The 15 Best Things to Do in Bismarck: A Traveler’s Guide to North Dakota’s Gem

Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck is a city where history, nature, and culture converge to create a unique and vibrant experience for visitors.  Known for its rich historical background, scenic beauty along the Missouri River, and growing arts and culinary scene, Bismarck offers a plethora of activities that cater to all interests.

It goes the same road as many other cities in the state, like Fargo.

Let us take a look at some of the best things you can do in this city.

15. Bearscat Bakehouse

Bearscat Bakehouse

Bearscat Bakehouse stands out as a renowned donut shop located in the heart of Bismarck celebrated for its extensive array of donut flavors and styles.

This bakery has gained popularity not just for its intriguing and memorable name but also for the exceptional quality of its sweet offerings. It has become a go-to destination for anyone who cherishes indulging in sugary delights.

The shop’s reputation is built on its commitment to offering a diverse selection of donuts, catering to a wide range of tastes and preferences. Whether you’re a fan of classic glazed donuts, enjoy rich and filled varieties, or prefer something more adventurous and unique, Bearscat Bakehouse has something to satisfy every type of donut lover.

  • Highlights:
    • Wide variety of unique and classic donuts.
    • Playful and welcoming atmosphere.
    • A must-visit for sweet treat lovers.
    • Locally loved and recommended.

14. Fort McKeen Infantry Post

Fort McKeen Infantry Post

Fort McKeen Infantry Post stands as a notable historical site, rich in military heritage and offering an insightful journey into the past. This location serves as a window into the military history of the region, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the experiences of soldiers who were once stationed there.

As guests wander through the grounds, they have the opportunity to explore a variety of well-preserved structures. The old barracks, which once housed the soldiers, provide a vivid picture of their daily lives. These barracks, with their authentic historical architecture, offer a tangible connection to the past.

  • Highlights:
    • Historical military site with well-preserved buildings.
    • Insight in the life of 19th-century soldiers.
    • Educational and engaging for history enthusiasts.
    • Part of Bismarck’s rich historical heritage.

13. North Dakota State Capitol

North Dakota State Capitol

The North Dakota State Capitol, an impressive and towering structure, is a remarkable example of Art Déco architecture.

This iconic edifice, often referred to as the “Skyscraper on the Prairie,” is a standout landmark in the region, offering a distinct and unique architectural experience in Bismarck, the state capital.

The Capitol’s design and height make it a focal point in the area, drawing visitors and architecture enthusiasts alike.

Its Art Déco style, characterized by sleek lines and an emphasis on modernity, reflects the era’s fascination with progress and innovation, making the building not just a government hub but also a symbol of historical and architectural significance.

12. North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum stands as a remarkable repository of history and culture, offering a wealth of knowledge and insights completely free of charge to the public.

This esteemed institution is home to a diverse array of exhibits that meticulously chronicle the passage of time, ranging from the ancient epochs of prehistory right through to the contemporary period. It serves as a vital educational center, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to delve into the geological and anthropological past of North Dakota.

Through its comprehensive displays and resources, the museum enlightens its guests about the state’s rich heritage, showcasing the various stages of its evolution and the significant events that have shaped its identity.

  • Highlights:
    • Free admission.
    • Diverse exhibits from prehistoric to modern times.
    • Famous dinosaur exhibits.
    • Interactive children’s area.

11. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park stands as a remarkable fusion of natural splendor and rich historical importance. This unique park serves as the location of two significant historical sites: a military fort and a meticulously reconstructed Mandan Indian Village.

These features offer visitors an immersive experience into the diverse history of the region.

The military fort, once an active post, played a crucial role in the area’s past, providing insights into military life and strategies of the time. It’s a place where history buffs can step back in time and imagine the life of soldiers and strategists who once occupied the space.

  • Highlights:
    • Historical military fort and Mandan Indian Village.
    • Scenic hiking trails.
    • Views of the Missouri River.
    • Rich cultural and natural heritage.

10. Dakota Zoo

Dakota Zoo at Bismarck

The Dakota Zoo, renowned as the largest zoological park in North Dakota, boasts an impressive collection of wildlife, housing over 600 different species. This zoo has established itself as a premier family-friendly destination, offering visitors an opportunity to experience a diverse array of animals.

Its inhabitants include a wide variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish, each living in habitats designed to mimic their natural environments as closely as possible.

