This is a continuation of a travel series to The Great West. To start at the beginning, go HERE,, HERE, and
One of the joys of road trips is discovering small towns you would miss if you simply flew to your destination. In all our years of travel, we have come across many lovely small towns, but none has touched my heart as much as Medora, North Dakota has.
Medora is located right next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In fact, you could walk right into the park from Medora. This town has so much rich history that I will uncover in the next three weeks, but I don't think it would exist today if it were not for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Only 112 people live in Medora year round. During the tourist season, the population increases only to serve the needs of the tourists who arrive to visit the National Park.
It's a quaint, beautiful town that seems fairly untouched by modern architecture. Yes, there are newer buildings/hotels raised up to serve the tourists, but many of the original buildings are still in-tact and used. The beauty of Medora lies in its location as it is surrounded by the gorgeous buttes that make the park famous.
Medora was founded in 1883 by the French Nobleman Marquis de Mores. You will learn more about him in later posts as I visited two of his historic homes when I was in Medora. Today's post is all about the restaurants we ate at and other sites and things there are to do in Medora.
Because Medora is so small, there are not a whole lot of restaurants to eat at. I think we managed to visit every one except the fine dining one at the Rough Rider's Hotel.
The first one we visited after spending the morning at the park. It's called the "Little Missouri". The lower half appears to be an old-fashioned saloon and the upper half offers both inside and outside dining. It was a beautiful day so we chose to eat outside on the deck pictured below.
We had great views of the buttes and the sweet town below.
We were very pleased with the food. Hubby got a Reuben and I got a wrap,
We also ate at "Boots" which is famous for their Bloody Mary Mix burgers. They also offer indoor/outdoor dining. We initially were going to eat outdoors but there were a lot of flies, so then we chose to eat indoors...but there were still a lot of flies. We think the problem was that they had only one door which opened to the outside instead of two, which let all the flies inside. I literally had to keep a napkin constantly covered over my food to keep the flies from landing on it. But other than that, the burgers were fantastic!
We were absolutely blown away by this outdoor playground which was designed to look like an old Wild West town. If I could only say one thing about the town of Medora it would be that it is very family friendly. It reminded me of Branson, but far smaller and less touristy of course. Safety is so important to me when we travel. We have been to cities where I did not feel very safe. Here, we walked the streets after dark and never had to worry. And there are so many family-friendly activities to do here, and more are being added in 2022 like a "lazy river and zero entry pool" and more attractions at Point to Point Park. I would love to bring my grandchildren here someday. I think they will love it!
This is the Old Town Hall Theater where shows are held. The most popular show is the Teddy Roosevelt Show where a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator discusses his life and his time spent in Medora, I was unable to see that one on my first visit, but I hope to see it on a return trip.
The theater was built in the very spot of the old town hall where Theodore Roosevelt himself visited in 1902. There is a statue and commemorative plate outside the theater.
I know this is going to sound silly to some but one of my favorite things about Medora was that there were plenty of PUBLIC RESTROOMS! I can't tell you how many small towns we have visited where someone had to go to the potty and every business in town has a sign up "No Public Restrooms". Seriously, tourist towns, listen up. If you want to attract more tourists make more public restrooms and more FREE parking.
I thought this beautiful flower garden in front of one of their Public Restrooms was picture worthy! And the view of the buttes with the Rough Rider Hotel in the background was stunning.
My husband is a HUGE pizza lover so he was pretty excited to see "Badlands Pizza & Saloon".
This establishment has zero flies 😁 and also offered both indoor/outdoor dining. I really liked their set up to and I found it very efficient. You don't sit down at a table and have a waiter wait on you. You place your order at the counter, receive a number, then you sit down. They bring the food to your table when it's ready. Ordering before you sit down allows more people to be served during busy tourist times.
The indoor dining establishment is beautiful. We were there during the off-season and late at night, so we had the whole place to ourselves!
And the pizza was fabulous! They let us divide a small pizza in half because we both wanted different pizzas.
There were only two restaurants in town open for breakfast: the fancy Rough Riders Hotel and the Cowboy Cafe. We ate breakfast at this restaurant everyday. They never opened until 7:00 am and we were always the first people standing in line waiting for them to open. They have a very limited breakfast menu, which allows tourists like us who just want to get in and out as fast as possible so they can go to the National Park. We loved the ambiance of the place and thought the food was great and the service amazing.
