Why not Minot? The ‘Magic City’ waves its wand for interesting tourist attractions


A map of Scandinavia with the Gol Stave in the background.

Minot has a bad rep. Even I’ve made fun of it in the past. While stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in the 1980s, I attended leadership school at Minot Air Force Base. I joked that I spent a year there one month. When base assignments were handed out, you prayed you didn’t get Minot. Why not Minot? Freezin’s the Reason, was the response.

Minot is called the “Magic City.” It has worked some great magic in creating attractions to bring tourists to town.

The city in north central North Dakota doesn’t deserve those barbs. Our visit to Minot was a fun trip. Minot has done a lot over the past few decades to improve its image and become a destination to visit in the state. The Dakota Territory Air Museum opened in 1986. The Scandinavian Heritage Park a year later. The city started hosting the annual Norsk Hostfest in 1977. It will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.


A B-52 model greets visitors at the Dakota Territory Air Museum.

The Dakota Territory Air Museum provides visitors a look at military and civilian aircraft, as well as other vehicles. It takes visitors through the military history of the Minot area. Dating back to World War I.


Old Air Force insignia on display at the air museum.

The local base has been home to several aircraft units. Three of the planes can be viewed at an outdoor section, along with a couple of other aircraft.


Some of the aircraft that have served at Minot Air Force Base.

The museum is separated into two hangars. The first provides a look through local and state military history, as well as other important memorabilia, including a replica of a plane used by the Wright Brothers.


Replica of early flying machines.

The main hangar features a variety of aircraft, such as a 1910 Curtiss Pusher (replica), 1940 Ercoupe and a Cessna. Helicopters, biplanes and other artifacts are on display. The museum includes a look at old Minot Fire Department vehicles among the non-flying pieces on display.


A bi-plane at the air museum.

The second hangar features World War II planes that have been refurbished and are used by the Texas Flying Legends. The aircraft are maintained in Minot primarily during summer months. They are rotated out whenever the Texas crews need them.


A World War II Corsair.

Planes featured during our visit included a P-51 Mustang, Spitfire, Corsair and a Japanese Zero. A TBM Avenger bomber was autographed by former President George H.W. Bush. He flew the model during World War II.


Minot’s air museum displays World War II aircraft on loan from the Texas Flying Legends.

Our visit to the Scandinavian Heritage Park was special to me. My dad (step-dad. But he was the man who raised me, so he will always be my dad) was a first generation Swedish-American. His parents immigrated to the United States from Malmo, Sweden, in the early 1900s. He was a proud Swede. So, whenever I have a chance to honor him with a Swedish-related moment, I jump at it.

The park recognizes the five countries that make up Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Leif Erikson, an Icelandic Viking, was likely the first European to actually step foot on North American soil, long before anyone else visited the region.


Leif Erikson statue at the Scandinavian Heritage Park.

The father of modern day skiing is recognized at the park. Sondre Norheim was born in Norway, but lived in Minot. He revolutionized the sport of downhill skiing with equipment innovations and designs. He is recognized with a statue and a memorial featuring skis holding up an eternal flame.


Sondre Norheim is considered the father of modern downhill skiing.

Casper Oimoen was an Olympic ski jumper from North Dakota. The native Norwegian immigrated to Minot in the early 1920s. He represented the United States in the 1932 and 1936 winter Olympics. His contribution to the sport is recognized at the park.


Casper Oimoen represented the United States in skiing at two Olympics.

Minot is home to a Stave church based on one in Gol, Norway. The churches were built toward the end of the days of the Vikings, before Christianity became the primary religion of Scandinavia. The Stave used wood rather than stone for the exterior. In Scandinavia, the churches used black tar or paint to cover the wood. In the US, Staves tend to display the wood.


Stave church is a replica of one found in Gol, Norway.

As a tribute to the Swedish history, the park is home to the largest Dala horse in the United States. It stands about 30 feet tall, topping one in Minnesota. The world’s largest Dala statue is about 50 feet and is located in Sweden.


The Swedish Dala horse is the largest in the United States.

The park has a museum with an impressive offering of exhibits. Each nation is included. Items range from a phone used by Swedish government to traditional clothing.


Norwegian folk outfit featured at the Scandinavian museum.

Staying with the Scandinavian theme of the day, we headed to the 39th annual Norsk Hostfest (pronounced whosefest). Food, music, dance and all kinds of vendors were on hand. The event is held at the state fairgrounds.


A couple of North Dakota Vikings at the Norsk Hostfest in MInot.

We saw people dressed as Vikings or in traditional grab. People were definitely proud to show off their ethnic heritage during the festival.

The food was delicious! We had Norwegian potato dumplings and a Swedish meatball on a stick (the Vikings) for lunch. Dessert was a Norwegian porridge.


Potato dumplings and meatball on a stick made for a delicious lunch.

We enjoyed the traditional folk music and dancing that took place throughout the day. I remember my dad enjoyed playing the accordion (self-taught). So, I took special enjoyment in watching the bands play.


Band plays traditional music during the Hostfest.

Speaking of entertainment, who remembers the twin brother duo of Nelson from the 1990s? The brothers tour the country performing songs by their dad, the late Ricky Nelson. Ricky was a 1950s and ‘60s teen idol. He died in the late 1980s. So, now in their late 40s, they have been paying tribute to their father. They like to use Hostfest as an annual celebration of Ricky’s life.


Gunnar Nelson of the band Nelson performs with Tommy Vee on the bass. Gunnar and his brother Matthew performed during a tribute concert for their dad, 1950s teen idol Ricky Nelson.

Following a full day of military history and Scandinavian heritage, we checked out Souris River Brewing for a night cap and dinner. The beer was tasty. The food was excellent. The poutine burger was just what the French Canadian in me needed.


The “Doctor” was a tasty ale at Souris River Brewing.

Our hotel in Minot knocked off our socks off. The Sleep Inn and Suites is the official and host hotel for the Norsk Hostfest. We hoped to run into some of the celebrities performing at the festival, but no such luck. Oh, and an antique car stands in the lobby.


We loved our room at the Minot Sleep Inn and Suites at Dakota Square Mall.

The hotel has an outstanding indoor swim park. It looked like a lot of fun. It had a lot for people to do there.


The Sleep Inn and Suites has an outstanding indoor swim park.

The hotel is also connected to the Dakota Square Mall. It is a nicely laid out shopping center. We took an evening stroll and visited a few stores. My favorite was the Scheel’s sports store. I loved the hockey section.


The Scheel’s sports store at the Dakota Square Mall has a great hockey section.

All told, we had a wonderful time in Minot. It’s centrally located, so you can take day trips to other areas, such as Bismarck, Mandan, Garrison (home to Lake Sakakawea) and Lake Metigoshe State Park. We recommend including Minot on your next North Dakota trip.

For more information on Minot and its attractions, please check out www.ndtourism.com and www.visitminot.org.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Visit North Dakota for the complimentary hotel stay and tickets to Norsk Hostfest. However, all opinions and views are ours.

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