Moving to North Dakota: Discover the Peace Garden State


We created this guide for moving to North Dakota to help those who are in their very early stages of researching where they’d like to move. Moving to a different state can be a tough thing to research. So, what exactly do you need to know before moving to North Dakota? We’ve compiled some of the most important items you should consider when making this big decision.

According to 2020 Census data, North Dakota was one of the top five fastest growing states of the last decade in terms of population, with a massive 15.8% growth in population. So, is moving to North Dakota right for you?

What You Need to Know about North Dakota’s Geography

Moving to North Dakota

North Dakota is in the upper Midwest with Montana to the west, Minnesota to the east, and South Dakota to the … south. The Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the state’s northern neighbors. Fun fact: the North Dakota town of Center is believed to be the geographic center of North America!

If you love exploring the outdoors, North Dakota may be the right place for you. In fact, with an area of 70,704 square miles, North Dakota has several distinct geographic and climate regions within its borders. The western half of the state consists of the hilly Great Plains as well as the northern part of the Badlands, which are west of the Missouri River.

The central region of the state is divided into the Drift Prairie and the Missouri Plateau. In the eastern part of the state, you’ll find the flat Red River Valley and the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz. Devils Lake, the largest natural lake in the state, is also found in this region.

From the Theodore Roosevelt National Park with the beautiful Maah Daah Hey Trail in the west, to Lake Metigoshe State Park on the Canadian border in the north, and Lake Sakakawea and Garrison Dam in between, North Dakota has a lot of incredible nature to behold. There are also lots of interesting museums around the state, including the Plains Art Museum, Bonanzaville USA, and the Knife River Indian Villages, to name a few!

North Dakota’s highest point, White Butte, is in the Badlands, and it stands at 3,506 ft tall. By comparison, North Dakota’s lowest point found in the Red River of the North at the state’s border with Manitoba, and it’s only 864ft! Although North Dakota is mostly flat and covered in grassland, the Pembina Gorge and Killdeer Mountains, the Turtle Mountains, and the hills around Devil’s Lake make for some interesting geography.

Moving to North Dakota Guide on the Weather in North Dakota

Moving to North Dakota

North Dakota’s continental climate varies widely depending on the season. It may surprise you to learn that the seasonal temperature differences are significant because of the state’s far inland position and being roughly equal distances to the North Pole and the Equator. This means that summers can be up into the eighties and winters can drop well below zero!

Eastern North Dakota has a humid continental climate distinction with warm to hot, somewhat humid summers and cold, windy winters. Western North Dakota has a semi-arid climate with less rain and less humidity, but similar temperature profiles as the eastern part of the state.

This just means monthly normal high and low temperatures really depend on where in the state you live. Winters across the state can see super low temperatures below zero and lots of snow. This is especially important to consider if you are planning out your moving costs to North Dakota Nothing can complicate a cross country move more quickly than a blizzard.

Spring brings major transition in North Dakota with some snowstorms still possible and temperatures usually moderating after the harsh winter. This is when North Dakota sometimes sees tornado outbreaks, but the risk diminishes slowly through the summer and into the fall. Springtime flooding is also a relatively comment event in the Red River Valley.

Summertime sees heat and humidity in the east and hotter and less humid conditions in the west. These conditions create thunderstorm activity 22-34 days a year! Average temperatures during the summer fall between the mid-eighties in the west to the upper seventies in the east, but temperatures well over one-hundred degrees are possible. In Fall, North Dakota’s weather is pretty much the reverse of its spring weather bringing with it lots of wind.

The state has dangers associated with tornados, blizzards, flooding, and extreme hot and cold temperatures, which should be something to consider if you plan to build a home after moving to North Dakota.

Moving to North Dakota Guide on Getting a Job in the Peace Garden State

Moving to North Dakota

If you’re looking for a place to grow your career, consider moving to North Dakota! According to the state government’s website, at the time of authoring this article, the state of North Dakota has seen a steady job growth rate compared to the rest of the United States. Moreover, in 2021, North Dakota employers were adding jobs back quickly as compared to 2020!

North Dakota continues to add more jobs, resulting in a steady unemployment rate of around 3.9%. Industries showing solid job gains included agriculture, natural resource extraction, and technology.

If you need to find a job, while still enjoying the small town life, North Dakota could be the right place for you!

What’s the situation on buying alcohol in North Dakota?

Moving to North Dakota

Who isn’t curious about how to toast moving to a new state! In North Dakota, a person must be twenty-one to buy or consume alcohol and it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level over 0.08%. Interestingly, public intoxication is not a crime, and grocery stores, gas stations, and supermarkets may carry all forms of liquor, but only if the liquor is rung up in a separate enclosed part of the store.

Fun fact: Alcohol may not be served between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays and 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. on other days. Furthermore, alcohol may not be sold on Thanksgiving Day after 2 a.m., Christmas Eve after 6 p.m., or Christmas Day all day!

What is there to do in North Dakota?

Moving to North Dakota

Hopefully you like being outside! North Dakota’s nickname, the Peace Garden State, references the Sioux people who originally lived on this land and called themselves Dakota or Lakota, meaning allies or friends. In fact, the International Peace Garden, which lies on the state’s border with Manitoba, Canada, honors this part of the state’s history.

In addition to this garden, the state has a rich cultural history that mixes the original traditions American Indian Nations with that of Norwegian and Icelandic immigrants to create a unique identity that is celebrated across the state today.

