Medora, North Dakota is the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). Founded in 1833 by French nobleman the Marquis de Mores, the small town in the valley of the Little Missouri evokes images of big adventures.
Medora is located just off of Interstate 94 and right next to the South Unit entrance of TRNP. With no lodging other than primitive campsites within the park, Medora has become the place to stay when visiting TRNP. Accommodation options in Medora range from tent camping to Old West luxury. Staying in Medora means you’ll also need to eat there but don’t worry – they have that covered, too.
Where to stay in Medora, North Dakota
Our base for exploring TRNP was Medora Campground. We spent four nights there in our pop-up RV camper. Our site, as all the RV sites do, had water and electric hook-ups so we were able to run the AC on the hot days and have a water source for our camper’s portable toilet. All campground guests have access to the bathroom and shower facilities, which were clean and plentiful. There is also a playground for the kids.
Two things about Medora Campground really stood out to me: 1) The quality of service provided by the campground host, Jeanette, and her staff; and, 2) the guest laundry facilities. Jeanette frequently rode around the campground on a golf cart, personally checking in with the occupants of each campsite, making sure everyone was happy and comfortable. As for the guest laundry, it was well-kept and the washers and dryers were the largest I have ever seen. I was able to do a week’s worth of laundry for four people (who had been camping) in one go. Laundry detergent, along with other groceries and necessities, is available for purchase at the attached general store/campground office. No RV? No problem. Medora Campground also rents primitive tent sites and private cabins.
This was the kids’ first extended camping trip and they totally loved it. We felt safe enough to allow them to go for walks on their own around the campground, or to the on-site playground. What I loved most about Medora Campground was its location right on the Little Missouri, literally across the river from TRNP. I actually looked forward to waking up each morning before the rest of the family to enjoy my coffee, the peace and quiet, and the uninterrupted views of the badlands.
Where to eat in Medora, North Dakota
Prior to arrival, we had decided that we would prepare breakfast each day at the campsite, pack lunches to take with us on the day’s adventures, and then have dinner at a local establishment. Surprisingly, for a small town, there are plenty of restaurants in Medora for visitors to choose from. We didn’t get to all of them but the ones we did, we really enjoyed.
Our first night in Medora, we stopped into Badlands Pizza and Saloon. Don’t let the word “saloon” scare you; it is completely family-friendly. The open dining room is big and noisy, and the restaurant can get quite crowded so plan accordingly. We enjoyed the mac & Gouda bites appetizer; the kids loved their cheese pizza; and I feasted on the delicious fried chicken dinner.
The next night we had a fun, laid-back dinner at Boots Bar & Grill. Again, don’t let the word “bar” scare you. Ours was one of several families at Boots that night. I was in heaven even before our food arrived: I was drinking craft beer from Montana; I had control of the jukebox; and my beloved Cubs were on the TV. It only got better when our food arrived. I opted for the tempura-battered Walleye, a cold water fish I’ve enjoyed mostly after catching it myself in Wisconsin. The North Dakota version did not disappoint. It was a generously-sized filet that I couldn’t even finish, and the tempura batter was delightful.
We changed up our plans a bit towards the end of our week and went out for breakfast at Cowboy Cafe, instead of fixing it ourselves at the campsite. It was way better than anything we could have made. Service was fast and friendly and the pancakes were some of the best I’ve ever had. In fact, we liked Cowboy Cafe so much that we returned the following night for a down-home supper in the cozy little diner. My son was so excited to see his grilled cheese served in a cardboard, classic car replica. Important note about Cowboy Cafe: it is CASH ONLY. No credit cards accepted so be sure to have enough cash on hand.
If you’re in Medora, you’re probably on vacation. And when you’re on vacation, you need ice cream at least once, maybe twice, a day. Oh, and fudge. Medora Fudge & Ice Cream Depot covers all the bases and even has an expansive outdoor seating area.
If you go to Medora
- Make the tourist office one of your first stops. There you can find out about any special events or activities taking place inside and outside of TRNP.
- Keep in mind there are even more places to stay and more places to eat in Medora, North Dakota. I’ve highlighted only the ones my family and I visited.
- If camping and need provisions, basic items are available at the Medora Campground General Store, as I mentioned previously. There is another small grocery in town but your best option might be to drive 35 miles east to Dickinson, North Dakota. It’s a much larger town with more shopping options, including a Walmart Supercenter.
My family and I were hosted at Medora Campground on a complimentary basis. All other expenses mentioned here came out of our own pockets. All words and opinions, as always, are 100% my own.