The 360-degree view from the enclosed lookout at Coteau des Prairies Lodge was breathtaking. You could see for miles across lush green prairie, fields and grasslands. I watched the skies grow dark while off in the distance random lightning strikes flashed behind the clouds. It was a perfect way to end day one of a Tourism staff FAM tour.
A two-day trip to southeast North Dakota to experience firsthand the newest and latest offerings for visitors to the state included scheduled stops the first day at Wilson Farms south of Jamestown, Boondocks, Fort Ransom State Park, Lisbon Opera House, Hodenattes, Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and Coteau des Prairies Lodge.
Riding across the prairie, you see it is rich and abundant in agriculture. Wilson Farm is passionate and eager to educate and encourage the next generation of farmers. Further south, we visited Boondocks, an early 1900s red barn repurposed into a two-story structure with a full kitchen to host events. The Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway is a must-see as you enter Fort Ransom State Park. Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy an overnight in a luxurious yurt, available year-round.
Small towns in the area offer unique attractions, like the 1872 Opera House in Lisbon, which is being refurbished. Across the street from the Opera House is Hodenattes on Main, a destination for unique shopping and a deli. As we neared our last destination, Coteau des Prairies Lodge, the massive lodge atop a butte dominates the landscape. We grabbed a beverage and relaxed on the large outdoor deck while an aged ribeye steak dinner was prepared. The Breker Beef Steak dinner was delicious, with fresh, melt-in-your-mouth buns, salad, garlic mashed potatoes and corn on the cob; followed by homemade chocolate cake with a light layer of maple frosting. Each room was unique in its own way. As I wandered around the lodge, I could see and feel the love and passion of a family’s dream to share their land and majestic view.
Day two of our FAM led us to Lady on the Lake Bed & Breakfast and Marcus Friskop Learning Center, Bagg Bonanza Farm, Crooked Lane Farm Folk School, Fort Abercrombie and the 4E Winery. Lake Elsie and the Lady on the Lake Bed and Breakfast at Hankinson was our first visit. At the entrance to this 19th century mansion sits a large barn currently being refurbished for events and gatherings. The owners gave us a tour of the home and beach area. Events are plentiful year-round, along with water activities, which are included with the lakeside beach patio with fireplace.
Onward to Bagg Bonanza Farm, a National Historical Landmark off I-29 and one of the last remaining bonanza farms. Buildings are plentiful and tours available, along with a large red barn for events. Crooked Lane Farm Folk School is owned by another passionate family dedicated to education, arts and celebrations utilizing the refurbished big red barn for events also. Fort Abercrombie on the Red River served as a hub for several major transportation routes on the Northern Plains. The 4E Winery off I-94 in Mapleton is home to wine made from products of the northern prairie. Enjoy wine tasting and relax on the large outdoor deck visiting with a longtime wine-maker.
As I reflect back on this journey, the words passion, barns, agriculture, open space and nature resonate over and over. What a great trip it was!