Until 1889, North Dakota and South Dakota operated as the Dakota Territory, where their shared history ran deep with Native American ancestry and pioneers. Early settlers were looking to strike it rich with gold in the Black Hills or work the tracks along some of the nation’s earliest railroads. Although the territory eventually divided into the north and south, the two states still share a storied past, and many landmarks, buildings and monuments still stand today as a reminder of the earliest days of the Dakotas.
Discover a few of the most historic sites and attractions that welcome groups for meetings and events throughout North Dakota and South Dakota with this journey through the region.
Washburn, North Dakota
When winter hit during the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, the Corps of Discovery crew needed a shelter to get them through the frigid season ahead. They constructed Ford Mandan and used the encampment as their home between 1804 and 1805. While there, Lewis and Clark made their plans for the next phase of the journey by interviewing locals and nearby villagers to decipher the best route to the Pacific Ocean. It was at Fort Mandan that Lewis and Clark first met Sacagawea, the Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the men achieve their mission.
Although the fort was unable to stand the test of time, today a replica of the original fort stands on the grounds as the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
“The rebuilt fort is adjacent to a modern interpretive center in the wooded Missouri River Valley,” said Kim Schmidt, public relations and digital communications manager for North Dakota Tourism. “The center provides an overview of the Lewis and Clark expedition, with an emphasis on the time spent at Fort Mandan during the winter of 1804-1805.”
Groups can explore the center to see authentic artifacts or book a guided tour through the interpretive center and the reconstructed Fort Mandan. Both sites are available for meetings and events. The Lodge Classroom inside Fort Mandan can hold 75 people maximum, and the interpretive center’s two rooms can host 180 and 12 people, respectively.
Historic Fargo Theatre
Fargo, North Dakota
An Art Deco theater built in 1926, the Historic Fargo Theatre opened as a cinema and vaudeville house. Throughout the years, the theater has hosted numerous film icons and celebrities, including Babe Ruth, Janet Leigh and Tom Mix, many making guest appearances onstage. The theater was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1999 and now operates as a first-run cinema for independent and foreign films 364 days a year.
“The theater brings the best of independent and art films to the Red River Valley,” said Kim Schmidt, public relations and digital communications manager for North Dakota Tourism. “There is a weekend midnight movie series, a classic-film series and silent-movie nights.”
The best way to soak in the ambiance of this historic theater is by taking in a show, a movie or a live concert, but the two auditoriums on-site are also available for rent for corporate and private parties. The theater is not available as a venue for weddings or political campaign events.
Every March, the theater hosts the annual Fargo Film Festival, bringing together film lovers and filmmakers from around the world. The Fargo Theatre also hosts a variety of live events such as concerts, album release events and guest speakers.
Old Courthouse Museum
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Built in 1889, Sioux Falls’ Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse was originally constructed of native Sioux pink quartzite stone, a popular building material in the late 1880s. The building is a National Historic Landmark and is still home to the original 1893 clock tower.
The courthouse was used for official county business until the early 1960s and was then placed on a demolition list to make room for a parking lot. Locals and passionate fans campaigned to save the courthouse, and in 1974, their cries were heard. The building was converted into the Old Courthouse Museum, one of the two Siouxland Heritage Museums in Sioux Falls. The exterior is stunning on its own, but inside, visitors can explore the slate stairs, the granite pillars and the stained-glass windows.
“Visitors will also see murals painted from 1915 to 1917 that detail early life in Dakota Territory,” said Keegan Carda, global media and public relations representative for the Department of Tourism with Travel South Dakota.
Visitors can tour the museum for free during regular operating hours. The museum is also available for rent for small meetings and events, including weddings and receptions. Available venues include the courtroom, the law library, the first floor hallway, and the outdoor Reardon Plaza.
Yankton, South Dakota
In the early 1900s, the Schwenk-Barth Brewing Company’s Rosebud beer slogan — “A beer a day will make you healthy” — rang out from the company’s headquarters at the corner of Second and Walnut in Yankton, South Dakota. Although the claim that beer is a health tonic has since faded, little about this historic building has changed. Built of sturdy concrete, brick and steel, the Old Brewery stands tall next to the old Meridian Bridge and Water Plaza.
“Yankton and the rest of South Dakota have carried on the proud tradition of brewing beer with breweries in every corner of the state,” said Keegan. “Yankton has Ben’s Brewing, which buys its hops from a farm just a few miles away.”
Although the Old Brewery ceased brewing beer after World War II, when the facility was used to brew an industrial alcohol for the government, it’s now acting as a holding tank for memorable meetings and events inside its Barley Room and Rosebud Room. The space features 26-foot ceilings and exposed brick walls with 20-foot-high windows overlooking the water plaza and the historic walking bridge. The venue provides all the tablecloths, chair covers, napkins and catering. It has space for up to 800 guests.
First Gold Gaming Resort
Deadwood, South Dakota
Built on the actual site of the first gold discovery that occurred in Deadwood Gulch in 1875, the First Gold Gaming Resort has one of the richest histories in the state. When the First Gold Gaming Resort opened in 1990, it did so with 32 hotel rooms, one suite, live table games and slot machines, and an on-site restaurant that served a 19-ounce T-bone steak for $4.95 and offered breakfast for 79 cents.
Today, the complex has grown to include 11 casinos and 190 deluxe hotel rooms, with five luxury suites, and a restaurant that serves three lavish buffets daily.
“First Gold Gaming Resort is directly across the street from the location where the first nuggets of gold were panned in Whitewood Creek in Deadwood Gulch in 1875,” said Kim Morris, marketing director for the First Gold Gaming Resort. “First Gold is celebrating its 28th anniversary this September.”
There are two meeting and banquet rooms on the First Gold property, including the Terrace Banquet Room, with a 200-person capacity, and the Gold Room, with an 80-person capacity. Both rooms include free Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment with podiums and speaker systems. Catering is available on-site, and guests have access to the public buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner.