Thank you, thank you, to everyone who sent us their recommendations for things to do in Jamestown. We had a great time exploring the city last Sunday, and were so happy to have some extra guidance. We knew, of course, that our visit would include the World’s Largest Buffalo, but there were some great discoveries that wouldn’t have made our itinerary were it not for the input of our readers.
Side note: This Sunday and Monday we’re heading north of Fargo, and would love to hear your suggestions. We would like to stay within a two to three hour drive from Fargo, and here are the ideas we’ve received so far from our Twitter friends that we’re considering for our itinerary:
Hatton Carl Ben Eielson Museum
Turtle River State Park
Devils Lake area
Other suggestions included Frostfire Theater in Walhalla, Pembina Gorge and the Japanese Garden in Grand Forks. These towns and areas are on our itinerary for a bit later in the summer, and the suggestions are much appreciated. Please feel free to send us yours so we can add them to our list, you can comment below, send us an e-mail to email@example.com, Tweet Us or post to our Facebook Page. And now on to last weekend’s Jamestown excursion…
We began our Father’s Day with breakfast at the Country Kitchen in Casselton. We had no idea what to expect, but we didn’t want to wait until after breakfast for our Jamestown adventure to begin. So, we googled Casselton breakfast restaurants, and this is what came up.
Breakfast was great, with friendly and efficient service and generous portions. Giovanni was particularly delighted to feast upon the Chocolate Covered Pancakes, while Tony and I each enjoyed the Veggie Omelet. The restaurant is connected to the Governors Inn, and we took our pictures along the wall next to photos of the five North Dakota governors from Casselton. The hotel also hosts a terrific pool area with slides and other water features. It was so cool, in fact, that Giovanni was very disappointed to learn that this was not our final destination. This would be a great place to escape to for an easy winter getaway, especially when the weather gets too cold to play outside.
Somehow, we managed to coax Gio back into the car, and set out once again for Jamestown. Having only driven past Jamestown less than a handful of times in my life, and never in the past 20 years, I have always imagined Jamestown as flat. Don’t ask me why, because it’s not flat at all – in fact, it has hills all over and is very pretty. You may have noticed by now that hills excite me. This comes after years of living in the flat, flat, flatness of the Red River Valley.
As we approached the city, we could spot the World’s Largest Buffalo from the interstate. Giovanni was especially excited for this part of our adventure, and couldn’t wait to get out of the car. We exited the highway and easily followed the signage directing us to the big bison.
As we pulled in to the grounds, we were pleased to see that there were many options to discover, all in one, easily accessible site: Frontier Village, a recreation of a pioneer town which hosts a good variety of authentic western buildings, brought in from all over the state, which you can walk through and explore; the National Buffalo Museum & Prairie Winds GIft Shop; White (and brown) Buffalo; and of course, Dakota Thunder, the World’s Largest Buffalo.
We enjoyed walking through the museum, which has a great bison and western history exhibits. From the museum, it is only a short walk over to the Frontier Village, and we enjoyed this journey back through history. There were many buildings to explore, which really helped to set a time and place to the period, and you can learn more about the village by clicking here: Frontier Village.
The site is very affordable, and set up so you can do it all in just a couple hours. Admission to the museum is only $5 per person, but the Frontier VIllage and World’s Largest Buffalo exhibits are free to the public. There are locked metal boxes in most of the exhibits, so you can (and should) make a goodwill contribution to help maintain the buildings.
There are also gift shops and art galleries located in some of the buildings for you to contribute to the local economy. Be sure to check out the school house, which displays a document from 1915 entitled, “Rules for Teacher.” After perusing the list, it was clear to me that I could never have been a teacher on the prairie in 1915.
It was overcast and windy, windy, as we toured the site, but warm in temperature so we didn’t mind. They had a stagecoach running tours every 10 minutes, but we had been advised by another family that the ride was very bumpy so we opted to remain on foot (this is not very typical of us, but after the morning’s drive we just couldn’t face it). We worked our way around the village, and then it was time for the main event: Dakota Thunder and the herd of buffalo we could see grazing out on the pasture just beyond.
To say that this concrete buffalo statue is large does not do it justice – it is enormous. The World’s Largest Buffalo is visible from the highway, but if you just kept driving westward without stopping you might just say, “Eh – what’s the big deal?” But let me tell you – it’s worth the stop. The good folks of Jamestown have made it easy, affordable and fast to pay a visit to Dakota Thunder and the herd.
We took the requisite photos with D.T. and then waited by the fence to see if the buffalo, particulary the white wines, would move in a little closer. They did, and with the zoom feature on my Sony Cybershot, I was able to get a great picture of them before we departed for the authentic general store located at the entrance to the village.
The large, authentic, general store takes you back in time and makes it possible to visualize what life must have been like back in the days of the western frontier. The center of every small town back then, the general store represented much more than just your basic needs: it was the connection to the outside world. Today, general stores of any size are difficult to find in our small towns, and I think about the impact this loss must have on these rural communities.
We purchased a popsicle for Giovanni, and a few other souvenir items before leaving, and then it was time for our next adventure. I’d put out a request for suggestions via email, Twitter and Facebook, and we had several people recommend that we visit the campus of Jamestown College, as well as the Jamestown Reservoir. These two stops would round out our day before it was time for dinner at the highly-recommended Buffalo City Grille in downtown Jamestown.
However, we still didn’t have any plans for Monday’s adventure, so we stopped at the Visitor Information Center located right at the entrance to the Frontier Village site and Tony went inside to ask for some advice. Unforunately, after hearing our plans for the rest of the day, the woman working that Sunday said she had no other ideas for us – we’d done it all.
