At first glance there isn’t much to do in North Dakota on Memorial Day Weekend, but don’t let that stop you from visiting the state. More often than not, the forecast is for rain according to weather meteorologist Tom Szymanski. I find his statement to be true since my experience with that weekend’s weather is that it tends to be raining, and when it isn’t raining, it is generally cloudy.
With that said, there is one official observance and it takes place at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery rain or shine. The day starts around 8 AM at Memorial Bridge, which was built to honor war veterans as well as carry former US Highway 10 across the Missouri River. They hold a short ceremony consisting of a 21-gun salute, and then do the same at cemeteries across the cities of Bismarck and Mandan. These small observances end at the official ceremony at the cemetery which takes place at High noon. Here’s a link to the 2013 ceremony. The cemetery can be found roughly seven miles south of Mandan on North Dakota Highway 1806. And here is a link to other observances held across the state.
Late May is also a time for high school events across the state. Most cities in North Dakota graduate their high school students the day before Memorial Day. It is a somewhat festive day if you have an interest in watching your loved one go on to bigger and better things. Aside from High School graduations, the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) holds their girls Tennis (May 22-24 2014) and the State’s biggest Track and Field (May 23-24 2014) meet on Memorial Day Weekend. This year, both events are being held in Bismarck. More information can be found through this link. Consult this schedule in case of bad weather because the tennis tournament may be moved inside. The link also gives the outdoor locations for the girls tennis event. The track and field event is scheduled for the Bismarck Community Bowl on the campus of Bismarck State College.
For the culturally inclined, powwows are a good event to attend. New Town, ND has their Four Bears event on Memorial Day Weekend. It is a great way to experience life from the natives prospective. Take in a day’s worth of their culture and enjoy the dances and costumes they offer. The link in this paragraph is to the North Dakota Tourism site, so explore events beyond the weekend.
Finally, Memorial Day Weekend is the opening weekend of the Summer travel season. North Dakota is no different because campgrounds across the state will be open to visitors. In addition to both units of Teddy Roosevelt national Park, North Dakota boasts a whopping 17 State Parks and a few historic districts. Among my favorites are Fort Lincoln State Park and Cross Ranch State Park.
Fort Lincoln is the site of General George Custer’s home in the 1870’s and is one of the prime tourist attractions in the state. Visitors get a chance to experience military life in the 19th century as well as get a chance to visit an indian village located just north of Custer’s home. Also included are lookout forts, and a modern campground. The entrance to Fort Lincoln State Park is located about a half-mile east of the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.
In a very stark contrast, Cross Ranch State Park is a primitive park with only the very basic necessities needed to operate. It is done this way so visitors can experience the Missouri River the same way Lewis and Clark experienced the river during their expedition. The park boasts 589 acres of trails and cabins for camping as well as a boat ramp. Cross Ranch State Park is located about 25 miles north of Mandan on North Dakota Highway 1806.
Hope you enjoyed this overview of what to expect in North Dakota on Memorial Day weekend. The truth is that space doesn’t permit me to list everything that is happening in the state, but this general overview should help plan your stay in this fair state.
General schedule of Memorial Day events from a Bismarck Tribune article.