Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Encountering Fargo, the Upper Midwest’s Unexpected Cultural Hotspot

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It all started as a Google search, as so many things do. Fourteen months prior to our Fargo vacation, I was in Charleston with my best friend Lemon, and we both set out to run 12-milers as we trained for our respective half-marathons. “We should take a runcation together,” she mused. “I wonder what the best race in all 50 states is?” Which is how we found ourselves on a long weekend trip to Fargo, North Dakota a year and change later.

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Now, I’m a planner, but planning for a trip a full year in advance is even beyond my typical Type A tendencies. Nevertheless, Lemon and I booked our Airbnb nine months in advance, put the dates in ink in our planners and roped our husbands into a couples getaway well before fall even rolled around. I may not know what the next week looks like for me in terms of work and travel commitments usually, but by God, I knew my 2018 spring calendar was going to be anchored by a trip to North Dakota.

The Fargo Marathon: Best Races in the Country

I’ll admit: I knew little to nothing about Fargo before arrival. In fact, I had no idea it was less than four hours from Minneapolis by car! There’s an airport in Fargo that Lemon and her husband flew out of back to Austin, but seeing that I can fly into Minnesota for less than $100 each way, I opted for a round-trip to MSP, a couple days’ detour to see friends, then a rental car that took me the rest of the way to North Dakota.

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

And what did I find while there? Well, let me tell you.

Where to Go in Fargo, North Dakota: Hotel Donaldson
Where to Go in Fargo, North Dakota: Hotel Donaldson

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Fargo is more than a Coen Brothers film

You’re all likely rolling your eyes at me right now—”duh, Kristin, we all know that”—and I’m sorry to be a cliche, but the snowy vision I had in my head of North Dakota was one of Frances McDormand and William H. Macy and some, erm, colorful locals. That couldn’t have been further from the Fargo we experienced: green and alive and brimming with educated, cultured and, gosh-darnit, as friendly locals as they come. Being from Tennessee, I thought that even us Southerners could take a cue from North Dakotans on hospitality! We met so many locals who were eager to show off their town and, most importantly, direct us to the best beer spots in Fargo. Which brings me to…

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

North Dakota has an impressive craft beer scene brewing

If there’s craft beer, I’m going to sniff it out, and Fargo-Moorhead, the greater metro area that also includes a tiny little blip of Minnesota, boasts six breweries. We made it to just three—I know, I know, I’m losing my game—but I couldn’t get enough of the viking-themed Drekker Brewing Co.’s sour lineup; I seriously would have camped out here my entire stay and not left if they let me. I loved the ambiance and funky brews on tap at Junkyard Brewing Company. And a flight on the patio at Fargo Brewing Co. is a must as it’s the OG of local breweries.

Craft Breweries in Fargo, North Dakota: Drekker Brewing Co.

Craft Breweries in Fargo, North Dakota: Drekker Brewing Co.

It’s also got a cidery

SVV and I are borderline obsessed with fermented goods, so when I stumbled upon Wild Terra Cider and Brewery, I knew somebody up there was looking out for me. Beyond being just plain darling, Wild Terra offers a wide array of ciders on tap for every taste bud and is finally starting to put out a few of its own, in addition to house-brewed kombucha (gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it!). Plus, I had, hands down, the best meal I tasted in all of North Dakota while killing time there on a Sunday, so I definitely recommend saving a visit for Wild Terra for when you’re also craving a bite to eat. A bonus: All the food is vegan/vegetarian.

Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota

Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota
Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota

Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota

Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota
Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota

And a sweet side, too

You know the way to this sweet-lover’s heart is through sugar, and I happened to be in Fargo the same week that both Silver Lining Creamery and Scoop ‘n Dough opened. So naturally I had to visit both! I also made sure to swing by Sandy’s Donuts on my way out, which was a holy experience indeed. Tea & Crepe and Insomnia Cookies had also been on my to-eat list, but alas, a girl can only squeeze in so many sugar runs between brewery stops, I’ve been told (*shrugs*).

Where to Get Ice Cream in Fargo

Where to Get Donuts in Fargo
Where to Get Donuts in Fargo

Where to Get Ice Cream in Fargo

The downtown is positively charming

When I went to Sioux Falls a few years back, I stumbled into the creative confines of numerous artisans and entrepreneurs who were using the lack of recession repercussions in this part of the country to their benefit by breathing new life into the old brick buildings that dotted their downtowns. Fargo is similar in that its historic downtown was flanked with indie boutiques and shops, including Unglued, the very artisan collective I fell in love with in South Dakota that relocated its base to Fargo not long ago. I don’t shop a lot on most trips, but let’s just say I came back from Fargo with a new dress. And a purse. And a necklace and two pairs of earrings. And a cloth cactus for our rental house. And three graphic prints. And two T-shirts for SVV. OK fine, I shopped a lot in Fargo, but it’s not my fault—the stores there are just too darn cute (and affordable, I might add).

