Lifesize bronze statues of most Presidents positions on street corners in downtown. President's Park is the brainchild of artist David Adickes, who visited Mount Rushmore in the early Nineties, and it occurred to him that it was a pity that one couldn't get up close and personal with the heads of States. So he decided to do something about it. He used polystyrene and plaster to create molds in his studio in Texas. White Portland cement was then poured into the hollow 18 ton molds. The heads were then trucked the 1,150 miles from Houston to South Dakota. All 42 were completed in less than five years.
The busts are smaller than those at Mount Rushmore (20ft tall rather than 60ft). But does that matter when you can get within touching distance of not only the Rushmorean quartet, but 38 others including Carter, Ford, Clinton and both Bushes? President's Park's 42 heads – each with an information board – have been moved since to a 20-acre ponderosa pine-clad hillside.
The presidential facts were informative. There are picnic areas and a snack bar – and mountain bikes can be rented at the park's visitor center for the seven-mile downhill trail to Deadwood. President's Park will continue to welcome new presidents even though Adickes is now in his eighties.
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Stan Kireke Chapel
"How did it come about that there is a stave church in the Black Hills of South Dakota, thousands of miles from the land where this type of architecture and construction originated? It is the result of a dream of one man and the generous support of another...
In the 1960's, the originator and preacher of the Lutheran Vespers radio hour, Dr. Harry R. Gregerson, was looking to expand the scope of his popular radio ministry. As his dream took shape, Dr. Gregerson realized there was the perfect location for his facility right in his own state of South Dakota: the Black Hills. The Black Hills are a vacation destination for people from all over the world. The Chapel was to draw people to it and the Hills was the perfect setting to accomplish this goal.Rev. Gregerson
It was the Rev. Conrad Thompson who suggested they build a Stave Church (Stavkirke). Rev. Thompson had spent time in Norway and was familiar with Stave Churches. After careful consideration it was decided to build a Norwegian church on the edge of South Dakota. The chapel is an exact replica of the famous Borgund stavkirke, of Laerdal, Norway. The Borgund stavkirke was built around the year 1150 and is considered the most completely preserved stave church still standing in Norway.
The Norwegian Department of Antiquities graciously provided a set of blueprints of the Borgund church to be used in the construction of the Chapel in the Hills. All the general construction was done by a local construction company and other contractors. The woodcarvings are the result of a combined effort by Mr. Erik Fridstrom, one of Norway's best woodcarvers, and a local rapid City resident, Mr. Helge Christiansen. Also, to serve as a visitor center and offices for Lutheran Vespers, an authentic grass-roofed "stabbur," or store house, was built in Norway, shipped to Rapid City, and reassembled on the grounds. In addition to the chapel and stabbur, two residences were constructed on the grounds, a parsonage and care Dedication Plaquetaker's cabin.
Financing for the Chapel came from a generous donation by a local banker, Arndt E. Dahl. Mr. Dahl's parents were Norwegian immigrants and his father was a Lutheran pastor in the Dakotas. Mr. Dahl wanted to build a memorial to his parents and support Lutheran Vespers.
The Chapel in the Hills was dedicated on July 6, 1969, and it served as the home of Lutheran Vespers until 1975 whem the radio program was moved to Minneapolis home of the American Lutheran Church at the time. At that time a non-profit corporation took over operation of the Chapel in the Hills and operates it to this day.
A number of Pastors were called to the Chapel and a resident Pastor served the Chapel until 2004. At that time it was decided to hire a manager and use local Pastors serving Lutheran churches in the Rapid City area to preside over the Vesper services and weddings. Today the Chapel sees 20,000 to 25,000 visitors a year and hosts over 100 weddings each year along with renewal of vows, baptisms, and memorial services."
The Borgund Stavkirke is believed to have been built about 1150 AD outside of what is now Lærdal, Norway at the end of the longest fjord (Sogn fjord) in the country. It is one of the oldest and best preserved Stavkirkes in Norway.
