Sunset at Theodore Roosevelt Wilderness

Best Things to Do in Medora, N.D.

BY Megan Bannister | September 15, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Medora? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Medora, N.D.?”

Arriving in this tiny North Dakota town is like stepping onto the set of a Hollywood Western from yesteryear. The weathered wood-fronted buildings, sweeping sandstone bluffs and horses trodding the streets keep the Old West vibes strong. But, if you know anything about Medora, it’s likely due to Teddy Roosevelt and the connection our 26th President had with the area. He was an avid explorer of the Dakota Territories, and they helped inspire his passion for conservation. It’s still easy to see why, even today.

Driving into Medora along I-94, the rolling prairies give way to otherworldly sandstone formations of the Badlands sprinkled with greens, blues and purples. Within the aptly named Theodore Roosevelt National Park, bison roam freely and prairie dogs yip from their plentiful burrows. While Medora is a town of only about 140 year-round residents, its population swells in the tourist season to welcome the thousands of visitors eager to explore the National Park and the rugged wilderness beyond. But there’s lots to see and do in Medora in addition to outdoor adventures. (Have you ever eaten steak that was cooked on a pitchfork before boot-stomping at a country-Western revue?) No matter what you do here, your trip to Medora will be a slice of low-key Americana.

You’re Here to See the Old West

Wandering Medora is like stepping onto the set of an old Hollywood Western. From the facades of buildings around town to themed eateries and historical re-enactors, this small community has found countless ways to embrace its Western flair. 

Medora Musical
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Medora Musical

Medora Musical

3422 Chateau Road, Medora, ND, USA

The Burning Hills are alive with the sounds of the Medora Musical. Each summer, the musical recruits talent from across the country to be part of the country-Western revue that includes singing, dancing, live horses, fireworks and more. Catch a performance Tuesday through Sunday in the show’s open-air amphitheater with views of the Badlands beyond and discover why they call it the greatest show in the West.  

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Pitchfork Steak Fondue in Medora, N.D.
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Pitchfork Steak Fondue in Medora, N.D.

Pitchfork Steak Fondue

3422 Chateau Road, Medora, ND, USA

Before heading to the Medora Musical, why not plan for a dinner that’s also its own sort of show? At Medora’s Pitchfork Steak Fondue, thick steaks are loaded onto pitchforks and plunged into sizzling vats of oil in a Western-style fondue. Steak dinners come with all the fixin’s from baked beans and baked potatoes to garlic toast and cinnamon sugar donuts. Grab a tray, sidle up to a picnic table and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Badlands. 

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Pitchfork Steak Fondue in Medora, N.D.
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Western Edge Books in Medora, N.D.

Western Edge Books, Artwork & Music

425 4th Street, Medora, ND, USA

If you’re ready to learn more about Medora’s history, stop into Western Edge Books, Artwork & Music. This Western-themed bookstore and gallery specializes in sharing the stories of the Old West. From stuffed shelves of history books, biographies, children’s books, cookbooks and more, this cozy shop is a must-stop for any bookworm. 

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North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, N.D.
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North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, N.D.

North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

250 Main St, Medora, ND, USA

Discover the history of the plains and the North Dakotan Western lifestyle with a visit to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. This 15,000-square-foot museum includes all sorts of exhibits highlighting the history of the cowboys and cowgirls that made Medora what it is today as well as the contributions and traditions of the area’s Native American tribes. 

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And Learn About the Area’s History

While Theodore Roosevelt is the town’s most obvious historical figure, there are many other men and women who made their mark on Medora. 

Maltese Cross Cabin in Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Maltese Cross Cabin in Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.

Maltese Cross Cabin

South Unit Visitor Center, Medora, ND, USA

Theodore Roosevelt first began coming to the area in 1883 to hunt bison and soon after purchased the Chimney Butte Ranch. On his visits to the Dakota Territories, he stayed in a one-and-a-half story pine cabin that has come to be known as the Maltese Cross Cabin. During his presidency, the cabin became a part of the World’s Fair and traveled around the country. But in 1959, the cabin was moved a final time to the National Park, where visitors can find it conveniently relocated behind the South Unit Visitor Center. 

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Chateau De Mores State in Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Chimney at the slaughterhouse ruins in Chimney Park at Chateau De Mores State Historic Site, Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.

Chateau de Mores State Historic Site

3426 Chateau Road, Medora, ND, USA

Built in 1883 as a summer home for Antoine de Vallombrosa, the Marquis de Mores, and his family, this 26-room, two-story home is a great way to experience what life in the North Dakota wilderness was like for the aristocracy of the era. Today visitors can tour the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site to see furniture and personal effects from the family that founded Medora. In fact, the Marquis named the small Western town after his wife, Medora von Hoffman. 

