If Bismarck North Dakota is not on your list of places to visit, you need to add it. This city has small town charm, but still offers many options to entertain the family. We found so much to do, if only we had more time to spend here. Read my ten reasons to visit Bismarck with your family.
1. North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum
Make sure you plan plenty of time to explore the North Dakota Heritage Center. Not only is it free, but it’s amazing. We went twice and still didn’t experience it all. It is within walking distance of the capitol building and you will find plenty of parking nearby.
Kids will love all the hands on exhibits and interactive learning experiences. This museum has one of the rarest dinosaur fossils ever found. It still has skin intact! Upstairs you will find The Treehouse, a space designed for younger kids, where they can play and get some energy out.
2. Capitol Tour
North Dakota is one of only four states that has a skyscraper capitol building. Each capitol we have toured has a special story, feature or room, and the one in Bismarck is no different. You have to go on the tour to see the “monkey room.”
This room is located in the entryway of the Secretary of State’s office and is truly unique. The California Walnut used to build the room is believed to be the last of it’s kind. In here you will see some cool designs in the wood grains. My oldest son liked the Garfield image that our tour guide pointed out.
3. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Visiting state parks is a great way to learn about a state. There is tons of history at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. You can tour the house where General Custer stayed while stationed in the area. Explore the barracks where the soldiers lived and ate. The stable where the men kept their horses is open and full of great information. This is only one part of this impressive state park.
View this post on Instagram
Take some time to explore an old Earth-lodge village and see what it was like to be a native living near the Missouri River. Inside the Earth-lodges check out one of the many interesting signs with information about how the inhabitants lived. My kids enjoyed reading about all the ways in which the natives used bison. The village is located right near the visitors center, which is full of great information too. Take some time to watch the video, it’s very well done.
Some old blockhouse forts sit on top of the hill. They are reconstructions of the original buildings that once stood here. It’s fun to climb the stairs all the way to the top. You will also be provided with a great view of the river from up there! They have done such a great job with this park. It gives you a wonderful picture of what life must have been like back then and one of the many reasons to visit Bismarck with your family.
4. Lewis and Clark Riverboat
Cruise the Missouri River on the Lewis and Clark Riverboat. There are several tour options to choose from including:
- Private Charter
- Dinner Cruise
- Moonlight Cruise
- Regular Excursion
Each tour lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes depending on the cruise. Snacks and drinks are available on board too. Indoor and outdoor seating is available for around 150 passengers.
We enjoyed the pizza cruise. With kids it’s always nice to have food. After we ate there was live music and even a balloon artist. Jim Fahn of Balloon Ninjas was awesome. He took the kids’ requests and made them some really cool balloon art. A crossbow with balloon bullets, a penguin, and a wearable horse is just a sample of what this guy can do.
With all the food and entertainment the kids didn’t have a chance to get bored. They loved being able to go outside and upstairs to listen to the music, then back inside to watch the balloon artist at work. Our cruise went up the river one way and then turned back and went down the river a little way. When we passed the docking area the kids all sighed in disappointment, but cheered when they saw we kept going by.
5. The Former Governors’ Mansion
We were so surprised at how kid friendly the Former Governors’ Mansion is. Our visit happened to be on Labor Day, which also happened to be a day for live music and free ice cream! Aren’t we lucky. The tour is self guided, so after some live music, ice cream and lemonade, we explored the house.
Outside is the carriage house where you can see an old carriage and learn about the different ways in which the building was used. Throughout the house are many interesting displays. I like the way they display all the different layers of wallpaper with frames. The attic will be the kids’ favorite. It was often used as a children’s playroom, so here is where you will find games, books, puzzles and toys, all for the kids to enjoy.
6. Awesome Playgrounds=Great Reasons to Visit Bismarck With Your Family
Bismarck parks and recreation has some of the best playgrounds we have seen. They are clean and our kids had a blast playing on the equipment. There are two that I highly recommend:
At Firemans Park your kids will love the bright colors of the equipment. The tall climbing structure, the firetruck and the spring toys will keep them busy for hours. Behind the climbing structure is the best self spinning merry-go-round ever. It literally will spin itself just by sitting on it. For even more excitement give it a push and the kids will be screaming with delight.
Eagles Nest Universal Playground is huge. This is a fairly new playground and has equipment that can be used by all children. The zip line was definitely a favorite of all the kids. With all the equipment and space this place provides, your kids will want to stay for hours. Great playgrounds make great reasons to visit Bismarck with your family.
7. General Sibley Park and Campground
When searching for a campground near Bismarck, we had trouble deciding between General Sibley Campground and the campground at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. In the end we decided on General Sibley because it is so close to everything. The campground at Fort Abraham Lincoln is beautiful though (we just had to drive through when we were there).
General Sibley Campground is very conveniently located. It is a great choice for seeing the city. Fort Abraham Lincoln is the furthest to drive to, at 20 minutes, while still being in the city. There are several stores and restaurants close by as well. I recommend getting a site near the back because the view of the river is beautiful.
8. Knife River Indian Village
The Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site is only about an hour north of Bismarck. Here you will find an Earthlodge set up to be historically accurate for the time. When we walked into it there was even a fire burning inside. It really helps you feel like you have stepped back in time.
Kids can earn their Junior Ranger badge by completing some activities in the visitors center and watching the short movie. After exploring the Earthlodge and the visitors center, take the hike. You can see the many depressions still visible from where, at one time, an entire Earthlodge Village was located.
9. Bearscat Bakehouse Donuts
Who doesn’t love donuts? Don’t miss your chance to try some of the delicious flavors at Bearscat Bakehouse in Bismarck. There aren’t many donut shops in Bismarck, but they would have some tough competition if there were. This place is delicious. Our youngest son chose the cinnamon roll and it was bigger than his head (he ate all of it, but did share a few bites).
10. Superslide Amusement Park
Locals will all tell you to go down the slide at the Superslide Amusement Park. They are right, you have to try it. This amusement park provides free admission. It gives you the opportunity to choose the rides you want to go on. You can spend all day or just an hour. The slide is awesome and by far the best deal at two rides per ticket! It’s a great reason to visit Bismarck with your family.
While most rides are suited to pre-teens and younger, there are some options that will entertain the older kids as well. The mini-golf course was fun and you can ride bumper cars too. The concession stand has very reasonably priced items, like nachos and hot dogs, if you want to grab a bite.
Now You Have 10 Great Reasons to Visit Bismarck With Your Family
I hope you’re ready to book your next vacation to Bismarck North Dakota. It is a wonderful capitol city with lots for a family to do. Friendly people and inexpensive fun make it a perfect family friendly destination. What’s your favorite family vacation spot?
Some of the places we visited invited us. As always we still give our honest opinions about all the places we visit.