Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Grand Forks, North Dakota
Official flag of Grand Forks, North Dakota


Nickname: "The Sunflake City"
"The Grand Cities
Motto: A Place of Excellence
Location in North Dakota
Location in North Dakota
Coordinates: 47°54′44″N, 97°3′17″W
Country United States
State North Dakota
County Grand Forks County
Founded June 15, 1870
Incorporated February 22, 1881
Mayor Michael Brown
 - City 49.9 km²  (19.2  sq mi)
 - Land 49.9 km²  (19.2 sq mi)
 - Water 0.0 km² (0.0 sq mi)
Elevation 257 m  (843 ft)
 - City (2000) 49,321
 - Density 989.8/km² (2,563.0/sq mi)
 - Metro 97,478
  (2006 city proper estimate:53,000)
Time zone CST ( UTC-6)
 - Summer ( DST) CDT ( UTC-5)

Grand Forks is a city in Grand Forks County, North Dakota in the United States. It is the county seat of Grand Forks County GR6 and the third largest city in North Dakota. The population was 49,321 at the 2000 census (2006 estimate: 53,000). Grand Forks was founded in 1870 and incorporated in 1881.

Named after the forking of the Red River of the North with the Red Lake River near the downtown area, the city lies on the western bank of the Red River in the Red River Valley. It has a twin city, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, which lies on the east side of the Red River. The two communities make up the core urban area of the "Grand Forks, North Dakota, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area". The metropolitan area is often called " Greater Grand Forks" or "The Grand Cities" (although that nickname is newer and not as generally accepted). The city of Grand Forks occasionally uses the nickname "The Sunflake City".

Grand Forks is home to the University of North Dakota (UND) and the Grand Forks Air Force Base (located 13 miles west of town). These two entities are among the largest employers in the state. Historically dependent on local agriculture, the city's economy has moved towards one centered on higher education, health care, the retail and service sector, and some scientific research. The city is somewhat of a hybrid of an agricultural town and a college town.

The city became known for its battle with the flooding Red River during April of 1997 in what is referred to as The Flood of 1997. Today, Grand Forks has mostly recovered from the flooding. The metropolitan area encompasses two counties and is seen as the retail, educational, healthcare, and entertainment centre of a large portion of northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.


Early history

Grand Forks is one of the oldest major cities in the Dakotas. Prior to settlement by Europeans, the area where the city now sits (at the forks of the Red River and Red Lake River) had been an important meeting and trading point for Native Americans. Early French explorers, fur trappers, and traders called the location "Les Grandes Fourches." The town was first settled by a steamboat captain named Alexander Griggs. His nine acre (36,000 m²) piece of property would become what is now known as downtown Grand Forks. The name "Grand Forks" was first applied in 1870 by the community's first postmaster and incorporation followed on February 22, 1881.

Unlike most cities in North Dakota, the city of Grand Forks does not owe its existence to the arrival of the railroad. Instead, Grand Forks was first an important steamboat port on the Red River of the North. Grand Forks grew rapidly in its early years. Growth was spurred by waves of immigrants and Americans from the eastern portion of the country, the steamboat traffic on the river, and the coming of the railroad. The first settlers were farmers, but merchants and professional people from Minneapolis and other cities soon populated the city. In 1883, the University of North Dakota was founded by George H. Walsh before North Dakota was formally recognized as an independent state, born from the Dakota Territory. In 1893, The Diamond Milling Company of Grand Forks started making a new breakfast cereal they called Cream of Wheat, invented by mill employee Thomas Amidon. By the dawn of the 20th century, the city had become the centre of the region and boasted many amenities usually found in larger cities.

The 20th century

The first half of the 1900s saw steady growth and the development of new neighborhoods farther south and west of downtown. The 1920s saw the construction of the state-owned North Dakota Mill and Elevator on the north side of the city. In 1954, Grand Forks was chosen as the site for an Air Force base. Grand Forks Air Force Base brought thousands of new jobs and residents to the community. The military base and the University of North Dakota would become the two most integral pieces of the city's economy.

