The double fried chicken sandwich at Sol Ave. Kitchen

What to See, Eat and Do in Moorhead and East Grand Forks

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The double fried chicken sandwich at Sol Ave. Kitchen / Visit Fargo-Moorhead

What to See, Eat and Do in Moorhead and East Grand Forks

By Andrew Parks

While it may take 90 minutes to drive from Moorhead to East Grand Forks, the highway connecting the two cities is a serene route that snakes along the Red River and the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. This makes it a perfect long weekend path for anyone looking to see more of Northwest Minnesota, a laid-back region that boasts a wide range of restaurants, breweries, museums and more.

Here is a hit list of surefire Trip on a Tankful stops along the way….


1. Follow in the footsteps of Guy Fieri.

The mayor of Flavortown swung by Moorhead a few summers ago to film a couple segments for his influential Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Sol Ave. Kitchen was the first stop, earning quality airtime for its double-fried chicken sandwich complete with kimchi, ssamjang sauce and a lime-kissed aioli; and a Korean-inspired rice bowl packed with pickles, mushrooms, radishes, micro greens, seared pork belly and a soy-marinated soft-boiled egg. Rustica Eatery & Tavern’s self-proclaimed “American food with a European twist” appeared on another episode with such local favs as its pork-laced handmade pasta and fingerling potato poutine.

Junkyard Brewing Company's taproom in Moorhead

The bustling taproom at Junkyard Brewing Company  / Visit Fargo-Moorhead

2. Sample Junkyard Brewing Company’s latest small-batch releases.

Junkyard’s top-rated taproom specializes in smooth fruited sours, bittersweet hop bombs and all-bets-are-off breakthroughs like an “ambrosia-style wheat ale” (a.k.a. Queens of the Potluck) made with pineapple, blood orange, cherry, toasted coconut and vanilla.

If craft beer’s not your thing, Harold’s on Main is just a five-minute walk or one-minute drive away. The elevated dive pairs frozen Heggie’s pizzas with bold and balanced cocktails like the Fairway Smash (rye whiskey, rosemary-infused simple syrup, lemon juice and bright notes of pomegranate) and Hips Like Cinderella (pea blossom gin, lemon juice and prosecco). Karaoke is a contact sport every Wednesday night and Thursdays are set aside for DJs that spin vinyl well past midnight.

The historic Dairy Queen in Moorhead

Visit Fargo-Moorhead

3. Worship the world’s largest Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen.

We know what you’re thinking: There’s already a Dairy Queen down the street. What makes this one so special? Well, for starters Bob and Phyllis Litherland invented DQ’s iconic Dilly Bar soon after their location opened in 1949. (Hence the huge roadside attraction outside.) A special contract still in effect today has also kept its current owners (Troy and Diane DeLeon) relatively independent for a franchisee. Many items are still made from scratch here, and some even incorporate local ingredients like freshly picked raspberries from Lake Country farms. Others are exclusives from another era, including Polish sausage, BBQ sandwiches, chocolate-dipped bananas (Monkey Tails), and skewered milkshakes (Mr. Maltie). As for its hours, Moorhead’s Dairy Queen is typically open between March and October, even if that means serving soft-serve sundaes when there’s still ice and snow outside.

The Hjemkost Center in Moorhead

Visit Fargo-Moorhead

4. Live your best Viking life at Hjemkost Center.

The biggest draw — literally and figuratively — at Clay County’s beloved history museum is its namesake ship, a labor of love dreamt up by a guidance counselor determined to sail from Duluth to Oslo like his Norwegian ancestors once did. Bob Asp passed away before his fantastic voyage could be completed, but a crew of 12 brave souls (professional sailors, a trucker and several college students) managed to make it happen in 1982.

Visitors can now toast The Hjemkomst in its permanent resting place, along with an ornate stave church that belongs on the cover of a black-metal album. Clay County’s Historical & Cultural Society also curates rotating exhibits on a regular basis. Current and upcoming shows include a look at aluminum Christmas trees, Victorian lightbulbs, and other vintage holiday décor; a collection of colorized Indigenous American portraits from the early 1900s; and a tribute to Ralph’s Corner Bar, the Cheers of Moorhead right up until when it was sold and sadly demolished in 2005.

Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead

Visit Fargo-Moorhead

5. Keep tabs on contemporary art at The Rourke.

Between its column-lined front porch and grand marble staircase, the historic post office that now houses Moorhead’s leading art museum is worth a look architecturally and culturally. Named after its founding brothers, James and Orland Rourke, its focus is on featuring Upper Midwest artists such as ceramicist Richard Bresnahan, photographer Wayne Gudmundson, and painters Susan Morrissey, Zhimin Guan and Charles Thysell. The Rourke also has a welcome sense of humor, as evidenced by its annual Halloween show Art Ghoullery.

Bernie's in East Grand Forks

Bernie's in East Grand Forks  / Andrew Fisher

East Grand Forks

6. Dig into the dishes of another Food Network star at Bernie’s.

Girl Meets Farm host Molly Yeh and her beet-pulling husband, Nick Hagen, recently opened their first restaurant in the longtime home of the East Grand Forks landmark Whitey’s Wonderbar. Its comfort food menu feels like a logical extension of Yeh’s Home Is Where the Eggs Are cookbook — progressive without pretense, from a grilled cheese sandwich headlined by Havarti, dill pickles and Sriracha ranch mayo to six kinds of toast and a Swedish-style smörgåsbord buoyed by rye bread, cheese, cornichons, butter, jam and either a soft-boiled egg, ham or smoked salmon.

The Greenway in East Grand Forks

Visit Grand Forks

7. Split the difference between two states on The Greenway.

East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, North Dakota, have made the most of their border town status by setting aside nearly 2,200 acres of shared outdoor rec ops. The Greenway’s vast open spaces include the Red River State Recreation Area and multi-use trails made for nearly every all-weather activity imaginable. We’re talking walking and running, biking and Rollerblading, camping and kayaking and not one but seven golf courses, four of which are devoted to flying discs. Dogs can also be taken off leash at Lincoln Drive Park, leaving very little The Greenway can’t do when it comes to burning calories and breathing in that brisk Upper Midwestern air.

Grape Mill Vineyard & Winery in East Grand Forks

Grape Mill Vineyard & Winery  / Visit Grand Forks

8. Embrace the eccentricities of Midwestern wine at Grape Mill.

Forget Chardonnay and Merlot for a minute. Minnesota’s sub-zero season calls for cold-hardy grapes — names you might not know, like Marquette, La Crescent, Brianna and Frontenac Gris. Russ and Gail Halverson and their son Matt have been putting these palate expanders on a pedestal since 2006. Their estate now has more than 2,000 vines planted and enough medals to warrant a special trip to their tasting room. It’s closed during the winter, but typically opens around Memorial Day, giving locals an excuse to gather around the Red Lake River with glasses in hand and a palpable sense of excitement for the sunny months ahead.

Sherlock Forest Playground

Sherlock Forest Playground

9. Keep the kids busy at Sherlock Forest.

Local elementary schools and a host of volunteers helped design and build the most popular playground in East Grand Forks in 2003, only to have most of it burn down eight years later. The entire community rallied around its reconstruction, however, making it a point of pride and a surreal escape for children looking to explore a magical castle surrounded by everything from a slayable dragon to a pastel-tinged pirate ship.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in East Grand Forks

Fairfield Inn & Suites in East Grand Forks

10. Settle into a suite.

Located about a mile from Sherlock Forest and the Red River State Recreation Area is the Fairfield Inn, Marriott’s leading property for a restorative overnight stay. Should you decide to spend a separate night in Moorhead, the Marriott’s Courtyard hotel is a fully renovated option for business travelers (the city’s main conference center is right next door) and families (Gooseberry Mound Park and its well-maintained bike trails are a short ride away).

Andrew Parks

Andrew Parks is a senior digital strategist at Explore Minnesota. His previous work including copywriting and content design for such clients as the Michelin Guide, Apple, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, Bandcamp, AFAR, Bon Appétit, and Red Bull.