North Dakota is home to many larger-than-life must-see sites that make it a unique state to visit. It was five years ago that I took a solo road trip across I-94 in North Dakota and I was introduced to each of these fun roadside attractions. What I did not realize is that North Dakota is one of the few places where you can see so many of world's-largest-thing attractions in one state. Many of these attractions are along I-94, but there are some that offer an opportunity to explore this legendary state a little more.
When traveling through North Dakota, challenge yourself to experience as many of these as you can. You will not be disappointed, as each of these attractions will be something you will be talking about for years to come.
1. Dakota Thunder
While traveling I-94 in North Dakota, you will want to take Exit 258 to meet Dakota Thunder. This statue stands 26 feet tall, 46 feet long, and it weighs in at 60 tons. Dakota Thunder is on the eastern end of Frontier Village, which is a prairie town consisting of 25 buildings. There is no fee to visit this larger-than-life sculpture, but donations are welcome. Visitors can take a step back to a quieter place in time and experience life on the frontier.
The National Buffalo Museum is also located in Jamestown and offers an opportunity to view a live buffalo herd. There is a small fee to visit the museum, with a discounted rate for seniors. This attraction is easy to find and, in fact, it is visible from the interstate highway. You will drive approximately one mile and find yourself in Frontier Village, with Dakota Thunder in view. Plan to spend a full day here, as this area in Jamestown has a lot to experience.
2. Salem Sue
Salem Sue is the world's largest Holstein cow. She is 38 feet high, 50 feet long, and you can see her from five miles away. To drive to the base of her, take Exit 127 S off of I-94 in North Dakota. She was built as a tribute to the dairy farmers in the area. You can walk around, under, in front, and behind her. Don't forget to look away from the statue for a beautiful view of the North Dakota landscape. You will quickly be reminded of the wide-open spaces that North Dakota has to offer. This attraction is free and well worth the 15 minutes to see up close while road tripping across North Dakota.
3. Wheat Monument
If you have traveled the heart of America in the summer, you have more than likely seen some beautiful wheat fields. Davidson Park in Williston is home to a monument that is a tribute to the men and women who produce wheat. The Wheat Monument stands 35 feet tall and truly a one-of-a-kind monument. No matter what time of year you visit, you will find a stunning view as you look up toward the sky to view the tip of the wheat. There is no fee to visit the monument or the park. Pack a picnic lunch for a fun meal in the park on a summer afternoon.
4. The Wahpper
Wahpeton is home to the World's Largest Catfish, The Wahpper. When traveling I-29, take Exit 23 to arrive at this fun exhibit. This larger-than-life statue is 40 feet long, stands 12 feet high, and weighs in at 5,000 pounds. It's located in the 26-acre Kidder Recreation Area, which lies along the Red River, bordering Minnesota. It is also home to an arboretum, a fish cleaning station, and modern campsites. Take a selfie with The Wahpper to showcase its massiveness.
Exit 200 on I-94 is where you will find Sandy, the world's largest sandhill crane. It's partway between Jamestown, home to Dakota Thunder, and North Dakota's state capital, Bismarck. If you look closely from the interstate highway, you will be able to see Sandy. Sandy came to life in 1998 and stands tall on the North Dakota Prairie. She stands 40 feet tall and can be seen from a few miles away. If you read the kiosk on site, you will learn that the crane is the oldest existing bird in the world, and has been around for 2.5 million years. Picnic in this area if time permits before you hop back on the highway to find more of North Dakota's larger-than-life attractions.
6. W'eel Turtle
The W'eel Turtle sits near a log home in Dunseith, showcasing the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota. This giant turtle is made of more than 2,000 tire rims and is one of the most unique sculptures I have ever seen. You can park near this work of art at the Log House visitors center that features the works of local artisans. Continue north of Dunseith on North Dakota Highway 3 for a stunning view of the Turtle Mountains.
When I drove this route a few years ago, I was surprised by how beautiful this area of North Dakota was. I had no idea that four seasons of outdoor fun were offered here. The mountains offered hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, ski trails, water sports, and more. To top off this route, a visit to one of the world's most beautiful gardens, the International Peace Garden, is not to be missed.
7. Tommy The Turtle
Bottineau lies west of the Turtle Mountains and just south of the Canadian border. It is home to a local fan favorite mascot, Tommy the Turtle in Tommy Turtle Park. He is the world's largest snowmobile riding turtle and he is over 26 feet tall. This 10-acre park offers full hook up campsites as well as picnic shelters that make for perfect family gatherings.
Wally the Walleye in Garrison, the walleye capital of the world, stands at 26 feet tall. Lake Sakakawea is one of the most sought-after fishing lakes in the world. It is located a little more than an hour northwest of Bismarck, the capital of the state. It is the third-largest man-made lake in the United States and contained by the country's fifth-largest dam. This lake is so big that it has more shoreline than the state of California. Fishermen will appreciate the lake’s walleye as well as its northern pike, chinook salmon, smallmouth bass, and many more.
9. Enchanted Highway
In my opinion, you cannot visit North Dakota without exploring the Enchanted Highway. This highway begins at Exit 72 on I-94 near Gladstone and runs south for 32 miles. At the exit along the interstate highway, you will see the metal sculpture Geese in Flight. This will give you insight as to what you can expect while driving this beautiful highway with numerous larger-than-life creations. The best tip that I can give you when driving this route is to park as close to each sculpture as you can. They each offer something unique and they are really stunning works of art.
Some of the highlights of the highway are Grasshoppers in the Field, Deer Crossing, and Fisherman's Dream. There are, on average, five miles between one installation and the next, and as you drive, you will find yourself watching for the next sculpture to pop up. This is a great place to see several larger-than-life experiences in one short drive, and it's all in North Dakota.
Hop Off The Main Highways
North Dakota never ceases to amaze me. Each time I visit, I find something new and exciting. The state parks, national parks, and larger-than-life sculptures are three really great reasons to spend several days in this state. When you look away from the interstate highways that we all travel, you will find those hidden gems that are looking to be found. Don't be afraid to hop off of the main highways, as I can guarantee that you will fall in love with the people, experiences, and scenery you encounter traveling North Dakota's byways within a short period of time.
If you choose to take I-94 across the whole state, following our North Dakota road trip: Fargo to Medora, there are opportunities to explore many unique opportunities along the way. Several of these larger-than-life sites are included in that road trip. Pack your binoculars, hiking shoes, picnic lunch, and camera for an epic adventure. Each mile marker that you reach in North Dakota will have something waiting for you to experience. When you allow time to explore while traveling through North Dakota, you will have a more enjoyable experience. It's up to you to build time into your schedule to allow yourself to be immersed into each community you come to along the way. If you embrace North Dakota, I guarantee you that you will be planning a return visit.