The later half of the century saw an increased shift away from downtown and towards the outskirts of the community. The coming of the Interstate Highway System revolutionized the way people traveled throughout the region. Several urban renewal projects tore down sections of the downtown area to make way for public buildings and transportation improvements. New public schools, a new hospital, and many commercial centers were built during this period. The opening of the Columbia Mall on the south side of town in 1978 forever changed the retail scene in the community.

The Flood of 1997

Flood memorial in Grand Forks commemorating the 1997 flood
Flood memorial in Grand Forks commemorating the 1997 flood

The city was struck by a severe flood in 1997, causing extensive damage. With Fargo upstream from the bulk of the waters, and Winnipeg with its flood control structures, Grand Forks became the hardest hit city in the Red River Valley. During the height of the flooding, a major fire also destroyed eleven buildings in the city's downtown area. One of the buildings destroyed by fire was the office of the Grand Forks Herald, the city's daily newspaper. National media attention and a large donation from McDonald's restaurant heiress Joan Kroc helped speed the city's recovery. Several neighborhoods had to be completely demolished to make way for a massive new dike system which, when completed in 2006, will protect the community from future flooding. This land bordering the Red River is now known as The Greenway, and is being developed as a system of parks.

Recent history

Since the flood, growth and new development has taken place throughout the city. Major projects have included the Alerus Centre (concert venue and home of the UND Fighting Sioux football team), the $100+ million Ralph Engelstad Arena (home of the UND Fighting Sioux hockey team) on the UND campus, and a number of new commercial projects on the outskirts of town. The city is currently experiencing steady population growth. A large number of homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings have been constructed recently. Most commercial development has taken place around the Ralph Engelstad Arena and along the 32nd Avenue South commercial corridor.

Current issues the city is facing include the construction of a $50 million Canad Inns hotel and entertainment complex which will be located adjacent to the Alerus Centre, construction of a proposed tribal casino, attempts to rejuvenate the downtown area, and the impact of a realignment at Grand Forks Air Force Base.


Grand Forks is located at 47°54′44″N, 97°3′17″W (47.912326, -97.054860) GR1.

Grand Forks sits on the western bank of the Red River of the North in an area known as the Red River Valley. The term "Forks" refers to the forking of the Red River with the Red Lake River. This junction is located near downtown Grand Forks.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 49.9 km² (19.2 mi²), all land.

Since it is in one of the flattest parts of the world, the city has very few differences in elevation. There are no lakes in or near Grand Forks. The meandering Red River and the English Coulee flow through the community and provide some break in the terrain. The Red River Valley is the result of an ancient glacier carving its way south during the most recent Ice Age. Once the glacier receded, it formed a glacial lake called Lake Agassiz. The ancient beaches can still be seen as rolling hills west of town.


Historic neighborhoods

The Corporate Center in downtown Grand Forks
The Corporate Centre in downtown Grand Forks

Grand Forks has a number of distinct neighborhoods. The area adjacent to the Red River developed first so this is where some of the oldest neighborhoods, including the downtown area, can be found. The area between downtown and the University of North Dakota campus was another early growth area and historic properties can be found here as well.

The downtown area is the oldest part of the city and thus contains many historic buildings. It is the governmental centre of the city and county. It also sees use as a gathering place for large festivals and a weekly farmers' market during the summer months. There have been several attempts to bring back the major retail and office developments that once filled the downtown landscape, but it has been a hard process. There are now far fewer offices, shops, and restaurants in the area than there were before the push to develop the outskirts of the city. Recently, city leaders and developers have announced plans to convert several older buildings into high-end condos and apartments and to construct some new buildings for the same purpose. Bringing new residents to the downtown area is seen as essential for the revitalization of the area.

Located directly south of downtown, the streets of the Near Southside Historic District are lined with classic houses. Reeves Drive used to be the most fashionable address in the city and, to this day, it is still the home of many old mansions exhibiting several unique architectural styles. Also located in this neighbourhood are areas of original granitoid paving, several historic churches (including the unusually styled Art Deco United Lutheran), and the newly-developed Lincoln Drive Park. Lincoln Drive was formerly a low-lying residential neighbourhood prior to the Flood of 1997. After the flood, the homes in the neighborhood were demolished and the area is now a park. The Near Southside neighbourhood was recently granted the "Historic District" designation by the National Register of Historic Places.

