegrown vegetables and fruits, farm-raised meats, fresh eggs, herbs, and a variety of food products like jams, honey, baked goodies, and canned goods.

You’ll also find other items like coffee, wines, prepared food items, and something for your pets, too.

There’s also an array of handcrafted items to choose from.

Enjoy shopping for your needs at Capital Farmer’s Market.

Final Thoughts

Bismarck is filled with natural wonders and historical sites, and that makes it an ideal destination for any tourist who chooses to come its way.

There are a lot of museums to explore, natural attractions to see, and good food to eat.

What else could you possibly ask for?

So, book your trip today and see this wondrous place with your own eyes.

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