20 July, 2019

Best Places to Visit in Rapid City #SouthDakotatrip

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Hope you have read my earlier post on how to plan a South Dakota Family trip with kids. That post will help you to finalize on places to visit and decide on the itinerary. This post explains the detailed itinerary of Day 1 of our South Dakota trip which includes the best places to visit in Rapid City.

Rapid City is the second-most populous city in South Dakota. I haven't seen such a city centered around multiple tourist places before. There are many places to engage tourists of all ages. Keeping our kids in mind, we planned to visit Dinosaur Park and Story Book Island first. Since we took accommodation in Rapid city, all the places are within half an hour distance from us.

To Reach Rapid City:

Dinosaur Park which is on the beautiful Skyline drive has many towering Life-size dinosaurs. There is no entry fee to the park and it has around 6 dinosaur sculptures as far as I remember. Kids will love this attraction for sure. 

The Park also has a gift shop and eatery on the overview deck. Kids can also climb on the dinosaurs and read some information about each type of Dinosaur.

Dinosaur Park

Story Book Island is a beautiful Children's park with multiple themes set up as per Children's stories. This is also a free attraction and kids will enjoy for sure. They can see all models of animals like Bears and bunnies, different vehicles, ships, fountains, castle, carousel rides and what not! 

Story Book Island - Humpty Dumpty Rhyme

Story Book Island

Our next stop was to Chapel in the Hills. This Chapel is the exact replica of chapel - The Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway built-in 1969. The architecture is great and every small detail of the wooden carving is amazing. This is also a free attraction open to the public which is worth a visit. There is a small gift shop called 'Stabbur', a museum and a meditation trail / Prayer walk.

Custer State Park is one of the largest national parks in the USA with almost 2 million visitors enjoying the park every year. There are multiple Campgrounds and Resorts inside the park. This park is famous for 3 scenic drives - The Needles Highway, Iron mountain road and Wildlife loop. The entry is $15 per vehicle.

Tunnel in Custer State Park
Needle-like Rock Formations

The Needles Highway is a 14-mile drive through the forest where we can spot Needle-like granite formations, narrow tunnels, and fantastic views. The drive will take around an hour and Sylvan Lake trail at the end of the highway is a must-visit. Sylvan Lake is beautifully surrounded by mountains with rocks in the middle. 

Sylvan Lake

Iron Mountain Road is a winding road of 18-miles with beautiful Black Hills scenery, many pigtail bridges, and tunnels. I enjoyed the drive through pig-tail bridges as I haven't seen these kinds of bridges before. One part of the road is on very high altitude and we had to drive through thick fog. The experience was frightening yet wonderful.

We couldn't cover Wild-life loop but If you want to watch Buffalos, Bighorn sheep, Mountain goats, Elk, Coyotes etc., take this drive for sure. It is an 18-mile drive which might take 1 hr. 

These 3 scenic drives together are called 'Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway'.  The hike to Mount Coolidge Fire tower is fantastic to watch Sunrise. You can try Bison Burger in one of the lodges and paddle at one of the four lakes in the park. 

Our last stop for the day is the famous Mt. Rushmore Memorial. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the 4 United States Presidents faces with the help of 400 workers from 1927 to 1941, which is famous now with more than 3 million visitors visiting each year. Take a picture at Borglum View terrace which gives a good view of the Memorial, then walk the Presidential trail and visit the Sculptor's studio. We have also tasted the Thomas Jefferson's favorite Ice cream flavor. 

Mt Rushmore Memorial

Presidential Trail takes some time when walking with kids on stairs but I recommend it to have a close look at each President's face - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

There is no entry fee to the Mt.Rushmore memorial but there is a parking fee of $10 per vehicle.  

A few other places which we couldn't cover in Rapid City and I suggest you visit are - Cosmos Mystery Area, Reptile Gardens, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave, and Mt. Rushmore Cave

So, You see? There is a lot to visit in and around Rapid City. 

That's our Day 1 Itinerary. The next day we covered Spearfish Canyon, Badlands National park and Wall Drug store.

The Day 2 and Day 3 travelogues are below:

Day 2 - Spearfish Canyon and Badlands national park

Day 3 - Crazy horse memorial and Carhenge, Nebraska 

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Until next time,


  1. I would like to visit a place such as Story Island. Looks like a fun place for children.I also loved the photo of the narrow tunnel on the road.

  2. So much to cover in South Dakota. Story Island looks like a must-visit for kids. This is a very detailed post, Mahathi.

  3. I would like to visit this place some day. I loved the Humpty Dumpty wall.

  4. Anonymous2:01 AM

    Wow this is such a wonderful place to visit. Hopefully you can review more places.


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