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'.
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).
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
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
They change the Maze every year. The average time to work your way through the Maze is about 45 minutes to an hour. I was at 45 minutes, but had to stop and help out a few others along the way... No I did not cheat. They have people posted to watch people who are having trouble. The only time I talked to one was one time when I stopped, because I realized I was going the wrong way to find the end. She said I was right and that I needed to head back to the red tower.
There are four towers and four bridges you have to find to work your way through the maze. You do have to back track at times. At each of the towers there is a stamp to put on your card. They stamp the card before you start and when you finish. If you like puzzles at all you will like this one.
They do have other activities also.
Maze $8.29 Adults over 60 years and children under 6 years are free (Maze only)
Maze Mountain $6.00
Bank Shot Basketball $4.00
Water Wars $4.00
Batting Cage $2.00
- Family Travel
Rushmore Black Hills Gold
Here is a factory that produces gold and you can get the jewelry at a much lower cost. The tours are free.
Regretfully the gold they produce no longer comes from the Black Hills but from other sites. What designates it to be Black Hills gold is that the jewelry must be produced in the Black Hills and contain the orange and green leaves in the design. The story behind this is in the tour.
Bear Country USA
This is a must see. It is best on a cooler day if possible, more bears will be out. Most of this is done from inside you vehicle. You drive through the other animals before getting to the bears. There are wolves, rams, dear, and others. Then through the adorable black bears. Just don't open the window!
Then there are areas with babies. This area you walk through. See the revenge of the wolf pups picture. Someone dropped their camera in the kennel and the pup was chewing it up. Say Cheese!?!?!
Warning - road rage can happen here. There was a wait to get to the bears and we waited our turn. Then all of a sudden there were jerks who were passing me as I got close!!! I don't think so!!! I started moving to the center of the road and ending the passing. NO ONE CUTS WITH ME!
- Family Travel
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