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Trip Report MN Family Hits Black Hills and Beyond

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Minnesota-South Dakota-Wyoming

Our MN family of four (6 & 9 yos) hit the Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Rapids City and Badlands in early June of 2014. Each day I will give advice on where to find coffee.

Heading west we made a quick visit to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, which was better than I expected, but not more than an hour needed. Inside is a big convention room with trinkets for sale. They were in process of decorating the outside but still saw impressive maize.

Wall Drug stop. I didn’t realize the family history that’s filled inside. Nice stop, but it was so chilly we bribed the kids to leave.

Stopped in New Underwood to snap a few pics for my Mother who taught there in the 60’s. We’re beginning to notice casinos everywhere.

We arrived early evening at picturesque VRBO near Custer. Impressive newly built house and the kids had 23 acres to explore and a tire swing. The owners went above and beyond…even brining us cake the first night.

DAY 2
Coffee & smoothies in Custer at Espresso & More on way to Mt. Rushmore. There was so much fog we couldn’t see the presidents. Sad, but we returned (you purchase an $11 pass that’s good for one year).

Two miles away is the quaint town of Keystone. Lunch at Grizzly Creek which has above average menu and perfect location in the middle of action and next to alpine slide.

In the old part of town (east of the main drag) we visited Big Thunder Gold Mine. We took the tour into the mine and the kids were very intrigued. My claustrophobia kicked in so I wasn’t as jovial, but enjoyed learning. We panned for gold and our tour guide helped so we produced nice specimens.

We walked the cute main street of Keystone and had ice cream cones, even though it was 54 degrees. A very tall cowboy was in the middle of the street cracking his whip at cars. It was quite the sight. It got everyone’s attention as he mocked cars and passersby. Then someone on megaphone announced the western comedy show would be beginning soon at the Red Garter Saloon. On a whim, we went and LOVED it. The stars were famous from bit parts in movies, comedy shows (tall guy opens for Big & Rich), and have sold music. It was a variety show, but also told a story of how Buffalo Bill died.

We drove south, winding through Iron Mountain Road. Would have been very scenic if it wasn’t so foggy. Also saw the beginning of 100 buffalo crossing a street. Neat to be so close. Stopped at interesting Peter Norbeck Visitor Center to see stuffed wildlife, buy a postcard and chat with the park ranger.

Dinner at the popular Black Hills Burger & Bun in Custer. As we’re awaiting a table the staff had to hang the closed sign as they ran out of homemade buns. When we were ordering the cook ran out of beef. So we all tried buffalo burgers for the first time and they weren’t gamey at all. Fun to try new things.

Day 3
Starbucks in Legion Lake Lodge then off to Wildlife Loop within Custer SP. Highlight was feeding the burrows the veggies from our cooler. A lot of buffalo hiding from rain.

Hill City - Fun atmosphere at recommended, Desperados Cowboy Restaurant.

Teddy Bear Town in Hill City was on our agenda as my daughter brought a bear to donate and received a certificate to be a part of the Guinness Book of World Records for largest collection of bears. This collection has it all and brings back memories of bears gone by. It’s free and worth a quick stop.

It was raining, so we drove back to the beloved Keystone. The National Presidential Wax Museum was informative and a different type of entertainment. I was delighted the kids were so into it. Went back to Mt Rushmore and we saw the presidents!

Day 4
Our first clear and sunny day! Coffee again at Espresso & More. Took Needles Highway north and stopped a lot for glorious views. Kids climbed rocks at Sylvan Lake. Lunch in Custer at Baker’s Bakery and Café which has excellent food.

Checked into Blue Bell Lodge at Custer SP, a beautiful new cabin with all the comforts and a fire pit. We then gathered for the Hayride and Chuckwagon. What a terrific experience. Kowboy Keith got everyone involved on the scenic ride through Custer SP with his singing and storytelling. **We saw a South Dakota tourism commercial last night and Kowboy Keith appeared. We all hooted.** The cookout was enormous and such fun to have all three wagons, plus the jeep tours meet up in the hills of Custer for a cowboy dinner. An experience we’ll never forget.

Day 5
Back to Baker’s Bakery and Café for breakfast and headed to Wyoming through construction. Devil’s Tower was remarkable and fun to sit and gaze. The prairie dog town nearby was neat to watch too. Gift shops and then made our way to Sundance. We were tired by this time and tossed the itinerary, got a snack at Subway and moved closer to the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. The canyon was neat and we stopped at two water falls, but again, so tired, we pressed on without vigor. Kids were enthused to have a pool at Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel which was great for kids and parents as there’s a large casino connected to hotel and restaurant where kids eat free (it’s a Holiday Inn in disguise).

Day 6
Walked Deadwood main street to soak up town and visited the old and new Saloon #10. Ate at recommended Lee Street Station Café. The very friendly host and server is the cook which makes for an unusual setting. Fun to people watch, but our food was mediocre.

Walked Sturgis for fun.

Rapids City – Free Dinosaur Park off Skyline Dr. Great for kids to climb, but a lot of steps. Free Storybook Island was surprising how large and detailed it is. Try it!

Misreading notes to enter Badlands, turned off on Sage Creek Rd before the Badlands Park entrance. We thought we’d have to turn back but Sage Creek Rd finally turned south and we saw an amazing prairie dog village. Eventually saw the other Sage Creek Rd when we officially entered Badlands NP. It was amazing to see rock formations and new wildlife, a porcupine.

Checked into new cabin at Cedar Pass Lodge and ate at Wagon Wheel Café in Interior. A total bar, but fun to see the locals. Back to Badlands for inspiring sunset and then went to the Cedar Pass Amphitheater for the evening program. It was a clear evening sky and almost a full moon, such a terrific end to our day. The park ranger gave a talk on grasslands. I didn’t think it’d be that interesting, but it was.

Our final day we hiked Badlands on way out, north and headed for Minnesota. A marvelous trip indeed!

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