15 Best Things to Do in Dickinson, ND

Dickinson, ND
Cavan-Images / shutterstock.com

Standing in the middle of the Great Plains the charming city of Dickinson, an unassuming place offering an authentic North Dakota experience.

It’s located in Stark County, serving as its seat and most populous community with an estimated 35,000+ residents.

This was a sleepy agricultural destination until the North Dakota Oil Bloom in 2006, which prompted rapid population growth.

Today, it stands as one of the fastest-growing cities anywhere in the US.

This prompted the local government, organizations, and private entities to create and maintain recreational areas where the populace can unwind and relax.

That’s why you’ll find several parks, commercial establishments, and entertainment venues all over the city.

Aside from these manmade destinations, the area has a couple of natural attractions that have been there long before the city became a bustling community — lakes, rivers, forests, and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park just around the corner.

So if you’re looking for a place to spend your next holiday getaway, why not take a chance and check out this place?

Here are the 15 best things to do in Dickinson, ND:

Immerse in Local History at Dickinson Museum Center

Badlands Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson, ND
Df9465, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The magnificent Dickinson Museum Center is one of the must-see destinations in the city, offering glimpses of local history and pre-history.

It’s a 12-acre complex with four main sections housing themed exhibits: the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Joachim Regional History Museum, the Pioneer Machinery Hall, and Prairie Outpost Park.

The most famous one is the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, beloved for the life-sized dinosaur exhibits dominating the interiors.

Dinosaur Laboratory at Dickinson Museum Center
Df9465, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While the displays place emphasis on the intimidating creatures, the museum also houses minerals, rocks, and other items related to natural history.

Inside the Joachim Regional History Museum, you’ll find history exhibits and local artworks, including a Western art gallery and a dollhouse.

Pioneer Machinery Hall focuses on the agricultural heritage of Stark County, featuring farming implements and equipment used in the bygone eras.

The Prairie Outpost Park is not a single building compared to others, composed of several structures that showcase life in Dickinson during its early days.

So you’ll find a train depot, a church, a general store, and even European buildings.

Commune with Nature at Rocky Butte Park

One of the favorite green spaces in Dickinson is the scenic Rocky Butte Park, located just a few blocks away from the Dickinson Museum Center.

It’s an expansive and pristine attraction that gives off an isolated vibe thanks to the dense forests on the park’s grounds.

To preserve this tranquil vibe, the local government did little modern development in Rocky Butte Park.

So you’ll only find a handful of picnic shelters, a playground, restrooms, and a looping trail that runs the perimeter of the park.

The latter is a great place to explore after a busy day, whether on a bike or by jogging.

You’ll get to see the deeper sections of the forest as well as the rocky outcroppings from which the park is named.

Shop ‘Til You Drop at Prairie Hills Mall

The bustling Prairie Hills Mall is one of the only retail centers in an otherwise very isolated section of North Dakota.

So it’s no wonder that it has become the favorite hangout place in Dickinson and the surrounding towns.

Within its expansive complex, you’ll find 27 stores and establishments offering an array of goods and services.

These include restaurants offering tasty dishes, boutique fashion stores with great finds, and beauty shops offering premium products.

So if you’re looking for a destination where your retail needs are met, this is the place to be.

Aside from shopping, you can join the regular events at the mall, including holiday celebrations and grand sales.

Go Rock Climbing at the West River Community Center

The modern West River Community Center is Dickinson’s premier recreational and fitness center, offering an array of amenities in a 135,000-square-foot complex.

It provides the community access to programs and facilities that promote wellness, entertainment, and health.

Visitors are welcome too; you’d only need to pay the daily fee.

Once you’re inside, you’ll feel the “western edge” of the interiors, with designs that mimic the rugged North Dakota landscape.

This motif carries over to the various sections of the center, each with varying activities offered.

On one end, you’ll see indoor track fields, playgrounds, and gymnasiums where sports tournaments and community activities take place.

There are also indoor swimming pools, golf simulators, and rock climbing walls that will surely test your endurance.

Outside, a small water park stands gleaming under the sun, with slides, a lazy river, and a zero-depth entry pool.

The rest of the property consists of open fields used for softball, baseball, and football matches.

Taker a Cooling Dip at Patterson Lake Recreation Area

The gorgeous Patterson Lake Recreation Area is one of the most enduring natural attractions in Dickinson.

It stands in stark contrast to the grasslands and fields of the region, with magnificent views of dark blue waters forming Patterson Lake.

Thanks to its vast grounds and modern amenities, this place has become the premier attraction for water-related activities.

You’re welcome to go swimming, waterskiing, kayaking, and fishing in the lake.

But if you don’t want to get wet yet, you can stay on the banks and marvel at the scenery.

There are also plenty of campsites surrounding the lake, so you can bring tents or RVs and stay next to the lake overnight.

While on the grounds, you can play on the horseshoe pits, win a few rounds of volleyball, or test your accuracy on the disc golf course.

For those who want peace and isolation, explore the nature trails and get away from the city noise for as long as you want.

Play a Few Rounds at Heart River Golf Course

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, you’ll have a great time swinging your club at the beautiful Heart River Golf Course.

This attraction sits next to the eponymous river, providing magnificent views that enthrall any player.

And since it’s a public facility, anyone can book a tee time and play in the open and verdant fields.

But don’t underestimate this designation as Heart River Golf Course has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the region, thanks to the local parks department’s efforts.

This 18-hole golf course mimics that gentle rolling terrain of the area, creating a fair but challenging layout.

So bring your A-game when visiting this attraction — you won’t regret it!

Cruise the Gentle Waters of the Heart River

The meandering Heart River is another significant water feature in Dickinson, irrigating the surrounding lands and serving as the water source for Patterson Lake.