Side note: This was an unusual and surprising turn from our experience with other local Visitor Centers, and ND Tourism in general, as I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface of what Jamestown has to offer. We have had incredible advice and support from local information sites and especially from the state of North Dakota, so I figured I’d just put out another Tweet on Twitter and see what ideas came back. ND Tourism is very active on Twitter, and has been an enormous help in getting our requests broadcast to their impressive list of over 10,000 followers. If you’re on Twitter, follow them at @NorthDakota.
We still needed to secure lodging for the night, so we visited the local offerings and settled upon the locally-owned Gladstone Inn & Suites in downtown Jamestown. The winning feature here was its downtown location and the pool area – we are quickly realizing that a pool is going to play a key part in helping us determine where we stay.
After making our reservation, we drove over to Jamestown College and spent about an hour walking around the campus and admiring the architecture of century-old buildings. Located on a hill, the college has many places to stop and view the city, and we enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere .
We were pleased to find that the Voorhees Chapel was open, and we stepped inside to check it out. It is the only building on campus named in the National Register of Historic Buildings, and is a beautiful space with Gothic ceilings, colorful stained glass windows, and an impressive pipe organ. The organ, properly named the Black-Schlossman Memorial Organ, was installed in the chapel in 1999 and is one of the largest pipe organs in North Dakota.
After a little on-line research, I discovered that the Music Department hosts several performances in the Chapel throughout the year. I would love to attend one of their holiday presentations, especially the Advent and Christmas Vespers, and have marked a reminder in my November calendar.
Following a quick photo stop at the Jamestown College sign, we were on our way to find the Jamestown Reservoir. I had no idea what to expect, or really what a reservoir would look like, other than a holding place for water. Well, located at the northern edge of town, the reservoir is huge and stretches out northward like a long, long lake. We drove around for a few minutes before deciding to stop at one of the two designated swimming beaches the reservoir has to offer.
Giovanni changed into his swimsuit and set off to play in the water. By now it was late afternoon/early evening, and the sun was out in glorious force. When we arrived there were about a dozen people on the beach, and plenty of room to spread out.
The lake was abuzz with activity: fishing boats, speedboats pulling water skiers behind them, pontoons out for an evening cruise…I was instantly transported to Minnesota and the summers of my youth. I had no idea that North Dakota offered such a similar experience, so close to home.
We relaxed on the beach for about an hour, soaking in the sun and watching Giovanni play about the beach. The reservoir is located on one of the most-traveled migratory flyways in the state, and we enjoyed the prolific bird life all around us. Just before leaving, a striking white pelican glided above us before swooping down to land on the lake. Yes, we told him, we are impressed.
With a full day of adventure behind us, we’d worked up quite an appetite and couldn’t wait for dinner. We had received many (MANY!) recommendations to dine at the Buffalo City Grille in downtown Jamestown, and we couldn’t wait to sink out teeth into one of their famous Bison steaks.
Arriving at the Gladstone Inn & Suites, we unpacked the car and freshened up before heading to dinner. Tony went down to the lobby to get some more information about what to do on Monday (again, we were told we’d pretty much covered the attractions), and when he returned he informed me that there were also 26 Norwegians staying at our hotel.
We were lucky enough to meet two of them during dinner, and you can read all about that experience on this blog post here: The Norwegians are Coming!
We arrived at the Buffalo City Grille at about 7:30 pm, and had not made any reservations (yes, I know, I know…). This could have been a big problem because the restaurant was just hopping, but the hostess at the front helped us find a table in the corner of the bar. This was actually perfect, because we were seated right by the window overlooking downtown, and we had a view to everything that was happening in the bar.
The bar was packed with hungry Norwegians, who were patiently waiting for their table for 26. We quickly made friends with the lovely couple next to us, and enjoyed their company for about an hour before they made their way into the dining room. We discovered that they were part of the Lillestrom Accordion Orchestra, and would be in Fargo on Tuesday for a show at the Sons of Norway. Moreover, the gentleman, Jan-Erik, is an elderman with the Norwegian Santa Association, and this delighted Giovanni to no end. We resolved that we would be at the show on Tuesday to enjoy more from our new Norwegian friends.
Now, on to dinner. We were surprised to discover that we knew the General Manager, Paul Butenhoff, who used to work for our local restaurant supply store in Fargo. With Paul at the helm, we knew we were in good hands and relaxed into the evening. Our server, Brooke, was very attentive and not only guided us to a great table when we arrived, but made sure we timed our meal in advance of the several large groups dining at the restaurant that evening.
The restaurant has a large and diverse menu, but we didn’t come all this way for Rotisserie Chicken (although I’m sure it’s excellent)! Our Jamestown experience had started with Buffalo, and it would end the same way. Since they were out of the Buffalo Sirloin Steak, the three of us settled on the Bacon-Wrapped Bison Filet. Oh my, was it good! In fact, Giovanni just stopped by my office to inform me that he is going to have the Bison Filet with French Fries every time we visit the restaurant.
When things finally began to settle down, Paul came over and joined us for a while. We learned about the history of the restaurant (it recently underwent renovations and re-opened with new owners last November), and were able to catch up on Paul’s life in Jamestown. We were delighted to find out that he and his wife welcomed their first child, a daughter, just last month. Paul seemed very content with their new life in Jamestown, and he told us he was glad they made the move.
The Buffalo City Grille is a great restaurant, and was the perfect ending to another day of adventure in North Dakota. Beautiful fixtures, swanky bar, terrific food and service, old friends and new friends - what more could you ask for?
Getting Lost on the Prairie just keeps getting better and better.