I finally checked off the state of North Dakota this summer on an epic trip out west. Medora, North Dakota, is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and a town created from a brand/product we all know and love—Mr. Bubble. Medora is so charming and quaint and the perfect place to explore for nature lovers, small town seekers, and family fun. Here are the five reasons you should visit Medora, North Dakota, that will absolutely delight you.
1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
One of the most accessible parks, and one you’ll find incredible animals, up close and personal, is Theodore Roosevelt National Park, or TRNP. I can honestly say that I probably saw 250 bison, a handful of elk, and 1000s of prairie dogs on my visit to TRNP. Never, in 35 National Park visits, have I ever had this much access to being around and photographing wildlife.
TRNP isn’t huge and can be done in a single day. However, I recommend going in the morning and again at night as the landscape changes drastically, and the animals are in different places. In the evening, watch out for prairie dogs on the road as they are super fast and make driving a real effort. They are so cute, though, and you honestly can’t get enough of them bobbing in and out of their burrows and yipping like barking dogs.
Aside from animals, you’ll find the most amazing picturesque views of the beautiful North Dakota scenery from Painted Canyon Visitor Center.
And while I didn’t get to see the wild horses in TRNP, they are a huge draw for visitors.
2. A Walkable Town
The downtown area of Medora reminds me of a village. It is quaint and adorable, has several shops, museums, coffee shops, and wine bars, to name a few. My favorite part of Medora (besides how darned cute it is), is the Teddy Roosevelt statue in town at the Old Town Hall Theater. I love how his influence helped shaped this community.
Two noteworthy shops in Medora are the Buffalo Gap Gift Shop and Medora Boot and Western Wear.
Enjoy a tasty glass of wine from Medora Uncork’d or a perfect cup of specialty coffee from Hatlee & Brae. You’ll love the gift and souvenir selections at both, too. Educate yourself in the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame, a well-done museum with great photo-ops and exhibits, displays, and artifacts.
So, what is the connection to Mr. Bubble? Harold Schafer, the founder of the Gold Seal Company, known for Mr. Bubble, Glass Wax, and other household products, left a foundation (Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation) in 1986 to keep Medora running.
Under the foundation’s umbrella is the Medora Musical, Pitchfork Steak Fondue, Gospel Brunch, and Roughrider Hotel & Dining. Medora is a great mix of businesses owned by locals or that are part of the foundation. The wholesome community is supported and gainly employed through this iconic North Dakota entrepreneur, which is fascinating to think about.
Everything we do in Medora comes back to three, overlapping circles that guide our work: History, Education, and Entertainment.
You can learn more about Harold Schafer and the amazing legacy he left behind in Medora at the admission-free Harold Schafer Heritage Center. I advise watching the 23-minute video before exploring the exhibits and displays.
3. A Long-Running American Musical
I’d heard about the Medora Musical for years before ever visiting the city, and now I know truly what a big deal it is. This long-running musical feature a variety of America-forward acts, singing and dancing (Burning Hills Singers), fantastic costumes, and an ode to Teddy Roosevelt himself and the Great American West.
A performance of this magnitude would not be complete without patriotic fireworks, and the Medora Musical has them—fantastic ones! The Medora Musical is held at the Burning Hills Amphitheater.
Having never seen the Medora Musical (but hearing loads about it from many friends who have attended), my favorite would be the reenactment of Teddy’s famous charge at the battle of San Juan Hill. I visited San Juan Hill in Cuba and imagined him doing just the same.
A dinner option comes with the Medora Musical and is provided from Pitchfork Steak Fondue for an additional fee. My family frequents The Melting Pot often and loves fondue, so this Southern gal gets very confused by this restaurant’s name, which means skewered (pitchforked) meats and fondued in boiling oil.
Enjoy a tasty steak, salad, fruit, vegetables, dessert (cinnamon sugar donuts and brownies), and delicious side dishes like baked beans, baked potatoes, and coleslaw with the stunning Badlands, from the top of Tjaden Terrace bluff, in the background. Lemonade and coffee are included. While I have not eaten the meal, it looks fabulous!
4. Family Fun
Besides the National Park and all of its offerings, you’ll find plenty of family fun in Medora. Kids of all ages will love the Medora Children’s Park, a western-town-themed playground, or grabbing a cone of ice cream or fudge from the Medora Fudge and Ice Cream Depot.
Try your hand at zip-lining at New Manitou, the Point to Point Zipline, and mini-golf at Medora Mini Golf. Adults can experience the real thing at the Bully Pulpit Golf Course, where the North Dakota Badlands are your backdrop. You can even ride horses, even for beginners, at the Medora Riding Stables and Trail Rides.
5. Great Food
For a town this size, I was shocked at how great the food was. Having owned restaurants and knowing how much you must count on food wholesalers. Medora is in a rural part of the country, so imagine my surprise at the trendy dishes on the local menus and great selection of fresh items.
Grab a pizza to go from Badlands Pizza Parlor and have a picnic with buffalo in the background as you enjoy the beauty of sunset around Theodore Roosevelt National Park. My friend Sara and I did this. We had a herd of 20 or so bison very close to us— and it was magical!
For heavy appetizers and great drink combinations, Little Missouri Saloon is the place to go. It is also the only restaurant in town with deck seating and beautiful outdoor heaters, used seasonally. I loved the lightly-breaded Avocado Bites and hand-breaded in egg roll wrappers with pepper jack cheese, Deep Fried Pickles. Delicious! LMDR also has fresh-made-to-order pizzas.
An exceptional place for gourmet sandwiches and salads, plus amazing Black and Bleu Brussels sprouts and Buffalo Cauliflower, is Boots Bar and Grill, with an extra-large outdoor patio, weather permitting. The Boots Quesadilla is palate-pleasing and the burgers get rave reviews. Boots also has live music, a big draw in Medora.
Need a Place to Stay in Medora?
Sara and I stayed at the AmericInn by Wyndham Medora, a clean and comfy property with affordable rates, a fantastic indoor swimming pool, hot tub, spacious rooms, and comfortable beds. Rooms feature mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee makers.
The AmericInn is located within walking distance to the downtown and restaurants and offers complimentary WiFi and tasty breakfast. I loved the warm and inviting lobby, perfect for enjoying a good read or catching up on your social media.
Medora Photo Gallery
Other places to visit around the Midwest: