30 Reasons to Plan a Vacation to Medora, ND
30 Reasons to Plan a Vacation in Medora, ND
Medora, North Dakota is truly a world-class destination. If you love history and the outdoors, visit Medora, North Dakota. We did not expect that a town with a population of 124 would have so much to offer. We’re constantly met with surprise when we tell people about everything we did on our our trip to the North Dakota Badlands. We’re sharing our list of 30 reasons to plan a vacation in Medora, North Dakota.
This post is sponsored by Visit Medora. All opinions are ours. This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission.
Why Medora, North Dakota?
Medora may be small but is packed with western charm, a National Park that offers ruggedness and badlands, but also, art, history, shopping, entertainment, and adventure for every age and interest level. We have a list of reasons to plan a vacation in Medora, ND.
Downtown is very walkable and flat and all within a few blocks making it all very family friendly and easy to navigate.
Where is Medora, North Dakota?
Medora is located in Western, North Dakota.
- 558 miles from Minneapolis, MN
- 280 miles from Billings, MT
- 317 miles from Fargo, ND
- 238 miles from Rapid City, SD
Did you know North Dakota has a National Park?
Medora is home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) which is made up of three units. Medora is situated in the South Unit.
Medora seems to not be on the radar for most summer vacation plans but we advocate for putting it on your family vacation bucket list. In addition to checking off a National Park from your bucket list, Medora is packed with things to do that will appeal to your entire family. What we hear is that many people travel THROUGH Medora on their way to other National Parks further west. We’re here to tell you not to drive through Medora but rather encourage you with this list of 30 reasons to plan a vacation in Medora, North Dakota. This is a great way to bypass the crowds on your vacation.
Is Theodore Roosevelt National Park Worth It?
ABSOLUTELY. Somehow this National Park is underrated and it should not be. Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only U.S. national park to be named after a president? That’s because Theodore Roosevelt started the National Park system during his presidency. His words: “I never would have been President had it not been for my experiences in North Dakota”.
After his first hunting trip in 1883, his love affair with Western North Dakota began. After becoming president and being impacted by the beauty of the Dakotas, Roosevelt created the protection of over 230 million acres of land throughout the United States. We have him to thank for our nation’s conservation efforts of our national parks, especially as their popularity of them has grown in recent years.
30 Reasons to Vacation in Medora
1. Stop for Views of the Painted Canyon Overlook off Hwy 94
For a free panoramic view and taste of the North Dakota Badlands, stop at the Painted Canyon Overlook. This is easily accessed right off of I-94 and just east of Medora. There are designated hiking and biking areas at this overlook and a real pro tip is to do an evening hike for amazing sunset views.
Don’t think just because you stopped at this overlook that you’ve seen TRNP. This is just a teaser of what is to come once you enter TRNP just down the road.
The overlook also has a visitor center with a gift shop, area maps and literature, and restrooms and guided talks are available.
2. Check into the Badlands Motel For a Perfect Medora Location
Don’t be fooled by the word Motel. The Badlands Motel is just one mile from the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park entrance, this drive-up motel is perfectly positioned in downtown Medora and is aptly appointed with a Western theme. We found it to be clean and comfortable. Amenities include an outdoor pool and the motel is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and activities. The views are spectacular.
Bonus: Right next door is a lazy river!
3. Visit the Harold Schafer Heritage Center
Remember Mr. Bubble? It was created by Harold Schafer. Learn about Schafter through videos and displays honoring the Father of Medora. He is responsible for the restoration and development of Medora.
In 1962 Harold first revitalized the dilapidated Rough Riders Hotel and then a theater. After that, with a multi-million dollar gift, Harold Schafer and his family formed the public non-profit Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation that operates today. Harold wanted the town of his roots to live on well past his lifetime.
Grab the book we helped write on Midwest Road Trip Adventures!
We wrote the MN Chapter
4. Admire or Buy Fine Art at The Capital Gallery
It is quite unexpected to find a fine art gallery located in downtown Medora at the foothills of the sweeping and picturesque buttes. Located inside the Harold Schafer Heritage Center, The Capital Gallery West is not to be missed. Artist’s paintings and bronze sculptures are rotated with different themes several times a year and are available for purchase.
