When I ask you to imagine North Dakota, what comes to mind? Maybe your ideas are informed by pop culture or the weather reports you see each winter. In any case, you’d probably be surprised to discover that North Dakota has a lot to offer – including small towns full of charm, culture, and access to incredible outdoor experiences.
Dickinson is one of those places – most people end up in the area to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park which is not too far away, and then discover they want to explore the area a bit more. Luckily, there are some cool things to do in Dickinson, making it worthy of an overnight stop at least.
Whatever brings you to the area, you’ll soon discover first-hand that Dickinson is a great spot to spend some time; here are the best things to do in Dickinson, North Dakota.
Featured photo credit: Steve Shook via Flickr
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Michif Piyii (Métis), and Hunkpapa 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.
1. Take a Self-Guided Dickinson Walking Tour
Dickinson, a city of 25,679 inhabitants, is famous for being one of the gateways to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. However, it has a unique history and architecture that is worth discovering. The city’s Downtown even has buildings dating back more than a century!
The best way to explore these locations is with a self-guided Dickinson walking tour. You can find tons of information on Dickinson’s website. Also, The Dickinson Museum Center offers brochures and maps to help people organize an itinerary and visit all the notable sites around downtown Dickinson.
2. Visit the Dickinson Museum Center
Exploring the Dickinson Museum Center is one of the best Dickinson things to do if you want to get a comprehensive view of the area’s history. The center is a 12-acre museum complex dedicated to preserving the historic value, integrity, and knowledge of the historical artifacts and the history of Stark County.
It consists of four complimentary components: Badlands Dinosaur Museum, Joachim Regional Museum, Prairie Outpost Park, and Pioneer Machinery Hall. Each facility focuses on different areas of knowledge and presents Dickinson’s history from multiple perspectives.
3. Dig into History at Badlands Dinosaur Museum
Photo credit: North Dakota Tourism
Visiting the Badlands Dinosaur Museum is one of the top things to do in Dickinson, especially if you’re a history buff or are visiting with children. The museum tells the history of the area and southwestern North Dakota through its collection of life-sized dinosaurs and an array of fossils on display.
The museum even features a working lab with glass windows you can look through and watch the technicians processing the bones and fossils. There are interactive areas for kids, including a sandbox that shows topographical lines.
4. Explore the Pioneer Machinery Hall
The Pioneer Machinery Hall takes you on a wonderful trip to North Dakota’s ranching era. Agriculture and farming culture have been the backbone of Dickinson’s economy. You can learn how cowboys and settlers spent their days branding, herding, shipping, and wintering livestock.
The building houses the Historical Society’s agricultural implements and equipment collection. The pieces of equipment are on display, along with the stories of their contribution to the area. The Pioneer Machinery Hall sits adjacent to the Dickinson Museum Center. Admission costs $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children.
5. Play in Rocky Butte Park
Located across from Memorial Park and the Bandshell, going to Rocky Butte Park feels like an amazing “getaway” while in the middle of town. The park is absolutely beautiful, with a disc golf course, playground, and walking paths.
The scenery is gorgeous. There’s a variety of species of conifers and deciduous trees and plenty of squirrels and birds living inside them. If you have kids, make sure you go to the back of the park. There are rocks your children will love to climb.
6. Appreciate the Ukrainian Cultural Institute
Photo credits: Visit Dickinson, North Dakota Tourism
Stop by the Ukrainian Cultural Institute to learn the historic heritage of the Ukrainians who moved to North Dakota in the late 1890s. Despite being a small local cultural center, the venue houses a stunning collection of Ukrainian art and relics, many of which belonged to Ukrainian families who settled in the area.
Visiting the Ukrainian Cultural Institute is also one of the top things to do in Dickinson if you appreciate fine craftsmanship. The artwork, embroidering, and quilting exhibits are exquisite. However, the gem of the cultural institution is the Pysanka, Easter eggs artisans beautifully decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method.
7. Adventure in Patterson Lake Recreation Area
Wondering what to do in Dickinson on a hot summer day? Patterson Lake Recreation Area has the answer. The lovely park is the perfect place to hang out on a sunny day in Dickinson. It has something for everyone. There are campsites, educational playgrounds featuring ants and bees, workout stations, and a covered bbq area with lots of picnic tables and little nooks to hide away and enjoy nature.
The area has 26 miles of shoreline and 819 acres of water, attracting fishing enthusiasts from far and wide during the summer months. There’s a small fee to access the park, and bear in mind it closes at 10:30 pm.
8. Drive the Custer Trail Auto Tour
It’s time to hit the road and drive the Custer Trail Auto Tour. This scenic drive takes you deep into the Badlands toward Montana. The path goes through the Little Missouri National Grasslands and has two segments that provide access to portions of Sully’s Battle of the Badlands Trail and Custer Historic Trail.
You can drive the tour in a single day as it is only 80 miles long, but you’ll need two to three days to enjoy the area properly.
9. Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most famous things to do in Dickinson, and one of five national parks in the Great Plains. Although Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most underrated National Parks, it is absolutely worth visiting! The park sits in the North Dakota Badlands and is home to stunning scenery and wildlife.
The northern portion of the park is the best place to appreciate the area’s rugged landscape. You can follow 14 Mile Scenic Drive that takes you from the bottom of the badlands to the canyon. The South Unit is a prime place for wildlife viewing, with diverse animals roaming around freely. Bison, coyotes, pronghorns, and wild horses are just a few animals you may encounter here.
Where to Stay in Dickinson
If you’re sold on spending some time in Dickinson, you probably need a place to rest after each day of adventure. There are about two dozen hotels, motels, and other accommodation options in Dickinson, meaning there’s something for almost everyone… okay, maybe not those of you looking for a five-star hotel – but here are other great options for the rest of us:
- Budget: Badlands Inn & Suites (from $65/night)
- Mid-Range: My Place Hotel (from $93/night)
- Luxe: Hampton Inn & Suites (from $122/night)
- Local Option: Heritage Hotel & Suites (from $79/night)
And there you have it – great things to do in Dickinson, North Dakota that might surprise you! Have any questions about the best things to do in Dickinson? Let me know in the comments!