Roam Guide / Fargo, North Dakota
Jennifer Mastrud is a marketing executive who works out of her home in Fargo, North Dakota. A "lifer" in the community, it took getting away on frequent business trips for her to appreciate all that Fargo has to offer. Only now does she really understand, her hometown has been selling itself short.
Honestly, I dispute the prevailing selling point among locals that, 'the people are so nice here.' There are nice people everywhere, and Fargo has a lot more than that to brag about.
Fargo, North Dakota
The largest city in the state of North Dakota, Fargo is located right on the edge of the Minnesota border. For years, Fargo was commonly assumed to be in Canada, or it would just not appear on the map at all. In 1996 the Coen brothers film of the same name drew international attention. You betcha, now it's on the map.
When to go?
Winter in Fargo is no joke. Temperatures can hover in the double-digits below zero for weeks on end, with a biting wind that makes moving around just treacherous. Summer however, is joyful in Fargo with many opportunities to enjoy temperatures in the 80s and daylight until 10 pm.
How to get there?
Hector International Airport (FAR) will get you to Fargo from anywhere. Locals often fly in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport for better prices and direct flights. Fargo is only a 4-hour drive from MSP, and you’ll see some beautiful Midwest farmland along the way.
Where did you stay?
I recommend staying downtown, which was revitalized years ago thanks to The Hotel Donaldson. The “HoDo”, as it’s known here, is an artsy boutique hotel in the heart of the action. The lounge on the first floor is a popular spot to chill with a nice cocktail, but the small rooftop bar is even better (weather permitting). Rooms at The HoDo can be hard to come by and a bit pricey. A solid Plan B is the Radisson one block to the north. Everything in downtown Fargo is walkable, so the Radisson is equally convenient. An attached parking garage is an extra bonus, as downtown parking can be a bit of a headache.
What should we do?
Start your day in one of the local coffee shops downtown (Atomic, Moxie Java, or Babb’s) and grab a treat at Sandy’s Donuts, a longtime local favorite. Pop into the local boutiques along Broadway and Main Avenue, which are fashion-forward and affordable. Work your way to the path that winds along the Red River from the south end of town all the way up north. It’s typically bustling on nice days with walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and even fisherman. You could spend all day on the smooth, flat trail and the many connected parks along the way. There are countless opportunities to cross pedestrian bridges to a parallel trail on the Minnesota side in Moorhead. For a truly unique adventure, rent a family-size carriage bike in Lindenwood Park.
If you are visiting on a Saturday, check out the Red River Market. It’s a busy community event in the heart of downtown with live music, food trucks and local vendors.
“This farmer's market has turned into quite a thing.”
For more entertainment, catch a band at The Sanctuary, a church converted into a cool event center. If visiting with kids, be sure to get tickets for the summer production by Trollwood Performing Arts School at the outdoor Bluestem Amphitheater in south Moorhead. It never disappoints.
Rtip: Look for the uber talented local duo ‘xx’ performing regularly
Where should we eat?
Although much of the world still doesn’t know Fargo exists, the local restaurant scene is well aware of the world outside of the Red River Valley. You’ll be surprised by the dining options in Fargo. Persian, Iranian, Irish, Indian, Himalayan, African, and Vietnamese cuisine are all done well in Fargo, to name a few. I’ll focus my recommendations on downtown: Go German at the Wurst Bier Hall, Italian at Toscana, Thai at the Drunken Noodle or sushi at Wasabi. Those craving Mexican have a tough choice between Vinyl Taco or the Taco Bros food truck. For American dining, I like Mezzaluna or the Boiler Room for their menus and their vibe. Mezzaluna is in a pretty historic building and The Boiler Room is in a cool underground space. A new favorite fo mine is 46 North Pints & Provisions (get the brussel sprouts). Fargo has more great pizza options than we deserve per capita. You can’t go wrong with the legendary Sammy’s, the artisanal Blackbird, or the adventuresome Rhombus Guys. For dessert, Nichole’s Fine Pastry is worth the trip to the south end of downtown, just before Island Park (Fargo’s version of Central Park).
Rtip: Try BernBaum's, it’s technically a bagel shop but so much more. Everything is made from scratch by real chefs. Probably the only place in town to offer latkes and matzo ball soup.
Where should we drink?
When you’re ready for a drink, you have many, many choices. Proof Artisan Distillers makes its own vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon and more from locally-farmed potatoes, barley, and corn. Wild Terra Cidery produces craft cider and kombucha in a preserved stable on the outskirts of downtown. Teaberry is popular with my kids; their boba teas are better than any I’ve tried in my travels. An abundance of bars downtown make night life easy to find.
RTip: Is to hit the Bloody Mary bar weekends at Pounds Fargo. The options are endless and the creations are ridiculous.
What is the one can't miss item on your itinerary?
See a show and take a selfie in front of the iconic Fargo Theater.
Tell us something we don't know?
I was an adult, before I realized most of the country is unfamiliar with lefse. A paper-thin Norwegian flatbread, made from potatoes and painstakingly cooked on a large griddle. It’s available year-round in local grocery stores, but it’s especially popular around Thanksgiving.
I usually eat my lefse plain, but occasionally I add butter & sugar.
What should we shop for, or bring back with us?
Drekker beer, based out of Fargo, is a hot commodity in the region. Even local stores can’t keep it in stock, but, rest assured, they have a tasting room downtown. You’ll miss out on owning the fab art on the cans, but the beer is legit. For souvenirs, visit Unglued for a wide variety of unique hand-crafted items with a local theme. Get off broadway and find some surprises in Roberts Alley, like Scoop & Dough Candy Shoppe and Thread Boutique, formerly pink lux.
RTip is to check out Proper & Prim for great price points on women’s clothing. We love the location in Minneapolis and seem to be always calling the Fargo location for sizes.
What should we take on the trip?
First of all, this Ikea suitcase. I have recommended this luggage (and the previous iterations of it) probably thousands of times. Every flight I take, at least one stranger approaches me and asks about the bag because it fits in every single overhead bin on every airline. It changed my life! I also never travel without a practical handbag that can match everything. I had accumulated a small collection of Patricia Nash bags before someone told me they’re a thing. Whatever the season in Fargo, plan to dress in layers. A t-shirt and a light jacket will be just fine on summer nights. If you’re brave enough to visit in the winter, that’s a different story. You will need full winter gear including the warmest-possible parka, hat, scarf, gloves, and some serious boots.
Click here to see everywhere Jen suggests to put in your Fargo itinerary.