15 Best Things to Do in Grand Forks, ND

Grand Forks, ND
Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com

The third-largest city in North Dakota is Grand Forks, which is also the seat of Grand Forks County.

You can find the city on the western banks of the Red River of the North, a river that, of course, flows north.

The French fur traders who came down from Canada named the city Les Grandes Fourches.

Steamboat captain Alexander Griggs started the community after spending a winter there.

In 1870, the town put up a post office, and then it became incorporated in 1881.

Grand Forks received its name from its spot at the fork of the Red Lake and Red Rivers.

Today, the city offers various attractions, comprising cultural venues and historic destinations.

Likewise, Grand Forks is a sports-crazy town, with college sports enjoying great popularity.

Many citizens are fans of the University of North Dakota, for example.

You can also enjoy the city’s selection of recreational areas and activity options.

Do you want to know more about Grand Forks, ND?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Explore Downtown at the Grand Forks Town Square

Aerial view and night ligts of Grand Forks Town Square
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Downtown Grand Forks features several entertainment and activity options to fill an entire afternoon for you and your family.

This district honors the rich history of the city as a trading hub.

Back then, bootleggers, riverboat captains, and fur traders stopped in the city on the banks of the Red River of the North to trade.

An art festival at Grand Forks Town Square
Tuey from Flickr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, downtown Grand Forks carries vibrant public art, unique levees, and interesting shopping destinations.

Downtown also hosts various events like art walks and buzzing nightlife spots like taverns and karaoke joints.

You can also grab a tasty meal at the local eateries. How do you enter this district?

You pass through the iconic Paddlewheel, a wheel of stainless steel that serves as an archway that welcomes each visitor.

Check Out Masterpieces at the North Dakota Museum of Art

The North Dakota Museum of Art should expand your horizons through its diverse collections of national, regional, and international art.

Likewise, you can check out the museum’s innovative human rights exhibitions.

The museum also works with international works and commissions landmark artworks featuring the Northern Plains.

During your visit, you can also drop by the museum’s permanent collections.

One of these collections is the apartment of the late New York City artist and collector Barton Benes.

The apartment features his collections of global oddities and African art.

Your kids might also enjoy the museum’s children’s activities while you listen to a guest lecture.

Then, you can head to the gift shop afterward or hang out at the weekday café.

Admission to the museum is free.

Beat the Heat at Splasher’s of the South Seas

Bring your family to the Splasher’s of the South Seas indoor water park to beat the searing summer heat.

The waterpark features various amenities like a lazy river, a hot tub, a pool, and exciting waterslides.

Your kids can also splash around the kiddie pool.

Likewise, the park also has 13 family cabanas for you to enjoy, complete with a concession stand and bright water features.

All that swimming will make you hungry, so head to Garbonzo’s Pizza and Arcade for an afternoon of fun.

This center has several arcade games with a full snack menu, including Garbonzo’s signature pizza.

Remember the Worst Flood in City History at the Flood Memorial Monument

In 1997, the worst flood to hit Grand Forks in history happened, taking several lives and causing immense damage to homes and infrastructure.

The city’s closeness to a pair of rivers makes it prone to heavy flooding.

To remember the Great Flood of 1997, the city built the Flood Memorial Monument.

This monument should also remind guests of what nature can do.

You can find the Flood Memorial Monument on a flooded bridge.

It takes the form of an obelisk, which also marks the flooding levels that have occurred along the river.

The monument also bears the years of major floods with their maximum water levels.

Likewise, the obelisk’s peak represents the height of the 1997 flood.

Usually, you can walk right up to the obelisk and admire it from one of the nearby benches.

However, rains might cause the river to swell, flooding the base of the monument.

Learn Local History at the Myra Museum

In 1976, the Grand Forks County Historical Society saw the construction of the Myra Museum with funds from the Myra Foundation.

The design of the museum follows the historic Campbell House’s Gothic Revival architecture.

Likewise, the Myra Foundation itself grew out of the legacy of John Myra, an important pioneer who helped settle Emerado, North Dakota.

John Myra ran a lumber business in North Dakota and started a dealership for farm implements.

Then, he bought several properties in Grand Forks County, establishing him as a major landowner.

Several years after his death, the Myra Museum now shows unique exhibits reflecting the rich history of Grand Forks.

These exhibits also begin from the Ice Age to the age of the pioneer settlers.

Spend the Day at the Sertoma Park Japanese Gardens

The Grand Forks Park District maintains Sertoma Park, one of the largest parks under its supervision.

Your tour of Grand Forks will be incomplete if you miss Sertoma Park because of its amenities you won’t find anywhere else.

For example, the park features a unique Japanese Garden, an arboretum, Ali’s Boundless Playground, and various hiking trails.

Why does the park have Japanese Gardens? Many years ago, the town of Awano in Japan became Grand Forks’ sister city.

As a gift, Awano sent three beautiful stone lanterns made out of natural granite rocks to decorate the park, starting the gardens.

Each of these lanterns also bears a name that also carries important meanings.

The Japanese Gardens continue to represent the city’s friendship with another town halfway across the globe.

See a Show at the Empire Arts Center

In 1919, the city of Grand Forks saw the construction of the Empire Arts Center, the home of the Empire Theatre Company.

The theater company continues to stage plays and musicals, host national performers on tour, and screen movies.

Likewise, the historic Empire Arts Center building has undergone extensive restoration and renovation.

Besides live shows, you can also check out the University of North Dakota’s art collection housed in the theater.

Discover the masterpieces of contemporary masters like Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.

The Empire Theater Company also continues to produce thought-provoking and awe-inspiring shows to foster the Grand Forks community’s appreciation for live theater.

