Bismarck-Mandan, ND: Burleigh & Morton Counties (Our 3rd/4th ND Counties)
Our gallivant to North Dakota ran parallel to the Lewis and Clark Trail for much of our trip. Stops in towns such as Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Elk Point, Crofton, Vermillion, Yankton, and then North Dakota’s State Capitol of Bismarck and its neighbor Mandan. The Corps of Discovery had many adventures and they never saw what we did coming. Let’s grab a bite to eat first!
Kroll’s Diner is AN. ABSOLUTE. STAPLE. It’s North Dakota’s comfort zone when it comes to the stick to your ribs world of diner food. They have plenty of traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that could call out to the general public visiting the Peace Garden State. Then there’s the German fare that North Dakotans grew up on that makes this concept stick out.
The famous North Dakota Caramel Roll is obviously everywhere and there is no way you’re going to get me to say where the best one is. Give us 9 or 10 more trips to this state before I can say that with any accuracy and I’ll still manage to cause an outrage. I will tell you that my favorite of this Gallivant was here at Kroll’s and that is mostly because I flippin’ love rhubarb. And as you can see, the cubed dumpling soup called Knoephla is a must have. The creamy onion broth coats the tender dumplings and creates an energy packed start to your Bismarck day.
This state does rhubarb more and better than anywhere I have ever been. And I grew up and live in Iowa where I thought it was the hub for this seasonal stalked veggie. Sorry, Grandma, but I’m here to tell you that North Dakota embraces this summertime rite like champs. Bitty Bean Coffee & Culinary is the coffee stop/food truck stop you must pull up to in Bismarck. Two rounds of tea were had here and we may never find one of them again unless we head back. The little cup was a hot Lavender London Fog with the correct amount of herbs and spiciness. The chilled drink was a local rhubarb tea with the stalks chopped and steeped by the Bitty Bean hence creating the most refreshing beverage we had in North Dakota. Time to study up on more local culture and history….
The state capitol campus is the location for one of the Midwest’s most important museums. Admission is free and the knowledge you gain here is beautifully absorbed. Make these stops often when you’re traveling.
Native American history is masterfully displayed at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum. The impact of the native culture and description of artifacts and notable citizens is up front. Heartbreaking, heroic, and educating is just some of the feelings we had there. You make the turn and you’re learning about the equine importance of the region. Next, you see the prehistoric history of North Dakota. Artifacts, fossils, and weaponry are all before your eyes. This is the traveling break we look for on The Iowa Gallivant.
We would like to remind our fans and readers that some of the admission costs of our travels are complimentary. The views expressed are always of our own. Let’s get back to gallivanting!
Across the Missouri is the City of Mandan. It identifies with the Bismarck metro region, but it also has its own identity as well. Different town, opposite side of the river, and in another county. It is also the permanent host of Fort Abraham Lincoln now and since the 1800s. We’re coming to that beauty and heartbreak part of the area I talked about above.
It was necessary to rebuild a replica of what was General George Custer’s home in the North Dakota territory when he was in charge of the command here. The home you see is a masterful work of architectural skill that brings us back to Victorian era on the plains. I take a major gulp when I write about the man that is depicted here. I won’t sugarcoat a thing. Though I pride myself with the interest of history, I find myself never knowing how to describe such places on the unofficial “Custer trail”. In my opinion, he is the most galvanizing military leader in US history. Yes, that means he’s in the same wheelhouse as Washington, Grant, Lee, Nimitz, Patton, MacArthur, Ike, Puller and so on. The 19th century was the most important in US history and this man was the face of western expansion post Civil War. This was one of his outposts and I will allow the visitor in you to develop your own feelings and thoughts when you walk through this house. It truly is amazing how they were able to bring the former residence back to life with amazing accuracy.
I absolutely love discovering projects of the 1930’s Civilian Conservation Corps workers. We do the best job possible to stay away from the political side when it comes to our gallivants, but there is no way you will ever get me to waver from my fondness of the New Deal’s CCC workers. This state park has a beautiful lodge that houses the interpretive center for Fort Abraham Lincoln that was built by the CCC. They were the literal backbone of the country’s movement to manage some of the wildest areas and make them accessible to the future travelers like us and millions more. The CCC was one of the greatest ideas and programs in the 20th century. Their back-breaking work, during the Great Depression, gave us many gifts in our recreational areas that are still used and very vital to this day. The private citizens of the CCC were also many in numbers that jumped to action when war broke out in 1941. They saw firsthand how mesmerizing and precious the American landscape was and it is not surprising to learn that they were some of the fiercest defenders. They weren’t the first of this country to feel that way.
