Three Educational Family Destinations when Visiting North Dakota #FamilyTravelND

When travelling with kids, it’s tempting to just stick to the activities that are sure to be kid-friendly. But travel can be so much more enriching when kids are given the opportunity to explore beyond zoos and amusement parks! That’s why I couldn’t wait to check out some of the historical sites in North Dakota with my boys. These tourist stops may not be traditional choices for travelling with children, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable!

Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center

missouri-yellowstone confluence interperative center

The Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center was created to honour the point where these two mighty rivers meet. The center itself contains a large main exhibit area called Trails, Tracks, Rivers and Roads. The exhibit explores both the geography and geology of the area as well as the impact that humans had on the land upon their arrival. I was fascinated to see some of the native animals of the area from both past and present; I had never known there was such a thing as a paddlefish! And Zackary and Benjamin enjoyed the historic vehicles, which included a frontier army transport wagon and a 1904 Model A Cadillac. To make the exploration of the exhibit even more kid-friendly, a fun “treasure hunt” sheet was provided with riddles about the exhibits for kids to answer.

us frontier army wagon

The other highlight of the center itself was The Art of Einar Olstad exhibit. The paintings of life in the American West are whimsical, entertaining and incredibly original. And the bright colours and somewhat exaggerated faces of the people in the paintings make them appealing for children as well!

boy looking at Einar Olstad painting

Zackary admiring a painting by Einar Olstad.

missouri-yellowstone confluence center view

Once we had finished exploring the center itself, we headed outside to explore the walking trail and enjoy the same scenery that Louis and Clark had once viewed on their iconic trek through the West. There is an abundance of wildlife in the area, which is especially renowned for bird watching. And any family with active children will appreciate the chance for kids to expend some of their energy on the picturesque trails! For those that want to stay longer, picnic areas and campsites are also located at the center.

Fort Buford State Historical Site

fort buford

One of the bonuses of visiting Fort Buford is that the cost of admission is included with a visit to the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretative Center. And with energetic and knowledgeable tour guides on hand to walk us through the buildings, my boys and I were soon caught up in the history of this military post where Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881. The tour starts in the Field Officer’s Quarters, which has both a variety of historical artifacts from the era as well as some hands-on fun for younger children. My boys were especially entranced by the recorded bugle call display, which played the different bugle calls the military unit had used to alert the soldiers to various activities. I recognized a few of the more popular ones, but I had no idea the military had used bugle calls for everything from announcing mail arrival to calling specific officers!

soldier in field officer's quarters

After exploring the Field Officer’s Quarters, we headed over to the Barracks. The one large building served as sleeping quarters, mess hall and kitchen for the soldiers stationed there. Zackary and Benjamin were intrigued by the idea of keeping everything they owned in a single chest at the foot of their bed. And I found it interesting to learn that the barracks building was just one of dozens that had once filled Fort Buford.

fort buford barracks

While we didn’t get the chance to explore the building firsthand, my favourite part of the tour was learning about the Stone Powder Magazine, a large stone building some distance from the Field Officer’s Quarters. Our guide explained to us that the building, which held all the gunpowder and explosives, had thick stone walls, a heavy steel door and a flimsy wooden roof that wasn’t even nailed down. The rationale, of course, was that if the explosives were ever ignited, the blast would take the path of least resistance, shooting the roof high into the air but leaving the walls standing just as they were.

stone powder magazine fort buford

The stone powder magazine was set well apart from the other buildings just in case it exploded!

There is a lot of complex history and politics to the story of Fort Buford, but it is still also an ideal family destination. And that is thanks in large part to the tour guides that are so willing to walk through the areas with families and explain the history of the post in a kid-friendly way.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Unit

theodore roosevelt national park

The North Unit of this gorgeous National Park is about an hour’s drive from Fort Buford. From wildlife sightings to scenic views to hiking trails, the park is an active child’s dream come true! My boys spent the entire afternoon climbing rocks and exploring trails in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park while I took in the stunning views of the badlands.

boy on rocks in north dakota badlands

In addition to plenty of opportunities for physical activity, the park also has some amazing chances to experience the wildlife of the badlands. Buffalo are a common sight in the park, and whole fields of chirping prairie dogs provide endless entertainment for younger children.

boys crossing bridge

Of course, being a National Park, the area also offers camping sites, picnic grounds and a plethora of outdoor activities for both adults and children including fishing, horseback riding, canoeing, bicycling and so much more. The wide variety of activities makes the park a great choice for families with older children especially, but even younger children will love exploring the varied landscape of the badlands for a few hours!

boys on rocks in badlands

Our first day in North Dakota was one that really gave me an appreciation for the landscape and history of the American West, and I loved the fact that my children had been able to enjoy that same experience. Heritage Sites and National Parks may not be the first thing to spring to mind when planning a vacation with younger children, but North Dakota does a great job of ensuring that history comes alive so that learning is fun for all ages!


