Grand Forks is a city that might not be around today if it wasn’t for a harsh winter in 1870. However, today the city is alive and well and is an economic boom thanks to local and national markets such as Amazon, Walmart and Alerus Financial taking the helm.

The harsh winters and mild summers cultivate a lifestyle based around the cold, snow and short days. You will find plenty to see, do and learn about in the Grand Forks area. If you can weather the cold, Grand Forks is sure to entertain you.

History of Grand Forks, North Dakota

From the early 1700s the Grand Forks area was always in the trader’s mind. With the location too good to pass up, Grand Forks was a market mecca for fur traders, hunters and travelers. Located (and so named) at the fork of the Red River of the North and the Red Lake River, the town almost wasn’t.

Being nothing more than a stopping point until 1870, the Grand Forks area was not much more than a pit stop along the river. However, steamboat owner Alexander Griggs was forced to stay over for a winter. His boat froze in the water and couldn’t be freed. He and his crew were forced to winter on the banks of the Grand Forks and he established a small community. Later in 1870 a post office was built and by 1881 the town was incorporated.

Today, with it’s proximity to Canada, tourism is thriving, business boom and the federal and local governments have taken up residence there as well. The Air Force built a base that is the third largest employer of non-military personnel. The Grand Forks international airport serves flights all over the world.

Large corporations now hold residence there as well. Amazon, LM Glasfiber and Cirrus Design all have major facilities in Grand Forks. Even with this economic diversity, there is still a rustic charm that delights and encourages tourism to the area.

Places to Stay in Grand Forks, North Dakota

Because of the size of the city it hosts both metro and urban development. With a population of over 57,000, Grand Forks isn’t a tiny little resort town. You will find every type of accommodation you can think of, and finding the perfect match for your visit is easier said than done.


Virtually every major hotel chain has at least one option in Grand Forks. You can find the lower tiered economy hotels like Motel 6 and Super 8 all along the metropolitan area. If you want to enjoy a fancier type of notable hotel you have those options as well.

Hyatt and Marriott have several options to choose from in Grand Forks, as well as the Clarion chains are all within easy access of downtown and city centers. Hampton Inns, Best Western and many others are a stone’s throw from the main attractions of the city.

Bed and Breakfasts

For a more individualized stay, you may consider a bed and breakfast. Grand Forks is not without its rustic charm and welcoming hospitality. Don’t let the size fool you. This once wide spot in the road still has that our-of-the-way feel if you know where to look.

511 Reeves Bed & Breakfast is one such place. Located in the historic district this bed and breakfast is housed in a 1901 Victorian home that has a grand common area with fireplace and seating for all guests.

Vacation rentals are also popular for those that wish to have a little longer stay. You can find many homes that will rent portions or the entire houses for month to month leases or just a couple weeks out of the year.

Weather and Seasons

Depending on when you wish to travel and visit Grand Forks will play a large role in what you are going there for. The weather in Grand Forks, North Dakota is an arid climate with plenty of snowfall in the winter.

The summer months (may through August) bring the higher temperatures with an average of 75 to 80 degree highs. Over the winter the highs can drop as low as negative numbers and the winter fun begins.

Places to Eat in Grand Forks

The city is not without its choice of restaurants, depending on your tastes and sense of adventure you can play it safe or take a chance on something new.

All of the national favorites are there, from fast food to five star eateries. You will never be without your favorite diner while you visit Grand Forks. However, for those that want to venture out and try new things, Grand Forks has you covered.

The Toasted Frog will whet your appetite with traditional American food, but it is the bar that draws the crowds. Specialty drinks such as the Aviator are house specialties and you won’t find a better drink anywhere.

Steers may sound like a steakhouse, but you won’t find a 12-ounce rib eye inside. This Middle Eastern and Mongolian restaurant has some of the most exotic and delicious Somalian food anywhere.

Things to do in Grand Forks

You will not easily grow bored while visiting. There are always things to do in Grand Forks, North Dakota!

The Arts

If you love art of any style you will love Grand Forks. The University as well as the North Dakota Museum host art shows from regional, local and national artists. This rotating exhibit features new artists year-round.

If music and dance are more your style you will find plenty to enjoy. The Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra has annual shows and smaller venue items year-round. The Grand Forks City Band was formed here in 1886 and still puts on shows for you to take in (with new band members, of course). There is also the North Dakota Ballet Company, headquartered right in Grand Forks. The troupe constantly performs at the Fritz Auditorium.


Grand Forks loves its sports. Everything from baseball and football to soccer and tennis. Most of the sporting events are centered around the University of North Dakota’s teams and the venues are always packed with spectators.

You can catch sporting events at one of the two major stadiums. The Alerus Center is an indoor area for football and soccer and larger events. You will also be able to find indoor excitement at the Ralph or the Betty. These two connected areas showcase the universities smaller teams such as volleyball, tennis and basketball.


The great outdoors can call you at any time while you are on your holiday. With golf, fishing, skiing and snowboarding just a few of the things you can actively take part in.

You can also hike the many trails and venture into the historic downtown and metropolitan areas for art, culture, tours and night life.

Fun Facts of Grand Forks

Grand Forks is an active member of the sister city program to being culture and diversity to the region. The first sister city was established during the cold war with Ishim, Russia. However political reasonings derailed the cities connections.

Grand Forks also had a sister city in Japan. Awano and Grand Forks spent a decade as sister cities before Awano was annexed by Kanuma, which ended the program. Currently, Grand Forks has two active sister cities.

The bond with Dickinson, North Dakota in the west is more of a legislative move than a cultural one. Both cities believe that having sister cities in the different regions (east and west) will help political bonds for the entire state.

The other sister city is Sarpsborg, Norway. This alliance began in 2005 and was activated due to the high number of Grand Forks residents with Norwegian heritage.

In Conclusion

Visiting Grand Forks is an adventure waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter if you come from a small town or another large city. Grand Forks, North Dakota offers something for everyone.

The art is stunning and you will not be able to go far without running into some form of artistic venue. No matter if you like paintings and sculpture or theater, you will find what you crave in the metro district.

For fans of music and dance you will find opera, live music venues and ballet downtown. You can also find the most delectable restaurants while you are on intermission and gorge yourself on exquisite cuisine from virtually every culture.

The vast history of the city has very humble beginnings. From a frozen steamboat and fur trading to a bustling community eager to welcome any and all visitors, Grand Forks has it all.

There is no doubt that whatever you fancy, whatever your tastes, you will find anything and everything you could possibly desire in Grand Forks. You may even find yourself not wanting to leave.

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