Slant Hill opens up to you after a short walk through the timber on a managed path. If you are able, come to these structures yourself and enter them. We both felt the inviting presence of the sacred village. Very sunny and warm outside and then a sudden drop of temp when you get into the security of these dwellings. The North Dakota skies and grassy surroundings are enough to indicate the energy and scenic wonder that Slant Hill can have on you. I urge you to relish the tranquility and spiritual energy here before speaking out loud in the village. Let any and every thought come flooding to you and then clear all of it and melt into the hills. We haven’t even gotten to late afternoon in the Bismarck area and already a full Gallivant. Sunset is coming and we had the best seat in the state for it.
The Lewis & Clark Riverboat experience we had supplied a bucket list item I truly wondered if I would ever checkoff. Mostly because I thought I wouldn’t ever have the guts to ask.
The cruise down the Missouri was a casual one equipped with plenty of deck space and a full bar if you would like to partake and we made sure to get a couple of cold beers to join us. Very little chop in the river meant a smooth excursion.
I don’t know what Captain Dave sensed, but his intuition was honed in on this day and with a smooth stretch ahead he asked if I wanted to take the wheel for a moment. There was no way imaginable that I was going to turn that down.
Being with my wife on this historic river and experiencing the same sunset that’s been saying goodnight to the region for thousands of years was very meaningful. We were in modern surroundings and yet we were bobbing up and down on a current that has been a Bismarck foundation loooooong before this area was called Bismarck. Even before the local Native American tribes started cherishing this waterway. The Missouri has a way of making you feel neutral. It has a way of giving you the imagination of being all alone in its flow, ripples, and passage. Even with plenty of roads, humans, and infrastructure in view. It has more of an ancient feel then any other river I can recall being on in my life. This was the main interstate of the Corps of Discovery in the early years of the 1800s. I wonder often if the members of the greatest American expedition felt the same.
Locating the public art and roadside attractions isn’t difficult at all while on the riverbanks. The keel boat replicating the Lewis and Clark days was not going unnoticed in the least.
Dark wood, dim lighting, lively house music, a large food menu with an even larger drink menu, and a boisterous clientele… we’re feeling right at home at the Blarney Stone Pub. We showed up during the 3rd period of game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Hockey is huge in North Dakota, so it was no surprise to see a contingent of fans cheering on the game. We enjoyed their take on the traditional Reuben sandwich and they had every right to be proud of it. Because it did the trick and was very tasty. The king of the table was the Bangers and Mashed. Topped with creamed cabbage with bacon with my fork zooming towards my hand like Thor’s hammer. I attacked. I went hard. I plowed through the plate with no resistance from the outside world. I loved the lack of bright lights. It hid some of my monstrous habits when meeting a dish I respect. Cabbage is my all-time favorite veggie and sausage is my preferred way to eat meat. Pair them with each other and have mashed potatoes and bacon along for the ride is absolute bliss. Please believe me when I say this, dear reader. I was the closest I have ever been in my life to asking our chipper server for a second round of my entree. This was the Bismarck plate of memories I was hoping for. And it was mostly because of my veggies. This would be followed by a much needed stop at our hotel.
*Our stay at the EverSpring Inn & Suites was complimentary. The views expressed are of our own. Let’s get back to gallivanting!
A full day in the Central North Dakota sun is always a welcomed one. The long day yielded a very great sleep in our comfortable room with the air conditioner cranked to full throttle. I like my stay to be Buddy the Elf approved when it comes to room temp and EverSpring Inn & Suites makes it happen.
The complimentary breakfast was the wake-up call we needed to keep heading west to our Medora destination. We would like to go into more detail about this fantastic hotel, but we just don’t have the time….Wait! Yea, we do! Stay tuned to The Iowa Gallivant and see what else we have to say about EverSpring and their hard working staff and great features. I mean, we do have more space on the internet, right?
Middle America has plenty of ways to keep the mind wondering and the body wandering. This was our 21st century expedition into the wilds of North Dakota and the Bismarck-Mandan area shined the whole time. The Missouri River, Indian history, picturesque skies, and powerful aura have been longtime and constant pieces of the makeup of this land and they were surrounding our entire trip. We honestly cherished every moment we had in Bismarck-Mandan. You find a wonderland within your own imaginations in this part of the country. There is no other better way I can describe the meaning of our travels to North Dakota. I guess that’s what the motto means for this area. “No boundaries”.
Click here on the Bismacrk-Mandan website to see more of this region.
Click here on the Travel ND website to start your own Legendary North Dakota adventure. These legends in tourism helped us coordinate our trip and were amazing hosts!
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