15 Best Places to Live in North Dakota

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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Almost perfectly rectangular and sharing a border with Canada, North Dakota is small but mighty.

If you had to guess which American state has the second-best economy, chances are you wouldn’t say, North Dakota. But thanks to an oil drilling boom in 2016, little old North Dakota’s economy flourished and looks set to stay that way too. Unemployment rates are staggeringly low, meaning North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rates of all fifty states.

The smallest city in North Dakota, Maza, is home to just five permanent residents. There are no towns or villages in the state; regardless of size, every place is a city. Funnily enough, Maza doesn’t make our top 15!

We have collected together the 15 best places to live in North Dakota by listening to locals, reading up on rankings, and assessing the infrastructure so you can get on with the decision of where to buy your next home.

Here are the best places to live in North Dakota:

1. Fargo

Fargo, North DakotaSource: David Harmantas / shutterstock

Providing the backdrop for the hit TV series Fargo, the city of Fargo is as icy cold in winter as the show would suggest.

With a population of over one hundred thousand residents, this city happily retains its small-town feel while providing plenty of all the amenities and facilities every primary city needs. As stereotypical as it sounds, being the Midwest, the residents of Fargo are friendly and welcoming. If you are as open and chatty as they are, you’ll find no trouble getting a job around here.

In all honesty, the major downside to Fargo is the crime rate. Still significantly lower than the national average but way high than, say, Burlington in Vermont, this could be a stick in the mud for some people considering relocating here.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Fargo are:

  • Red River Zoo
  • Fargo Air Museum
  • Plains Art Museum
  • West Acres Mall
  • Fargodome
  • Roger Maris Museum
  • North Dakota State University

2. West Fargo

West FargoSource: carriescarr / Flickr
West Fargo

Fargo, West Fargo, it’s all about Fargo in North Dakota! Regarding crime levels, West Fargo is much safer than Fargo itself.

It is a toss-up when it comes to schooling. If you are a parent, the schools in Fargo have a slightly higher rating of B+, whereas West Fargo is simply rated as B—a slight difference for some but a deciding factor for others.

As a commuter, this neighborhood is located ideally close to Highway 94. A property in West Fargo would see you get onto the Highway in less time than Fargo itself, which is particularly useful during rush hour.

The median rent in Fargo and West Fargo are essentially the same, but property here in West Fargo is, on average more expensive. However, being a bit more suburban, you will find properties come with more extensive gardens and larger driveways too.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in West Fargo are:

  • Drekker Brewing Company
  • Newman Outdoor Field
  • Tactical Action Gaming
  • Rustad Recreation Center
  • Red River Market

3. Bismarck

Bismarck, NDSource: Ace Diamond / shutterstock

Coming in a fair third place is the North Dakotan capital, Bismarck. The State Capitol stands tall above the city below in a modern, art deco style. Bismarck is a great place to raise a family, close to the Missouri River and the Dakota Zoo.

Falling well within the top 10 places for Millennials in North Dakota, Bismarck’s house prices are a little less agreeable than Fargo, with a median home value below the national average. Despite this difference, the majority of the over sixty-six thousand residents live in owned homes. The median rent comes is below the national average, well below the national average, which explains the millennial appeal.

With live bands or DJ sets every weekend and most weeknights too, throughout the city there is plenty to keep you entertained and socialising.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Bismarck are:

  • Dakota Zoo
  • North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum
  • North Dakota State Capitol
  • Keelboat Park
  • Super Slide Amusement Park
  • Chief Looking’s Village

4. Grand Forks

Grand Forks, NDSource: Brenda Riskey / Wikimedia
Grand Forks

In a firm fourth place comes Grand Forks; tucked away to the east, right on the border with Minnesota, Grand Forks is home to a diverse population of over fifty-four thousand residents.

A reasonable cost of living, teamed with excellent public schools and varied nightlife too, all boost the appeal of Grand Forks. This city can proudly boast five A-rated schools, offering your little ones an excellent education and a fantastic range of extracurricular activities.

The median home value is very similar to Fargo. That said, less than $200,000 will get you a quaint 4-bed, 3-bathroom home with a generous garden connected to central Grand Forks by reliable bus routes.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Grand Forks are:

  • North Dakota Museum of Art
  • River Cities Speedway
  • Splashers of the South Seas
  • The Hub Pub
  • Fire Hall Theatre
  • Bonzer’s Sandwich Pub
  • Alerus Center

5. Horace

Horace, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Happily coming 5th in our 15 best places to live in North Dakota is Horace. With just over two thousand residents in any other state, we would be referring to Horace as a village, a small town perhaps, but we are in North Dakota, so this tiny, rural community is officially considered a city!

