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Published June 18 2013

Benshoof: Hitting the worldly cities of North Dakota

Vacations are great, but they can also have their downsides.

The challenge of planning a vacation, coupled with the cost of airfare and hotel rooms, can quickly put a damper on the fun.

What with the high price of gas, the sequester, the cicada hordes on the East Coast, protests in Greece and Turkey, wildfires in Colorado, hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, the dormant supervolcano lying beneath Yellowstone National Park and meteors falling from the sky, it’s much easier and more comfortable to plan a vacation that’s closer to home.

Luckily, there’s still an inexpensive way to experience some worldly cities – all within the rectangular confines of North Dakota.

Yes, I’m talking about places like York, Berlin and Bergen, all just a short drive away from the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Most, but not all, of such worldly named towns were named for a more famous European city, according to “North Dakota Place Names,” a 1989 book by Douglas Wick.

A few were just named after their founders’ respective hometowns. For example, nearby Lisbon was named for Lisbon, N.Y., the hometown of the founder’s wife.

Regardless, if you’re looking for some impressive-sounding destinations this summer but don’t want to break the bank, here are a few options:

• Lisbon: The capital of Portugal is a very scenic city, but you’d be forgiven if a flight across the Atlantic costs too much money.

Instead, head to Lisbon in Ransom County, about 70 miles southwest of Fargo-Moorhead. Visit the town’s historic theater or grab a bite to eat at Hodenattes on Main.

• Havana: Americans wanting to visit Cuba have to cope with plenty of travel restrictions, but the tiny town of Havana in Sargent County, about 105 miles southwest of the F-M area, is easy to reach.

Sure, it’s a tiny little place, with only 70 residents or so, but you can at least get a nice meal at the Farmer’s Inn on Third Avenue.

• Portland: They say one of the charms of Portland, Ore., is that it’s an exceptionally weird city.

Portland, N.D., on the other hand, seems quite normal. This quaint little neighbor of Mayville is about 60 miles north of Fargo.

Why not also visit the state’s Bremen, Wimbledon, Sydney, Leeds, Munich, Perth, Surrey or Strasburg.

If you’re seeking something a little bit more exciting than cities with European names, you can always try the rest of the solar system.

Located about six miles northeast of Rolette, according to “North Dakota Place Names,” is a small country trading post that was closed in 1909. Its building was still being used as a granary in the 1960s, but it very well may not exist anymore today.

The name of the trading post? Mars.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535