My wife and I had come to Medora, North Dakota to explore the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, to see the Badlands and its animals and plants, and to see where TR attained solace after family tragedy, and where he established and then failed at two ranches. Those places and things we saw, and we had a wonderful nature- and vista-filled experience in the park, but the unexpected surprise for us was the entertainment and learning to be had in the town of Medora. North Dakota residents know about Medora (for there were many natives at the Medora Musical the night we attended it), but many of us out-of-staters don’t. The combination of national park hikes and panoramas, and the shows and shops in Medora, made for an activity-filled five days.
Shows, Events, and Shops we visited:
A country music and dance extravaganza (photo posted above) hosted Tuesday through Sunday on a hill above the town. The theater seats 2,852 people, and every seat was filled on the Wednesday night we were there.
Teddy Roosevelt Show at the Old Town Hall Theater
Joe Wiegand puts on a one-man show dressed as T.R. and wittily represents the great man himself, narrating tales of his life.
Chateau of the Marquis and Marquise de Morès
The Chateau de Morès visitor center and the Chateau itself present wonderfully—via film, a tour through the rooms of the Chateau, conversations with state-employed docents, photographs, and watercolors by the Marquise (who spoke seven languages, played the grand piano, and was a better shot than her husband)—the hunting life of the French nobleman who founded Medora, named it after his wife, and then brought her there to be part of it.
A separate room at the center showcases the contribution to our nation by a different Roosevelt than what Medora is typically known for. Franklin Roosevelt helped restore to health a nation suffering through the Great Depression using programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Work Projects Administration. Pictures, posters, and items displayed about the CCC and WPA are displayed, and you can watch interviews done with North Dakotan farmers who “had no money for food” until they were able to work for the CCC or the WPA. Restoration of the Chateau de Morès was a CCC project, and there were many more CCC projects throughout North Dakota.
Harold Schafer Visitor Center
Speaking of restoration, Medora was dwindling at the time that Harold Schafer (owner of Glass Wax, Snowy Bleach, Mister Bubble, and other household products) got involved in it almost by accident, and then he and his wife Sheila directed it toward the entertainment- and information-filled destiny it occupies today. At the visitor center, I especially enjoyed the ads featuring Phyllis Diller, Soupy Sales, and Lucie Arnaz that were projected on an old TV.
Little Missouri Saloon and Dining (next to Hitching Post Gifts)
Good for beer, burgers, and for seeing horses tied up at the hitching post (we saw the droppings, not the horses)
Western Edge books
An interesting person obviously owns Western Edge Books, for the store is stocked with an extensive collection of books about cowboys, cavalry soldiers, gunfighters, native Americans, buffalo, a complete collection of Zane Grey, and lots else. After having seen bison on both the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I wanted to know more, so I purchased the book Theodore Roosevelt and Bison Restoration on the Great Plains.
Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center
We lodged for five days in our trailer in the Medora Campground, which is just outside the entrance to the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. During our Medora rambles we stopped into the Rough Riders Hotel and Conference Center, which is a recreation of an older Rough Riders Hotel, complete with an expansive library in the lobby that’s decorated with antlers. The hotel hosts a fine-dining restaurant. There are other hotels here, but Rough Riders is the one we strolled through.
Lots more in Medora
These are some of the activities or sights that we did not see or do:
Gospel Brunch, Bill Sorensen comedy and magic, The Great American Folk Show, the Theodore and Edith Show, Magic Through Time with Colin Zasadny, Bully Pulpit Golf Course, horseback rides, carriage rides, guided hikes, Little Bully Pulpit Mini-Golf, Tea with Mrs. Roosevelt, Cowboy Hall of Fame, historic walking tour, many shops, and more.
Medora has new shows coming all the time. To learn more, please go to http://www.medora.com or call 1-800-medora-1.
Many of the shops and museums in Medora are part of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Several of the shop and museum staff that we talked to were volunteers for the Foundation and were staying in Medora for two weeks or so. In their off time they lived in Foundation quarters, hiked in the park, and enjoyed the shows (they had free admittance to the Musical), and frequented the many amenities that Medora has to offer. Many of the volunteers return year after year.
Another note: the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will open here in 2025.