While recently heading up to Saskatchewan, Canada, we made a pit stop in Minot, ND, to grab a bite to eat. It was starting to get dark out and we still had a bit of a drive ahead of us, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see some roadside attractions at the Scandinavian Heritage Park.The park sits inside the city of Minot, just south of the downtown area. It is a 20-acre green space with a waterfall and stream running through the grounds, which are adorned with replicas and actual structures from and representative of each of the five Scandinavian and Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In fact, the park is said to be the only park in the world where these five countries are all represented. There is a lot to see at the Heritage Park, starting with the Heritage Visitors Center. It houses the main offices as well as the Minot Tourism Center, a gift shop for all of your Scandinavian needs (think books, mini Dala horses and Aebleskiver pans), and the lower level is the home of Thor Lodge 4-067 of Sons of Norway as well as the meeting place for local Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, and Swedish societies.As you meander the walkways through the park, you’ll see many statues of Nordic historical figures with names like Sondre Norheim, Hans Anderson, Casper Oimoen, and of course our man Leif Erickson. There is a 2-D map (Plaza Scandinavia) of the Scandinavian countries that you can walk on, and a flag display.For us quirk enthusiasts, there is a 25-ft tall bright and shiny Dala Horse, a popular carved, painted horse statuette with Swedish roots. Minnesota has several of these statues as well. You’ll find many sizes of the iconic decoration in the gift shop of course. You’ll also find a Danish Windmill dating back to 1928, relocated from a farm outside of town; a replica Finnish sauna, a traditional “Stabbur house,” (a storage house or guest quarters common of Norway), and the “Sigdal House,” which was a residency dating back 230 years and shipped in from Norway.But the centerpiece of the park is undoubtedly the Gol Stave Church. This 60-ft tall replica “stavkirk” is a full-size replica of the original Norwegian viking church built in about 1250, in the Hallingdal region of Norway and later moved to Oslo. It is one of the most iconic stavkirks in existence. There is also a replica at Epcot Center in Disneyworld. The church’s interior is elaborately designed and can be toured and rented out for events.
Scandinavian Heritage Park is a fun way to spend a couple hours learning about the Upper Midwest’s Nordic immigrants and their history. It’s a peaceful place full of additional interesting and quirky things to see. Just no lutefisk fishing from the bridge! Ole warned you!
While in the area: If possible, plan your visit in late September for the “Norsk Hostfest” festival at the fairgrounds nearby. It’s North America’s largest Scandinavian festival, and the proceeds benefit the park and society. Minot’s downtown is experiencing a bit of a revitalization, with fun breweries and restaurants popping up in old restored buildings.Or head over to New Town and check out Earl Bunyon!