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Medora offers variety of attractions for all ages

MEDORA, N.D.--There's a reason Medora is North Dakota's No. 1 tourism destination: it has something for everyone, the state's top tourism official said.

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A photographer takes a shot of a wild horse June 18, 2016, in Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, N.D. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)

MEDORA, N.D.-There's a reason Medora is North Dakota's No. 1 tourism destination: it has something for everyone, the state's top tourism official said.

"You hit all areas," state tourism director Sara Otte Coleman said. "It's one of those destinations, especially for in-state people, that they look forward to. Whether you're 85 or 5, there are going to be activities to entertain everyone."

Attractions like Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the "Medora Musical" attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The town of about 130 residents presents a family-friendly atmosphere with activities, restaurants and souvenirs, making it a repeat stop for many visitors.

Despite its size, Medora offers a wide range of attractions and amenities to make it a family destination.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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In terms of visitors, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is Medora's and North Dakota's largest asset, attracting almost 600,000 visitors a year. And all traffic heading into the South Unit must go through the gateway city of Medora.

The South Unit makes up about 46,000 acres of Badlands nestled in the heart of southwestern North Dakota. A 36-mile loop will take you down a winding road around the Badlands.

Wildlife is prevalent in the park. Herds of buffalo and wild horses roam the plains and often are visible from the road. Scattered prairie dog towns and a variety of birds will expose visitors to the sounds Theodore Roosevelt heard when he lived on the Elkhorn Ranch, which visitors can drive to about 1½ hour north of Medora.

To get closer to nature, hikers can take the beaten path. The South Unit boasts more than 50 miles of hiking trail with varying degrees of difficulty, with trails leading to hidden treasures like the Petrified Forest area.

Visitors also can drive about 8 miles east of Medora to Painted Canyon. The panoramic view of the Badlands present colorful hues of rock against the sky.

Visitor's centers at the gate of the park and Painted Canyon present history and artifacts as well as videos. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/thro or call (701) 623-4466.

Medora Musical and more

Hailed as "the greatest show in the West," the family friendly Medora Musical is filled with music, variety acts and history.

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With its 51st season in full swing, the show attracts more than 100,000 audience members a year with a cast of performers from across the country, including Misti Koop from Grand Forks and Damon Fichter of Dickinson, as Burning Hills Singers. The musical is full of country music favorites as well as original songs and draws comedy from skits and featured acts.

The stage is set against the backdrop of the Badlands with a replica of Medora's buildings. Everything in the set is either "completely real or completely farcical," said Randy Hatzenbuhler, president of Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

The musical usually ends with a tribute to Roosevelt as a man symbolizing the 26th U.S. president rides down a butte on horseback, but this year's musical has a surprise tribute to Harold and Sheila Schafer, who spent their lives revitalizing Medora and making it a tourism destination for the entire family.

For many, the Medora Musical is the perfect way to wrap up a day of excitement in Medora, but visitors can complete the evening with the Pitchfork Steak Fondue. Diners can watch their steak be dunked into boiling tubs while being serenaded by a live performance from the musical's Coal Diggers. Enjoy the view of the Badlands and Medora as you eat from a buffet of western-style cuisine in the Tjaden Terrace. Then head to North Dakota's only outdoor escalator to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre for the musical.

If you want to deviate from the musical, head to the Chuckwagon for the Medora Gospel Brunch. New to the Medora stage this year, the brunch features a buffet before Emily Walter, a former host of the musical, gives a high-energy performance with members of the Burning Hills Singers. The group gives a history of Gospel music as it invites its audience to sing classics like "I Saw the Light" and "Amazing Grace."

For more information on times and prices, go to medora.com or call (800) MEDORA-1.

Marquis de Mores

Murder and mayhem followed the man who gave Medora its name, and visitors will take a trip back to the 1880s when they hear the stories of the Marquis de Mores.

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Start with the Chateau de Mores, a 26-room summer residence of the marquis, also known as Antoine de Vallombrosa, and his wife, Medora. Built in 1883, the historic home sits on a hill overlooking the city the marquis hoped to turn into a boomtown for cattle. A self-guided tour will take you through the two-story hunting lodge southwest of the city across the railroad tracks. The marquis' wife, Medora, made sure the home would be decorated appropriately with fine china, comfortable furniture and art for guests to enjoy. Many of the furnishings are originals from the home, and historians are on staff to answer questions. And you may be able to catch a stagecoach ride along the Little Missouri River.

But the tour doesn't stop with the house. History Alive! programs take guests onto the deck of the home for 20-minute monologues based on historic figures. Programming also offers re-enactments of events in Medora.

Visitors can't miss the chimney stack in Chimney Park, where the marquis built his packing plant and slaughterhouse that connect to the railroad. Remnants of the plant remain after it burned in 1907. It's a favorite spot to have a picnic while enjoying the massive structure that has towered over the town for more than 130 years.

For more information on prices, times, hours of operation and other events, go to www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/chateau .

Hidden gems

With the obvious attractions out of the way, visitors can find hidden gems throughout the city.

Various restaurants offer relaxing dining, from quick treats at local ice cream shops to fine dining at the Rough Rider Hotel. Shopping also offers unique items and souvenirs.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail, known as North Dakota's best secret, offers 97 miles of trail for bikers and hikers. Starting at Sully Creek State Park south of Medora, the winding trail takes travelers through the Badlands to the U.S. Forest Service CCC Campground, about 20 miles south of Watford City, N.D.

Other amenities and attractions include:

-Bully Pulpit Golf Course, south of Medora, (701) 623-4653

-North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, (701) 623-2000

-Harold Schafer Heritage Center, (701) 623-4444

-Medora Riding Stables, (701) 623-4444

-Billings County Museum, (701) 623-4829

-Family Fun Center

-Medora Children's Park

-Medora Mini Golf

-Von Hoffman House

For more information on attractions, lodging and dining, go to www.medorand.com .

Related Topics: MEDORA
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