Rapid City Journals

Rapid City: Black Hills-Badlands Road Trip

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A travel journal to Rapid City by Jim Rosenberg

Ramada Inn of the Black Hills Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota More Photos
Quote: A generation ago, there seemed to be a lot more Wall Drug and Reptile Gardens stickers plastered on family vehicles and campers. But these timeless attractions still make a great family road trip in the West. (Journal Under Construction -- Please return).

Rapid City: Black Hills-Badlands Road Trip

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Overview

Quote:
The Badland, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug are 'The Big 4' on the destination list, but many added attractions from the education to the bizarre are available to fill a number of days. This is also a fabulous place to enjoy some of the most beautiful drives available anywhere. Call me old-fashioned, but after at least a dozen voyages through this mixture of rugged, western landscape punctuated by the occasional intrusion of tacky glitz, I still love this little near-west escape. It's an easy drive on divided highways, making it simply to enjoy a truly dramatic change of scenery from nearly anywhere in the Midwest.Quick Tips: Don't kid yourself: the stuff everyone goes to see is...Read More

Ramada Inn of the Black Hills

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Hotel | "Ramada Inn"

Ramada Inn of the Black Hills Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
Rates vary widely in Rapid City between high and low season. During the summer vacation months, it would be risky business not to have a reservation, while the off-season finds very low rates in effect for a city that is essentially over-built for the slow months. Either way, we like the Ramada, particularly with kids. It is a full service hotel with indoor and outdoor pools, along with my personal favorite: an indoor water slide of approximately 145 feet in length that keeps us going until we're too tired to climb up anymore.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Ramada Inn of the Black Hills
1721 LACROSSEE ST
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
605 342-1300

Al's Oasis

Restaurant

Quote:
Crossing the wide Missouri River at Chamberlain, the shortgrass prairie landscape begins to take on that 'Dances with Wolves' buffalo country look, with sweeping plains and vistas and naked, sculpted draws. An excellent lunch stop is Al's Oasis, just on the western side of the Big Mo. The rustic dining room features a hearty menu and plenty of western-style adornments on the wall to set the scene. Get a buffalo burger to get into the spirit of things and be sure to save room for the outstanding, home-made pie. Then pick up one of the free guide books, which will provide you with maps, coupons and all kinds of ideas about things to do and see in the Badlands/Black Hills region. You're almost ther...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Al's Oasis
I-90 Exit 260
Rapid City, South Dakota 57365
(605) 234-6054

Firehouse Brewing Company

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Restaurant

Quote:
Located in downtown Rapid City, the Firehouse features an unusual menu and a selection of excellent beers that are brewed on premises in an affectionate re-used of the historic old firehouse. This is a really wonderful and entertaining choice for dining and you may also find live music on hand -- but you can check that in advance, if it's important to you. We especially enjoyed the upper deck dining area with a great view of the activity below and the proprietor proudly provided me with a tour of his micro-brewing process. Truly a special place.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Firehouse Brewing Company
610 Main Street
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
(605) 348-1915

Badlands National Park

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Attraction

Badlands National Park Photo, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Quote:
The eastern end of the Badlands Loop begins at Kadoka and winds some 40 miles through the Badlands National Park, ending at Wall. It's a truly remarkable excursion through this rugged and impressive South Dakota landmark, with fabulous views through much of the loop. In addition to the sharply-profiled 'mountains' that are essentially made of multi-colored mud, there's a good opportunity to see some wildlife. The Ranch Store, a little tourist trap just before the park's main entrance, features a small, but very active prairie dog town. Antelope are common on the last third of the drive, toward Wall.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Badlands National Park
25216 Ben Reifel Road
Badlands National Park, South Dakota 57750
(605) 433-5361

Wall Drug

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Attraction

Wall Drug Photo, Wall, South Dakota
Quote:
The end of the Badlands loop is the beginning of a new adventure. Immortalized by hundreds of billboards and millions of bumper stickers, Wall Drug consumes a city block in downtown Wall. It IS a 'must' stop and quite frankly, I've never been able to drive past the place. (On one visit, I even had the privilege of having breakfast with Bill Hustead, who moved to Wall as a child and was on hand for the genesis of Wall Drug, when the business was established by his parents. He was a fine gentleman). Wall Drug is organized as a collection of specialty shops that are knit together into a unique, western-style mall. But a person never gets that 'mall' feeling at Wall Drug; it's just too unique and ec...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Wall Drug
510 Main Street
Wall, South Dakota 57790
(605) 279-2175