University Avenue used to be a country road connecting the downtown area with the University if North Dakota campus which, at that time, was roughly two miles west of the city. Today, the University Avenue area is a middle-class neighborhood filled with older homes built on tree-lined streets. At the center of the neighbourhood sits University Park. In the past, a trolley used to run down the middle of University Avenue bringing students from the downtown area to the remote campus.

Modern neighborhoods

Modern neighborhoods in Grand Forks are less defined and more spread out than their older counterparts. In general, the newer parts of the city are located in the southern and western parts of town.

The 32nd Avenue South corridor has been the commercial centre of the city since the Columbia Mall opened in 1978. Many big box stores, as well as hotels and restaurants, are now located along the avenue. A large strip mall, called the Grand Forks Marketplace, opened in 2001 near the Columbia Mall.

University Village is a new commercial district that was built on formerly vacant lands owned by the University of North Dakota. The centerpiece of the Village is the imposing Ralph Engelstad Arena which is used by the University's Fighting Sioux hockey team. All of the buildings in the Village have been built in a similar style to buildings on the nearby UND campus. The area now includes several restaurants and stores, as well as the University bookstore. A new " Wellness Centre" for UND students has recently opened on the Village's west side.


Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall

As of the census GR2 of 2000, there were 49,321 people, 19,677 households, and 11,058 families residing in the city. The population density was 989.8/km² (2,563.0/mi²). There were 20,838 housing units at an average density of 418.2/km² (1,082.8/mi²).

The racial makeup of the city was 93.35% White, 0.86% African American, 2.75% Native American, 0.96% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.58% from other races, and 1.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.87% of the population. The top 6 ancestry groups in the city are Norwegian (36.4%), German (34.7%), Irish (10.6%), French (6.5%),Polish (6.2%), English (6.1%).

There were 19,677 households out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 22.9% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 18.3% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 102.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,194, and the median income for a family was $47,491. Males had a median income of $30,703 versus $21,573 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,395. About 9.3% of families and 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.6% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

Mayor Michael Brown
Ward 1 Bob Brooks
Ward 2 Mike McNamara
Ward 3 Eliot Glassheim
Ward 4 Hal Gershman
Ward 5 Doug Christensen
Ward 6 Art Bakken
Ward 7 Curt Kreun

Grand Forks uses the mayor-council model of municipal government. The mayor is elected to a four year term and receives a salary of $24,000 per year. The mayor's primary job is to oversee the daily administration of city government and to work directly with department heads to ensure the proper provision of services. The current mayor of Grand Forks is obstetrician Dr. Michael Brown. He was first elected in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004.

The city is divided into seven wards with each ward electing a single city council representative for a four year term. Currently, the council consists of only men. The council meets twice each month as the council proper and twice each month as a committee of the whole. All council meetings are broadcast on a local cable channel.

Council members in even-numbered wards were up for re-election June 13, 2006. They included: Council President Hal Gershman, Gerald Hamerlik, and Dorette Kerian. Incumbent Gershman ran unopposed and retained control of Ward 4, while Mike McNamara (a local radio talk-show host and Marine serving in the Iraq War at the time of the election) took Ward 2 and Art Bakken won Ward 6. Odd-numbered ward council members and the mayor are up for re-election in 2008.

The political climate in Grand Forks, on average, could best be described as being less conservative than the rest of North Dakota. Democratic-leaning neighborhoods include areas adjacent to downtown and the University of North Dakota while Republican-leaning sections can be found in the out-lying, suburban areas. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush captured about 54 percent of the vote - the lowest of any major city in North Dakota. The presence of the University of North Dakota may be one reason why Grand Forks is traditionally less conservative than other places in North Dakota.


The economy of Grand Forks has historically been dependent on the surrounding agricultural lands. However, since the middle part of the 20th century, Grand Forks' economy has become more diversified. Now, government (federal, state, and civic) and the health care industry dominate the employment scene in the city.

