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Why Fargo Isn't Frozen--It's Cool

A hipster and a small town walk into a big-city bar ...no punch line. That’s just a typical night in this North Dakota pop-culture icon with plenty to show off and nothing to prove.

At 12:15 p.m., you won’t find a barista behind the counter at Twenty Below Coffee. Instead, coffee carafes and a mason jar stuffed with dollar bills encourage guests to help themselves. “Our staff takes time to sit down and eat together every day,” says Michael Moran, co-owner of the pour-over coffee shop. That kind of communal sentiment crops up throughout Fargo. (To wit: Last summer,  a nonprofit planted tiny gardens across the city, encouraging anyone to pluck a couple of peppers or tomatoes for dinner.)

Broadway Drive forms the backbone of an evolving downtown. Creative shops, breweries and restaurants, like Mezzaluna (known for midnight brunch during cold months), enliven the spaces between the landmark Hotel Donaldson and the Fargo Theatre. Throw in a youthful spirit—drawing from three large universities in the Fargo-Moorhead area—and you get summer festivals like Sway Day, aiming for a world record in hammock lounging.

Until recently, this homey outpost for hipsters was a best-kept secret of the north, known to most people only for a cult-classic film. Now it's the second-fastest-growing Midwest city. Walk around, and it’s not hard to see why.

Downtown Fargo

Downtown Fargo

1. Bring a dish Friday

The owners of Twenty Below Coffee call their shop a “radically inclusive” space. So they invite the whole town to dine with staff on a weekly basis. Potlunch Day on Fridays extends an open invite to anyone who wants to bring some food and eat a meal at a community table (20belowcoffee.com).

Twenty Below Coffee

Twenty Below Coffee

2. The HoDo: This roof is on fire

Hotel Donaldson opened in 2003 and paved the way for Fargo’s downtown boom. Hit the rooftop hot tub and bar for the best view on Broadway. The scene under the roof is pretty snazzy, too:
Original art in all 17 rooms.
A premier suite with a Japanese soaking tub that fills from the ceiling.
HoDo Restaurant, serving bison hanger steak—and daily vegan creations.
Cocktails in the HoDo Lounge, made with ingredients from the rooftop garden (hoteldonaldson.com).

Hotel Donaldson rooftop bar

Rooftop bar at the Hotel Donaldson

3. Why drink French wheat when you can drink North Dakota potatoes?

Elijah Larson’s question is rhetorical. The award-winning mixologist at Proof Artisan Distillers is pouring his own answer—spirits distilled from the fruit of North Dakota’s fertile soil. See how gin and vodka are made on a tour, if you can peel yourself away from the tasting room (proofdistillers.com).

4. Scandi Bites

BernBaum’s is a Jewish-Scandinavian deli inside Mid Mod Madhaus, a furniture store downtown. Try the Icelandic bagel plate: lox, pickled onion and chévre cream cheese (with a new ottoman on the side?) (BernBaum's on Facebook). Down the street, your sweet tooth will find Thursday Pie Day at Sons of Norway.  The lunch event draws a diverse crowd to the Scandinavian heritage lodge (also known for karaoke night in the Troll Bar) (sofnfargo.com).

5. Get Unglued

Near the Fargo Theatre sits a fantasy world for Etsy-lovers. Sass-tastic shop Unglued sells goodies from 300 mostly local makers. Browse sloth stickers, jewelry, snarky greeting cards and funky-cute monster dolls (ungluedmarket.com).

6. You Betcha

Grab the bomber hat and fake leg inside the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center for an Instagram with the actual wood chipper from the 1996 dark comedy Fargo (fargomoorhead.com).

7. Pints with the locals

At Drekker Brewing Company,  a chalkboard tracks Pint it Forward activity. The program encourages people to buy pints, flights or even growler refills for friends (or a favorite local you met around town) to find on their next visit (drekkerbrewing.com).

Drekker Brewing Company

Drekker Brewing Company

8. Culture Across the River

Over in the city on the Minnesota bank of the Red River, the Hjemkomst Center and museum is home to a medieval stave church replica, a Viking ship and the annual Scandinavian and Viking festival (June 23–24, 2017) (cityofmoorhead.com). Warmer months in Moorhead also bring artists like Weezer and Tony Bennett to the riverside Bluestem Amphitheater (bluestemamphitheater.org).

Hjemkomst Center stave church replica

Stave church replica

Northern Exposure

Browse top Instagram pics of Fargo at midwestliving.com/fargo or learn more about the city at fargomoorhead.com.

 

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