Beyond its role as a center for public amusement and learning, the Dakota Zoo is deeply committed to conservation efforts. This commitment is evident in its various programs and initiatives aimed at preserving wildlife and their habitats.

The zoo’s involvement in conservation extends to participating in global efforts, breeding programs for endangered species, and educating the public about environmental stewardship.

  • Highlights:
    • Numerous animal species.
    • Family-friendly environment.
    • Active in conservation and animal protection
    • Educational programs and exhibits.

9. Lewis and Clark Riverboat

Lewis and Clark Riverboat

The Lewis and Clark Riverboat presents a truly distinctive and memorable method for discovering the wonders of the Missouri River. Embarking on this historic paddle wheeler, passengers are treated to an array of scenic cruises that showcase the stunning landscapes of Bismarck from a unique vantage point on the water.

As the riverboat gently glides along the river, guests are enveloped in the natural beauty of the surroundings, offering a serene and picturesque journey.

Riverboat experience is not just about the visual delights; it also serves as an educational voyage. Passengers are provided with fascinating insights into the rich history of the area, making each trip both informative and enjoyable. This blend of relaxation and learning creates an enriching experience that appeals to a wide range of interests.

  • Highlights:
    • Scenic cruises on the Missouri River.
    • Historic paddle wheeler experience.
    • Educational content about local history.

8. Keelboat Park

Keelboat Park Bismarck

Keelboat Park, situated gracefully along the banks of the Missouri River, stands as a tranquil haven that seamlessly blends natural splendor with a rich tapestry of historical importance. The park derives its name from a striking feature – a meticulously crafted replica of a keelboat, a nod to the bygone era of river navigation and exploration.

This picturesque park serves as a living tribute to the legendary Lewis and Clark expedition, a pivotal journey in American history. Scattered throughout the lush greenery of the park are various art installations and statues.

These pieces not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the park but also serve as educational and commemorative elements, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and the monumental journey undertaken by Lewis and Clark.

  • Highlights:
    • Replica of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat.
    • Art installations and historical statues.
    • Ideal for picnics and sunset viewing.

7. Former Governor’s Mansion

Bismarck Former Governor’s Mansion

The Former Governor’s Mansion in North Dakota serves as a remarkable portal to a bygone era, offering a vivid glimpse into the lives and times of the state’s governors who resided there from 1893 to 1960. This mansion, a splendid example of Victorian-era architecture, stands as a testament to the period’s aesthetic and cultural values.

It has been carefully and painstakingly preserved to maintain its historical integrity. Visitors to the mansion can explore an array of period-specific furniture, each piece telling its own story of the past. The mansion also includes informative exhibitions that detail the extensive restoration efforts undertaken to keep the house in its original state.

These exhibitions not only highlight the architectural and historical significance of the mansion but also provide insights into the conservation techniques used to preserve such a vital piece of North Dakota’s heritage.

  • Highlights:
    • Victorian-era architecture and furnishings.
    • Historical significance as the residence of past governors.
    • Exhibitions on the mansion’s restoration.
    • Insight into North Dakota’s political history.

6. McDowell Dam Nature Park

McDowell Dam

McDowell Dam Nature Park, a picturesque recreational area, is centered around a beautifully constructed man-made lake. This park has become a favored destination for a variety of outdoor activities. During the warm summer months, it draws a significant number of visitors who come to enjoy its inviting waters.

Swimming is a popular pastime here, with people of all ages taking pleasure in the refreshing lake.

Apart from swimming, the park is also a well-known spot for fishing enthusiasts. Anglers find this location ideal for casting their lines, hoping to catch a variety of fish that inhabit the lake. The serene environment, coupled with the excitement of fishing, makes it a perfect getaway for those seeking a peaceful outdoor experience.

  • Highlights:
    • Man-made lake for swimming and fishing.
    • Picnic areas and playgrounds.
    • Trails for walking and biking.
    • Ideal for summer outdoor activities.

5. Chief Looking’s Village

Chief Looking's Village in Bismarck

Chief Looking’s Village is renowned for its exceptional vantage point, offering one of the most spectacular overlooks in the area. Visitors to this site are treated to breathtaking views of the Missouri River, creating a picturesque scene that is both tranquil and awe-inspiring.

Additionally, the city of Mandan can be seen in the distance, adding an urban contrast to the natural beauty of the river landscape.

The historical significance of Chief Looking’s Village adds a layer of depth to the visitor experience. This site is not just a visual delight but also a place rich in cultural and historical value, providing a glimpse into the past.

The presence of trails leading up from Riverside Park enhances the accessibility of the site, allowing visitors to explore the area and immerse themselves in its natural and historical essence.

  • Highlights:
    • Historical significance and natural beauty.
    • Trails connecting to Riverside Park.
    • Popular spot for sunset viewing.

4. Cross Ranch State Park

Cross Ranch State Park, celebrated for its unspoiled natural beauty, offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with its abundant camping and hiking opportunities. Located along the meandering paths of the Missouri River, the park’s trails provide serene escapes into the heart of nature.

This destination is perfect for individuals seeking to break away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and delve into the peaceful embrace of the natural world.

The park’s environment, characterized by its lush landscapes and tranquil settings, invites visitors to explore and enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors, making it an ideal spot for reconnecting with nature.

  • Highlights:
    • Pristine natural landscapes.
    • Camping and hiking opportunities.
    • Trails along the Missouri River.

3. Bismarck Art Alley

Bismarck Art Alley

Bismarck Art Alley stands as a dynamic and colorful exhibition of local talent, prominently displaying an array of large-scale murals and diverse artworks. Situated in the bustling center of the city, this alley is a living tribute to the flourishing art scene in Bismarck.

It serves as a canvas for local artists, allowing them to express their creativity and share their vision with the community and visitors alike. As people wander through this urban art gallery, they are treated to a visual feast that showcases the unique styles and perspectives of the artists.

This space not only enhances the cultural fabric of Bismarck but also provides an inspiring and accessible venue for art enthusiasts and casual observers to appreciate the vibrancy and diversity of local art.

  • Highlights:
    • Large-scale murals and artworks.
    • Vibrant local art scene.
    • Located in the heart of Bismarck.
    • A testament to creative expression.

2. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center serves as a comprehensive educational facility, dedicated to providing detailed insights into the renowned Lewis and Clark Expedition. This center is a treasure trove of information and exhibits that explore numerous factors of local history.

Visitors to the center can explore a range of displays that shed light on the tools and equipment used by the expedition team, offering a glimpse into the resourcefulness and ingenuity required for such an undertaking.

  • Highlights:
    • In-depth exhibits on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
    • Focus on the role of Sacagawea.
    • Educational and historical insights.
    • Interactive and engaging displays.

1. Fort Mandan

Fort Mandan

Fort Mandan serves as a meticulously recreated historical site, designed to mirror the winter camp used by the famous explorers Lewis and Clark. This destination provides a unique opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in a bygone era, thanks to its guided tours and a variety of interactive exhibits.

These features are carefully crafted to transport guests back in time, allowing them to experience the daily life of the Lewis and Clark expedition in a tangible and engaging way.

The fort’s hands-on approach to history is not only educational but also entertaining, making it an ideal location for people of all ages to learn about and connect with this significant chapter in American history.

The interactive nature of the exhibits and the knowledgeable guides help in making the historical events and challenges faced by the expedition team more relatable and vivid for visitors, thereby bringing history to life in a dynamic and memorable manner.

  • Highlights:
    • Guided tours and interactive exhibits.
    • Hands-on historical experience.
    • Engaging for all age groups.


Where can I watch the sunset in Bismarck?

You can watch stunning sunsets at Keelboat Park and Chief Looking’s Village, both offering beautiful views over the Missouri River.

What is life like in Bismarck?

Life in Bismarck is characterized by a friendly community, a blend of urban and rural lifestyles, low crime rates, and a strong appreciation for local history and outdoor activities.

Is Bismarck walkable?

Bismarck has several walkable areas, especially in its downtown district and along the Missouri River, but having a car is beneficial for reaching more spread-out attractions.

What food is famous in North Dakota?

North Dakota is known for dishes like Knoephla Soup, Lefse, Walleye (state fish), Bison burgers, and Chippers (chocolate-covered potato chips).


Bismarck is a combination of natural wonders, and cultural hotspots, offers an enriching and diverse experience for all who visit.

From the grandeur of the North Dakota State Capitol to the serene beauty of the Missouri River, and from the educational Gateway to Science to the historical insights of the walking tour, each attraction in Bismarck tells a part of the city’s unique story.