5. Grab a Refreshment and a Bite at Boot’s Bar & Grill
This popular restaurant grill is located in the heart of downtown Medora. Enjoy scenic views on the patio. They offer local beer and spirits and serve bar food with a focus on wild game. They often have live music to enjoy.
6. Fuel up at The Farmhouse Cafe
For a hearty breakfast before you head out exploring, fill up at The Farmhouse Cafe. Pancakes are as big as your head. It’s a cute little spot for a hearty meal with great service. They also serve lunch and dinner.
7. Tour the Billings County Courthouse Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this museum is a former courthouse and jail that is worth a stop to learn about western history. The museum staff is a trove of information. If you want to learn about the history of barbed wire, this is your place! There is a small admissions fee starting at $1. You wont’ believe all of the stuff they have in this building.
8. Hang a Dollar at the Little Missouri Saloon
Stop into Medora’s oldest Saloon & Steakhouse for a bite to eat. The unique atmosphere is that of an old west saloon that is decorated with red wallpaper, money hanging, and cowboy hats hanging from the ceiling. They even have hitching posts out front for parking. Cool off indoors or dine on the second-floor patio for views of downtown and views of TRNP. Typical pub fare is served. Don’t leave without hanging a dollar on the ceiling!
9. Watch the Sunrise at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The best-kept secret when traveling to a scenic location is to get up early and watch the sunrise! You’ll fight the crowds this way and is a beautiful way to experience your vacation. Watching the sunrise at TRNP is highly recommended. It’s a beautiful site.
10. Tour The South Unit Visitor Center at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Don’t miss the visitor center at the entrance of the South Unit where you can watch a film to learn more about TRNP, grab fliers, talk to park rangers, and of course shop. The Visitor Center is open year-round. Do note that even though TRNP is open year-round, some of the businesses may have seasonal hours so check before you go!
11. Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Maltese Cross Cabin
We mentioned that Roosevelt first came to this area for a buffalo hunting expedition in 1883. The area was so beautiful to him that he returned to the Maltese Cross Cabin 5 months after that first hunting trip to mend his broken heart- his mother and wife died the same day.
He wanted to come back to the area that brought him peace so he could learn to live with his unimaginable grief.
The Maltese Cabin is where he lived during that time and is just beyond the Visitor Center.
12. Take a Scenic Drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit
The South Unit of TRNP is easily accessed in Medora. Take a 48-mile scenic drive through the South Unit through the badlands. The South Unit also has hiking and horse trails. It’s also quite common to see people riding their horses through downtown Medora. Watch for bison, elk, mule deer, prairie dogs wild horses, eagles, and much more. There are many pullovers and scenic overlooks to take in all the rugged beauty the South Unit has to offer.
13. Get Stuck in Rush Hour Traffic of Wild Horses (If you’re lucky!)
We were told there are wild horses in the South Unit. There is nothing quite like spotting a wild horse running through the badlands. Even better was during our sunrise drive we got stuck in what we called the morning rush hour as wild horses as they made their way down the road! It was an unforgettable sight to see.
14. Tour the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site
French culture in Medora? Learn how French nobleman Marquis de Mores settled in Medora and tour the historical 26-room hunting cabin he built for his wife, Medora, and family. The Marquis de Mores has a fascinating and colorful story to learn about. The Chateau is a historical tour that will captivate all who visit. The Chateau is just outside of town and offers views of a butte along the Little Missouri River. You can even hop on a covered wagon to tour the bottomland of the Little Missouri River. Another spot for living history with local actors dressed in period clothing.
15. Visit the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library
It is only fitting that Theodore Roosevelt be honored with a Presidential Library and that it would be in Medora. This will be the first presidential library attached to a national park (and remember it’s the only national park attached to a president’s name). This presidential library is set to open in 2025 and will be the library of the future. The library will include immersive interactive technology allowing visitors to battle alongside the Rough Riders or hike the summit guided by Roosevelt.
The library will be one that tells stories of lessons that Roosevelt faced in the early 1900s that still apply today like social, technological, and political upheaval. The library will encourage visitors to live boldly and get outside to embrace the lands that inspired Theodore Roosevelt and started the efforts of land conservation that we all enjoy today with the National Park system.
16. Get a Different View of Perception at the Perception House
If you like optical illusions, you will love a visit to Perception House where you can defy gravity and experience illusions first-hand. You’ll definitely want to snap some photos! Then take a walk in a slanted house and see how your mind plays into perception. This will be fun for the whole family.
