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.

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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. 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

2. 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).

3. 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, find a hearty lunch on weekdays at Sons of Norway, a Scandinavian heritage lodge.

4. 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).

5. 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).

6. Pints with the locals

Drekker Brewing Company has supported the local community with efforts like Pint It Forward (a program that encouraged people to buy pints, flights or even growler refills for friends) and The Pint Project (providing pint glasses for local artists to turn into works of art) (drekkerbrewing.com).

7. 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 a Scandinavian and Viking festival expected to resume post-pandemic (fargomoorhead.org). 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