South Dakota Itinerary Review Please :)

Old May 11th, 2022, 01:42 PM
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South Dakota Itinerary Review Please :)

Hi there - Everyone here is always so helpful ( even helped me pick my summer vacation destination this year! ). I would love if anyone familiar with the SD area could take a peek at my itinerary and give me some feedback.

We have three kids who will be 16, 13, and 7. They don't LOVE to hike long distances but are OK for short ones. They love to do NEW things and we all really enjoy tours where we can learn something about history/science/animals, etc.
Our airbnb is in Custer. We are going for one week at the end of June. We are flying in and picking up our rental car from Black Hills Car Rental, as someone recommended here. It is outside of the airport.

We have family in the area and we will see them the first night. After that we are flexible but definitely want to have activities every day. We don't have to do these activities in the order I listed, we could make changes based on weather.
I appreciate any advice!!
DAY 1 - ARRIVE early afternoon - have dinner with family.

DAY 2 -
Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse

Maybe: Horseback riding Custer - Rockiní R Trail Rides

DAY 3 -
Drive to devilís tower - is this worth it? I think it seems cool, but we haven't even seen the movie. It will be our whole day. If we go, we are planning to stop in deadwood on the way and get one of those funny/cheesy western family photos. my kids will love that.

Maybes for this day: Spearfish Canyon. Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls Nature Area.

See a mock shoot out on the way back. at 2, 4, or 6pm.

Pick up western family photo on way back from devil's tower.

DAY 4 -

Needles Highway / Sylvan Lake,

Wildlife loop - begging burros - I have a note that we need to do this EARLY IN THE DAY to the animals?

Maybes for this afternoon:
hot springs/mammoth dig sites

Adventure Rentals Off-Road adventure Is this a good activity? Is this a good idea with a 7 year old? It seems unique and fun and my 16 year old son wants to do it, but really have no idea!!

Day 5 -

Drive through badlands
visit wall drug.

Tour at Minuteman Missile Site? I read this was very good, but it seems some conflicting info online about whether they are open during renovation?

I think this will be a full day, but correct me if I'm wrong.

DAY 6 -



Keystone - touristy - souvenirs

Bear Country USA

Reptile Garden

Jewel cave or Wind Cave - definitely want to do one of these, but which one?

Late afternoon return rental car and Check into hotel near airport. Staying at Holiday Inn downtown rapid city - free shuttle to airport in the morning

Day 7 leave at 6am - TUESDAY
mrsJuiceS is offline  
Old May 11th, 2022, 02:17 PM
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You really only have 4.5 days of time for your vacation...since Day 1 & 7 are travel days and you have to return the rental car in the afternoon of Day 6.
Given this, I really wouldn't try to cram too much into those few days, especially with 3 kids in tow.
Prioritize the things you most want to see and make sure you don't spend most of your time in a vehicle driving all over the place.
bluegrass1 is offline  
Old May 11th, 2022, 03:55 PM
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I think Keystone has a summer slide down a mountain ride that I wanted to go on but 2 years ago they were only opened on weekends, there is another slide in the region too. Definitely get to Bear Country(allow 2 hours). There are 2 parts, the walk through part and the drive through part, you and the kids will love it!
(glad you’re using Black Hills car rental, the guys are nice, and the price was better.)
I think the kids would like the dugout prairie home near the Badlands.
You will have a great time in SD!
deladeb is offline  
Old May 19th, 2022, 03:10 PM
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If you want to maximize your time to avoid backtracking, here are a few suggestions that can be done within a day's time:

Leave city of Custer, heading East - short drive to Custer State Park. There are different "loops" you can take. Head south towards Hot Springs - see bison, antelope, etc. along the scenic drive. Do a cave tour at Wind Cave - continue to Hot Springs area to see the Mammoth Dig Site. (can see either one first, depending on tour times available). Come back same route in the afternoon. Depending on time of day, you can either go back to Custer to leisurely hang out/have evening meal OR take the park loop to see the donkeys, bison, prairie dogs, etc. and stop at the State Game Lodge for dinner before going back to Custer. (They also offer bison jeep tours on-site there).

Another day: Drive into Custer State Park - take the Needles Hwy/Iron Mt. Road scenic drive. This has a set of really tight tunnels (cars & pickups OK) at one point. Sylvan Lake is nice for a short hike or renting small paddleboats on the small lake to relax. Depending on time of day, have lunch at Sylvan Lake Lodge OR leave the park to head back towards Custer - stop at Crazy Horse Monument. Take the old-school type bus to the top to see it up close then visit the museum at your leisure. Return to Custer for dinner. (There are helicopter rides, etc. along this route, if interested).