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Where to Shop in Fargo, North Dakota
Where to Shop in Fargo, North Dakota

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Where to Shop in Fargo, North Dakota
Where to Shop in Fargo, North Dakota

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

It has an avid running culture

I confess that since moving back to the South, I have exactly two running seasons: spring and fall. The rest of the year? It’s either too hot or way too cold. So the fact that Fargo’s running scene is so robust despite the amount of snow it gets in the winter is just a testament to the fitness community and its commitment to healthy living. What Lemon and I had read online about the Fargo Marathon being one of the best was no lie; I’ve run dozens of races of all distances—10Ks, half-marathons, even a full—and this race had the best energy and crowd support I’ve ever witnessed. More than 10,000 runners come out for the Friday night 5K while nearly that same number runs the half or full the following morning. It’s flat, it’s green, it’s scenic and it’s wonderfully attended. I wouldn’t be opposed to making this an annual ritual to kick my butt back into regular running shape.

Fargo Marathon: The Best Race in North Dakota

Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota
Wild Terra Cidery in Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo Marathon: The Best Race in North Dakota

It’s home to an adorable boutique art hotel

Not a big fan of chain hotels when you travel for fun? Neither am I, usually. And while I stayed in an Airbnb the first couple nights, I relocated to the Hotel Donaldson for my final night in Fargo, and my corner room blew me away with its art collection. Each of the 17 rooms features a different artist and, as such, has its own creative touches; mine, room 15, was outfitted with the most dazzling, colorful glass collection by John Offutt. The HoDo has both a ground-level restaurant and lounge, both of which I took advantage of, though the Sky Prairie rooftop bar was closed during my visit. My friend Em assures me it’s magical.

Where to Stay in Fargo, North Dakota: Hotel Donaldson

Where to Stay in Fargo, North Dakota: Hotel Donaldson
Where to Stay in Fargo, North Dakota: Hotel Donaldson

My takeaway from my four days in Fargo? In a nutshell, North Dakota isn’t all bison and flatlands, though the western part of the state has plenty of that, too. For those cruising through this region of the Great Plains, you’ll be surprised—and, hopefully, delighted like I was—by the urban sprawl of Fargo-Moorhead, its quaint downtown district and the bevy of outdoor adventures that surround it.

Murals in Fargo, North Dakota

Where to Go in Fargo, North Dakota
Where to Go in Fargo, North Dakota

Our Trip to Fargo, North Dakota: A Long Weekend at the Fargo Marathon

Have you been to Fargo? Did you expect it to look more like the movie?

This post is sponsored by North Dakota Tourism, though I paid my own way to and from Fargo. All opinions are my own.

 

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How to Spend a Weekend Trip in Fargo, North Dakota
How to Spend a Weekend Trip in Fargo, North Dakota
How to Spend a Weekend Trip in Fargo, North Dakota
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COMMENTS
  • June 12, 2018

    Amazing photos! Such a warm place and welcoming! Love the spirit!

    • June 13, 2018

      It really is! I love the unexpected cities the post.

  • June 12, 2018

    Seeing that green is eye-popping Kristin. I think of the film. I think winter wasteland LOL. Snow. A few shops. Nothing else. Makes sense; this is not the Arctic. Summer months are like summer in much of the USA. Rocking post!

    • June 13, 2018

      Fargo reminded me a lot of living in Denmark—in the warmer months, when the sun comes out, the people FLOCK outdoors. And it is so so green! Probably a result of all the precipitation =)

  • June 12, 2018

    Fargo does sound lovely and definitley nothing like Fargo in the film haha. The bars and cafes look so up my street, love a craft beer pub me!

    • June 13, 2018

      That’s so cliche of me to say I expected it to be like the movie, but honestly, the downtown and the food/bar scene was beyond adorable, and I was quite surprised!

  • June 13, 2018

    This was a very well-done post. I’m happy to have stumbled upon it! The Fargo Marathon is one of the largest in the US and is more than likely the fastest growing. Thanks for visiting and come back again! Also, I *strongly* recommend the book How Fargo of You https://www.amazon.com/How-Fargo-You-Marc-Celle/dp/098309280X

    • June 13, 2018

      I would absolutely run it again! Such a manageable race, and what crowd support with it beginning and ending in the Fargodome. Thank you so much for the book recommendation, Doug—this sounds right up my alley!

  • June 13, 2018

    Ok.. you had me at craft beer. 🙂 This place looks like a great find!

    • June 20, 2018

      Girl, you know I don’t go anywhere without a craft beer scene 😉

  • June 14, 2018

    Can we do a runcation together?! I would be more than happy to run with you and then drink all the beer flights we can. What a cool spot! I only knew about Fargo from pop culture so it was great to see your first hand experience there.

  • June 16, 2018
    Mary Lou Stefano

    Love your blog. My mom and her sisiters all grew up in Fargo. Some moved to California in the late 30″s ..many of my cousins still reside in Fargo. I’ve visited several times and share your same feelings. It can be quite brutal in the winter.

    • June 20, 2018

      Thank you, Mary Lou! I think I prefer visiting in spring/summer for sure 🙂

  • June 18, 2018

    I love a race with crowd support! Might have to add it to my running bucket list.

    • June 20, 2018

      You really should! The weather, while a bit chilly to start, wound up being IDEAL for a race.

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