If you’re looking for some fun and budget-friendly vacation tours, then check out these 10 free things to do in North Dakota! The Peace Garden State has been renowned for its plethora of free and fun attractions. You’ll surely have a great time in North Dakota even on a low-budget! Bring out your bucket list and add these 10 amazing, cheap things to do in North Dakota.
Check out the below slides of the top 10 pockect-friendly places in North Dakota to quickly plan your budget vacation now!
- Free Things to Do in North Dakota
- 1. Enchanted Highway
- 2. Sertoma Park’s Japanese Garden
- 3. Prairie Fire Pottery
- 4. Scandinavian Heritage Park
- 5. North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum
- 6. World’s Largest Buffalo and The Frontier Village
- 7. Sheyenne National Grassland
- 8. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
- 9. McKenzie County Heritage Park
- 10. North Dakota State Capitol
- Find the Best Vacation Homes Near Cheap Things to Do in North Dakota
Free Things to Do in North Dakota
Here’re the 10 best free things to do in North Dakota; from wide-open spaces to natural beauty, and rich history. Check out these places and make the most of your trip without spending much.
1. Enchanted Highway
Go for a drive along the Enchanted Highway and gaze up at seven towering metal sculptures along the way! The Enchanted Highway starts at Exit 72 on Interstate 94 near Gladstone and runs for 32 miles through the western North Dakota town of Regent.
As you enter the highway on Gladstone, you’ll be greeted by Geese in Flight, a large metal sculpture depicting 10 flying geese. This sculpture has earned distinction from the Guinness Book of World Records 2002 as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture.
Continue your drive to see six more larger-than-life sculptures depicting the rural life in Regent. You’ll see the following:
- Deer Crossing
- Fisherman’s Dream
- Tin Family
- Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again
- Pheasants on the Prairie
Pullover at the parking areas provided near each sculpture (except for Geese in Flight) to snap some photos worth-capturing and view the creations in more detail.
2. Sertoma Park’s Japanese Garden
Location: Grand Forks
This is a hidden natural gem at the heart of Grand Forks, North Dakota – the Japanese Garden at Sertoma Park! This picturesque place offers free admission for all which is truly among the loveliest cheap things to do in North Dakota.
Sertoma Park features beautiful nature trails, picnic areas and a playground. The main attraction is the Japanese Garden! This special garden was a gift from the town of Awano in Japan – Grand Forks’ sister city. The garden was built to symbolize North Dakota’s recovery from the Red River Valley Flood of 1997.
Take a peaceful stroll around the garden and be mesmerized by the beauty of Japan right in North Dakota! Ornate stone lanterns adorn the lovely landscapes. Walk over to the creek through the footbridge and watch the ducks and other creatures waddling around the area. There’s also a shrine, a rock garden with cairns, lanterns surrounding different areas of the park and colorful trees to remind you of the natural beauty.
Admission to the park and garden is free for all! Sertoma Park and its Japanese Garden are open all-week from 5 am to 11 pm.
3. Prairie Fire Pottery
Are you a handmade pottery fan? Then, head over to Prairie Fire Pottery. It is a quaint little pottery shop in Beach, near the Montana border. You’ll find several pottery treasures inside, from glistening dining platters to colorful coffee mugs!
Tama Smith is the talented artist behind the items at Prairie Fire. She’s a professional potter whose works were already exhibited at major wholesale markets in Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York. Her distinct pottery style features vibrant and complex colors with a touch of the North Dakota Badlands.
Step inside the store and be mesmerized by the warm-colored interiors, the handcrafted chalkboard art, and the friendly staff. Immerse yourself in the beauty of Tama’s wonderful creations. If you have some bucks to spare, go ahead and purchase something – a decorative tile or soap dish starts at $20-$30.
Studio tours are also available for free – just ask the showroom staff for assistance. Watch Tama as she explains and shows how her pieces are done from start to finish.
Prairie Fire Pottery is open from Monday to Saturday at varying hours depending on the season. Typical store hours are 10 am to 4 pm, but you may call ahead to make sure especially during winter.
Next on our fun yet cheap things to do in North Dakota list is a visit to the Scandinavian Heritage Park. This beautiful park offers a glimpse into what life was in the early Scandinavian countries. Even if you don’t have Scandinavian ancestors, this is still a delightful place with lots of natural wonders!
Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to replicas and remembrances from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Explore statues of famous Scandinavian figures, stroll around the unique buildings and take in all the greenery!
Some of the spots worth visiting inside the park include:
- Gol Stave Church
- Swedish Dala Horse
- Danish Windmill
- Finnish Sauna
- Flag Display
Visiting the park and its several lovely spots is completely free! The park does accept donations – there are cash boxes throughout the park for this purpose. Scandinavian Heritage Park’s outdoor portions are open all year round. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is considered one of the top North Dakota road trip destinations. Check out our detailed guide to know further.
5. North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum
Go on a free historical trip by visiting the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum! It’s the state’s largest museum, with four galleries presenting North Dakota’s rich history and culture.
Here are the four galleries that you may visit and explore:
- Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time
- Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples
- Inspiration Gallery: Yesterday and Today
- Governors Gallery
See lots of artifacts, specimens, interactive exhibits, and high-tech displays painting a complete picture of North Dakotan heritage. Prepare to be enthralled by dinosaur skeletons, rare beadworks, a 1950s soda shop and many more!
Explore the fascinating architecture of the Northern Lights Atrium, with its steel, glass, and copper panel walls. Head over to the Russell Reid Auditorium and Great Plains Theater for some films, seminars, or musical performances. Gaze in wonder at the petrified tree and the rock formations – all part of outdoor attractions inside the museum!
