Medora. Explore it. Adore it.
The tagline that Medora has for its quaint little city is perfect. It is really just adorable. My husband and I spent the weekend in Medora Aug. 1-3 and were graciously treated to the Pitchfork Fondue and Medora Musical by the company he works for. What an awesome gift! I love all the souvenir shops, the happy attitudes of those working the shops and of course, the gorgeous, natural landscapes of the area. I mean, check out this view of my morning run below. You can’t quite beat that! As a kid, our folks took us to Medora and I have happy memories of the car trip out there, stopping at the National Park overlook, riding the horses on trail rides, going to the musical, eating ice cream and taffy and staying at the hotel and playing in the pool. It’s tough to beat that when you are a kid!
Medora is only a couple of hours away from Hazen and my husband and I agree we should try to get here at least every other year. The musical and the town are largely unchanged year to year, but it is still fun to visit. This year the musical is celebrating its 50th year! How impressive. My husband remembers when seating was just in the hillside and not the comfortable chairs and escalator they have now. It’s truly amazing what Harold Schafer had envisioned and how it still plays out today. What a gift to the city of Medora. I’ll recap below our brief weekend stay.
The Bunkhouse Motel – we opted to stay at the Bunkhouse Motel. Those familiar with Medora this is the hotel on the edge of town behind the AmericInn. They look like long trailers and they have an outdoor pool. You must check in at the Badlands Motel. (The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) is a nonprofit organization founded by Harold Schafer. It is really interesting to read up on what he did for Medora and how he created almost all the lodging, entertainment and recreation attractions in the area. You will find most all businesses are operated by The TRMF by workers who volunteer or who are largely from other states and countries.) The Bunkhouse is old, not updated but is clean, comfy and they have air conditioning and a pool. Rooms have televisions and a basic bathroom but no hair dryer, FYI. Check in is at 4pm MDT and checkout at 11am. They are open early June through early September as most things in Medora are. Our room was $89/night but they do have Senior (55+) rates and family units available.
The Badlands Pizza Parlor and Saloon – this was a new place to us and I believe they just opened this year. The menu features appetizers, pizza, pasta or sub sandwiches. They also offer ice cold beer. There is a covered patio outside but per city ordinance you cannot dine outside while enjoying an alcoholic beverage. Bummer! We decided to dine on a Taco Pizza (husbands fave). While we were there at 1pm it was extremely busy and loud – lots of families. Our server was quick and our pizza came out without much of a wait. I would have preferred our pizza cooked a bit longer – we like it a bit more crisp – but it was a very good pie. The toppings were super fresh and there wasn’t too much cheese or sauce. We ordered a medium and had a couple pieces left over. I’d definitely go again. The pizza parlor is open late so you can go in after the musical if you’d like. They are open 11am-11pm in the summer.
Ice Cream – there are a few locations in town to get ice cream. There is almost any flavor and you can get it in a cone or bowl. I don’t know what it is but the ice cream tastes so good in Medora. We had to stop and I got my favorite Mint Chocolate Chip. The taffy they sell is also pretty great and was the only thing my husband purchased for a souvenir! We lucked out with a very warm and sunny day so this hit the spot!
Shopping – there are countless shops all within walking distance. You can find anything from Black Hills Gold jewelry, to authentic western wear, kitchen tools, cheap kids toys, clothing and more. I bought this beautiful necklace at the first shop we went to! I just love it.
The Pitchfork Fondue – each night you can visit the Tjaden Terrance adjacent to the amphitheater for a dinner of deep fried steak (cooked on the pitchfork) and all the fixings like baked potatoes, beans, cole slaw, fruit, garlic toast, veggies and brownies. They have water, lemonade and coffee or you can purchase beer or pop at your own cost. A steak buffet is $28 or you can get just the buffet for $14. Kids can do a hot dog meal for $6.95. Try to get there around 5:30mdt as the cookout lasts an hour and you will have just a bit of time to visit before you walk over to the musical. We were told they served 1,100 guests the night we attended!! Those cowboys were definitely most busy with their pitchforks frying our steaks. And the steaks are fried but they aren’t overly greasy. They are default cooked to medium but I enjoyed my steak and the experience of eating while looking out on the Badlands.
The Medora Musical – the musical is billed as the greatest show in the west – the rootin’-tootinest, boot’scootinest show in all the west as a matter of fact. The show is held daily at 7:30mdt from early June to early September. No breaks for the singers! The show is in the updated outdoor amphitheater, with the Badlands making the perfect backdrop for the show. This western-style musical is fast moving and family friendly. Kids are invited on stage each night to help the Burning Hills Singers and a comedian offered his variety act the night we attended. They do switch up the variety acts throughout the summer. The music is mostly country but also has gospel and patriotic numbers. There is an escalator, bathrooms and concession stands. Expect to wait at least a half hour to leave the amphitheater and parking lot as there is only one way in/out. Ticket prices depend on your age (adult, kids or military) and if you are in the upper or lower level. Adults in the lower level are $35 per person and that is the highest. They have promos including free admission for kids grade 1 and under, seniors day (55+) discounted and free kids day Wednesday and Sunday. You can upgrade to a season pass for a nominal rate. I love the Burning Hills Singers singing but I love even more the choreographed dances they do. What talent on that stage. The live band certainly does not disappoint either.
What a view for an outdoor amphitheater!
The musical starts out in the evening light…
…and ends after sunset.
Bars – since we don’t have kids I don’t have much to report on additional family activities but I can fill you in on the nightlife. There are basically 3 bars in Medora. I’m not sure but I think these are probably the businesses in town not affiliated with the TRMF? You can walk to all of them so that is great news. On the one end of town in the strip mall is the Knotty Pine Peanut Bar. This is family friendly during the day and you can grab a burger or fried food here. They obviously also have peanuts and several beers on tap or in bottles. This is a great place to stop in during the middle of the day for a beer and peanuts. Next up at the end of the strip mall, in a separate building, is Boots Bar and Grill. They opened recently in 2009. They serve food – steaks, salads, baskets, walleye, burgers, pizza, appetizers and more. They have outdoor seating and are kid-friendly until 10pm. Each weekend they feature a band. If you like to dance, Boots is your place! Finally, there is the Little Missouri Dining Room & Saloon. The dining is upstairs and the saloon is the main floor. This used to be my favorite bar. I still like it and they have cold beer, mixed drinks, music sometimes and a blackjack table for gaming. I haven’t eaten at any of these places so I don’t have anything to report there.
Making friends with the locals. This guy has been around a while I think.
We finished off our Sunday morning with breakfast at the Chuckwagon Buffet. This all-you-can-eat breakfast stop was great after a late night out. I especially enjoyed the fruit, yogurt, granola and monkey bites (caramel roll bites). This place is also open during the summer only, breakfast starts at 7am. Just as we were leaving, the sky opened up and it poured rain. We waited for it to slow down and made the drive back to Hazen. The only downfall (besides leaving Medora) was losing that extra hour going back to central standard time.
There is so much more to do in Medora that we didn’t even touch on. We are talking golf, Maah Daah Hey trail, mini golf, Cowboy Hall of Fame, hiking, TR National Park, etc. There was even a weight lifting event going on in town while we were there!
Medora is a beautiful, quiet get away that I need to remember is close to us for a fun weekend away in one of the most beautiful areas of certainly North Dakota and the United States. If you live in ND and haven’t been to Medora in your lifetime, it is a must to make it there. You will not be sorry. They close soon for the season so put it on your calendar for next year!