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Harold Schafer Heritage Center
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Harold Schafer Heritage Center

Harold Schafer Heritage Center

335 4th Street, Medora, ND, USA

While Medora was once a bustling trade hub, it had fallen on harder times by the mid-1900s. In the 1960s, North Dakota businessman Harold Schafer made it his mission to modernize and revitalize the Old West town. Visit the Harold Schafer Heritage Center to learn about Schafer’s legacy, including his most well-known products like Mr. Bubble.  

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Old Town Hall Theater, Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Old Town Hall Theater, Medora, North Dakota. Photo via Shutterstock.

Old Town Hall Theater

275 Broadway, Medora, ND, USA

Head to the Old Town Hall Theater to catch the Teddy Roosevelt Show. Learn about the 26th president from one of the town’s talented re-enactors. Or mark your calendar for one of the other magic shows, comedy sets or variety shows that perform at the 220-seat theater. Snap a photo with the statue in front of the theater and be sure to keep an eye out: you might also spot Teddy or Eleanor Roosevelt wandering around town. 

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Explore the Badlands and the Burning Hills

While Medora is an Old West town, the reason for its annual surge of summer tourists is its breathtaking landscapes. Here you’ll discover lush foliage against the stark sandstone of colorful bluffs and valleys teeming with wildlife. With Theodore Roosevelt National Park just steps from downtown, Medora has no shortage of places to hike, bike and horseback ride.

 

Painted Canyon Visitors Center in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.
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Painted Canyon Visitors Center in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.

Painted Canyon Visitors Center

Exit 32, Hwy 94, Belfield, ND, USA

Before you even arrive in Medora, waving grass gives way to colorful blues, greens and purples as the Badlands unfurl before you. For those who just can’t wait to get a peek at the unusual and captivating landscape, pull off the interstate just before Medora at the Painted Canyon Visitors Center for a better look at the panoramic vistas. 

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA

Established in 1947, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is made up of three distinct areas featuring jaw-dropping Badlands and a variety of options for outdoor recreation. If you’re short on time, the best way to see the park is the 48-mile scenic drive of the South Unit. This loop starts and ends in Medora and takes roughly two hours to complete. Along the way you’ll pass ample short trails for quick hikes and have plenty of opportunity to see wild bison, mule deer, prairie dogs and horses. If you’re set on seeing wildlife, plan on visiting in the morning or early evening. 

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Maah Daah Hey Trail in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.
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Maah Daah Hey Trail in Medora, N.D. Photo by Shutterstock.

Maah Daah Hey Trail

Maah Daah Hey Trail, Medora, ND, USA

Outdoor enthusiasts won’t want to miss a hike or bike ride on the Maah Daah Hey Trail. The trail system is made up of nine units spanning 144 miles across the North Dakota wilderness. Hike, bike or horseback ride across this rugged and diverse terrain, winding through grassy flats, steep sandstone buttes and jagged peaks. The phrase “maah daah hey” comes from the Mandan and Hidatsa Native Americans who call North Dakota their aboriginal home. Translated into English, “maah daah hey” means “an area that will be around for a long time.”

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Bully Pulpit Golf Course, Medora, North Dakota
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Bully Pulpit Golf Course, Medora, North Dakota

Bully Pulpit Golf Course

3731 Bible Camp Road, Medora, ND, USA

Ranked as one of the top 100 public courses in the country by Golf Digest, Bully Pulpit Golf Course gives players an opportunity to tee off in the heart of the Badlands. Experience a spectacular view of the Little Missouri River as you play through grasslands, buttes and the valleys below.

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Embrace Unusual Attractions

An adventure in the Old West is the perfect time to get a little weird. Discover why you need to add these unique art installations to your Medora itinerary. 

Perception in Medora, N.D.
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Perception in Medora, N.D.

Perception

401 6th Street, Medora, ND, USA

Not everything is as it seems, especially at Perception. Opened in 2019, this interactive museum is one large optical illusion. Snap photos that will make your friends scratch their heads and visit the mind-boggling slanted house to experience a physical illusion for yourself. 

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Enchanted Highway in Medora, N.D.
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Enchanted Highway in Medora, N.D.

Enchanted Highway

Exit 72, I-94, Regent, ND, USA

About 45 minutes east of Medora, you’ll find the whimsical Enchanted Highway. Drive the 32 miles of highway south from I-94 to experience the larger-than-life metal sculptures made by artist Gary Greff. Marvel at the seven sculptures that make up the Enchanted Highway, including towering “Geese in Flight,” a familiar figure in “Teddy Rides Again” and many more.