There is something about Horace that makes you feel immediately at home, reflected by most residents who lived in an owned home. Resultantly, median home values here are above the national average. However, this is big; however, the median rent is below the national average, on par with Bismarck. The only downside is that rental properties are few and far between.

Horace is widely considered the best place to raise a family in North Dakota and, in official rankings, comes in a competitive second-best place to buy a house in the state. You just might be waiting a while for the right house to come on the market!

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Horace are:

  • Thunder Road
  • Red River Zoo
  • The Roger Marris Museum
  • Fargo Air Museum
  • Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm
  • Fort Ransom State Park
  • National Buffalo Museum

6. Devil’s Lake

Devil’s Lake, NDSource: publichall / Wikimedia
Devil’s Lake

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor should you judge a place by its name. Devil’s Lake marginally misses out on the top five best places to live in North Dakota but lies comfortably in the top ten.

More suburban than Horace, Devil’s Lake is an ideal location for people looking to rent a property, with median rent below the national average. Moreover, with a rent-to-ownership ratio of nearly 1:1, plenty of properties are available for tenants to move in right away.

If you want to get out on the water, there are ample opportunities to do so on the lake itself. Fishing is a favorite local pastime. With casinos and hunting being the next most popular hobbies, Devil’s Lake is perhaps more of a senior neighborhood than it is family-orientated.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Devil’s Lake are:

  • Devil’s Lake State Park
  • White Horse Hill National Game Preserve
  • Roosevelt Park
  • Ruger Park
  • Sherrif’s House Museum
  • Lake Region Heritage Center

7. Jamestown

Jamestown, NDSource: Daniel M. Silva / shutterstock

With its domestic airport connecting you to Pittsburgh in just 55 minutes, Jamestown is a great little commuter town instead a city! Perfectly equidistant from Bismarck and Fargo, Jamestown is right on Highway 94; from anywhere in the city, you can be on the Highway running east or west within half an hour.

Excellent cost of living, with job opportunities and access to health and fitness facilities; if you enjoy suburban living and want to afford your own home, then Jamestown may be the place for you. With a median home value less than the national average, it is not aspirational to consider buying a property here.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Jamestown are:

  • National Buffalo Museum
  • World’s Largest Buffalo
  • The Arts Center
  • Jamestown Speedway
  • Buffalo City Escape
  • Buffalo Lanes Inc

8. Valley City

Valley City North DakotaSource: chief_huddleston / Wikimedia
Valley City

Flying daily, across the state, to Devil’s Lake and Denver, Colorado, Valley City is well connected in the air and on the ground. Another stop along Highway 94, Valley City, is 35 minutes east of Jamestown and an hour west of Fargo.

This tight-knit community welcomes newcomers, and if you are looking to get on the property ladder anywhere in the US, then Valley City may be the place to do it. Median home value is just way below the national average; in addition to rent, City Valley would be a great place to lay low and save for your own home.

A tributary of Lake Ashtabula transects Valley City, and there are many parks and community fields for residents to enjoy at their leisure.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Valley City are:

  • Medicine Wheel Park
  • Lake Ashtabula
  • Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway
  • Chautauqua Park
  • Barnes County Historical Society Museum

9. Beulah

Beulah, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Schooling in Beulah is undoubtedly not of the high standard found in Grand Forks, but with good jobs, decent cost of living, and ample housing, if you are an empty nester, then Beulah could be a contender.

Median rent is a little higher here than in the rest of the state; it’s still well below the national average. With over three thousand residents calling this Mercer County neighborhood home, there is very much a community feel, with one of the state’s lowest crime rates to match.

Little Beulah is ranked as the best place to buy a house in North Dakota and the second safest place in the state. As such, this area is popular with Millennials, although this hasn’t made the population diverse yet.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Beulah are:

  • Molco Lanes
  • Beulah Park District
  • Fanatics Sports Bar
  • North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

10. Wahpeton

Wahpeton, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Again, public schools here are not in keeping with the standard of those in our top five. That said, if you are looking at Wahpeton as a base to commute to work or rent a house to help to save to buy a house, then this tiny neighborhood is an excellent place to look.

Rent is less than the national average, and residents note that there is ‘always a helping hand’ available in this united community. The city’s cleanliness is another desirable factor, as well as nightlife and job opportunities for young people.

