Medora, North Dakota: A Weekend Getaway

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Medora, North Dakota - Follow the Sign
Medora – That Way

Medora, North Dakota, is an off the beaten path, seasonal town. Often North Dakota remains the last state visited by those earning the “Visited All 50 States” badge, as North Dakota is the least-visited state in the union. But a second look reveals Medora, North Dakota, as a hidden treasure for history buffs, outdoor lovers, and photographers.

History buffs learn the story behind the town’s namesake Medora de Mores. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, has strong roots in Medora.

Outdoor lovers appreciate golf at one of America’s Top 100 golf courses, Bully Pulpit Golf Course. They explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park through a scenic drive or hiking.

For photographers, the panoramic landscapes are a dream. Wild horses, buffalo, elk, over 185 species of birds, and those cute prairie dogs in their own small town make it an exciting area for wildlife photographers.

Here’s how I fondly remember my Medora summer weekend getaway.

Friday Afternoon, Unwind at Medora Uncork’d

  • Medora Uncork'd - A Wine Bar and Shop
  • Aronia Berry wine from Wolf Creek Winery in Cole Harbor, North Dakota

We kicked off the weekend at Medora Uncork’d with a glass of Aronia Berry wine from Wolf Creek Winery in Cole Harbor, North Dakota, pairing that with a BBQ Blueberry Meatball flatbread appetizer. It was just enough to get us through nine holes of golf.

Play a Round of Golf at Bully Pulpit Golf Course

At Bully Pulpit Golf Course, ranked one of America’s Top 100 Golf Courses, we found ourselves immersed in the Badland’s landscape. The Little Missouri River meanders through the course, with greens tucked between the colorful bluffs. Their signature holes, “The Badlands Holes,” numbers 14, 15, and 16, allowed us to play through a rough fairway canyon. If you love golf, you’ll want to give this challenging course a try.

After nine holes, we went back to our hotel and prepared for our gourmet dinner at Theodore’s inside the Rough Rider’s Hotel.

Theodore’s – A Fine-Dining Option

In Theodore’s, setting in front of the beautiful brick fireplace, we enjoyed a meal worthy of any gourmet. The bison Osso Bucco was fork-tender and served with braised au jus and a creamy horseradish sauce. The chef offered seasonal vegetables, accompanied the dish with blue cheese, mashed potatoes, and caramelized onions.

After dinner, we explored the historic hotel and browsed through their lobby library, containing one of the largest collections of books by and about Teddy Roosevelt.

Saturday Morning – Grab Breakfast at Farmhouse Café

Farmhouse Cafe
Farmhouse Café

The Farmhouse Café was a bright, open room with shiplap and polished concrete floors. They offer traditional breakfasts like the hearty farmhouse breakfast with two eggs, hash browns, breakfast meat, and starch choice. Another favorite is the Badlands nachos, a creative twist on traditional breakfast ingredients. They started with a base of sweet potato waffle fries that were topped with scrambled eggs, onions, sausage, and cheese. The chef drizzles maple syrup to finish the dish.

After breakfast, we headed back downtown to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Explore the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

North Dakota Cowboy Museum
North Dakota Cowboy Museum

The horse theme tied together the various exhibits at The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. You’ll find exhibits on North Dakota’s deep-rooted rodeo history, North Dakota ranchers, and indigenous Native Americans.

After a morning exploring the lives of cowboys, we walked across the street for lunch and prepared for our visit to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s southern section.

Grab Some Lunch at Maltese Burger

Maltese Burger was a walk-up burger stand with window-service that offered various juicy burgers, from beef to chicken. Get an order of fries and forego the ketchup. Ask for a side of aioli for dipping instead. The aioli added a flavorful garlic flair to the fries. We ate at outdoor tables; the other option was to take it to-go. It was the perfect place to grab a quick lunch and eat in the sun before heading off to explore Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison, elk, prairie dogs, and wild horses call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home. Photographers will have great fun watching and waiting for that perfect wildlife shot. Several hiking trails and scenic overlooks branched off the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive.

The park’s South Unit has the Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin, where President Roosevelt once lived, and the multi-colored Painted Canyon, both opportunities for hikers and photographers. Note the Painted Canyon Visitor’s Center is off Interstate 94 east of Medora.

Have Dinner at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue

Pitchfork Fondue in Medora
Pitchfork Fondue in Medora

On a bluff, high above the town, Tjaden Terrace boasted a panoramic view of the Badlands, including historic Medora, the Little Missouri River, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. At the Pitchfork Steak Fondue, chefs dressed in cowboy hats and red bandanas skewered steaks five-deep on a pitchfork and then fondued them in huge vats of boiling oil while we watched.

We selected our buffet-style dinner with coleslaw, fresh vegetables and fruit, baked beans, baked potatoes with all the trimmings, garlic toast, and dessert cinnamon-sugar donuts and brownies. Then we chose our fondued steak before sitting down at long picnic tables on the open terrace. While we visited with new acquaintances, our table sang along to western songs, played by the live band, the Coal Diggers. We even saw a Teddy Roosevelt look-alike wandering around. Although dinner may serve as many as 400 people, the line moved quickly, and dinner was over within about an hour and a half, just in time to find our seats at the Medora Musical.

Enjoy Some Live Music at the Medora Musical

The Medora Musical
The Medora Musical

Adjoining Tjaden Terrace, the Burning Hills Amphitheater is home to the two-hour Medora Musical based on President Teddy Roosevelt’s life. Although the show is different every year, it’s always part history lesson and part variety show.