North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum is open from Monday to Friday (8 am to 5 pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10 am to 5 pm). It’s completely free to enter, making it among the best cheap things to do in North Dakota! The museum is closed during Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
6. World’s Largest Buffalo and The Frontier Village
Head over to Jamestown to get a glimpse of the World’s Largest Buffalo. It’s a 46-foot long and 26-foot tall roadside buffalo sculpture made from a sprayed cement called gunite. The huge buffalo is visible from the freeway but to get a close look:
- Take exit 258 off the Interstate 84;
- Head north to Highway 281 for three blocks;
- Turn right after reaching the stoplight;
- Follow the road, going east for seven blocks
After visiting the giant buffalo, continue your Jamestown adventure by going to The Frontier Village which is a replica of an old west town. Hunt for artifacts and antiques, visit the Frontier School, and explore the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. The Frontier Village also has a grocery store, wishing well, post office, fire department, log cabin, printing shop, art salon, barbershop and lovely gift shops to make the most out of your visit!
The entrance gate to the Frontier Village is located at 404 17th St. SE, Jamestown. Admission is free to see the buffalo and the village alike. Opening hours may vary per season, so it’s best to call the Visitor Information Center ahead of your visit.
7. Sheyenne National Grassland
Looking for a peaceful campsite that you can enjoy for free? Come to Sheyenne National Grassland in McLeod, southeastern North Dakota! This place is among the four grasslands comprising Dakota Prairie Grassland. There are no parking fees here and you can camp primitively and enjoy the quiet countryside.
Camp for free at the Jorgen’s Hollow campground. The area has an elevation of 1,100 feet and is composed of two overlapping loops. A tall-grass prairie, rolling sandhills and majestic Burr oaks surround the campground. The Sheyenne River glistens nearby the campsite. The oak savannahs and the wildflowers attract numerous birds making the place ideal for bird sighting.
There’s absolutely no charge to camp at the Jorgen’s Hollow campground inside Sheyenne National Grassland! The grasslands and campsite are open all year round. Apart from campers, equestrians and mountain bikers are also welcome to the campsite.
8. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Another great option on our list of fun and cheap things to do in North Dakota – a visit to the interesting Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. This park is regulated by the US National Park Service, but unlike many other famous NPS parks; Knife River Indian Villages is completely free to tour and enjoy!
This park is the perfect place to learn more about Native American and natural histories. The Visitor Center entrance is marked with an eagle-like structure to celebrate the Native American culture right as you walk inside the entryway.
Knife River Indian Villages has several attractions for nature and history lovers. Explore the following spots and activities inside the park:
- Hiking trails; the most popular ones being North Forest Trail loop, Missouri Overlook loop and the Two Rivers Trail
- Head over to the museum for a glimpse at the Hidatsa people’s culture and life
- Visit the reconstructed Earthlodge, a sacred spot for the Native Americans
- Tour the remains of the Awatixa Village (Sakakawea Site) and the Awatixa Xi’e Village (Lower Hidatsa Site)
- Go bird sighting at the trails and spot some thrushes, waterfowls, warblers, and raptors
- Fish along the Missouri and Knife Rivers
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site is open all year. The Visitor Center and Earthlodge are open from 9 am to 5 pm during summer and 8 am to 4:30 pm during winter. All grounds and park trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
9. McKenzie County Heritage Park
Location: Watford City
McKenzie County Heritage Park is another free yet interesting destination in North Dakota. The park consists of saved original buildings that date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. These buildings collectively recount how life has been in the old McKenzie County.
Notable buildings you can see as you stroll around the park include:
- Schafer Law Office
- Don Erickson Fire Station
- Alvin “Ike” Jones’ sandstone block home
- Trappers Cabin
- Nelson Schoolhouse
- Eide homestead shack
- Timber Creek Church
Enter each building to see amazing preserved artifacts that describe the way people lived in the area in the 1800s-1900s!
After your tour, have a nice picnic with your family on the park grounds. Or you may simply sit on the benches, take in the views, and reflect or write in your journal making it a perfect hangout.
McKenzie County Heritage Park has no admission fees, but donations of any amount are graciously accepted. It’s open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Come and visit the park on Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm.
10. North Dakota State Capitol
North Dakota State Capitol is the last but not the least; no-cost destination on our list! The 21-story Capitol tower is North Dakota’s government house and is set on a 160-acre campus. State buildings surround The Capitol but there are also parks, walking trails and monuments for everyone to enjoy.
The state Capitol offers free guided tours during limited hours while self-guided tours are also allowed. Head over to the observation level on the building’s 18th floor to get breathtaking views of Bismarck.
Meanwhile, outdoor facilities for you to discover and enjoy at no cost include:
- Arboretum Trail
- Prairie Trail
- Myron Atkinson Park
- Capitol Park
- Statues and monuments such as those of Sakakawea, The Pioneer Family, All Veterans Memorial, John Burke, and the USS North Dakota bow plate
North Dakota State Capitol is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Tours are available from 9 to 11 am and 1 to 3 pm.
Find the Best Vacation Homes Near Cheap Things to Do in North Dakota
Complete your budget-friendly vacation with a comfy yet affordable rental home near your preferred destinations in North Dakota! You can use a platform such as Rental Trader to find the best property to suit your budget.
Search for property listings by typing in your destination state (North Dakota) and your travel dates, then looking at the listings that’ll appear. You can then connect with the owners, ask questions, and make reservations to make the most out of your visit. It’s simple and easy!
Head over to Rental Trader’s Contact Us page to request more information about their listing services. You may call them up, send an email or fill up their quick web form.
And that’s a wrap-up of our 10 fun cheap things to do in North Dakota! Get set for an amazing yet budget-friendly trip to The Peace Garden State!