The University of North Dakota is the largest employer in the metropolitan area. Nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base employs a large number of civilian workers in addition to its enlisted personnel. Altru Health System is the largest private employer.

Other major employers include manufacturing firms ( LM Glasfiber, Cirrus Design), call centers (, SEI Information Technologies), and food producers ( J. R. Simplot Company and the state-owned North Dakota Mill and Elevator). A substantial number of people are also employed in the city's retail and services sectors.

The city is actively involved in the economic development process, helping existing firms grow and attracting new ones. A portion of sales tax revenues is set aside for this, some of it going into the Grand Forks Growth Fund. Companies can request low-interest loans or grants from this fund provided they meet certain criteria, such as paying a relatively high wage and doing most of their business outside the city's trade region. Cirrus Design and have dealt with the Growth Fund.

The city also contributes to the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a public-private organization that also receives funding from banks and other major businesses. The EDC plays a consulting role for businesses, such as identifying suitable sites for expansion or assembling public funding packages. Its other key role is to vet businesses to see if they're suitable for funding by the Growth Fund.

UND has long been seen by community leaders as an "economic engine" for the city. Besides its regular faculty, it also has business-like components such as the Energy and Environmental Research Centre, which has contracts all over the world. UND hosts a technology incubator called the Centre for Innovation. More recently, the University has been working to commercialize its research. A major thrust in that direction is an effort to build a technology park in the southwestern part of the city, through the affiliated UND Research Foundation. The tech park, as proposed, would house two germ labs and would feature high levels of security, allowing for defense-related research.

Another economic opportunity for the city is the addition of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission to Grand Forks Air Force Base. Economic development officials hope the huge emphasis the Air Force is putting on UAVs will attract new businesses to Grand Forks. The base currently hosts KC-135 Stratotankers, which will gradually be transferred to other bases around the country.

Depending on the relative strength of the Canadian dollar versus its American counterpart, the Greater Grand Forks area may also attract significant numbers of tourist shoppers from Manitoba and especially from Winnipeg (about 140 miles north of Grand Forks). Grand Forks is a popular weekend getaway destination for many Manitobans. This is reflected in the large number of hotels built over the last 20 years near major retail nodes on the south side of Grand Forks.

Notable local companies

  • Alerus Financial - major local financial institution
  • Altru Health System - major local healthcare provider
  • - has local offices and a call centre in Grand Forks
  • Cirrus Design
  • Hugo's - local chain of supermarkets
  • LM Glasfiber - Danish wind turbine company with a factory in Grand Forks
  • Meridian Environmental Technology - national leader in 511 and road weather forecasting services
  • North Dakota Mill and Elevator - largest flour mill in the United States
  • SEI Information Technologies
  • J. R. Simplot Company



Grand Forks Public Schools includes both the school district of Grand Forks and the school district of the Grand Forks Air Force Base. 7,600 students attend schools in the school system. There are twelve elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools. The Grand Forks Public Schools system also operates an alternative high school and an adult education program. Grand Forks Public Schools is governed by a nine member board of elected representatives, separate from the city and county governments. The 2005 budget of the school system was approximately $45.5 million.

There are also several primary schools operating in the community that are not a part of the public schools system. Grand Forks is the home of the state-operated North Dakota School for the Blind. There are two Catholic schools in Grand Forks, both offering classes from kindergarten through 6th grade. The only private high school in the metropolitan area is Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic school, which is in East Grand Forks. There is a non-denominational Christian elementary school operating in East Grand Forks.

Higher education

Clifford Hall on the UND campus
Clifford Hall on the UND campus

Grand Forks is the home of the University of North Dakota (UND), the largest and oldest university in the region. UND has over 13,000 enrolled students and is the home of the only schools of medicine and law in the state. UND is also known for its top-ranked John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

The athletic teams of the University of North Dakota are known as the Fighting Sioux. The men's hockey team is the most popular team at UND. They play in the $100+ million Ralph Engelstad Arena. Most of the facilities that the Fighting Sioux teams use are quite new. These include the city-owned Alerus Centre (football) and the Betty Engelstad Sioux Centre (basketball and volleyball).