Learn “Pioneer History” at the Campbell House

Another historic building you can visit at Grand Forks is the Campbell House, the birthplace of Thomas D. Campbell, Jr.

During his lifetime, Thomas Campbell rose to national prominence as the largest wheat farmer in the country.

Thomas D. Campbell, Sr., and his wife, Almira Richards Campbell, built the house in 1879 according to the Gothic Revival style.

The log-and-timber house also became one of the pioneer houses built along the riverbank.

Today, the Grand Forks Historical Society runs and maintains the Cambell House, transforming it into their main attraction.

Since 1971, the building has operated as a house museum in honor of the female pioneers of Grand Forks.

The house features several divisions such as the Parlor, Summer Kitchen, The Cabin, The Upstairs, and the Master Bedroom.

Each section features a theme that sheds light on the lifestyle of the early settlers in the area.

The various artifacts displayed in each room also tell a part of the story of these pioneering women who ran these households.

Catch a Show at the Historic Fire Hall Theatre

The Fire Hall Theater is another historic building at Grand Forks, and it is the home of the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre.

In 1947, the community established the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, but they didn’t have any performance space.

However, the theater has become recognized as one of the country’s ten oldest community theaters.

Until 1983, the community theater simply held shows wherever they could hold them.

They went to churches, big halls, and hotels.

One of their popular venues was The Westward Ho, thanks to the hotel manager’s enthusiasm for community theater.

In 1982, the community theater bought the old Number One fire hall from the city of Grand Forks.

They restored and renovated the building into a 100-seat theater, renamed the Fire Hall Theater, which opened in 1983.

Today, the Greater Grand Forks Community Theater continues staging live shows at the historic theater.

Explore a Manmade Lake at Ryan Park

Teach your kids to fish at Ryan Lake, the manmade lake serving as the centerpiece of Ryan Park.

You can find this lake near the King’s Walk Golf Course.

During your visit, you can go to the pier and bond with your kid overfishing lessons.

Likewise, the park has a picnic shelter for you to enjoy a cozy lunch with your family.

Besides fishing, the park also features nature trails for hiking and biking.

You can also bring your kids to the playground in case your kid wants to play on land.

If you fish, though, you’ll need to follow all local and state fishing laws.

Bring Your Kids to Widman’s Candy Shop

Your kids will surely enjoy trying the unusual chocolate-covered potato chips, called “Chippers,” sold only at Widman’s Candy Shop in Grand Forks.

Likewise, many of the candy shop’s products are made from the state’s local crops.

Besides potatoes, the shop makes candies from soybeans, sunflower seeds, and wheat nuts.

What makes Chippers so good?

The combination of the chips’ saltness and the chocolates’ sweetness explodes in your mouth, as the chips crackle and the chocolate melts on your tongue.

You can grab several versions of Chipper, from milk chocolate ones to the semi-sweet dark chocolate editions.

Widman’s Candy also sells candies known as “hot air,” also known as fairy food or seafoam.

These are spun molasses coated in chocolate and sold as chunks.

Expand your sweet tooth by trying the unusual concoctions at Widman’s.

Practice Your Swing at the King’s Walk Golf Course

If you want to play golf deep in the prairies, visit the King’s Walk Golf Course at Grand Forks.

This golf course follows the classic design and lets you swing to your hearts’ content in a natural prairie environment.

True to its name, the course also brings you the same regal atmosphere as the iconic links courses in Ireland and Scotland.

Not only will you enjoy a round of golf with your buddies, but you’ll also admire the look and style of this Arnold Palmer-designed masterpiece.

Likewise, the golf course also features a restaurant and pro shop when you feel like taking a break from the game.

Try Craft Beer at Rhombus Guys Brewing Company

The historic Metropolitan Opera House in Grand Forks houses the Rhombus Guys Brewing Company, your destination for truly unique and delicious ales.

The owners, Matt and Arron, serve up a variety of popular brews like IPAs, pales, sours, ambers, and stouts.

Likewise, the brewery features a restaurant that cooks up mouth-watering dishes such as bangers and mash, fresh Angus burgers, and Scotch eggs.

You can also try the best fried Brussels sprouts in town. Many of the meals also enjoy a great connection with beer.

For example, the homemade pretzels come with a beer cheese dip, and the pub fries have a coat of pulled pork and beer cheese.

They also have a bacon mac ‘n’ beer cheese that will change your world.

Grab Fresh Produce at the Town Square Farmers Market

Get a headstart on your healthy lifestyle by grabbing fresh produce at the Town Square Farmers Market in downtown Grand Forks.

This farmers market takes place from June to September, every Saturday.

You can buy freshly picked fruits and vegetables, along with flowers and baked products.

Likewise, the market also offers souvenirs like handmade jewelry and artwork.

When you get hungry, you can also drop by the nearby food trucks to sample delicious snacks and food items.

Otherwise, just stay put and listen to the terrific musicians playing on the main stage.

Enjoy Drinks and Music at Half Brothers Brewing Company

You can find this family-owned brewery on North 3rd Street in Grand Forks.

This company specializes in crafting delicious beers and cooking savory food.

For example, sibling owners Chad and Taylor have crafted signature brews like the Bully Brew Brown Ale, Green Tea Pale Ale, Chokecherry Gose, and the Smash Bros. Series.

You can also grab hot pizzas and snacks for your buddies to enjoy.

Every night, musicians also put on lively shows on the brewery stage.

Final Thoughts

Grand Forks is rightly proud of its historical, cultural, and recreation options.

You can visit its museums, explore its parks, and try out flavorful dining choices.

Get away for a weekend and book your Grand Forks trip today!