Another choice much loved by North Dakotans for entertainment is to head over to the state capital of Bismarck or even Fargo for culture, food, and fun. Both are small cities, but they still boast a variety of fun and interesting things to do including the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Bismarck and the Fargo Theater in Fargo. However, if you’re like us, we’re sure you’ll agree that outdoor North Dakota is the best.

You’ll be in awe each and every time you step outside!

Important State Symbols in North Dakota

Moving to North Dakota

The state of North Dakota has over twenty official state symbols; we’ve included a few of our favorites here.

The first, and most important, is the state’s name. What is now North Dakota was inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes, including the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara along the Missouri River; the Ojibwa and Cree in the northeast; and several Sioux groups across the rest of the state. The Sioux call themselves Dakota or Lakota, meaning allies or friends, which lent itself to North Dakota’s nickname – the Peace Garden State!

The state fruit is the chokecherry, and the flower is the Wild Prairie Rose. Another one of our favorite North Dakota symbols is the state fish: the Northern Pike. Probably the most unexpected state symbol is the state beverage – milk!

Lesser-Known FAQs About Moving to North Dakota

Q: What is the capital of North Dakota?

A: The capital of North Dakota is Bismarck. Bismarck is the second most populated city in North Dakota after Fargo. In 2019, Bismarck ranked seventh on a list of fastest-growing small cities in the United States.

Bismarck is across the river from Mandan, named after a historic Native American tribe of the area, and the two cities make up the Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Statistical Area. If you plan to move to North Dakota, you’ll probably find yourself there or in Fargo!

Q: How do North Dakota’s public schools rank nationally?

A: According to a study by US News, North Dakota public high schools rank 40/50 in a national breakdown tracking state-by-state high school performance. While education quality can vary widely depending on where in the state you live, this report takes the weighted average of the state’s high school performance into consideration. Don’t forget that North Dakota is the fourth least populous and fourth most sparsely populated state, which contributes to that ranking, too!

Q: What kind of taxes can you expect to pay in North Dakota?

A: Taxes are especially important to consider before moving to North Dakota! North Dakota’s state income tax system is comprised of five brackets. Single filers’ taxable income up to $40,125 is taxed at just 1.10%. Singles making $40,125 to $97,150 are subject to a 2.04% rate, and $97,150 to $202,650 in taxable income is taxed at 2.27%.

A rate of 2.64% applies to taxable income between $202,650 and $440,600. Finally, for singles earning more than $440,600, the highest rate of 2.90% applies. If you’re married, married couples filing separately or as the head of the household, the rates are the same, but the income levels are different.

How do taxes impact your cost of living? The average effective property tax rate across North Dakota is 0.99%. That’s slightly below the national average of 1.07%, but it’s considerably lower than the effective rate in South Dakota, which is 1.22%! The state’s sales tax rate is 5% for most retail sales, which is also relatively low compared to a lot of other states. Gross receipts tax is applied to sales of alcohol at 7% and to sales of new farm machinery and mobile homes at 3%.

Q: What’s it like to vote in North Dakota?

A: North Dakota does not have voter registration. To be eligible to vote you must be at least eighteen years old on the day of the election, a resident of North Dakota who resides in the precinct for thirty days preceding Election Day. You must also be able to provide a driver’s license, non-driver identification card, or other approved form of identification.

Q: What are the rules for switching your driver’s license in North Dakota?

A: If you have an out-of-state driver’s license, you’ll need to transfer it for a North Dakota license once you have lived in-state for ninety consecutive days and are considered a resident. Non-commercial drivers have sixty days after becoming a resident to transfer their driver’s license. If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), you will only have 30 days to transfer it over after moving to North Dakota.

Q: When do you need to update your car plates in North Dakota?

A: North Dakota requires that you register your out-of-state vehicle within ninety days of establishing residency. To register your out-of-state vehicle in North Dakota, you’ll need to head to a North Dakota Department of Transportation office since these services are not available online.

You’ll need to bring the following documentation: out-of-state vehicle title, signed; proof of your legal name; an application for Certificate of Title & Registration of a Vehicle; and Certificate of Vehicle Inspection. (Those two documents are found on the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s website.)

If you do not have access to your car’s title due to financing, you must provide the name and address of your lienholder, your loan account number, and your out-of-state registration, in addition to the other relevant documents above.

Q: What’s it like driving in North Dakota?

A: Like most state, the driving conditions in North Dakota are very different in urban and rural areas. North Dakota ranked at number 19 as the state with the worst drivers in America. Now, that doesn’t mean North Dakota drivers are perfect – it just means you can’t just look out the window at the scenic countryside!

Q: Does North Dakota have any walkable cities?

A: Of all cities in North Dakota, the best bet for having a walkable lifestyle is going to be in Grand Forks or Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota, but even that’s going to be difficult. Both cities have public transportation, the Cities Area Transit (CAT) in Grand Forks and the MATBUS in Fargo, but neither city is particularly walkable. If walkability is essential for you to have a high quality of life, you may want to consider looking elsewhere. If you’re all about that big skies, wide open roads, and fresh air, then moving to North Dakota may be right for you!

Is North Dakota the Right State for You to Move?

Moving to North Dakota

For those of you looking for lots of space, while enjoying living in a place with a rich history, North Dakota (and specifically the cities of Bismarck and Fargo) may be the right fit for you. The beautiful typography of North Dakota, low property taxes, and growing economy all lend themselves into making the Peace Garden State a great place to live.

However, natural disasters like blizzards, tornados, and extreme temperatures and middle of the pack schools prove that while exceptional, North Dakota isn’t perfect.

What do you think? Are you all in for moving to North Dakota, or do you need to research other moving guides? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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