Across the river in East Grand Forks is located Northland Community and Technical College, a 2-year school. Northland has been experiencing steady growth in recent years, with the addition of a sister campus in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and increasing distance education programs.


The presence of the University of North Dakota has brought the community several cultural venues and has helped to foster an array of cultural offerings. The North Dakota Museum of Art, located on the UND campus, brings many nationally touring exhibits to Grand Forks as well as the work of many regional artists. In addition to the Museum of Art, UND offers other gallery space for student art. UND also has active Theater Arts and Music departments. Students stage several theatre productions each year at the Burtness Theatre on campus. UND's Chester Fritz Auditorium also brings many music and theatre events to Grand Forks including national touring companies of Broadway musicals.

The Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra has been performing for over ninety years. The Grand Forks Master Chorale was formed in 1983. Both groups stage several productions each year at various locations in the community. The newly formed Grand Cities Children's Choir also performs throughout the year. The North Dakota Ballet Company is headquartered in Grand Forks and often performs at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. The Grand Forks City Band was formed in 1886 and still stages popular shows year round.

The Empire Arts Centre, located in downtown Grand Forks, is home to several cultural events throughout the year. The Empire, an old movie theatre, was restored after the Flood of 1997 and now includes performance space, a large movie screen, a gallery, and space for artists. The Fire Hall Theatre, also located downtown, is used by community members to put on several theatre productions each year. The Crimson Creek Collegiate Players recreate popular musicals at several shows each year. The Summer Performing Arts Company (SPA) is a popular summer arts program for area students. SPA stages one or two major musicals and one or two smaller shows each summer.

Grand Forks is home to several local bands with independent labels which perform fairly often at local bars, the Empire Arts Centre, or at the Town Square in downtown. Many of the bands are in the emo and hardcore punk genres.


The Grand Forks Park District, established in 1905, operates fourteen neighbourhood parks, twenty-eight tennis courts, and a swimming pool. The parks include various features like playgrounds, baseball fields, softball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, and picnic areas. Sertoma Park includes a Japanese garden. The Park District also operates eleven outdoor skating rinks and several indoor ice arenas: Purpur Arena, Eagles Arena, Blueline Club Arena, and Gambucci Arena. The district also owns the Centre Court Fitness Club.

There are several golf courses located in the city. The Park District operates King's Walk Golf Course (18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed, links style course) and Lincoln Golf Course (historic 18-hole course which was recently converted to a smaller 9-hole course). The University of North Dakota operates the 9-hole Ray Richards Golf Course. The 18-hole Grand Forks Country Club is located directly south of the city. There are also golf courses in nearby East Grand Forks, Minnesota and Manvel, North Dakota.

The Greenway is a huge park that runs the length of the Red River in the city. It includes an extensive path system, large festival grounds, ski trails, and wildflower gardens. Grand Forks has a large bike path system. These paths are located in The Greenway, adjacent to major streets, and on the banks of the English Coulee. Two walking/biking bridges that span the Red River are being built.

Some residents of Grand Forks also own cabins along lakes in Minnesota. Maple Lake, Union Lake, and Lake Sarah in Minnesota, along with Golden Lake in North Dakota are all within an hour of driving from Grand Forks.

Sister cities

Grand Forks' sister cities include:

United States Dickinson, North Dakota, USA
Norway Sarpsborg, Norway
Japan Awano, Japan (defunct)
Russia Ishim, Russia (inactive)

Grand Forks has an active sister city program designed to encourage cultural and economic exchanges. In the case of Dickinson, North Dakota, the relationship is also a kind of political alliance.

Grand Forks' first sister city was Ishim in the Soviet Union. The relationship with the Siberian city formally began in 1984 during the Cold War, but progressed slowly due to red tape. In fact, the first in-person exchanges didn't happen until 1990, following glasnost. More exchanges followed despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Sometime in the late 1990s, though, political and economic turmoil in Russia put the relationship in deep freeze from which it has yet to recover.

