15 Best Places to Live in North Dakota

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

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 at a staggeringly low 3.2% meaning North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rates of all fifty states.

The smallest city in North Dakota, called 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 hit TV series Fargo, the city of Fargo is as icy cold in winter as the show would suggest.

With a population of 113,464 people, this city happily retains its small-town feel while providing in plenty all the amenities and facilities every major 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 it no trouble getting a job around here.

In all honesty, the major downside to Fargo is the crime rates. 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.

2. West Fargo

West FargoSource: carriescarr / Flickr
West Fargo

Fargo, West Fargo, it’s all about Fargo in North Dakota! In terms of 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 then the schools in Fargo have a slightly higher rating of B+, whereas West Fargo is simply rated as B. A small difference for some but a deciding factor for others.

As a commuter, this neighbourhood 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.

Median rent in Fargo and West Fargo are essentially the same; but property here in West Fargo is on average $5,200 more expensive. However, being a bit more suburban, you will find properties come with bigger gardens and larger driveways too.

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 too.

Falling well within the top 10 places for Millennials in North Dakota, Bismarck’s house prices are a little less agreeable than Fargo, with median home value hitting $183,100. Despite this difference, 64% of the 66,980 population live in owned homes. Median rent comes in at $752 a month, 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.

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 54,944 people.

A reasonable cost of living teamed with great 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 a great education, as well as a fantastic range of extracurricular activities.

Median home value is very similar to Fargo, lying around $163,800. That said, $149,900 will get you a quaint 4-bed, 3-bathroom home with a generous garden, connected to central Grand Forks by reliable bus routes.

5. Horace

Horace, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Happily coming 5th in our 15 best places to live in North Dakota is Horace. With a population of just 2,500 people, in any other state we would be referring to Horace as a village, a small town perhaps, but nevertheless, 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, this is reflected by the 95% of the residents who lived in an owned home. Resultantly, median home values here spiral up to $244,900. However, and this is a big however, the median rent is still $740; on par with Bismarck. The only downside is that rental properties are few and far between.

Horace is widely considered as 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!

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.

Definitely more suburban than Horace, Devil’s Lake is an ideal location for people looking to rent a property, with median rents a minimal $524 per month. Moreover, with a rent to ownership ratio of nearly 1:1, there are plenty of properties out there 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 favourite local pastime. With casinos and hunting being the next most popular hobbies, Devil’s Lake is perhaps a more of a senior neighbourhood than it is family orientated.

7. Jamestown

Jamestown, NDSource: Daniel M. Silva / shutterstock

With its very own domestic airport, connecting you to Pittsburgh in just 55-minutes, Jamestown is a great little commuter town, rather, 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.

Great cost of living, matched with job opportunities, as well as access to health and fitness facilities, if you enjoy suburban living and want to be able to afford your own home then Jamestown may just be the place for you. With median home value at an agreeable $109,300, it is not aspirational to think about buying a property here.

8. Valley City

Valley City North DakotaSource: chief_huddleston / Wikimedia
Valley City

Flying daily, across the state, to Devil’s Lake and to 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 welcome newcomers and if you are looking to get on the property ladder, anywhere in the US, then Valley City may just be the place to do it. Median home value is just $89,800, and with rent averaging $575, City Valley would be a great place to lay low and save for your own home.

Valley City is transected by a tributary of Lake Ashtabula and there are many parks and community fields for residents to enjoy at their leisure.

9. Beulah

Beulah, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Schooling in Beulah is certainly 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 the rest of the state; at $609, it’s still well below the national average, however. With 3,286 people calling this Mercer County neighbourhood home, there is very much a community feel to the area, 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 too. As such, this area is popular with Millennials, although this hasn’t made the population all that diverse, yet.

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 as Wahpeton as a base to commute to work, or rent a house to help to save to buy a house, then this small neighbourhood is a good place to look.

Rent averages at $516 a month and residents note that there is ‘always a helping hand’ available in this united community. The cleanliness of the city is another desirable factor, as well as nightlife and job opportunities for young people.

Crime rates are consistently low here and with only 7,800 people to police, the force can spring into action whenever their services are needed.

11. Lincoln

Lincoln, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

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

A staggering 97% of the small population of 3,093 people live in owned homes. Unsurprisingly this has sent the median rent rocking up to $1,150 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.

12. Mandan

Mandan, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Situated just north-west of Bismarck is Mandan, and much like Lincoln is a popular choice with Millennials. Perfectly placed by Highway 94, Mandan is a great little commuter suburb.

Very much with a city atmosphere, the neighbourhood feel certainly prevails. With median rent bang on the state median and well below the national average, you can get yourself a cute little home for the reasonable price of $760.

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

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

13. Williston

Williston, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

Far from unlucky 13, we find Williston as 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 something of a dream. The reason Williston ranks lower than its North Dakotan counterparts is quite simply the public schooling and the crime rates.

With the best school in the neighbourhood 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.

14. Minot

Minot, NDSource: afiler / Flickr

It may be small but Minot Airport is one key reason why 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 outdoors 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 46,194, this is something of an up and coming area so you’d do well to get on the property ladder here while median home values are still under $200,000.

15. Dickinson

Dickinson, North DakotaSource: afiler / Flickr

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

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

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



15 Best Places to Live in North Dakota:

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