City Nights & Northern Lights – A 14-Day Two Nation Sample Itinerary

From Itineraries Midwest Spring Issue 2009

Travel to one of the most diverse and unspoiled destinations on the North American continent. The northern lights still appear in the night skies in remote areas, yet the cities offer a wealth of entertainment and shopping temptations. The scenery ranges from rugged mountains in the Black Hills and Badlands, to peaceful lake and forest covered retreats, to majestic spreading plains. Great for groups of all ages!

Explore Minnesota………………………………800-657-3600
North Dakota Tourism………………………….800-435-5663
South Dakota Office of Tourism………………800-S-DAKOTA
Travel Manitoba………………………………….204-927-7862


Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN
9 – 12:00 pm
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are not identical twins. Minneapolis’ contemporary, sleek skyscrapers contrast with Saint Paul’s European-style architecture. Enjoy a city tour including Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden. In Saint Paul, the Victorian homes on Summit Avenue lead to the Saint Paul Cathedral, State Capitol, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Minnesota Science Museum, James J. Hill House, and the Minnesota History Center.

12 – 8:00 pm
Mall of America, the USA’s largest shopping/entertainment center, beckons shoppers with over 500 stores, restaurants, Nickelodeon Universe amusement rides and Underwater Adventures.

8 – 11:00 pm
Enjoy an entertaining evening at a play in Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue Theater District, Chanhassen Dinner Theater or Mystic Lake Casino.


Minneapolis/Saint Paul to Bemidji, MN (230 mi/370km)
8 – 12:00 pm
Travel the Great River Road along the Mississippi River to Little Falls, MN. Relive Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic with a visit to the Lindbergh Home and Interpretive Center.

12 – 1:30 pm
In Bemidji, a giant statue of Paul Bunyan, mythical giant lumberjack, with his pet blue ox, Babe, stands by Lake Bemidji. Legend says Paul’s footsteps formed Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes when he and Babe took a walk after a rainstorm.

1:30 – 5:00 pm
Nearby in Itasca State Park, the Mississippi River trickles out of a spring-fed lake beginning its 2,552-mile (4,084-km) journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can walk across the headwater stones or a log bridge. Naturalist-guided excursions are available.


Bemidji, MN to Winnipeg, MB (229mi/369 km)
8 – 1:00 pm
From Bemidji, travel north to Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital, (pop. 700,000), a cosmopolitan city with an exciting and diverse range of attractions, activities, dining, shopping and people.

1 – 3:00 pm
With roots as an early fur trade hub, later a gateway to Canada’s pioneer west and centre of commerce, Winnipeg boasts rich history. Explore stunning turn-of-the-century architecture while strolling the streets of the Exchange District, a National Historic Site and taste the old world charm of Winnipeg’s French Quarter, St. Boniface.

3 – 5:00 pm
Climb aboard a replica ship from the fur trade era at The Manitoba Museum, or have a glimpse into the life of a voyageur, at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. Tour the Royal Canadian Mint to see how Canada prints money.

5 – 9:00 pm
Spend a little time at one of the city’s two casinos. Evening activities include dinner theater, Broadway musicals, gaming and dining in wonderful, ethnic neighborhood restaurants.

Festivals year round dot the social calendar of this urban oasis on the prairie. The world’s largest multicultural festival – Folklorama and February’s “Kitchen Party” at the Festival du Voyageur are just two of the over 140 festivals you can enjoy throughout the year.


Winnipeg to Riding Mountain National Park, MB (142 mi/227 km)
9 – 12:00 pm
Heading west along the Trans-Canada/Yellowhead Highway, take time to smell the lilies at Neepawa’s Lily Nook and visit the Margaret Laurence Museum, a living memorial to its author.

12 – 4:00 pm
Turn north onto Highway 10 and end up in Riding Mountain National Park, a wild and wonderful mecca with its cool lakes, rushing rivers and dense green forests. It is home to elk, deer, black bear and other magnificent wildlife, along with its own herd of bison, which roam the range at Lake Audy.

4:00 pm
Enjoy the evening at Wasagaming or Clear Lake, the nearby resort townsite. They offer shops, restaurants, a movie theater, a museum, visitor center, marina, accommodations and a championship golf course.


Riding Mountain National Park to Boissevain, MB (115 mi/186 km)
9 – 11:00 am
Depart early and spot the wildlife as you drive south to Brandon. This is Manitoba’s second largest city with a population of 47,000.

11 – 2:00 pm
Rich agricultural heritage is showcased at the Daly House Museum and the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum where pilots from throughout the Commonwealth trained for World War II.

