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Fall Finds in North Dakota

In many places, fall travel means taking leisurely drives to see colorful scenery. In North Dakota, foliage is only the beginning of the fun during September and October.

Largely rural, North Dakota enjoys great farmland, wide-open expanses and a rich cultural history. Numerous special events taking place in the early autumn celebrate these defining aspects of the state and make great opportunities for groups to get to know the area.

In the western portion of the state, Norsk Hostfest is a large event that pays tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian heritage. And Dakota Nights at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora takes advantage of the area’s dark skies to give visitors an astronomical experience.

Pumpkinfest brings a classical autumn fair to Walhalla in northeast North Dakota. Fargo Morehead Studio Crawl highlights the arts scene in the city on the Minnesota border, and Sodbuster Days recalls the homestead days at a historic farm at Fort Ransom.


Celebrating Scandinavia

Scandinavian emigrants played a large role in settling the northern part of the Central Plains, and the town of Minot honors that heritage each year with Norsk Hostfest. The celebration, which takes place in late September and early October, has become the largest Scandinavian festival in North America. The coming year will mark the 18th installment of the festival.

Groups that visit the festival will find numerous ways to experience the cultures of emigrants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as those of their descendants in the United States and Canada. The festival features authentic art and entertainment from around the world, with live music on seven free stages throughout the community and nationally known performers giving paid concerts in the Great Hall.

Visitors can also get a taste of Scandinavia, as the festival features chefs preparing authentic Scandinavian cuisine and artisans selling traditional handcrafted merchandise.


Dakota Nights

North Dakota’s wide-open spaces and lack of light pollution make it an ideal place for stargazing. In Medora, a town in the southwestern part of the state, Theodore Roosevelt National Park celebrates the heavens during its annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival.

During this mid-September event, astronomers, park rangers and historians gather for three days and nights to study the stars above. Daytime activities include rocket-building and launching demonstrations, “build-your-own telescope” workshops, “solar system hikes,” and presentations and lectures by astronomy experts, as well as activities in the Discovery Dome at nearby Dickinson State University. After nightfall, astronomy experts and park rangers man more than 15 telescopes throughout the park, and photographers give night sky photography workshops.

The Dakota Nights Astronomy festival began in 2013. This year’s festival will take place September 11-13. Events are free with regular paid admission to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.