Located on the Red River that runs between North Dakota and Minnesota, Grand Forks is an often-overlooked destination. But it’s one well worth exploring if you find yourself there.
Home to over 50,000 people, it’s one of the largest cities in North Dakota. Grand Forks brings together that Great Plains charm with the unique experiences of the northern states. In fact, there’s a surprising diversity of things to do in Grand Forks that might surprise you.
If you’re passing through Grand Forks or something brings you there for a longer stay, don’t worry: you’ll find plenty of things to do during your visit. From the arts, culture, and history to outdoor activities and hockey – of course! – here are the best things to do in Grand Forks.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Michif Piyii (Métis), Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Sisseton, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in March 2021, and was updated most recently in April 2023.
1. Empire Arts Center
Contemporary plays and musicals are alive and well in the state of North Dakota, particularly at The Empire Arts Center. This charming performing arts theatre is unique to the state of North Dakota. ETC is the only professional theatre company in the state that produces a full season of productions.
Since 2012, ETC has produced eight seasons of plays that thrill and excite thousands of North Dakotans. It continues to be one of the top things to do in Grand Forks if a show is playing while you’re there!
In 2023, the program includes visiting performances from companies like the North Dakota Ballet Company as well as film series (like one dedicated to Stanley Kubrick) and open mic/jam session nights for live music.
2. Flood Memorial Monument
The Flood Memorial Monument is located in the Greater Grand Forks Greenway. It is home to 2,200 acres of trails, benches, bike paths, and beautiful scenery. Sitting on a small plot of land next to the Sorlie Bridge, this monument pays tribute to the many lives displaced and catastrophic floods of the Red River (one as recent as 1997).
Visitors will find this monument a place of reflection and space to pay tribute; the perfect thing to do in Grand Forks.
3. Hockey at Ralph Engelstad Arena
Take some time to enjoy one of North Dakota’s favorite ice sports, hockey! Playing in one of the finest hockey facilities in the world, Ralph Englestad Arena aka “The Ralph,” the “Fighting Hawks” has a “perfect record” for fun times, and remains one of the top things to do in Grand Forks.
4. Japanese Gardens
Located in Sertoma Park is one of the most beautiful places Grand Forks’ has to offer, the Japanese Garden. Gifted from the people of Awano, Japan, this garden has created a special place to enjoy nature. Here you’ll find Ali’s Playground and the three lanterns made of natural granite rocks (each with its own name and significant meaning behind it), as well as plenty of space to relax and unwind.
This park is a must-see for locals and tourists alike when visiting Grand Forks.
5. North Dakota Museum of Art
They say that through the arts we will find the soul of education. The North Dakota Museum of Art is a special place for just that. Here, you will find yourself immersed in contemporary art created by Native American and international artists. Common mediums you’ll see come in the form of textiles, ceramics, and paintings.
Additionally, this museum also has a gorgeous outdoor peony and sculpture garden. This is year-round fun and one of the great things to do in Grand Forks.
6. River Cities Speedway
You don’t have to be a racing fanatic to visit the River Cities Speedway. Here on the track, everyone is welcome to enjoy one of the premier things to do in Grand Forks: watching a race on the motor speedway seasonally at the River Cities Speedway.
In 2023, the season kicks off on May 5th and runs through September 15th; it’s high adrenaline, high-speed entertainment!
7. Seasonal Outdoor Activities
North Dakota is home to some of the most spectacular seasons in the country providing ample snowfall and well-deserved summers. Depending on your preferences, each of these seasons provides spectacular views and fun activities. Weather permitting, Grand Forks hosts ice skating, view-filled walks, or college football at the University of North Dakota.
8. Splasher’s of the South Seas Water Park
When the weather turns cold – as it does in North Dakota – an indoor water park is one of those perfect things to do in Grand Forks. With over 40,000 square feet of water-based fun including slides, a lazy pool, and a kids-only dedicated area, Splashers of the South Seas Water Park has everything your family needs to enjoy some fun indoors whether it’s due to cold weather or just a change of scenely.
Where to Stay in Grand Forks
If you need a place to stay in Grand Forks, here are a few suggestions. These are great options in the downtown area that will give you easy access to these things to do in Grand Forks.
- C’mon Inn Hotel & Suites – from $71/night (book on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Knights Inn Grand Forks – from $42/night (book on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- AmericInn by Wyndham, Grand Forks – from $62/night (book on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
There are plenty of vacation rentals in Grand Forks, too, if that’s how you prefer to stay.
Do you have other questions about visiting Grand Forks, North Dakota? Let me know in the comments!