2 – 5:00 pm
A warm prairie welcome awaits you in Boissevain, voted one of Canada’s most beautiful towns. It features outdoor art murals, the Moncur Gallery, the Irwin Goodon Wildlife Museum, Walkinshaw Place’s map of Canada fields and Dueck’s Cedar Chalet for a homemade meal.

5 – 7:00 pm
Boissevain is located just north of the International Peace Garden, the 2,339-acre botanical garden commemorating peace between the U.S. and Canada. It has 150,000 flowers, Peace Tower, water features and magnificent floral displays.


Dunseith to Minot, ND (90 miles/144 km)
9 – 10:30 am
The Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway covers 24 miles through the tree-covered Turtle Mountains with beautiful lakes, lush foliage and an abundance of wildlife.

10:30 – 12:00 pm
In Minot, visit the Scandinavian Heritage Park. This Nordic heritage park features a Stav church, Danish windmill, Finish sauna, a 220-year-old Norwegian house, stabbur, Swedish Dala horse and visitor center.

12 – 3:00 pm
The Roosevelt Zoo offers educational displays, zoo tours and more than 200 mammals, birds and reptiles.

3 – 4:00 pm
A tour of the Pointe of View Winery offers a variety of experiences on North Dakota native fruits and sampling of the product.

4 – 6:00 pm
Minot’s unique restaurants offer entrées ranging from pheasant to elk, in addition to more standard selections.


Minot to Bismarck, ND (110miles/177 km)
9 – 12:30 pm
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in Stanton was home to the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians and last occupied in 1845. This site has remains of three Hidatsa Villages, with 210 depressions and the home of Sakakawea, modern museum, visitor center and a reconstructed earthlodge.

12:30 – 3:30 pm
In Washburn, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is a world-class interpretive site along the route Lewis and Clark traveled on their “voyage of discovery” more than 200 years ago. Nearby is the reconstructed site of Fort Mandan, winter home of Lewis and Clark, the Corps and Sakakawea from 1804-1805.

3:30 – 6:00 pm
In Bismarck, you can choose from a variety of activities. The North Dakota Heritage Center has one of the world’s largest collections of Plains Indian artifacts, second only to the Smithsonian. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, located on the banks of the Missouri River, includes On-A-Slant Indian Village, a Mandan Indian village which thrived for 200 years. Visit the five reconstructed earthlodges. Near the village is the Fort Abraham Lincoln Visitor’s Museum, displaying exhibits relating to the life of the Mandan Indians and the military history of the fort. Before you leave the park, tour the 7th Calvary Commissary, barracks, horse stables and the Custer House, the last home and command of General George and Libbie Custer.

6 – 8:00 pm
Conclude the day with a relaxing ride on the Lewis and Clark Riverboat.


Bismarck to Medora, ND (128 miles/206 km)
9 – 11:00 am
Make a stop in Richardton at Assumption Abbey, a historic Bavarian Romanesque Catholic Church built in 1909 and identified by its twin spires. The Abbey library, gift shop, wine cellar and shop are open by request.

11 – 1:30 pm
The Ukrainian Culture Institute in Dickinson features folk art, research library, Ukrainian exhibits and food items. Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson features a life-size Triceratops and Pachycephalosaurus outside the entrance and 10 full-scale dinosaurs in a central display.

1:30 – 3:00 pm
, an authentic Old West cow town, was founded in 1883 by the Marquis de Mores and named for his wife. Tour the 26-room, 2-story house known as the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site.

3 – 4:00 pm
The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame offers Western heritage and life on the plains with homesteaders and ranchers trail drivers, American Indians, rodeos and the impact of the horse.

4 – 5:30 pm
The Billings County Courthouse Museum holds memorabilia, history of the county and courtroom stories of cowboys. Bully the Play, a one-man performance from the Broadway play, presenting the life of Theodore Roosevelt as president, father, husband and hunter in the North Dakota Badlands.

5:30 pm
For dinner, experience the Pitchfork Fondue, a unique western steak meal served at the Tjaden Center on the bluffs, offering a spectacular view of the scenic Badlands. After the Fondue, sit back and enjoy the Medora Musical, a Broadway-style musical show staged outdoors in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, which is carved into a Badlands canyon. Western entertainment and a patriotic salute are part of each show. Trail rides, mountain biking, hiking, museums, many gift shops and restaurants are bustling during the summer season.


Medora, ND to Deadwood, SD (220 miles, 354 km)
9 – 12:00 pm
Take a morning loop drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The colorful North Dakota Badlands provide the scenic backdrop to this park. Named for the 26th U.S. President, the park memorializes his contribution to conservation. At the entrance to the South Unit of the Park, tour the Visitors Center and Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabin from the Maltese Cross Ranch.