Unfortunately the museum was closed for the season the week we were there. According to its website they have a " treasure trove of frontier/farm/ranch memorabilia including extensive barb wire collection, history of Billings County and restored pioneer days courtroom/jail, collection of military and western firearms." Admission ranges from $1.00 - $3.00.
I was so excited to see a "Wind Garden". I've never heard of a "Wind Garden" before but I found it very peaceful and beautiful and wondered where I could find one of these architectural pieces for my own garden. The garden is located behind the Harold Schafer Heritage Center which is "part bar, part museum , part art gallery, and part indoor-outdoor spaces which features one of the best group patio settings in Medora".
This cute "Mercantile" shop intrigued me so we stopped in for a peek. It's actually a coffee shop and we were surprised to find two of the performers from the "Medora Musical" serving coffee. We later found out that all the cast performers are required to hold another job in the Medora community. That seemed like it would be kinda hard to do but it was fun meeting the cast members up close.
The town of Medora is famous for its Rough Riders Hotel. Apparently Theodore Roosevelt himself stayed here on some of his visits. I tried to book a room here, but they were all full. I have no idea what the cost would be to stay here, but we peeked inside the windows and both the dining room and lobby looked very luxe. The lobby has a floor to ceiling hearth and a beautiful tin ceiling. The walls hold the largest private library available to guests to read of books on and by Theodore Roosevelt.
The hotel is named for the calvary unit led by the 26th president. It was originally built in 1884; Roosevelt gave a speech from a balcony at the hotel that still exists today.
Next to the Rough Riders Hotel is a post office, bank, and church all complete with western charm.
This is the Town Square Patio and Showhall. There are free shows held in the town square all summer long. On the day we arrived in town we could hear someone singing gospel tunes all the way at our motel. It sounded very lovely. There are also food carts, picnic tables, and public restrooms in the square. The building behind the canopies is where the "Gospel Brunch" is held. I was unable to attend this one, but I did peek in the window. The tables were beautifully decorated and they serve a great big brunch paired with gospel songs and stories from the same performers of the "Medora Musical". I really hope I can attend this brunch on another trip to Medora some day.
We found this old covered wagon filled with beautiful flowers.
Across the street from the "North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame" is this "Bucking Bronco" statue. The museum "strives to preserve the history and promote the culture of North Dakota's Native American, ranching, and rodeo communities by informing and educating people of all nations and cultures about the state's rich and colorful western heritage."
Unfortunately this was yet another place I did not have to visit when I was in Medora. Boy...this town has a lot of things to see and do! We were there primarily to visit the National Park, but it's almost as if we could spend a week there just to see all the shows and museums.
A little side note for you: It was in this square, sitting on a park bench in the shade, that my daughter called and told us about the birth of our newest grandson Elisha. I will always remember getting the news on this beautiful day in this lovely spot.
This is the Joe Ferris general store. Joe was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt and the president lodged in a second floor room when he stayed in Medora. The store was built in 1885.
If you notice in the picture above I am reading a sign telling the history of the store. These signs are EVERYWHERE in Medora. You could literally spend an afternoon just reading the signs and learning all the history of this western town. They also have Historic Walking Tours where a paid guide takes you on a 50 minute journey through town sharing the most colorful characters of the towns past.
The statue of the town's founder is located in front of the Harold Schafer Heritage Center. I will share more information on Marquis De Mores in the next two weeks.
This is the Medora Depot. The railroad reached the Little Missouri River in 1880. This building is actually a replica of the original one as a historical marker. There are many old photographs and more "signs" sharing how the railroad was used and influenced the town of Medora.
Across the street from the Medora Depot and Railroad Historical Marker is a "Fudge and Ice Cream Depot". They had a lovely flower garden on the side of their building. I did stop in for some fudge, but it was the end of the day and all they had left was white chocolate...yuch!
And finally, the Medora Firehouse. This town even makes the local fire department look cute!
Our fall 2021 vacation was not the one we planned, but it sure turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I never would have ended up being in Medora, North Dakota had it not been for the pandemic. But I will say, I'm glad everything worked out the way it did because I LOVED IT THERE! I hope I encouraged some of you to make this sweet little town a spot to visit on your travels...then again, I'm afraid of letting too many people know about this place because I don't want it to become over crowded and changed. I loved it because it was so peaceful, beautiful, safe, and there was so much to do I couldn't even do it all in one trip! And did I mention how much history there is to this town? 😀. I can't wait to go back and explore more.
Have a Great Day! Amy
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