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Williston is North Dakota’s Boomtown, USA

Posted: Apr 27 2016
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Williston: Boom to Grow

North Dakota’s “Boomtown, USA” uses its success to build a great community and bright future

Fort Union, Williston ND EventsBetween 1828 and 1867, Fort Union, North Dakota was a meeting place of cultures and commerce. Plains Indians and frontiersmen came here, just a few miles west of the meeting point of the mighty Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, for all sorts of goods. Trade flourished for nearly forty years at this busy commercial hub, thriving long after the peak of area activity.
Given the fort’s illustrious history, it seems fitting that nearly 150 years later, nearby Williston is Boomtown, USA. Or better put, still Boomtown, USA. When oil production picked up, Williston took the opportunity to turn a boomtown into something more. What’s been created? A hometown—one with plenty for visitors and residents alike.
So much in Williston has changed recently, and yet so much has remained the same. We still love Band Day and the North Dakota Chokecherry Festival! Those of us who knew Boomtown, USA before it was Boomtown, USA—when it was simply Williston—know that things have changed for the better.

Continued growth

Williston Area Recreation Center, ARC, Things to do in Williston
Fort Union Trading Post, now a National Historic Site, is still very relevant, especially during Rendezvous weekends when it hosts living history re-enactments. Year-round, the fort welcomes visitors to explore and interact with its exhibits and displays, which depict what life was like when thousands of buffalo robes and more than $100,000 in merchandise were traded each year here.

Impressive figures like those are still found in Williston. How many places in America have a 234,000-square-foot recreation center with a golf simulator, lazy river and indoor surfing? Visitors are invited to the Williston Area Recreation Center (ARC) to exercise in the Olympic-size pool, hit the indoor batting cage built for professional-grade training and just play at the largest indoor recreation center in North Dakota. Between the water park (where adults can become kids), turf field, running track and more, there is more than enough indoor fun for everyone, 360+ days a year.  
A few miles from the state-of-the-art batting cage at the ARC, baseball fans in Williston find Ardean Aafedt Stadium. In August, this best-in-class amateur facility will host the 2016 Babe Ruth World Series. This will be the third time the town has welcomed more than 40,000 youth players, families and fans to partake in the festivities provided by a national tournament. Teams who make it to the end and stay for all 8 days will just scratch the surface of things to see and do outside of the baseball diamond.
When it comes to leisure time, Williston takes it up another notch: a shooting range, pumpkin patch, ice-skating rinks, go-kart track, two golf courses and a historic movie theater dating back to the 1920s are highlights. None of these 21st century attractions were around when the legendary Lewis & Clark expedition came through the area in 1805. But the same jaw dropping scenery the explorers wrote about stretches for miles and miles not far from Williston’s modern architecture. Here, outdoor recreational opportunities are endless.

The place to be

Williston ND Events, Fort Union, Things to do in WillistonPlains Indians and fur traders relied on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers for their livelihood, but today, it’s all about recreation and relaxation. Fish for bass, trout, northern pike and walleye—Williston is the only place in the region where you can throw out a line for paddlefish. Watersports enthusiasts and anglers alike benefit from Williston’s close proximity to Lake Sakakawea, the third-largest man-made lake in the United States.
The Links of North Dakota, a nationally ranked golf course designed by Stephen Kay, challenges every skill level. Golf Week and Golf Digest rank The Links as a “Top 100 Golf Course”—its traditional layout, with wide fairways surrounded by sand bunkers, guarantee good times.
Hunting was, and still is, an extremely popular outdoor pursuit in the area. The nearby North Dakota Badlands are home to healthy populations of trophy-worthy waterfowl and wild game. Unlike hunting, which is seasonal, wildlife viewing around Williston is a year-round sport. Bison, bighorn sheep, moose, deer and golden eagles are just a few of the species found in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an hour-drive south of Williston.
Naturally, hiking in the national park is a must, but there are also self-guided interpretive nature trails closer to town in Lewis & Clark State Park. Spend the morning picnicking among the park’s purple coneflowers while listening to the singing of a yellow warbler before spending the afternoon shopping or getting a spa treatment in downtown Williston.

Still booming

Williston ND Events, Babe Ruth World Series
Locally owned specialty shops and boutiques occupy downtown’s vibrant Main Street, resulting in plenty of special finds for every taste and budget. The dining scene is just as robust and satisfying.
Fueling a boomtown is serious business. When it comes to wining and dining, Williston claims dozens of noteworthy establishments ranging from saloons celebrating its Western heritage to pizza joints, a Japanese steakhouse, sushi bar, and a microbrewery boasting the largest wine and beer selection in the state. Between the premium beverages, aged steaks, barbecue ribs and exotic entrees, it’s impossible to go hungry or thirsty in Williston. And when the plates are licked clean, it’s time for a good night’s rest.
Area accommodations include an ample amount of new, full-service hotels and boutique properties that encourage kicking back and relaxing as well as easy access to Williston. Even during the busiest times of the year there is no shortage of rooms and suites for overnight visitors, including several area campgrounds that welcome RV-ers and tent campers keen on cooking out and sleeping under the stars. After all, western North Dakota—with its dark skies, rolling hills, and wide-open spaces where you can practically see forever—is a stargazer’s dream destination.
Like the stars, the future is bright for Williston. If its history is any indication, the city will continue to strengthen and grow for quite some time. Boomtown, USA is where residents can live the American dream and visitors can reap the benefits of a vibrant community—both today and for many tomorrows to come.
Plan your trip to experience Williston’s booming culture.