12 – 3:00 pm
Picnic lunch at the park followed by horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking along the marked trails in the Badlands on the Maah Daah Hey Trail, or canoe through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the Little Missouri River.

3 – 7:00 pm
Depart Medora for historic Deadwood, SD, and enjoy a historic tour, learning about the 1876 gold rush and the colorful characters who lived there.

7:00 pm
Try your luck at gaming or visit historic attractions. In summer months, see re-enactments of the “Murder of Wild Bill Hickok” and the “Trial of Jack McCall.”


Deadwood to Black Hills to Rapid City, SD (112 miles/180 km)
9 – 11:00am
Travel on Hwy 385, to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, America’s Shrine of Democracy. This drive offers views of Pactola Lake, pine-covered mountains and lush meadows.

11 – 12:00 pm
Crazy Horse Memorial is a work in progress of a mountain-sized man and his spirited horse.

12 – 1:00 pm
Hill City offers many area artists’ shops on Main Street.

1 – 6:00 pm
Board an historic 1880 train to Keystone. Keystone’s choices of activities include shopping, presidential attractions, exploring Black Hills caves, touring a gold mine, or panning for gold.

6:00 pm
Evening entertainment could include a lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.


Rapid City to Black Hills to Rapid City, SD (147 miles, 237 km)
9 – 12:00 pm
Custer State Park’s Wildlife Loop offers opportunities to watch for 1,500 bison as well as pronghorn, deer, prairie dogs, elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep in this 71,000-acre (28,400 ha) wildlife preserve.

12 – 2:00 pm
Travel south to Wind Cave National Park and enjoy a tour of unique box-work formations in the fourth longest cave in the world.

2 – 4:00 pm
Hot Springs offers choices of The Mammoth Site, a museum featuring an insitu display of Colombian Mammoths, a warm spring-fed indoor pool and playland, or a tour of a horse sanctuary.

4 – 5:30 pm
The Journey Museum in Rapid City gives a wonderful overview of the Black Hills from the Lakota and white man’s perspectives. Downtown Rapid City is a mecca for shoppers looking for Native American art. Black Hills Gold Jewelry tours are available to see how this unique jewelry is made.

5 – 8:00 pm
Join cowboys for a chuckwagon dinner, complete with singing and entertainment.


Rapid City to Mitchell, SD (288 miles/463 km)
9 – 10:30 am
Travel east on I-90 to the town of Wall, where a little country drug store became famous for offering free ice water, and now features one of the largest collections of original western art in the country.

10:30 – 1:30 pm
Travel the SD Hwy 240 Loop through Badlands National Park and enjoy the spires and pinnacles of this 244,000-acre (97,600 ha) wilderness area.

1:30 – 4:30 pm
Traveling east on I-90, you’ll find the Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, offering artifacts as well as modern day Native American Art.

4:30 – 6:00 pm
Continuing east, attraction choices in Mitchell include the World’s Only Corn Palace, the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village and Dakota Discovery Museum.


Mitchell, SD to Austin, MN (261 mi/419 km)
8 – 11:00 am
Tour Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city, where options include a tour of Falls Park, the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, the Outdoor Campus, the Great Plains Zoo, and great shopping opportunities.

1 – 3:00 pm
Crossing the border into Minnesota, have lunch at a local restaurant in Pipestone. Since 900 A.D., Native Americans have gathered catlinite (soft stone) from the quarry at Pipestone National Monument for peace pipes. Visitors can learn the history of Native American culture at an interpretive center, watch Native American craftspeople carve the pipestone, and walk through the quarry.

3 – 7:00 pm
Continue across the rich agricultural farmland of southern Minnesota and stop for dinner in Albert Lea.


Austin to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (112 mi/181 km)
10 – 12:30 pm
George A. Hormel began life in an 1861 log cabin, and then went on to build a meat-processing empire in Austin. The most famous Hormel product, SPAM, became linked forever with World War II as a staple for Allied troops. The SPAM Museum features displays and activities for visitors of all ages – test your skills on the SPAM production line. Check out the Hormel Web site, sit at the Cyber Diner, view a film at the SPAM Theater, collect recipes and shop at the SPAM gift store.

12:30 – 2:30 pm
Enroute to Minneapolis, visit Cabela’s (it’s not just for sportsmen) in Owatonna. A 35-foot mountain replica is inhabited with 100 trophies of wildlife species. See native and predator fish in a walk-through aquarium, snack on an ostrich or buffalo burger, and visit the art gallery. Depart for Minneapolis to conclude your City Nights and Northern Lights adventure.

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