Williston, ND

“To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” – William Blake

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Williston, ND – We don’t often get the opportunity to write about small towns that dream big. Not because we don’t like to, but because these sort of places are extremely rare. However, we recently discovered a place that was virtually on the verge of extinction, so to speak, before an oil boom gave it a new breath of life. Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the saga of Williston, North Dakota, and everything this unusual place has to offer.

The county seat of Williams County, Williston is a small town with a population of some 14,000 souls – or rather, was. The North Dakota oil boom is largely responsible for the fact that the town’s population almost doubled within a few years, making it the sixth largest city in the state. And even though that fact alone is enough to remove it from the small town category, we still feel there is much to it that makes it worthy of travelers’ attention.

What Makes Williston, ND, So Special?

Here’s how the whole oil boom thing went down. Some eight years ago, the economy of North Dakota started booming thanks to advances in fracking (hydraulic fracturing). As a result, the state had the fastest growing economy in the nation by 2014. And due to its location in the middle of the state’s Bakken oil patch, the city of Williston grew by an astonishing 67 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Economy-wise, the situation today, however, is less than ideal. For the time being, lower oil prices have weakened North Dakota’s economy – regardless of the fact that some are predicting a new boom as oil prices rise. Williston’s residents, many of whom relocated there to take advantage of the boom, find themselves struggling to figure out their next move. The decision between moving on to greener pastures and waiting for things to get better is a challenging one; nevertheless, there is plenty to see and do in and around town. And that’s what makes this (former) small town ever so interesting in our eyes.

Lots To See And Do, Whether You’re Alone Or With Your Family

A regional center for both business and play, the Williston area today offers fun and adventure, as well as history. There are virtually countless opportunities in and around town, including nationally ranked golf courses, state and national parks, hunting and fishing, as well as interesting historic sites. While in town, finding exciting activities to experience or partake in is incredibly easy. That being said, many new restaurants and hotels have opened throughout the town during the oil boom, all of which plays right into your notion of the perfect small town getaway.

One of our personal favorites is the annual Rendezvous at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, where you can witness a fur trader preparing a beaver hide, a blacksmith doing his thing, and so much more. The Frontier Museum and the James Memorial Art Center are also highly recommended, much like the Old Armory. If you’re bringing the little ones along, you have options that include ice-skating, swimming, bowling, movie theaters and even go-karts. And when it comes to outdoor entertainment (this is North Dakota we’re talking about), we advise you explore the Lewis and Clark State Park, as well as the north unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Some More Upsides To Williston’s Economic Boom

As aforementioned, restaurants are ample throughout Williston, so we’ll go ahead and name a few that worked like a charm for us. First off, you’ve got Cuginis Italian Bistro, which is a hoot, just like Culver’s. DK’s Grill is also great, and we also loved Doc Holliday’s Roadhouse. Without delving into the specifics of each menu, we’ll just say that these are the joints that boast everything a traveler might need to replenish their energy. The Courthouse Café and North Bound Café are also cool for a quick cup of Joe.

The same applies for lodging, as countless renowned hotel chains and local bed and breakfasts have tapped into the post-boom accommodation requirements. The Hampton Inn & Suites, Grand Williston, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Four Points by Sheraton, Candlewood Suites, Best Western, El Rancho Motor Hotel, etcetera, are just some options. But there’s really no room for error here, as any of these are just as good as the next. That means that it’s all a matter of personal preference, and if you’ve chosen Williston, ND, as your next weekend getaway of vacation destination, that means you’ve got good taste!

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