Crime rates are consistently low here, and with over seven thousand residents to police, the force can spring into action whenever their services are needed.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Wahpeton are:

  • Chahinkapa Zoo
  • World’s Largest Catfish
  • Red Door Art Gallery and Museum
  • Bois de Sioux Golf Course
  • Chahinkapa Swimming Pool
  • Terrace Lanes
  • Northern Aire Bowling

11. Lincoln

Lincoln, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Within easy reach of Bismarck Airport, Lincoln falls short of the top ten places to live in North Dakota.

Most, a small population of over three thousand residents, live in owned homes. Unsurprisingly this has sent the median rent rocking over $1,000, making it one of the most expensive areas in North Dakota to rent a property, and in all honesty, the properties here aren’t great value for money for the tenants either.

Despite this, Lincoln is ranked as the best place for Millennials in North Dakota, with residents referencing the good schools, low crime rates, and proximity to Bismarck as their top three reasons for wanting to live here.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Lincoln are:

  • Plains Art Museum
  • Dakota Zoo
  • Dickinson Museum Center
  • Raging Rivers Waterpark
  • National Buffalo Museum

12. Mandan

Mandan, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Mandan is situated just northwest of Bismarck and, much like Lincoln is popular with Millennials. Perfectly placed by Highway 94, Mandan is a great little commuter suburb.

Very much with a city atmosphere, the neighborhood feel indeed prevails. With median rent bang on the state median and well below the national average, you can get a cute tiny home for a reasonable price.

Great for families and young people, this growing city is expanding at just the right pace. Populated enough to generate a buzz but slow enough that no one gets left behind.

All the shops you could ask for and right on the Missouri River are excellent for fishing; aside from the weather and the suburban cost of living, it is hard to find considerable fault with Mandan.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Mandan are:

  • Raging Rivers Waterpark
  • Midway Lanes Club & Trophy
  • Mandan Rodeo Days
  • Fort Lincoln Trolley
  • North Dakota State Railroad Museum
  • Broken Oar Bar

13. Williston

Williston, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Far from unlucky 13, we find Williston the 13th best place to live in North Dakota.

With ISN Airport connecting you multiple times daily to Denver and Minneapolis for business folk, this city is a dream. Williston ranks lower than its North Dakotan counterparts because of the public schooling and crime rates.

With the best school in the neighborhood getting a steady B-rating, parents will likely look elsewhere, especially when you consider that, sadly, motor vehicle theft and burglaries in the area occur above the national average.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Williston are:

  • Busted Knuckle Brewery Williston
  • Strike Zone
  • The Sports Den Bar
  • Safari Trampoline Park
  • Williston Basin Speedway
  • Eagle Ridge Golf Club
  • Grand Theatre

14. Minot

Minot, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

It may be small, but Minot Airport is one key reason people love living in this area of North Dakota, if only for the easy travel by air to Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Phoenix.

Although falling dramatically behind on the outdoor activities scale, this can be taken with a pinch of salt given the job opportunities, housing availability, and very reasonable cost of living.

Home to over forty-six thousand residents, this is an up-and-coming area, so you’d do well to get on the property ladder here while median home values are still below the national average.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Minot are:

  • Roosevelt Park Zoo
  • Scandinavian Heritage Association
  • Oak Park
  • Taube Museum of Art
  • Oak Park Theater
  • Magic City Discovery Center
  • Ace’s Lounge and Casino

15. Dickinson

Dickinson, North DakotaSource: afiler / Flickr

Residents note ‘community effort’ as one of the critical reasons for sticking it out in Dickinson.

Although the schools are not as great as Fargo, given the reasonably low crime rates, housing cost, quality and availability, and reasonable commuting distances, there is little reason to discredit Dickinson.

For those into outdoor pursuits, Dickinson will fall lower down your consideration list. Still, what it lacks in outdoor activities, it makes up for in ample health and fitness facilities.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Dickinson are:

  • Dickinson Museum Center
  • West River Community Center
  • Southside Saloon
  • Patterson Lake Recreation Area
  • Heart River Golf Course
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Southwest Speedway
  • Rocky Butte Park


15 Best Places to Live in North Dakota:

  • Fargo
  • West Fargo
  • Bismarck
  • Grand Forks
  • Horace
  • Devil’s Lake
  • Jamestown
  • Entertainment & Activities
  • Valley City
  • Beulah
  • Wahpeton
  • Lincoln
  • Mandan
  • Williston
  • Minot
  • Dickinson