Up in the hills of the Badlands, North Dakota offers a town and musical full of cowboys, Rough Riders, and nature. Around Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora is nestled within the buffalo, elk, and rock filled hills that inspired Teddy Roosevelt to start the national park service across the United States.
Medora is a touristy old west town, dedicated to telling the story of Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president and the Rough Riders. As someone who always hates crowds, but loves the romanticism of the old west, it’s easy to appreciate the smallness of Medora’s town.
The hills of the national park takes my breath away and the cheesy quaintness of the town of Medora is only matched with the complete cheese fest that is the Medora musical. You and hundreds of fans (who are at least in their 60’s) will descend down the largest escalator that I’ve ever been on into stadium seating facing a stage decorated as an Medora back when the Rough Riders roamed the badlands.
The music won’t be winning any prizes, but they will impress you with their horsemanship and twirling dance moves. The show will both look at the historical importance of the Badlands and Medora all through musical storytelling.
Every time I’m sitting in the stands, looking out at the scenery as the sun sinks to cover the hills, I try and spot the elk that are usually roaming somewhere. As the end rolls near, riders can be spotted on the hill off in the distance. No lights as they ride up the hill, then explosions are heard and they have to ride back down in the heat of battle.
Before the musical, travelers can go to the Pitchfork Fondue which is over by the musical stage. Served as a buffet, the slow cooked meat that’s skewered on pitchforks and cooked over a fire is some of the best meat I’ve ever had. Be sure to go early and get in line, otherwise you can get caught in a long line of people and finding seating at the picnic table area can be stressful, especially for big groups.
If you’re interested in practicing some of your horsemanship, Medora Stables allows for travelers to go on trail rides. I always find that trail rides can give a completely different view to nature than just hiking. If I could ride across the country on a horse I would, but that would also involve having the money to afford a horse. Even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, don’t worry. Trail horses are essentially bomb proof. Just sit up straight, don’t scream, and the horse will do all the work.
Overall Medora can be overlooked, or even skipped for those not interested in the history of Teddy Roosevelt. But the nature itself can overshadow Shenandoah and Glacier. Medora offers camping in the middle of the Badlands, and tourist attractions without the stressful lines. I wouldn’t suggest being in town for longer than two days, unless hiking is something you really want to immerse yourself in.
If you’re interested in gimmicky pure fun, Medora is for you. If anything, go and soak up the expanse of nature.