North Dakota has a sense of humor!
In an effort to visit my 50th state, we planned a pandemic-summer road trip to Fargo, North Dakota. What a delightful surprise to learn the state tourism folks have become so accustomed to travelers wandering in and announcing, “This is my 50th state!” they have created an entire campaign around the experience.
Our first indication of the program was the state visitor’s guide, carefully placed in our room at the Residence Inn by Marriott, complete with personalized sticky notes directing us to different pages. Turns out the local manager goes out of her way to learn what she can about those registered and had figured out it was both my birthday and 50th state. She tabbed a local restaurant offering outdoor seating with a note “this would be a great birthday dinner”, a local brewery with “most appreciated after a long drive”, the downtown art walk and another couple of pages for local attractions.
But the one that really got our attention was on the page all about the Save the Best for Last program. Her note just said “Don’t forget to visit the Visitors Center in the morning. They open at 9.”
Now to be honest, we had intended to hit the road earlier than that, but her notes and the hospitality from both the restaurant and brewery that evening helped us decide to stay a little longer and check them out.
In the morning, outside the Visitors’ Center, housed in an imposing historic grain elevator as a nod to the region’s agricultural roots, we strolled along the Walk of Fame, featuring all sorts of famous folk who have visited the City and put their handprints in the pathway. Everyone from Will Rogers to Jesse Ventura, Dr. Ruth Westheimer to Metallica, Neil Diamond to Brad Paisley has apparently spent some time in the frontier “north of normal” town. For the record, my hands are the same size as Mr. Rogers.
Turns out the Visitors Center was a whole bunch of fun. Walking in the door announcing we had saved the best for last brought us a hearty huzzah and the question “What size t-shirts do you wear?” What??
Since 2013, the Best for Last Club has become a hit with anyone on a mission to visit all 50 states. They provide a commemorative Best for Last t-shirt, an official certificate, a round of applause from staffers, and an invitation to join the club with a photo taken on site and a Facebook group with over 5000 members – and growing.
We proudly donned our new shirts – with a snazzy design – and had our picture taken at the club emblem. Then we were offered a chance to experience the original woodchipper from the Coen Brother’s infamous movie Fargo. Who could pass up staging some shots – with and without our masks – pushing a mannequin leg into the chipper while looking as menacingly as one can while laughing ourselves silly? We are just sorry that due to the pandemic we were not allowed to use the furry earflap trapper hats for our poses.
Honestly, the whole experience made us want to revisit the region and state and we regretted not having the time to explore more on this trip. We were ticking off a box. Lesson learned. We will be back. If you are on a quest to visit all 50 states, we heartily recommend you save North Dakota for last!
For more details on all things ND, https://www.fargomoorhead.org/plan-a-trip/fargo-moorhead-visitors-center/