North Dakota is full of natural beauty and wonderful surprises, making it a great place for a travel nursing adventure. The state’s culture is also warm and welcoming – in fact, “Dakota” is the Sioux word for “friend.”
North Dakota is a state for explorers, built by explorers. The Lewis & Clark Trail runs through its breathtaking landscape, which inspired President Theodore Roosevelt enough to kickstart his lifelong passion for conservationism. North Dakota’s world-renowned Badlands received the name from Native Americans and settlers who had difficulty traversing the fascinating, unusual landforms they encountered in the Western part of the state. But don’t be fooled by the name – the Badlands is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind region.
If you’re a travel nurse that loves new experiences and exploring nature, this place is for you. We’ve created a list of hidden gems to seek out during your travel nursing assignment to North Dakota.
Read on to learn what you can find in this one-of-a-kind state!
The Enchanted Highway | Gladstone to Regent
North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile stretch of supersized wonder. Beginning at Exit 72 near the town of Gladstone, the Enchanted Highway features a series of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures that can be viewed from your vehicle or at the kiosks near each installation. Local artist Gary Greff began building the sculptures in 1989, finding inspiration in North Dakota’s wildlife and icons of American history like Theodore Roosevelt.
At the end of the highway, in Regent, travelers will find Greff’s Enchanted Castle. The Enchanted Castle is Greff’s former high school, transformed to resemble a medieval castle.
Chief’s Looking Village | Bismarck
Want to take a fascinating trip into the past? Check out Chief’s Looking Village, a Native American village site listed on the National Register of Historic Places named after Chief Looking of the Mandan tribe.
This historic site has remained mostly undisturbed since it was constructed, and visitors can explore an “interpretive trail” that teaches about the culture and life of North Dakota’s original citizens. Chief’s Looking Village also overlooks the beautiful Missouri River and Pioneer Park, which offers visitors opportunities for picnics, hiking, and mountain biking. It even has a sand volleyball court!
World’s Largest Buffalo Monument | Jamestown
The World’s Largest Buffalo is a quintessential roadside attraction. Located near Jamestown, the concrete monument is a towering 26-feet tall and weighs 60 tons. The sculpture was created by Elmer Petersen in 1959, and received its official name, Dakota Thunder, in 2010.
After marveling at Dakota Thunder, check out the nearby National Buffalo Museum, a 6,000 sq. ft. facility with exhibits on the history of bison – their importance within Native American cultures, near extinction, and eventual classification as the United States national mammal. Plus, see if you can spot the extremely rare albino bison roaming in the pasture nearby!
Pembina Gorge | Walhalla
Get off the beaten path and take an outdoor adventure at the stunning Pembina Gorge, which extends from the Canadian border into Walhalla. The Pembina Gorge contains over 12,000 acres of beautiful North Dakota wilderness and is the longest stretch of uninterrupted woodlands and river valley in the entire state. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor fun, including canoeing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing, snowmobiling, and birdwatching.
The gorge was created by centuries of erosion from surging waters, resulting in one of the deepest river valleys in North Dakota. The surrounding landscape is comprised of three different ecosystems: boreal forest, eastern deciduous forest and central grassland.
The Pyramid of North Dakota | Nekoma
The Pyramid of North Dakota is a strange, fascinating relic of the Cold War located outside the small town of Rendon. Built as part of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in the late 1960s, the Pyramid was originally a missile silo that held actual nuclear weapons. The Pyramid’s missile system was created to intercept incoming ballistic missiles entering the earth’s orbit.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon and the U.S.S.R.’s Leonid Brezhnev signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, causing forced the Pyramid to shut down. Visitors are not allowed to enter the grounds, but you can still snap some great photos from the road outside.
Oldest Mosque in the United States | Ross
You might be surprised to learn that the oldest existing mosque in the nation is located in a quiet prairie in rural North Dakota. Built in 1929 by immigrants from Syria and Lebanon, this mosque sits outside of Ross, a town with a population of approximately 100 people.
The community that occupied this mosque moved to the area in search of farmland after the Homestead Acts, holding services in a sub-basement room with a “coal stove, benches, and prayer rugs.” (Atlas Obscura)
KVLY-TV Mast | Blanchard
Located in Blanchard, the KVLY-TV mast is the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere and was at one point the tallest in the world. Completed in 1963, this structure is a television-transmitting mast used by Fargo station KVLY-TV channel 11 and provides a broadcast area of nearly 10,000 miles.
The mast towers above 2,000 feet tall, and its support structure covers 160 acres of land. In fact, it was the very first manmade structure to exceed 2,000 feet in height!
Whirla-Whip Ice Cream
The last hidden gem on our list is a real treat! Dakota Drug, a pharmacy in the town of Stanley, is home to one of the last working Whirla-Whip ice cream machines in the United States.
The Whirla-Whip was used primarily in the 1930s to blend tasty added ingredients into hard ice cream, creating delicious mixed flavors. The Whirla Whip was also known for its ability to transform hard ice cream into soft serve.
Dakota Drug is a store that pays homage to this bygone era of soda fountains and has used the Whirla-Whip to make ice cream blends since 1949.
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