North Dakota Road Trip Day 2: Valley City to Devil’s Lake

Earlier this summer we spent a week exploring North Dakota. We started our road trip with a full day in Fargo and then headed west via I-94 to Valley City where we spent the night, eager to continue exploring the following day.

North Dakota Road Trip Day 2 Map

Valley City

We began Day 2 of our trip at the Rosebud Visitor Center in Valley City, home to “Rosebud,” a private rail car for the superintendent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which dates back to the 1881.

RosebudAt the visitor center we also checked out other exhibits on local history and picked up a map of the Valley City Historic Bridges Tour. Visitor center staff gave us tips on the best route to see all the bridges, navigating around construction zones. (See my earlier post about the Valley City Historic Bridges Tour and details about Rosebud.)

bridge in Valley City, North Dakota

Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site

Following the self-guided Historic Bridges Tour, we headed west on I-94 and then north on North Dakota State Route 1 to Cooperstown and the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site. A top secret site during the Cold War years, the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site and a nearby launch facility are the last remnants of several launch sites located in a 6500-square-mile area around the Grand forks Air Force Base.

Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile SiteThe tour of the facility first takes you through the topside living quarters, where staff stayed during their assignment. Topside support staff worked three days on and three days off.  The living quarters were made to feel as much like home as possible and included a pool table and a weight room. However, unlike home, because it was a top secret facility, phone calls were limited to ten minutes per day per person and were monitored.

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Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site living quartersThe tour also takes you 60 feet below ground to the launch control center. Two person Missilier teams worked in the launch control center in 24-hour shifts every three days. The Missilliers’ job was to constantly monitor the missiles and await orders.

Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site launch control center

launch closure door

Jamestown: Frontier Village, World’s Largest Buffalo and National Buffalo Museum

Back down North Dakota State Route 1 to I-94, we headed west to Jamestown, stopping for a quick burger lunch at the Polar King Drive-In before visiting Frontier Village.

Polar King Drive-In, Jamestown, North DakotaFrontier Village, a recreated prairie town, consists of 24 original buildings that have been moved to the site from other locations. Among the buildings are the first railroad depot in Jamestown, a log cabin built in 1898 and a church that was originally used as a one-room schoolhouse.

Frontier Village, Jamestown, North DakotaFrontier Village is also home to the world’s largest buffalo statue, erected in 1959 as a monument to the bison that once roamed North American prairies and also as a roadside attraction to draw tourists into Jamestown.

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown NDFun fact: The world’s largest buffalo didn’t have a name until July 24, 2010. In honor of its 50th birthday celebration, a “Name That Buffalo” contest was held. The winning name? Dakota Thunder.

Just down the road, walkable from Frontier Village, is the National Buffalo Museum, which traces the history of bison (commonly called buffalo in the U.S.). A herd of bison roams next to the museum, which includes a rare white one. I would have loved to have seen the white bison, but on our visit the herd was a distance away, and we didn’t see the white one at all.

National Buffalo Museum, Jamestown, North Dakota

Fort Totten State Historic Site

From this point we traveled north again to the Fort Totten State Historic Site. We arrived within 15 minutes of closing time, giving us just a few minutes to spend in the visitor center and take pictures of the facility.

Model of Fort Totten State Historic Site
Model of Fort Totten State Historic Site

Fort Totten was a military post from 1867 until 1891 and then served as an Indiana school until 1959. The original fort, built in 1867, was made up of crude log structures.  The permanent buildings, which still stand, were constructed from 1868 until 1871. The property now belongs to the State Historical Society of North Dakota and is open for tours. Some of the buildings have been converted to other uses, including a theater and a bed-and-breakfast.

Fort Totten Little TheaterTotten Trail Historic Inn

Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve

The visitor center had already closed by the time we arrived at Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve. However, since the refuge is open until sunset, there was still plenty of time to take the auto tour and keep an eye open for wildlife. Just a couple of minutes into the drive through the refuge, we came across several bison resting alongside the road.

Bison at Sully's Hill National Game PreserveMoving on, we found the prairie dog “town,” and spent quite a while watching as prairie dogs popped in and out of their tunnels. What fun to watch!

prairie dog townThe refuge also has several nature trails. We didn’t hike any of the trails, but we did climb to the observation overlook for a great view of the area.

Sully's Hill National Game Preserve Observation Overlook

The Ranch Steakhouse

We ended our day with dinner at The Ranch Steakhouse in Devil’s Lake, an iconic supper club that has been in business since 1946. We started our meal with a basket of popovers, served warm with honey butter, and a salad. I chose New York Strip steak and wild rice pilaf for my entree.

The Ranch Steakhouse, Devil's Lake, North DakotaThe Ranch Steakhosue also offers a nice selection of desserts.

The Ranch Steakhouse desserts

Accommodations: 

We stayed at the AmericInn in Valley City and the Sleep Inn in Devil’s Lake.
Find the best deal on Valley City hotels, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

Find the best deal on Devil’s Lake hotels, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.

Stay tuned for more articles about our road trip through North Dakota.

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Disclosures: Our road trip through North Dakota was hosted by North Dakota tourism. However, any opinions expressed in this article are my own.
This article contains affiliate links. If you book a hotel room through these links, I will receive a small commission at no addition cost to you.

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5 thoughts on “North Dakota Road Trip Day 2: Valley City to Devil’s Lake

  • August 22, 2016 at 10:40 am
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    Sounds like a great road trip. Thanks for taking us all along through your posts!

    Reply
  • August 25, 2016 at 8:46 pm
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    I love your bison pics! You caught my attention with the word “steak” at Devil’s Lake.

    Reply
    • August 28, 2016 at 8:00 am
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      The steak at Ranch Steakhouse was delicious, and I really enjoyed the popovers. I love popovers but rarely have them, so it was a real treat, especially with the honey butter.

      Reply
  • February 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm
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    Great articles, you guys definitely saw some cool stuff! North Dakota has some great roadside kitsch. I still need to get to Minot to see that stave church.

    Reply
    • February 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm
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      Over a week in North Dakota, and even rushing through some of the places we stopped, still missed so much. It was our first trip to North Dakota, and we were really impressed.

      Reply

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