While the relationship with Ishim faded, Grand Forks found a new sister in Awano, Japan. An informal relationship began in 1994 when the school districts of both cities began exchanging students. The bond strengthened after the 1997 flood devastated Grand Forks. Awano, a city of 10,000, sent $26,000 to help Grand Forks. In 1998, the two formally proclaimed themselves sisters. The most concrete evidence of the warm relationship between the two is a Japanese rock garden in Grand Forks' Sertoma Park and a sculpture of an American bison in an Awano park. They're gifts the sister cities gave one another.

Awano is no longer a sister city, however, because it is no longer a city. The nearby city of Kanuma recently annexed Awano, a smaller city. Kanuma city leaders say they already have a sister city in Australia and can't afford another one. The student exchange is expected to continue, though every other year instead of annually.

Grand Forks' relationship with Dickinson, North Dakota began in 2002, when delegations from each city visited the other. The Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau organized the exchange with its counterpart in Dickinson to showcase tourist attractions and improve cooperation in promoting statewide tourism. There's also a political component. Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown has said he thinks having friends in western North Dakota, which typically has diverging interests from eastern cities, would help at the state legislature.

Sarpsborg, Norway became a sister city in 2005 following several exchanges among leaders from both cities. Located southeast of Oslo, Sarpsborg is a city with a similar sized population to Grand Forks. Mayor Brown has said he values sisterhood with Sarpsborg because his city is home to so many descendants of Norwegian immigrants. The Grand Forks School District has announced plans to teach Norwegian language classes in the high schools though no exchange programs have been announced.

Sites of interest

Arenas and auditoriums

  • Alerus Centre - (1200 South 42nd Street) Recently opened events centre that is the largest arena between Minneapolis and Seattle. Plays host to a variety of events including major concerts, UND's Fighting Sioux football games, and exhibitions.
  • Ralph Engelstad Arena - (UND Campus - "University Village") A $100 million hockey arena that opened in 2001 and now houses the UND Fighting Sioux hockey team. Also hosts major concerts and an annual circus.
  • Chester Fritz Auditorium - (UND Campus - University Avenue and Yale Street) A fine arts centre that features Broadway musicals, concerts, and UND events.
  • Betty Engelstad Sioux Centre - (UND Campus - "University Village" connected to Ralph Engelstad Arena) A sports arena that houses the UND Fighting Sioux volleyball and basketball teams.


  • North Dakota Museum of Art - (UND Campus) Three galleries that house exhibitions of regional, national, and international art. Located in a historic building.
  • Myra Museum and Campbell House - (2405 Belmont Road) A historical complex containing the 1879 Campbell House, a one-room schoolhouse, the original Grand Forks log cabin post office, a carriage house, and a pavilion as well as the Myra Museum of local history.


  • Columbia Mall - (intersection of Columbia Road and 32nd Avenue South) This is Grand Forks's largest shopping centre with about 80 stores. The mall's anchor stores include Macy's, Sears, and J.C. Penney. Dakota Cafe, a new food court, opened in the fall of 2005. A Target store used to be an anchor of the mall, but the retailer moved to a new location down the road in 2001. Columbia Mall is a favorite destination for the steady flow of Canadian visitors to the Grand Forks area.
  • Downtown - Located in the centre of the Greater Grand Forks metropolitan area, downtown offers several unique shops, restaurants, and galleries. The Town Square is located at the corner of South Third Street and DeMers Avenue and is a popular gathering place and the site of several festivals and concerts throughout the year. The Town Square is home to the weekly Farmers Market during the Spring and Summer months and the popular Grand Cities Art Fest which is held each June.
  • Grand Forks Marketplace - (intersection of Interstate 29 and 32nd Avenue South) This large, outdoor shopping centre is the newest mall in the city. It is located just down the road from Columbia Mall. It includes a SuperTarget, Best Buy, Lowe's, Old Navy, Michaels, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gordman's, and several smaller stores. A large Menards home improvement store is located across the street from the Marketplace and a new Kohl's store is under construction in the vicinity of the mall.
  • Grand Cities Mall - (intersection of South Washington Street and 17th Avenue South) Formerly called South Forks Plaza, Grand Forks' oldest mall is home to Kmart, Big Lots, Ace Hardware, Family Dollar, a furniture store, and many smaller stores and a few restaurants. Unlike the chain stores that populate Columbia Mall, the Grand Cities Mall is home to many local, independent stores. Partially because of this, the mall has lost customer traffic over the years and there has been a high turnover rate of stores.
  • Cabela's - (Downtown East Grand Forks) A large hunting and fishing store in the downtown neighbourhood of East Grand Forks. Known for its dioramas and large indoor waterfalls.
  • University Village - (intersection of Columbia Road and Gateway Drive) This is a new development located on the campus of the University of North Dakota. It's anchored by the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Betty Engelstad Sioux Centre. In addition, the area now is home to a Barnes and Noble, a gas station, an upscale restaurant/bar, and a strip mall.


