One-Day Itinerary in Medora, North Dakota
On a warm July evening, toe-tapping performers twirl across the stage, a blur of Western fringe and boots moving in rhythm. One lyric hangs in the air: "It's always North Dakota for me."
The Medora Musical tells the story of the rugged western North Dakota town that beckoned intrepid souls (one of the most famous being Theodore Roosevelt) to hunt, ranch and live among nature. One of the region's biggest draws is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In the park's South Unit, rolling hills, deep-cut canyons and lounging bison allow modern explorers to see the appeal of a wild North Dakota. In the North Unit, the landscape becomes greener, the views a bit more dramatic. Peculiar cannonball formations dot an otherworldly, Martian-like landscape.
Back on Earth, among Medora's clapboard storefronts, it's easy to imagine stagecoaches rattling down the street. Travelers may even spot Theodore Roosevelt himself. (He'll likely greet you with a clap on the shoulder and a slew of facts.) He also stars in the Medora Musical.
As the cast sings one last refrain about the land's allure, an elk appears on the mountain rising behind the stage—a majestic mascot for North Dakota's natural wealth.
8 a.m. Carbs and Caffeine
Fresh kuchen (a custard-like cake) at Cowboy Cafe hints at the region's German heritage. Or try The Farmhouse Cafe's decadent croissant French toast with house-made chocolate syrup. For an extra pick-me-up, hit nearby Hidden Springs Java for an iced white chocolate latte.
9 a.m. Biking or Golfing
Up for pedal power? Dakota Cyclery can outfit you for a mountain bike ride on the 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail. The shop offers shuttle service, guided day tours and equipment. If golf is more your speed, tee off at Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Signature Badlands Holes 14–16 take you through a rugged fairway gorge.
Related: Golfing in the Badlands
12 p.m. Explore Downtown
Welcome to the Wild West. Learn about the state's history of rodeos and ranching at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Stock up on cowgirl and cowboy garb at Medora Boot and Western Wear. And order the meat-loaded Badlands Bob at Badlands Pizza and Saloon before a refreshing finish of huckleberry ice cream from Hatlee and Brae.
1:30 p.m. Historic Home Tour
The 26-room Chateau de Mores was the summer home of the French Marquis de Mores and his family. He named the town Medora after his wife. Historical reenactors bring this era to life with free summer presentations on the porch. Allow another hour to explore the building and grounds.
3 p.m. Choose a National Park Route
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided into two main units. Along the South Unit's loop road, you'll find scenic vistas, short hikes (none longer than 1 mile), bison, and hoodoos to climb along. Look for furry creatures scurrying in the fields at Prairie Dog Town, and trek to Wind Canyon Overlook, known as the best place to watch the sunset.
6 p.m. Dinner Theater
Cowboys cook steaks on a pitchfork dunked in hot oil at Pitchfork Steak Fondue, which doubles as preshow entertainment for the Medora Musical. Set against a mountain backdrop, the nearly 60-year-old tradition tells the story of the town and the many adventure seekers it has captivated.
More to Try
Book a room (eight of them are historic) at the 1884 Rough Riders Hotel. Start with a pomegranate martini in the lounge before moving on to Theodore's Dining Room, where a fire might be crackling under a bronze bust of Teddy Roosevelt. The hotel also features one of the world's largest libraries of works by and about the nation's 26th president.