Built by the same people that built Viking longboats many of the construction techniques are similar. Norway has a long history of wood construction, probably due to large forests and rough terrain. It was one of a few countries that refused to build their early churches out of stone and instead chose wood to build places of worship.
The stave churches were built of a special type of fir called "malmfuru," (no longer available) which was very hard, with great size and straight trunks. The closest approximation to this favored fir in North America is the Douglas fir from the Pacific Northwest. It is of Douglas fir the Chapel in the Hills is constructed.
Although simple in appearance the techniques used to build the church are intricate and a marvel of engineering. The name Stavkirke comes from the use of staves (the large pillers) used to support the church structure. The church was built on a foundation of flat stones used to elevate the foundation beams from the ground and moisture. The walls were made from vertical planks topped with four more beams to support the roof.
The first churches would have had simple peaked roofs.The typical stave church became taller and taller, with a series of roofs, each one offset and becoming smaller as the church reached toward the sky. To support all this, an intricate system of beams and additional staves became necessary. In addition to the main body of the church, very often there was built a covered passageway, or "ambulatory," entirely around the outside of the structure. This provided additional protection to the foundation from the harsh weather found in the region.
The only metal used was on the ornate door furnishings and locks. Instead of nails, they used wooden dowel pins. This may very well be one of the reasons why some stave churches have stood for over eight hundred years. The wooden dowels allow the building to expand and contract with the changes in temperature and humidity, instead of being rigidly held in place with iron hardware.
Another characteristic of the stave church is the woodcarving which abounds in much Chapel Portal of the architecture of Norway. Woodcarving was a prominent part of building traditions before churches were built. The vikings brought their woodcarving skills along with their construction techniques to the building of the Stav Churches. As more and more stave churches were built and dedicated to the worship of God, a rich symbolism grew up, with elaborate explanations of the spiritual meaning of the various carvings and parts of the building."
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
Black Hills Area
There is so much to do in the Black Hills area that it is easy to overlook Rapid City (as I did). Use the town as a base for seeing: Badlands National Park; Wind Cave National Park; Mount Rushmore National Monument; Jewel Cave National Monument; Custer State Park; and maybe the nearby towns of Sturgis and Deadwood (although Sturgis is also a nice place to stay). I have since remedied this by spending some time in Rapid City in June 2015. So much to add.
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
City of Presidents
Rapid City is called the City of Presidents due to the statue and likeness of every US president from George Washington to Obama. The project was begun in 2000 with each statue being independently funded.
Throughout the Historic Downtown area, these statues can be found on every street corner, complete with the years of their presidency.
Located on the grounds of the South Dakota School of Mining and Geology, this small museum has an excellent collection of fossils, rocks and minerals. If your into Paleontology like I am, this free museum, on the 3rd floor of a building, is a must. There are dinosaur fossils and those of ancient mammals that once roamed the land. Highly recommended.
- Museum Visits
The world famous Wall Drug was founded way back in 1931 and has remained in the same family ever since. The establishment really began the rapid climb to fame during the war years when free iced water was given to travelers.
Today, it has become something of a major tourist destination with a café, an ice cream fountain, numerous shops and a mini mall. There are also galleries with historic photographs, a chapel and wooden effigies representing real-life western heroes. (See Photo). Wall Drug is located in the small town of the same name, in the heart of South Dakotas Prairies.
Built in 1905, this is one of the last remaining pioneer sod houses built on the great plains during the late 19th and early 20th century. You can venture inside and look around and see how these people lived over 100 years ago. There is also a root cellar and a barn with live animals. A small entrance fee is charged at the entrance.
Badlands National Park
Another popular daytrip is to visit Badlands National Park, which is situated about 45-60 minutes east. These multicolored bluffs were once part of an inland sea and later, was the grazing ground for a wide array of prehistoric mammals. The main road through the park has numerous lookouts and one can also visit the visitor center. There, you can see a film, look at exhibits complete with fossils and learn the history of the region.
