About Bismarck, North Dakota

The City of Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota, county seat of Burleigh County, and the state’s second largest city with a current estimated population of 60,389.

Bismarck is the core city of the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln MSA, which serves over 100,000 citizens. Since its beginning as an isolated frontier town, Bismarck has grown to become a major regional hub for government, business, healthcare, and education.

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The original Capitol was completed in 1884 and served until destroyed by fire in 1930.

The original Capitol served from 1884 until destroyed by fire in 1930.

Bismarck and the surrounding region have an enormously rich history with many prominent figures that have included Alexander McKenzie, William Langer, and George Armstrong Custer.

The town that became Bismarck was founded as “Edwinton” in 1872 by the Northern Pacific Railroad after selecting the point at which its transcontinental railroad line would cross the Missouri River. The town’s first structures were commissioned by Doctor Walter Burleigh and erected at Camp Greeley (later called Camp Hancock), which was established as an infantry post and supply depot to ensure expansion of the railroad and protect the town’s initial settlers.

The town was renamed “Bismarck” in July 1873 to honor German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, in an attempt to attract German immigrants to the area. Bismarck was incorporated as a city in 1875, electing John Mclean as its first mayor. Bismarck was named county seat of the newly organized Burleigh County in 1873 and capital of Dakota Territory in 1883, replacing the former capital, Yankton. Upon entering statehood in 1889, Bismarck assumed the role as capital of North Dakota.

The territorial prison and Dakota Territory’s first hospital were established in Bismarck in 1885.

A major fire destroyed most of the city in August 1898, helping to push the city from its frontier roots and into a modern city. Ever since, the city has rapidly expanded. [read more]


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Bismarck High School

Bismarck High School

Bismarck’s education has been recognized on multiple occasions as a leader in the nation with some of the highest graduation rates and standardized testing results. Several Bismarck schools have been recognized as “Blue Ribbon” award recipients, the highest national honor for public education.

Bismarck Public Schools is the largest school district in the state, operating a total of 21 schools with a student population of over 10,000. There are also many distinguished private school options within the city.

Bismarck is home to a public community college, two private 4-year colleges, and several trade schools.


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Bismarck boasts the largest medical facilities between Minneapolis and Seattle. No city other than Rochester, MN has more hospital beds per capita than Bismarck. Two major medical centers, each possessing Level II Trauma designations, are located within blocks of each other on the edge of downtown Bismarck.


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Gateway Fashion Mall Exterior

Gateway Fashion Mall

Bismarck-Mandan is the largest retail hub of central and western North Dakota, second in the state only to Fargo-Moorehead. Bismarck is home to nearly every national retail chain in addition to many successful locally owned stores.

Three major shopping centers serve Bismarck: Kirkwood Mall, Gateway Mall, and Pinehurst Square. The Downtown Business District also remains a vibrant shopping and dining destination.


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East 40 Chophouse & Tavern

East 40 Chophouse & Tavern

There are no shortages of restaurants in the Bismarck-Mandan area, with more opening every year. From national chains to numerous locally owned restaurants, everyone will find exactly what they’re looking for when dining out in Bismarck-Mandan.

Some of the most well known local restaurants include Big Boy, Scotty’s Drive-in, The Woodhouse, Peacock Alley, A&B Pizza, and The Walrus.


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Child stands atop snow drift in April 1997.

North Dakota is perhaps best known for its frigid and snowy winters. However, with a few exceptions, North Dakota weather isn’t really all that bad. It is the northern plains and the weather does come with it. Snowy and cold winters are indeed common, with occasional strong winter storms. The summer, however, often brings in hot weather that often tops 100 degrees.


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As with most cities, the primary mode of transportation is the automobile. Most Bismarck-Mandan streets form a standard block grid, with northbound and eastbound roads bisecting.

In Bismarck, northbound roads are typically numbered “streets”, such as 9th Street, and eastbound roads are typically named “avenues”, such as Divide Avenue. Whereas in Mandan, northbound roads are typically called “Avenues” and eastbound roads are typically called “Streets”.

The Grant Marsh/I-94 Bridge opened in 1965.

The Grant Marsh is one of 3 vehicular bridge to span the Missouri River.

In Bismarck, addresses are primarily based off their location to Washington Street and Main Avenue. Addresses north of Main Avenue are labeled as “north” and vise-versa for addresses located south of Main Avenue. Addresses east of Washington are labeled “east” and vise-versa. The address numbering system is also primarily based on the property locations in reference to these two streets.

There are several one-way roads throughout Bismarck. 7th & 9th Streets are the most notable one-ways in the city, running between Boulevard Avenue and Bismarck Expressway. Several important structures are located along these two streets including Kirkwood Mall and Bismarck High School. Broadway/Thayer Avenues and 4th/5th streets also operate as one-ways for two blocks in downtown Bismarck.

The newly expanded Bismarck Airport is the largest airport terminal for western North Dakota. Northwest Airlines is the largest provider; however, United, Delta, and Allegiant Air also serve Bismarck.

Established in 2004, Capital Area Transit (CAT) serves as the public busing system and serves both Bismarck and Mandan. Bis-Man Transit also provides door-to-door area transportation to senior and disabled citizens.

Passenger train service, the commodity that helped established Bismarck, was discontinued in the late 1970s. The nearest Amtrak line is in Minot, ND – about 100 miles of Bismarck.


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The Bismarck-Mandan area has a wide-range of employment opportunities with several major corporations having operations within the area. The largest employment industries in the area lie within the energy, government, healthcare, and service sectors.


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Bismarck is has received numerous recognition as one of the best and safest cities to live in. There are many residential options, from affordable to high-end luxury, apartments to mobile homes to houses. [find an apartment]

Things To See & Do

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Vintage Northern Pacific Railroad Locomotive and Bread of Life Church

Camp Hancock Historic Site

The Bismarck-Mandan region has many fun things to see and do from a variety of fields. The city is abundantly full of parks and close to several rivers and lakes, including the Missouri River and the nation’s 3rd largest man-made lake, Lake Sakakawea.

Given the area’s long, rich history, there are numerous historic sites and museums to venture through, including the Fort Abraham Lincoln site – former home to General George Armstrong Custer.

Prairie Knights Casino is located less than an hour south of Mandan, and 4 Bears Casino not much further away by New Town.