  1. the national park looks right up our alley! we love to get out and explore places like that and it’s just such a different scenery than we see at home!

  2. Looks like an interesting day! We like stuff like this a ton!

  3. kathy downey says:

    The fifth photo reminds my of my grandparents house,oh the wonderful memories.thanks

  4. Lynda Cook says:

    quite the most amazing place!! love the scenery and everything, I really like that last picture you posted very sweet!!

  5. very neat. love the picture of your son kneeling by the bed.

  6. very nice – looks like a great to visit as a family!

  7. Chandra Christine O'Connor says:

    wow great view, very interesting I like vacations like that learning about the history of the place Im at.

  8. Jeff Skidmore says:

    Looks like fun for the whole family!!

  9. nicolthepickle says:

    Wow, it looks nice. I really like historical sites. It reminds me that we’re not the be all and end all of everything.
    The bottom picture is really cute too.

  10. kristen visser says:

    that looks amazing!! talk about making learning fun. what great views and surroundings with great history around

  11. Beautiful photos :) wow! I will need to venture out of the Grand Forks shopping area one trip and see the rest that the Dakotas have to offer :)

  12. These are some beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing your great trip! I have not been there before. Lots of history for sure!

  13. Looks like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Robyn L says:

    thanks for the trip through word and pictures; interesting to say the least

  15. Karen C says:

    looks so beautiful, great family vacation!

  16. DARLENE W says:

    Always looking for new places to go and see

  17. Nice place

  18. Amy Lovell says:

    Looks like a great family trip thanks

  19. sarah sar says:

    What an amazing trip. The last photo is the best!!

  20. Doris Calvert says:

    Oh that looks like a great vacation, a lot of history!

  21. Teresa Claire says:

    That last picture is just adorable, Kathryn :) When I travel, it is the culture, museums and history that I am drawn to. This post was just my cup of tea :)

  22. I would like to visit that area someday.

  23. Heidi C. says:

    My hubby has travelled to North Dakota a number of times and has had a lot of nice things to say about it.


  25. Stephanie LaPlante says:

    I absolutely love visiting historical areas. There’s something extra special about them.

  26. Debbie Welchert says:

    I’ve been to South Dakota but never to North Dakota. It sounds like they have a lot of interesting historical areas to see. I think my grandchildren would have fun learning about things that happened in North Dakota.

  27. I’d love to go on a trip like that. We used to go all the time when I was young.

  28. Judy C (Judy Cowan) says:

    We love exploring historical areas, often they are more fun than the tourist attractions! Love the last picture of your boys sitting on the wall!

  29. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and blog post about NW North Dakota! We love it here, and glad you were able to enjoy a little slice of our home. If you visit us again, check out Fort Union during the Rendezvous. Your kids will absolutely love it.

  30. Interesting that the roof was not nailed down on the Stone Powder Magazine. Looks like an fascinating spot to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  31. mongupp (@mongupp) says:

    I love the history of these sites. Lovely photos

  32. Great post! Thanks for the travel tips. We added this to our Family- friendly North America pinterest board.

  33. Shirley OFlynn says:

    Looks like a great family vacation. Beautiful pictures!

  34. I think my kids would be interested in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

  35. I’ve never been to North Dakota, but I’ve been to its Southern brother. It’s so true that just appreciating your surroundings can bring you so much closer to those you’re with!

  36. Nena Sinclair says:

    I’ve been to most of these places before, but it’s been years! I love the North Dakota Badlands area, it’s beautiful and so full of history!

  37. melanie Borhi says:

    These sound very educational wish I had gone to more places like this as a child!!

  38. Nicole Mecham says:

    Love these ideas! With kids it can be so easy to just… well, do what’s easy! We get into our own little ruts and immediately write off visiting certain places in fear that our kids will be bored. But if we just go and do it, the kids will have a great learning experience and will hold it as a memory for the rest of their lives!

  39. We love national parks. Would love to visit.

  40. The national park looks like it would be great for a family trip!

  41. Tamra Phelps says:

    I’ve never been to North Dakota, but I’d love to see Theodore Roosevelt National park. It looks beautiful!

  42. Robyn Bellefleur says:

    This looks like a whole bunch of fun for the whole family.

  43. Sherry M says:

    This would be a wonderful trip for anyone to take. The Badlands remind me of Alberta (Drumheller) I would love to see the Badlands in North Dakota some time in the future.

  44. angela m says:

    The last picture of your boys is so adorable. We love taking the family to educational places

  45. Rachel R says:

    I like to travel and explore ruins and interesting places

  46. this sounds like fun, this is a state I probably would never have even considered visiting but reading your article intrigues me

  47. Theodore Roosevelt National Park looks really cool!

  48. I love taking my kids on trips that are not only fun but educational as well, they always have a blast. Your pictures are beautiful!

  49. looks like you had an awesome trip. thanks for sharing

  50. Denise Klay says:

    Very informative I like the recommended choices and the accompanied picture were sweet!

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