  • Empire Arts Centre - (415 Demers Avenue) A restored 1919 theatre that hosts performances, movies, and other events. Includes a small gallery.
  • Burtness Theatre - (UND Campus - Centennial Drive) Theatre that features several productions by UND students each year.
  • Fire Hall Theatre - (412 2nd Avenue North) A small theatre featuring local productions.


Grand Forks International Airport (GFK, KGFK) is served by Northwest Airlines with several daily round trips to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airport is a major distribution centre for FedEx, which conducts flights daily with Boeing 727 and Cessna Caravan aircraft (the latter of which transport packages to outlying areas of the state). The airport is also one of the busiest airports in the country, due mainly to the presence of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences of the University of North Dakota.

The BNSF Railway runs track in several directions in and around the city. Amtrak passenger service on the Empire Builder line heads westbound daily at 5:00 am and eastbound daily at midnight.

Three federal highways pass through Grand Forks: U.S. Highway 2, Interstate 29, and U.S. Highway 81. U.S. Highway 2 runs east to west through the northern part of town and is a four lane highway. In the city limits, the highway is called Gateway Drive. The highway is the primary connection between Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Air Force Base, Grand Forks International Airport, and nearby Crookston, Minnesota. Its business route, Demers Avenue, runs through the downtown areas of both Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Interstate 29 runs north to south along the western part of the city, officially multiplexed with U.S. Highway 81 in the Grand Forks area. The U.S. Highway 81 business route, Washington Street, runs through many of the city's major commercial districts.

The city maintains a bus system called Cities Area Transit (or CAT). The system has operated since 1926 when it was introduced to replace an earlier trolley system (in homage to which, the city now operates a bus that looks like a trolley). There are currently eleven bus routes including night service and service in the community of East Grand Forks. The Metro Area Transit Centre is located downtown on Kittson Avenue. It is essentially the "depot" and main connecting point of the system. CAT is considered to be the best fixed-route public transit service in the state of North Dakota, and was used as a model when Bismarck-Mandan launched a "Capital Area Transit" service in 2004. Grand Forks is served by two taxi companies: Grand Forks Taxi and Nodak Radio Cab Company.

The older sections of Grand Forks are structured in the classic grid street system. In Grand Forks, roads that run from north to south are traditionally called "streets" and roads that run from east to west are traditionally called "avenues." Streets are numbered in blocks west of the Red River. Avenues are numbered in blocks north or south of Demers Avenue (the city's historic dividing route adjacent to the rail yards).

Notable residents and associated people

  • Lynn Anderson - country music artist
  • Brooks Bollinger - Minnesota Vikings football quarterback
  • Ronald Davies - federal judge, ordered the integration of Little Rock Central High School
  • Ralph Engelstad - Las Vegas casino owner, philanthropist
  • Phil Jackson - NBA basketball coach
  • Nicole Linkletter - winner of reality show America's Next Top Model fifth season
  • Roger Maris - baseball player
  • Pat Owens - Grand Forks mayor during the 1997 flood
  • James Rosenquist - artist
  • Dru Sjodin - murder and rape victim
  • Era Bell Thompson - former editor of Ebony magazine

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