Another day: Visit Mt. Rushmore in AM - have lunch there or drive into Keystone. PM Option 1: Take Old West train ride to Hill City - walk around at leisure, shop, view dinosaur museum on Main St, fudge shops, etc. - return to Keystone - PM Option 2: Drive towards Rapid City; go to Reptile Gardens or Bear Country in the afternoon. Schedule can be reversed if you want to see night lighting of Mt. Rushmore.

Another day: Leave early (8:00 AM) take interstate East of RC to Wall, SD. Take scenic drive into SD Badlands. Minuteman site is located right at the entrance, but check on times if interested as only a limited number of people at a time can go down. Spend as much time as you like in the park - exit again at Wall SD. Tiny town, but the entire main street is a "tourist attraction" with shops, weird attractions, food, etc. (spend about an hour).

Another day: Go to Jewel Cave National Park. This cave has huge caverns, as opposed to Wind Cave; takes you down in an elevator. Lots of stairs inside; very impressive. Short drive West of Custer - can use the other half of the day for fun activities like horseback rides, mini-golf, panning for gold, mystery house (leaning tables, etc.) viewing other local museums.

Another day: Leave early - drive to Devils Tower; eat dinner in Deadwood on the way back & see a few sites such as cemetery where Calamity Jane/Wild Bill are buried. WORD OF ADVICE: It's a scenic drive, but A LOT of seat time to get there with nothing to do along the way. (not much food service, either). Deadwood is now mostly a casino town, with a few things to see, but generally not much to do for kids. Other options would be more fun for a family.
HotWheels is offline  
Old May 20th, 2022, 04:49 AM
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The highlight of SD for us was Badlands National Park. We spent a day and a half and could have spent more time. We overnighted (two nights) in Wall which is very touristy but your kids will probably like it. There are several very short hikes in Badlands NP including the Notch Trail which has a rather high ladder which I think kids would like. The Cedar Pass Lodge serves "Sioux" tacos made with fry bread instead of tortillas, and buffalo meat. Kids would probably enjoy Robert's Prairie Dog Town.

Just east of Wall is the "1880s Town" (recreated wild west town with lots of buildings you can wander through - and touch things - and animals, a train (which you can go into), etc.) which we really enjoyed and I think kids would as well. It's also the best place to view the "Skeleton Man walking skeleton dinosaur" statue.

I think Devil's Tower is worth it. The hike around it was only about an hour and not at all strenuous. If your kids haven't seen Close Encounters Movie show it to them before your trip. I saw the movie years ago and that wasn't why we went but I'm sure kids would love the movie and then it would be even more fun for them.
isabel is offline  
Old May 20th, 2022, 06:17 AM
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Thank you all so much for the very detailed responses. There are things here I definitely would not have known or thought of.
This is sooooo helpful!!! I can't wait to take this trip and will definitely report back.
mrsJuiceS is offline  
Old May 20th, 2022, 02:13 PM
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Hi Mrs JuiceS

We really loved our trip to the Dakotas, especially Custer State Park and Badlands NP. We stayed at lodges in Custer SP our first 3 nights in the area and last two after touring around, including ND. I realize you have less time, but don't short change the park. The scenery is outstanding. Hopefully you'll see the buffalo herd; it was huge!

Wall was way too touristy for us, but perhaps it will appeal to your kids. As someone mentioned in another reply, we also stayed at Cedar Pass Lodge, which had much better food than we found in Wall. Badlands was amazing.

You mentioned seeing Spearfish canyon on way to Devil's Tower. I would definitely suggest you drive Spearfish Scenic Highway at least one way. For a brief stop in the town of Spearfish, you may want to visit: The houses may not be of interest to kids, but they'd probably like seeing the fish pools and "fish railroad car." I can't believe they transported fish in such an elegant car and the exacting work it took to do it. There are also places to eat in Spearfish or something we love to do when traveling in such a scenic area is to grab a sandwich or jar of peanut butter and enjoy it at, what we call, "a table with a view," even if it's just a rock or log.

Hotwheels gave some excellent, specific suggestions.

Enjoy your trip and please do report back.

Clousie is offline  
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