Family Fun in the Dakotas, Part 8: Bismarck and Jamestown, North Dakota

This is my eighth post about our family's visit to the Dakotas. I suggest reading the firstsecondthird, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh trip posts before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during the trip. Other places we went are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Bismarck and Jamestown, North Dakota

When I'm putting together a trip, Trevor always asks me one question: How many zoos will be visiting? Trevor loves zoos (and aquariums and animal rescues and animal museums and treks to see wild animals). He was really happy to hear that I'd found two zoos worthy of visiting during our time in North Dakota. 

I am really careful when planning an animal-related visit. If we end up at a history museum we don't enjoy or at a restaurant that isn't great, it's not that big of a deal. But I do a lot of research to make sure we don't go to an animal attraction that is exploitative or harmful. It's why we ended up on a walking tour at a Louisiana swamp instead of on a boat tour. One easy way to learn if an attraction meets the highest standards for animal welfare is to check for accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Fewer than 10% of zoos in the US have AZA accreditation.  

The Dakota Zoo in Bismarck is AZA accredited and that's where we started our day on Tuesday, August 1. We were greeted by goats on a bridge. 

I love goats and I love their space at the Dakota Zoo. The bridge connects two large enclosures with different features that provide the goats with lots of room for play and enrichment. 

Trevor and I couldn't pass up the chance to feed and pet them. 

We took the narrated train ride to orient ourselves with the Dakota Zoo. It was a lot of fun and we learned extra facts about the animals that we might not have otherwise. 

We spent the rest of our time at the Dakota Zoo walking along the shaded paths and learning about the animals. You won't find elephants and giraffes at this zoo; the animals here are native to North Dakota or to areas with similar climates. Bison, mountain goats, ferrets, badgers, prairie dogs, pronghorn, porcupines, grizzlies, and wolves are all zoo residents. 

In some cases, it's hard to find the animals because their environment is so dense. There are elk in there somewhere. 

I love how much of the natural environment the animals experience. 

Throughout the zoo, there are lots of opportunities to learn more about the animals. The Discovery Center is awesome. 

This exhibit about endangered animals compares the size of a blue whale vertebra with that of a black-footed ferret. Same shape, dramatically different size!

We really enjoyed our time at the Dakota Zoo!

We made time for a quick stop at the capitol for the photograph we didn't get the previous day. 

You may be wondering about North Dakota's Liberty Bell replica. We didn't see it. It is currently in off-site storage

We said goodbye to Bismarck and drove 106 miles east to Frontier Village in Jamestown. Original buildings from North Dakota's frontier villages were brought here and filled with the artifacts they would have had in their original locations. You'll find a frontier church, school, bank, railroad depot, and much more. There's also a shack dedicated to author Louis L’Amour, born in Jamestown in 1908.

It's also where you'll find the World's Largest Buffalo, Dakota Thunder

Ignoring the fact that Dakota Thunder is a bison and not a buffalo, it's an impressive statue. It's 26 feet tall and weighs 120,000 pounds. 

All this is right by the National Buffalo Museum. Their mission is "to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach."

Inside, you'll find all sorts of displays related to the bison. 

Can you imagine if people wallowed to get clean? Or bison used hand sanitizer? There's a cute idea for a picture book! 

I really enjoyed the exhibit about the use of bison in advertising. There are so many brands and products that use the bison as a symbol of strength, power, and the outdoors. 

Ever touched a bison molar? I have!

I definitely recommend a visit to the National Buffalo Museum!

After another 94 miles, we reached Fargo. 

We checked into the Jasper Hotel for a 2-night stay. It's really nice and in a great location. 

The view from our room.

Directly across the street from the Jasper was the first of many painted bison we'd see in Fargo. They're part of Herd About the Prairie. I love how many cities are doing this kind of public art now. 

We had dinner at Wurst Bier Hall. I chose it specifically because they serve a North Dakota favorite, knoephla soup. We first learned about it from Little Passports and have been wanting to try an authentic version. It was soooo good!

Everything we tried was fantastic. I definitely recommend this trio of sausages...

... and this bacon flight was awesome. Four flavors of bacon and a knife so we could all enjoy it. We each picked a different favorite. 

We left just enough room to enjoy some ice cream from Silver Lining Creamery as we walked back to the hotel. Their flavor selection was fantastic. We each got a small scoop, but I noticed these mason jars of ice cream for sale in their freezer. What a good idea for someone who just wants to grab and go!

All day, I kept thinking about how exciting it was to be in our 50th state. The following day would be a big deal - when we officially joined the Best for Last Club. Tomorrow I'll tell you about that and everything else we did on our last full day in North Dakota. 

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