17. Enjoy a Nightcap at Medora Uncork’d
Medora really has it all, including a wine bar! At Medora Uncork’d you can enjoy live music, and a nice menu ranging from small bites to pizza and pasta. They have a nice drinks and dessert menu served with more amazing views of the buttes of TRNP.
18. Visit Elaine’s Garden
Enjoy some downtime and watch the metal sculptures spin in the breeze. There are seven sculptures in the Andrist Wind Garden. Sit on the bench and take in the sculptures and scenery of the rugged but majestic bluff.
19. Grab a Snack at Chateau Nuts
There are numerous cute shops in Medora but Chateau Nuts is truly unique. Filled with, you guessed it, nuts, it’s run by a lovely 96-year-old woman named Norma Myers. She makes great conversation and we suggest that you ask her about the time she worked for the FBI. Chateau Nuts has been popular with visitors for decades and she ships orders all over the world.
20. Head to the General Store
You’ll want to hit all the shops but Joe Ferris General Store was the first general store in Medora. Theodore Roosevelt even stayed at the General Store when it also served as a lodging option during one of his trips to Medora. You’ll definitely find something to buy at the General Store.
Even if you’re not big on shopping, we definitely recommend walking downtown as the themed buildings are all so charming with the western theme.
21. Listen to Stories and Play Lawn Games with the Roosevelts
It’s only fitting to be walking through the western-themed downtown and encounter a living history duo- Theodore and Edith Roosevelt themselves! Learn about their life before during and after their time in the white house.
22. Caffenate with a stop at Hidden Springs Java
Stop for a bit of caffeine to start your day or for a pick-me-up after some exploring.
23. Explore the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame
Visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame to learn about life on the Dakota Plains. This is a great opportunity to learn about North Dakota’s Native Americans and western life. Watch videos and look at artifacts throughout the museum.
24. Eat Lunch at Badlands Pizza Parlor
If your family likes pizza, head to the Badlands Pizza Parlor. They have a large menu and even offer vegan cheese!
25. Visit the De Mores Memorial Park
Another Medora spot listed on the National Register of historic places, the De Mores Memorial Park has a bronze statue of the French aristocrat, Marquis de Mores at the center of the Park.
26. Tour the Von Hoffman House
The Von Hoffman House is another home on the National Register of Historic Places. This house was built by the Marquis de Mores for his in-laws, Baron and Mrs. Von Hoffman. Take a free tour of this fully restored period-style home and easily imagine what life was like when it was built in 1884.
27. Watch a Performance at the Old Town Theater
This restored town hall sets the stage to watch weekly performances of the Medora Teddy Roosevelt Show. It’s a beautiful theater to visit. Listen and watch Theodore Roosevelt, as reprised by Joe Wiegand tell about his time in Medora.
28. Take a Hike on the Pancratz Trail
Climb up the Pancratz Trail for amazing views of Medora. You’ll have to get through three sets of ladders to make it through the steepest part of the trail. Better, yet, do the hike with Teddy! Look closely for the ladders in this picture!
29. Go To a Pitchfork Steak Fondue
Overlooking the Burning Hills Amphitheater, the Pitchfork Steak Fondue is a truly unique dining experience and sets the tone for the Medora Musical. The view is spectacular. They have two dinner options- the 12 oz steak buffet or “Just the Fixin’s”. If you chose the steak route, it’s a 12 oz steak that is fondued western style. Guests walk through buffet style to get “the fixin’s” to complete your meal.
We don’t eat meat but were happy to have the “Just The Fixin’s” option where we had baked potatoes and vegetables.
30. Attend the Medora Musical
You simply cannot come to Medora without seeing the Medora Musical, America’s longest-running outdoor musical at The Burning Hills Amphitheater is set in a stunningly scenic area. Downtown Medora is magically recreated on the stage and the show includes fireworks, singing, and live animals and is just good, clean fun for the whole family. It is an all-American family-friendly experience! Harold Schafer and his wife Sheila started the musical. It’s truly a wonderfully wholesome experience that leaves you with a feeling of Patriotism!
Without a doubt, a trip to Medora, North Dakota is perfect for the whole family. We believe these 30 reasons to plan a vacation in Medora will appeal to every age in your family.
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