Medora, both the town and its renowned musical, is the ‘Pride of North Dakota!’ You will be amazed with the natural beauty and state pride that resonates from this small town. If you are like me, from a large and very proud state (ahem Texas), then thinking that any other state -especially one as seemingly obscure as North Dakota- can have state pride is unimaginable. However, if you still think that, you haven’t yet attended the world-famous Medora Musical in its purpose-built outdoor amphitheater set amidst the badlands of southwestern North Dakota . It will change your mind.
Located just west of Dickinson, and not too far from the South Dakota and Montana borders, is the town of Medora, North Dakota – population 129. The entire town encompasses less than one square mile, but the quaint feel will make any one feel at home and maybe start to fall in love with the state. Medora town offers a few blocks of ‘mom and pop’ restaurants, historic sites and intriguing shops. The shops are more than your average gift shop, including lots of hand-crafted and made-in-state items from local vendors. I fell in love with handcrafted vases made from trees and unique spiral candles. If you need (or want) North Dakota items, Medora is the place to go!
The completely-walkable town is only a block or two but is packed with things to do. It has the most amazing log fort playground for the kids. This maze-like play structure has sand pits with toys, a special area just for toddlers, plenty of stairs and obstacles for climbing kids and includes nice and shady places for parents to sit. Plus it is located right next to the free public bathrooms. Next to that, is a fun perk for all ages, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park themed, Medora Mini Golf. Newly-built this year is the “Point to Point Park,” which features a free splash pad, kids ziplines, pickleball courts and a bounce pillow. For a small fee there is also a luxurious pool with a lazy river and a larger zipline for those who dare. My daughter and I had a blast!
While there is plenty to do in the tiny town, there are only a few places to stay within the town itself. Since Medora hosts only local accommodations (no chain hotel or restaurants in sight), the center of town is home to the Badlands Motel. This motel is perfectly located to walk to all Medora attractions (besides the Musical) and is so close to the playgrounds and Point Park that kids and parents alike will love the ease. The motel is updated, offering the comforts of any hotel but with the amenities so nearby it almost has a resort feel. The photos posted online don’t do this place justice, and the lobby has free coffee and lemon-infused water for its guests.
Since camping is so popular with the state, I would be remiss not to also mention the Medora Campground located just out of town. This beautiful campground has all types of sites and the cottonwood trees and beautiful nature to accommodate it. It also has a playground and basketball court, plus a small store for camping items and is a very short walk to the city swimming pool. While a drive (and parking) will be required when visiting the town, the campground is the perfect stay for those who love the outdoors.
Finally, any stay in Medora would not be complete without a visit to the Musical! This Broadway-like performance may seem a bit out of place in a tiny town in North Dakota, but once you visit, you’ll get it. The amphitheater is placed high on a butte with gorgeous views of the landscape, and when the sun sets it offers the viewers an open-skied image that looks like a painting. Besides the breathtaking views, the Musical is filled every year with The Burning Hills Singers, an ensemble of some of the best singers/dancers from all over the country. This group of a dozen performers really will knock your socks off with professional-level talent.
The Musical is slightly different each year, and always offers new performers and hosts to entertain all ages. The musical this year featured renditions of classic country songs that had the entire 1000+ seat amphitheater smiling and swaying along.
Besides the musical sensations and live music performances, the Musical features an entr’acte performance from guest stars which perform for a few weeks during the summer. The ventriloquist, Lynn Trefzger had the entire audience cry-laughing as she brought audience members on stage and performed voice-overs. Trefzger will be the guest star until July 10 when BAM!, who uses the art of comedy-percussion, will perform until the end of July. As the under two-hour show comes to an end, guests are treated to the dusk sky and lights lighting the MEDORA sign backdrop.
The entire night is magical, impressive and worth it to go back year after year! This in itself will awe any North Dakota skeptic that doubts there is anything spectacular about this state. I almost teared up at the overwhelming beauty, love, and joy that this musical brings. Go see the Musical this Summer!
All in all, Medora is one of North Dakota’s proudest places! Something about the quaint small town, filled with smiling residents, simple, yet enjoyable activities meshed with the natural beauty of the surroundings and the light breeze that always passes through North Dakota, makes Medora an enlightened vacation spot for everyone. Don’t let your time in Minot pass without a visit ( or two or three) to this lovely town full of North Dakota pride!