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Attraction | "Mount Rushmore"

Mount Rushmore National Memorial Photo, Keystone, South Dakota
Quote:
Mount Rushmore is about a 20-minute drive from Rapid City through the hills, just outside of Keystone, a little collection of tourist traps and places to eat. The monument area recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation to its visitor facilities, including the construction of a rather substantial parking ramp that is convenient, but also appears somewhat out of place in teh hills. Parking up close to the monument costs $5, but it can be a long walk if you choose to park in one of the no-fee areas. Mount Rushmore itself remains an impressive work, but it would be hard to justify spending a LONG time there, since once you've seen it, you've seen it.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
13000 Highway 244
Keystone, South Dakota 57751
(605) 574-3171

Custer State Park

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Attraction

Quote:
Just south of Mount Rushmore National Monument is Custer State Park, home of the Black Hills Playhouse. This is an absolutely beautiful drive through the hills, even if you never get out of your car. Wildlife abounds, including a very substantial buffalo herd for which a round-up is held each fall. Just south of the park is Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument is immediately west. Immediately north of Custer is the Crazy Horse Monument, an aggressive mountain sculpting project a la Mount Rushmore which continues to take a little more shape every year. As with much of the Black Hills, one thing is constantly leading to another -- so just simply put Custer State Pa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Custer State Park
13329 US Hwy 16A
Custer 57730
(605) 255-4772

Historic Deadwood

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Attraction

Historic Deadwood Photo, Rapid City, South Dakota
Quote:
Besides Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills are filled with natural and man-made attractions. One of the places I most enjoyed in the past, but feel has been somewhat diminished by 'progress' is Deadwood. The town has a colorful history of gunslingers and ladies of the evening and it still has some of that Wild West charm. The chair where Wild Bill Hickock was sitting when he was gunned down holding a card hand of aces and eights is reverently displayed in a glass case above the door of Saloon No. 10. Sadly, Deadwood went to legalized casino gambling in the 1980s. Following that move, it became little more than a collection of undersized, low-odds casinos. On busy days, you'll have to park outs...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Historic Deadwood
Black Hills Area
Rapid City, South Dakota 57732

Devils Tower National Monument

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Attraction | "Devil's Tower"

Quote:
If you get an afternoon with plenty of daylight remaining, take a quick drive over to Sundance, Wyoming and Devil's Tower. This impressive, pre-historic lave column is one of several in the immediate vicinity and it's an unusual natural feature that's well worth seeing. Devil's Tower was our country's first National Monument. On many days, you will find climbers working up the sides of the column -- bring binoculars. Eagles frequently drift in the air currents around the tower and their is a lively prairie dog town along the entrance road to the base of the tower. While it's a little off the beaten track, it is not a long drive to see such a large and unique geologic wonder.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Devils Tower National Monument

Black Hills

Corn Palace

Attraction | "The Corn Palace"

Corn Palace Photo, Mitchell, South Dakota
Quote:
Mitchell, South Dakota's claim to fame is the Corn Palace, you will will learn from the many billboards along with way. Curious travelers are forced to drive all the way through town to see this oddball edifice. The aging civic auditorium features multi-colored corn cob mosaics on its exterior walls, accented with brown and yellow onion-shaped minarets that make it look like some kind of prairie parody of the Kremlin. Tours are available. That it is unique and a tremendous traffic draw is undeniable. You should definitely see it once, just so you can leave with the same question that travelers have wrestled with for decades: 'Why?'

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 5, 2000

Corn Palace
612 North Main Street
Mitchell, South Dakota 57301
(605) 996-6223

Quote:
Considered holy land by Native Americans and immortalized by western movies, the rugged beauty and natural wonders of the Black Hills region have been a tourist draw for generations. It is a land that harkens back to the days of western expansion, gold prospectors, gamblers, covered wagons, cowpokes on horseback and altercations with the Natives who had hunted and made their lives in the region for centuries. While it has certainly undergone dramatic change and hosts its share of tacky tourist traps and out-of-place attractions at times, Rapids City and the Black Hills have a distinctive character that continue to make this a great destination for people with a wide variety of interests. The ammeni...Read More