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Get Your Fill of Hearty American Fare

For a town of its size, Medora has quite a few spots to enjoy a delicious bite to eat. If you’re planning a trip to Medora, you’ll want to keep in mind that the area is fairly remote. While there’s a small gas station and convenience store in town, the nearest grocery stores are more than half an hour to the east in Dickinson. So be sure to stock up on supplies before you get here.

Cowboy Cafe in Medora, N.D.
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Cowboy Cafe in Medora, N.D.

Cowboy Cafe

215 4th Street, Medora, ND, USA

Medora’s Cowboy Cafe boasts “home cooking at its best.” Here you’ll find classic diner favorites like pancakes, French toast and chicken-fried steak served up in a rustic, photo-lined dining room. If you plan to visit, remember that this old-school eatery is cash or check only. And be sure to save room for an ooey-gooey, homemade caramel roll. 

 

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Farmhouse Cafe in Medora, N.D.
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Farmhouse Cafe in Medora, N.D.

The Farmhouse Cafe

314 Pacific Ave, Medora, ND, USA

For brunch, The Farmhouse Cafe is the spot to be. Filling three-egg omelets and cheesy, stuffed hashbrowns are the perfect way to start the day in Medora. Or, if you’re in the mood for lunch or dinner, try one of the restaurant’s popular burgers. 

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Hatlee and Brae in Medora, N.D.
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Hatlee and Brae in Medora, N.D.

Hatlee + Brae

394 Pacific Ave, Medora, ND, USA

After exploring the Badlands, you’ll need a spot to grab a sweet treat. Hatlee + Brae serves 24 flavors of ice cream as well as smoothies and espresso drinks. Be sure to try their signature flavors like huckleberry and black licorice. 

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Theodore Rosevelt Dining Room
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Theodore Rosevelt Dining Room

Theodore's Dining Room

301 3rd Ave, Medora, ND, USA

Located inside the Rough Riders Hotel, Theodore’s Dining Room is an upscale eatery that serves both breakfast and dinner daily. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, a meal at this restaurant is a great way to surround yourself with historic ambiance and delicious American-inspired fare. Dishes like the bison Benedict and bison osso buco harken back to Teddy’s buffalo-hunting days. 

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Grab a Drink at a Local Watering Hole

What would a visit to the Old West be without a drink at a barrelhouse or two? For those looking to imbibe, Medora has a handful of bars that are perfect for unwinding after a long day of exploring.

Medora Uncork'd in Medora, N.D.
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Medora Uncork'd in Medora, N.D.

Medora Uncork'd

370-378 Pacific Ave, Medora, ND, USA

While a wine bar may be unexpected in the Old West, Medora Uncork’d is one of the community’s true gems. This spot’s industrial interior and moody red lighting create an unexpectedly sultry space to enjoy ample wine options as well as delectable flatbreads, panini, pastas and more. If you’re feeling adventurous, order the BBQ Blueberry Meatball Pizza, a sweet and savory combo that combines blueberry barbecue sauce with cheese, meatballs and spicy jalapeños. Or if you’re looking for something shareable, the Cheese & Charcuterie Slate is a great option. 

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Little Missouri Saloon & Dining Room
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Little Missouri Saloon & Dining Room

Little Missouri Saloon & Dining Room

440 3rd Street, Medora, ND, USA

Established in 1883, the Little Missouri Saloon once served cowboys and gunslingers looking for a reprieve from the dusty trails. Today, the only things this saloon slings are stiff drinks and hearty portions. Dollar bills hang from the ceiling and the door handles are made from pistols in this popular, come-as-you-are spot. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a cold drink or a family-friendly meal after a day outdoors, look no further. The buffalo and elk burgers are popular choices as are the deep-fried pickles.  

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Sleep in a Piece of Old West History

Like any gateway to a National Park, there are ample accommodation options in Medora. But if you’re truly looking for a memorable place to stay, its historic hotel and glamping nod to pioneer history shine above the rest.  

Rough Riders Hotel in Medora, N.D.
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Rough Riders Hotel in Medora, N.D.

Rough Riders Hotel

301 3rd Avenue, Medora, ND, USA

The Rough Riders Hotel is where Western charm meets modern luxury. Located in the heart of Medora, this 76-room historic hotel is filled with rustic touches like its tin-tiled ceiling and stone-hewn fireplace. Like many other Medora spots, this hotel is named for Theodore Roosevelt’s 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry and even once welcomed the 26th president as a guest.

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Conestoga Wagons
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Conestoga Wagons

Conestoga Wagons

3370 Pool Drive, Medora, ND, USA

Camp on the banks of the Little Missouri River just like the pioneers would have. Except that the Medora Campground’s Conestoga Wagons have been fully outfitted with plush beds, electricity and heating and air conditioning. These unique glamping spots are open seasonally and can be booked from mid-May through late September. 

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