Custer State Park
A popular day trip is to drive to Custer State Park, near the town of Custer, south of Rapid City. The attraction here is the nearby Needles Highway and the Wildlife Loop. On the latter, one can see Buffalo, Pronghorn Antelope, wild burros and occasionally, Elk, deer and Bighorn Sheep.
There are camp grounds, cabins and lodges for those who wish to overnight.
The Needles Highway gets its name from the formations carved here over the millennia. One passes through a series of scenic tunnels and overlooks in the process. Views of Mount Rushmore area possible as well from a number of overlooks.
Alex Johnson Hotel
This historic hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Rapid City. You can visit the lobby and go to one of the shops. The hotel itself was founded in 1927 by Alex Johnson, the Vice president of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The hotel is amongst Americas Historic Hotels and is also on the register of Historic Buildings.
For those interested in the paranormal, the hotel is reputed to be haunted with 2 rooms on the 8th floor to be amongst the most active.
And of course, you can opt to stay here. See website for rates.
The Journey Museum
This great museum is actually 4 in one. The geology and prehistory, the American Indians, the story of the west and the settlers who emigrated here and finally modern history. Interspersed with wonderful exhibits, the museum also has many interactive areas designed to enrich the visit for children. There is a short film detailing the history of the Black Hills and a fully stocked book and gift shop. Gardens featuring regional flowers are to be seen around the grounds. Outside, in front of the museum building is the original cabin built by one of the early settlers.
The museum is easily reached by either local bus or trolley. More on this under Transportation.
Admission to the museum is about $12.00.
- Museum Visits
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
This famous monument created by Gutzon Borglum has become the icon of the Black Hills. Between 1927 and 1941 was carved on a mountain and depicts 4 key Presidents in US history.
They are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
On the grounds are a museum telling the story with films and exhibitions, the workshop, a cafeteria and a large book and gift shop. There is also a ice cream shop. For those willing, there is a trail that skirts the base of the mountain.
Though admission is free, parking isn't. The park and memorial is very popular, so be prepared for crowds.
- Historical Travel
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum
Free air force museum with a lot of planes.
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is open 7 days a week from March to the end of December. The museum currently operates from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It features a large airpark with aircraft static displays, exhibits inside the hangars and a first-class gift shop managed by the Ellsworth Heritage Foundation.
In addition to a number of other exhibits, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum currently features:
- 25 aircraft ranging from World War II bombers and transport aircraft to the contemporary B-1B Lancer
- 4 different missiles, including a Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
- The South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame
- A Missile Procedures Trainer Exhibit
- An F-106 interactive aircraft cockpit
- A B-1B Cockpit and Offensive/Defensive System Operators Simulator
Admission is always free to the museum and its airpark. The bus tours of Ellsworth AFB, to include a stop at a Cold War era missile silo, are $7 for adults and $4 for children. A special group rate is available for large groups consisting of 10 or more people but should be reserved in advance by calling the gift shop at 605-385-5189. Please bring a driver's license or passport if you wish to take the bus tour. This is for security reasons.
The museum is located at 2890 Davis Drive immediately adjacent to the main gate of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. The museum is outside of the installation, so special access or identifications are not required.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Go to a pow wow
If you want to get a feel of the people and their spirituality, go and take part in a pow wow. They will allow you to dance with them. Feel the beat of the Earth in the power of their drums and hear the chants of their ancestors.
It's an awesome experience.
Do not take photos of anyone or anything without permission from someone. DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL while you're there.
Show respect to the people and use the greeting 'Hau'.
Cosmos Mystery Area
This was interesting and unusual. There are freaks of nature and gravity happening here. They help it out with how things are built. Until you see this it is hard to imagine. I wish I had taken a level with me! I did enjoy it, but I thought it was over priced. The tour only lasted about 20 minutes on the outside and costs $9.50 per person. That was a bit steep for the whole thing.
- Family Travel