This post was most recently updated on September 13th, 2019
Sometimes we take America’s small towns for granted. Maybe we think larger, popular cities will provide more excitement and variety. But that could be at the expense of a personal hometown encounter. I’d like to convince you to experience Valley City, North Dakota — one of those smaller towns you shouldn’t miss.
When I think of Valley City, visions of beautiful scenery unfold before me. The Sheyenne River winds itself through that vision with its scenic byway, bike trails, and bridges, And then there’s the culture, history, and warmth of the people who live here. It’s the perfect formula for an unforgettable getaway. Let me share some favorite reasons why you should experience Valley City!
1. Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway
The Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway is a 63-mile drive through some of the best landscapes you will ever see. The route takes you over bridges, through rolling hills lined with trees (especially gorgeous fall foliage), and includes interpretive signs to teach about the area’s history, geology, wildlife, and more. Along the way, you’ll drive through quaint towns with fun little shops and hospitality in abundance.
There’s no charge to drive on the byway, and it’s open year-round. The byway begins in Valley City and heads south towards Kathryn, Fort Ransom, and Lisbon. It’s very do-able in a day. Plan for lots of stops to see the views, read the signs, enjoy a picnic, visit Mom-and-Pop stores or even do some hiking. This is Americana at its best!
2. It’s a ‘City of Bridges’
I guess it just goes to say that if a river winds through a town, there’s going to be some bridges. Valley City is no exception. In fact, it has been called the ‘City of Bridges’ because of its many beautiful and historic bridges. There’s a bridge tour you can follow to see eight of them. These bridges have interpretive panels explaining their history and architectural details.
The most famous of Valley City’s bridges would have to be the High Line bridge — the longest and highest single-track railroad bridge in the United States.
3. Experience Valley City on a Bicycle
There are many cycling trails in and around Valley City with stunning views and valley history to explore. You can even cycle over some of Valley City’s popular bridges!
Bike trails cater to all cycling abilities – gentle and flat paved trails for beginners (or those seeking a relaxing ride), as well as cross-country trails that offer challenge and adventure.
4. Experience Valley City’s History
You can start by visiting the Rosebud Visitor Center to learn about valley history through interesting exhibits, including an 1881 Superintendent’s railcar with original furnishings.
A visit to the Barnes County Historical Society is also in order if you’d like to see a dinosaur, military uniforms, train exhibits, and even a little live music on Saturdays. It’s hometown history at its best!
The downtown area of Valley City is a walk through history on its own, with pretty little churches, the Valley City post office, and a Carnegie library, established in 1903. Antique stores are also popular here!
5. Valley City’s Parks and Recreation
A number of parks in Valley City add opportunities to learn and play on a grander scale. The Medicine Wheel Park includes a large medicine wheel (patterned after the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming), a solar system model, and 12 Native American burial mounds.
Chautauqua Park, nestled into a bend of the Sheyenne River, offers picnic tables and shelters, a large playground, riverside paths and docks, a sand volleyball court, and even horseshoe pits with lights.
Other parks in Valley City include an outdoor ice skating rink, community swimming pool, tennis courts, disc golf, a municipal golf course, and a skate park. Ashtabula Lake, only 12 miles north of Valley City, is a great place to go birding (especially to see the white pelican). Boating, hiking, and fishing are also popular here.
How else can you experience Valley City?
- Go see the fall foliage! Valley City and the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway are top locations for viewing gorgeous fall colors.
- The North Dakota Winter Show is held every year in Valley City. It was founded to provide education for youth in agri-business and to honor pioneer heritage. But it has become much more than that. The Winter Show attracts attendees from all over and includes a tractor pull, Hall of Fame induction ceremony, country hoedown, classes like ‘How Horses Heal’ and ‘Farmer Figg’s Barnyard Science’, concerts, a ‘Cowboy Church’ Service, and market steer and hog shows. There are also antique shows, home exhibits and a queen coronation.
- Visit Valley City State University, rated one of America’s “Best Colleges” for 21 consecutive years. Founded in 1890, the central campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Buzzfeed named VCSU the most beautiful college campus in North Dakota.
- The Vault is an unmanned self-serve coffee shop, bakery, book store and center for the arts located in Valley City and has received international attention for its unique business model, based on the honor system.
- Stay in Valley City; there are many accommodating hotels and B & B’s in Valley City, as well as campgrounds.
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