Visitors to the grounds of the North Dakota State Capitol, also known as the "Skyscraper on the Prairie," can tour the building and also enjoy the arboretum trail that winds among various state buildings, and features 75 species of trees, shrubs, and blooming flowers. Also on site is a statue of Sacajawea, the Indian woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition through Bismarck. The statue of the guide was erected by the North Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs in 1910. Nearby, the North Dakota Heritage Center, the most comprehensive of the state's museums, houses one of the largest collections of Plains Indian artifacts in the United States. Also open for tours is the Historic Governor's Mansion that served as the governor's residence from 1893 to 1960.
Docked at the historic Port of Bismarck, the Lewis & Clark riverboat offers paddlewheel cruises of the Missouri River. Open daily from April through September (and only weekends in the winter season), the Dakota Zoo is home to more than 125 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals. Camp
Fort Abraham Lincoln houses the reconstructed home of General George Custer. Visitors can view a staff performance set in Custer's time, visit the soldiers' central barracks, and shop at the commissary store. The hill above the fort provides panoramic views of the Missouri Valley. On-a-Slant Indian Village displays replicas of Indian earth lodges on the site of an ancient Mandan village. An on-site museum contains Native American and military artifacts. Visitors to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park can experience the Custer Trail Ride and explore the panoramic views from bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.
The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, 35 miles north of Bismarck in Washburn, provides a view of what life was like on the trail for the explorers, and features the world-famous artwork of Karl Bodmer, who chronicled Plains Indian life and local river landscapes.
North Bismarck's Gateway to Science offers hands-on exhibits that provide learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. The Railroad Museum, north of nearby Mandan, has on view handmade models, photographs, and uniforms, and offers miniature train rides. Located just a few miles east of Bismarck, Buckstop Junction contains reconstructed buildings that date back to the 1800s and early 1990s. Visitors can tour a mining camp complete with a coal mine, gas shovel, scale house, and mine buildings.
Bismarck is about 130 miles east of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and is a stopping-off point for visitors to that monument to the 26th President of the United States.
Arts and Culture
A primary venue for the performing arts in Bismarck is the Belle Mehus Auditorium, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1914, the auditorium hosts performances of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and the Northern Plains Ballet, one of the state's newest and fastest growing performing arts organizations.
Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre offers live performances and classes. The Shade Tree Players is a children's theater group offering summer productions. The Bismarck/Mandan area is also home to the North Dakota Association of Dance and Drill and to the Dakota West Arts Council, the area's arts umbrella agency.
Arts and Culture Information: Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra, PO Box 2031, Bismarck, ND 58502; telephone (701)258-8345
Festivals and Holidays
September is a festive month in Bismarck. The city hosts one of the nation's largest Native American cultural events—the annual United Tribes International Pow Wow. More than 70 tribes are represented at this award-winning festival, which features 1,500 dancers and drummers and draws 30,000 spectators. Also in September is the Annual International Indian Art Expo, which highlights Native American artists and provides traditional song, music, dance, and storytelling. The Folkfest Celebration takes place over four days in September, with a parade, carnival, street fair, book festival, tractor pull, walking and running events, and plenty of food. Bismarck Marathon, North Dakota's only major marathon, is also held in September and attracts runners from around North America.
The highlight of October is the Edge of the West PRCA Rodeo, featuring the nation's toughest rough stock and champion cowboys. Month's end brings the Children's All-City Halloween Party. December begins with the annual Fantasy of Lights Parade, featuring lighted holiday floats. Sertoma Park is the site of the Christmas In The Park display of lighted trees. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park hosts Custer Christmas; guests can tour General Custer's home decorated for the holidays and celebrate the season with sleigh rides and a buffalo burger buffet.
July events include Frontier Army Days at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, featuring a look at the lives of the ladies of the frontier army, as re-enactors cook and launder and hold cavalry and artillery drills. The annual Mandan Rodeo Days celebration also takes place in July, with more than 100 artist booths, ethnic food, music, a carnival, and a petting zoo.
August is the month for the Bismarck Art & Galleries Association annual art fair on the State Capitol Grounds. Also in August, the Fur Trader Rendezvous at Fort Abraham Lincoln features demonstrations of fire starting, toolmaking, rifle marksmanship, and dancing.
The Bismarck Civic Center hosts a number of annual events, including the Bismarck Tribune Sport Show in February, the Spring Blossoms Craft Fair in May, the Missouri River Festival in June, and the Monaco International Motorcoach Event in August.
The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony League, a volunteer organization, schedules festive fundraisers throughout the year, such as a Holiday Home Walk and a spring Wild n' Wooly Wing Ding. This fun activity has received two national awards from the American Symphony Orchestra League as one of the six most unique and effective fundraisers in the nation.
Sports for the Spectator
The Bismarck Bobcats bring exciting North American Hockey League action to the VFW Sports Center. The Dakota Wizards play professional basketball at the Bismarck Civic Center.
Sports for the Participant
Bismarck has an outstanding parks and recreations system that includes bicycle and skate parks, an archery range, baseball diamonds, boat ramps, jogging and exercise tracks, hockey and figure skating rinks, all-season arenas, racquet-ball courts, swimming pools, tennis courts, and soccer fields. There are seven golf courses in the area; Bismarck's Hawk Tree Golf Course placed second on Golf Digest's 2000 list of the top new courses in the United States.
With its location on the Missouri River in the North Central Flyway, the Bismarck-Mandan area offers some of the best fishing and hunting opportunities available in North America. Nineteen of North Dakota's 23 game fish species are found in the Missouri River. Some of the best natural areas of the relatively unaltered habitat left on the Missouri River system are just upstream and downstream from Bismarck-Mandan. The habitat is home to abundant upland and big game. Pheasant, grouse, partridge, dove white-tailed deer and many other non-game species of birds and animals are available for picture taking, observing, and hunting. Other activities enjoyed in the Bismarck area include camping, curling, gymnastics, horseshoes, cross-country skiing, go-cart racing, and downhill skiing.
Shopping and Dining
Bismarck-Mandan is the retail hub for south-central North Dakota, a retail trade area that includes nearly 170,000 people. Downtown Bismarck offers more than 70 stores of all sorts, as well as art galleries and antique shops. Kirkwood Mall features more than 100 specialty stores and five major department stores. Other malls include Arrowhead Plaza, Northbrook Shopping Center, Gateway Mall, and Upfront Plaza.
The historic Burlington Northern Railroad Depot on Main Street in Mandan is home to Native American arts and crafts. Works of more than 200 North Dakota American Indian artists are available for purchase.
A variety of dining establishments can be found in Bismarck, from the Captains Table Restaurant, boasting one of the largest menus in the upper Midwest, to Space Aliens restaurant, which promises "out of this world food," to the Fiesta Villa, where south-of-the-border food is served in Bismarck's historic Spanish mission-style depot. Other restaurants feature hot buffets, Italian food, regional beef and prime rib, and seafood.
Visitor Information: Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1600 Burnt Boat Drive, Bismarck, ND, 58503; toll-free (800)767-3555
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