Spanning 180 miles, it begins as a small creek flowing from the valleys of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park before becoming tributary of the Missouri River.

Along the way, it cleaves through the southern edges of Dickinson’s city proper but not before it gets impounded by Dickinson Dam.

There are many things to enjoy along the river’s length, such as kayaking and boating along the more isolated sections.

These are usually surrounded by trees where local wildlife finds refuge.

While on the water, why not try fishing for the freshwater species swimming underneath?

These include channel catfish, walleye, and northern pikes.

Sample Fine Drinks at Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery

The well-known Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery is southwest North Dakota's first year-round, full-service winery.

So you can expect more than wine when you visit this place, located just outside the city limits.

The owners have taken advantage of the mild climate and nutrient-rich agricultural land this side of the US, growing many grape varietals.

They then harvest the lush fruits and manufacture them into dry whites, sweet reds, and fruity roses.

You can visit their tasting room to sample these fine drinks and bring home a bottle or two.

Aside from their proprietary bottles, they offer beer brewed in the same facility.

They also have a restaurant serving tasty local cuisine, best paired with premium beverages manufactured in the winery.

So when they say full-service, they commit to it.

Remember Our Heroes at Memorial Park

The scenic Memorial Park is like the more polished counterpart to Rocky Butte Park, sitting right across it.

While the latter is filled with trees, this attraction has a more developed layout with verdant opened fields and manicured grass.

As you may surmise from the park’s name, this attraction is dedicated to the heroes who served our nation and afforded us our freedom.

You’ll see messages on the actual memorial near the park’s entrance.

Around it are gorgeous airplane models mounted on stands, mimicking the real ones in flight.

The rest of the area is a public-use space filled with modern amenities and facilities.

So you’ll find a well-equipped playground, a bandshell for regular city events, and basketball and tennis courts.

There’s also a nature area and trails for those who want a quick escape from hectic days.

Paint Eggs at Ukrainian Cultural Institute

Before the 19th century ended, there was a population of European migrants who traveled and settled in the Great Plains.

A group of Ukrainians settled in Dickinson, eventually integrating themselves into the local culture while sharing theirs with the American residents.

Today, this heritage is celebrated at the Ukrainian Cultural Institute.

This attraction houses artifacts, collections, folk art, and cultural exhibits showcasing the rich culture of the Ukrainians.

Among these, the most prominent is the “Pysanky" Easter Eggs, which features a set of intricate eggs with fine details and artwork.

Workshops for this egg-decorating technique happen around Easter, so join one if you’re visiting at that time!

In addition, the institute houses a research library where the history of the Ukrainian community is preserved and studied.

Let Your Pooch Play at Dickinson Dog Park

For those with their furry friends, make sure to visit Dickinson Dog Park for a paw-some time!

This attraction is next to Gress Softball Complex, making it an easy-to-find place thanks to the significant landmark.

Here, your pooch can run around and socialize all day without its leash.

And don’t worry if your pet is a tiny chihuahua or pomeranian, as the park has dedicated sections for small and large dogs.

That way, the larger dogs can play ruff without hurting the smaller pooches.

For pet owners, you’ll find benches where you can rest and keep an eye out for any incidents.

There are also clean drinking fountains, sanitation stations, and a nature area that everyone can enjoy.

Cheer for Your Favorite Driver at Southwest Speedway

The rough and rowdy Southwest Speedway is located in the southern boundaries of Dickinson, and it’s where the thrill happens.

This destination is a semi-banked dirt track spanning 3/8 miles and shaped like an oval.

Here, you’ll find IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Stock Cars, IMCA Northern SportMods, and other race cars zoom towards the finish line and create clouds of dust.

To add to the thrill, fans are allowed to enter the pit, letting you see the cars up close and personal.

So bring your cooler and a few bottles of beer and enjoy a night of roaring engines and crowds.

Join an Event at Stark County Fairgrounds & Events Park

The spacious Stark County Fairgrounds & Events Park is another southern attraction located outside the city proper.

As the name implies, this destination serves as the setting for the county fair as well as several other local events.

So many locals and visitors from nearby towns flock to this destination to see bombastic and exhilarating activities.

These include live music concerts, rodeos, monster truck exhibitions, and demolition derbies.

It’s the best place to see unpretentious Great Plains entertainment, just how it was done many years ago.

Try the Restaurants Downtown

To sample the hearty cuisine in this side of North Dakota, visit the establishments downtown!

The area is near the Dickinson Museum Center, so you can head to the local restaurants right after your museum trip.

At Country Kitchen Restaurant, you can grab a bite of homey American staples, including breakfast delights, chicken salads, and sweet cakes.

Los Cabos Family Mexican Restaurant offers a different flavor palate, offering zesty burritos and refreshing cocktails.

The Cajun-style meals at Sanford's Grub & Pub is always a hit, so order their steaks, burgers, and beers for a filling dining experience.

Discover Beautiful Artworks along the Enchanted Highway

The starting point of the intriguing Enchanted Highway is at the very edge of Dickinson, but the rest of the attraction is located in Gladstone.

So when visiting this location, you’ll be leaving the boundaries of the city.

But the trip is very much worth it, as you’d get to see magnificent works of art set against the vast expanse of southwest North Dakota.

These large metal sculptures were created by local artists Gary Greff, who fashioned scrap metal into whimsical sculptures.

You’ll find geese in flight, a giant grasshopper, deer crossing the road, and four other sets scattered along the length of 100 ½ Avenue.

Stop by one of the sculptures and take pictures or have a small picnic under the uninterrupted skies.

Final Thoughts

Dickinson offers a classic North Dakota experience without all the fuss and flashy additions.

So if you’re craving an authentic Great Plains experience, visit the city’s museums, local events, wineries, parks, and so many other attractions!

Use this list as a guide to the best spots!