The musical features live on-stage, the Coal Diggers band, and the Burning Hills Singers.  We took an informative 35-minute backstage tour before the musical. The guide told stories of how they manage to deliver the show in an open-air amphitheater and some of the show’s 50-year history.

The show begins with the National Anthem and a salute to veterans and continues with musical numbers. Family-friendly comedy comes interspersed throughout the show. I particularly enjoyed it when the stage setting parted, opening the entire stage to the picturesque scenery. Actors charged San Juan Hill and rode onto the stage on live horses. Fireworks were an exciting ending to the evening.

Enjoy Sunday Brunch at the Medora Gospel Brunch

We started Sunday morning off with the Medora Gospel Brunch in Medora’s Town Square. We found egg bakes, a choice of breakfast meats, and other typical brunch fares on the all-you-can-eat buffet brunch. After the meal, Emily Walter and the Gospel Quartet performed uplifting gospel music accompanied by a full band. After brunch, we tried to pack in just a couple of more quick activities before heading home.

Visit Chateau de Mores

For a bit of history and architecture, we explored the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site. It takes about an hour to explore the 26-room, two-story summer residence of the Marquis’ family. The Chateau is currently a historic house museum, originally built in 1883. Many personal effects of the de Mores family and the original furnishings were there. History buffs will enjoy a tour of this site.

Get in Some Last-Minute Shopping

Purchase some western wear as a reminder of your visit to the old west at Medora Boot and Western Wear if you’d like to get that image of wild horses that escaped your lens look in Chasing Horses. They also provide tours of Theodore National Park.

Head Home

The weekend always flies by quickly, and by Sunday night, we’re already planning next weekend. Are you ready for a Medora weekend getaway?

When You Go To Medora

If you need some tips on planning your Medora vacation, check out 7 Ways to Pack More Relaxing Travel into Your Over-Scheduled Life.

Getting to Medora

Two airports serve Medora, and the closest is Dickinson. Bismarck is farther away; however, it’s a scenic drive with opportunities to view the Painted Canyon Visitor’s Center east of Medora.

Lodging

Both hotels listed below are central locations for the Medora weekend getaway itinerary. The Rough Riders Hotel is in downtown Medora, while the Elkhorn Quarters is on its outskirts.

Rough Riders Hotel

Rough Riders Hotel
Rough Riders Hotel

The Rough Riders Hotel boasts luxury in western elegance. History buffs should request one of the historic rooms where some say the President made a speech from the balcony.

Elkhorn Quarters

Elkhorn Quarters, named for Teddy Roosevelt’s ranch, has tiny house-style efficiency if you need a place to lay your head at night between activities. The hotel is an economical and family-friendly option.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Located on the Little Missouri River banks, camping in three different campgrounds is available in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. All of the National Park campgrounds are rustic, with no hook-ups or showers. Be sure to make a reservation as the park campgrounds are often full.

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    13 Comments

    1. Lisa | Handmade in Israel

      Sounds like a nice getaway. Would like to see the Wild horses, buffalo and elk in the national park!

      Reply
      • Piper

        At one point the buffalo totally blocked the road! It was a great photo opp!

        Reply
    2. Cindy Ladage

      This is very cool, medora has long been on my list of stops!

      Reply
    3. Renata - byemyself

      fOR A EUROPEAN, this looks so….american. truly the wild, wild west. i would love to try the fondue…and probably share it with five other people 😉 also, I’d like to see the chateau. since everything else is like a western movie, it must be a cool style clash?!

      Reply
    4. Rudy @ Backpack & Snorkel

      Interesting. North Dakota was among the first 10 or so states that I had visited. The main reason for me was to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which you rightfully point out as being a wonderful park!
      On a funny note, I had another reason to go to North Dakota and that was to see the weird monuments like Salem Sue, the world’s largest buffalo monument, Tommy the Turtle and Wee’l Turtle. 🙂

      Reply
      • Piper

        Usually North Dakota is the last state for people to visit and the visitor’s center has a sign you can take your picture with to that effect. Glad you visited early!

        Reply
    5. Mayi

      I hadn’t heard of Medora before but it looks like a beautiful and peaceful place. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
    6. Carol Colborn

      Wow, a good three days there! Theodore Roosevelt NP and the Cowboy Hall of Fame and all the dining options one usually looks for!

      Reply
    7. Stephanie

      You had me right form the beggining when I read for History buffs! I really enjoy visiting towns people don’t tend to go to. those tend to be the greatest. I must say that farmhouse cafe looks pretty cool too! Thanks for a great article.

      Reply
    8. Pubali

      Medora looks like a lovely place to visit. Also like all the places you listed for eateries, starting from breakfast 🙂

      Reply
    9. Sage Scott

      OMG! Everything about medora sounds amazing! Of course I love the wine bar, and my daughter would love the bison osso bucco. as for me, there’s no way I could visit without trying those badlands nachos. yum!

      Reply
    10. Sylvia Gann Mahoney

      Your article about Medora captures its beauty and historical excitement. One more amazing historical fact: The Great Western Trail has a 7-foot white cement obelisk w/ flags of 9 Great Plains states at the museum. An article about the 2,000-mile GWT International Tourism Corridor from Mexico to Canada is worthy of one of your articles. Thanks, Sylvia Mahoney

      Reply
      • Piper

        Thank you! Good idea! I will have to see if I can fit it into my travel schedule.

        Reply

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    Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

    Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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