Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Family Vacation: South Dakota

We just got back from our family vacation to Western South Dakota. We live about 10 hours away, but thought it would be a great trip for our family. It involved a LOT of driving (both to SD and around to the sights), but our kiddos did great. It helped that Grandma & Grandpa came along with us.

I have had a lot of people ask "What is there to do in South Dakota?" There is actually a lot to do. I was pleasantly surprised :) I decided to share some of the fun things that we did. I'll also attach our itinerary just so you can see how we did everything. Obviously, depending on how much time and the age of everyone going on the trip, would depend on what you do. But at least it gives you a jumping off point.
Highlights

  1. Mount Rushmore - I know, I know, everyone knows about Mount Rushmore. Can I just say that is truly is amazing and spectacular! 
    •  Make sure that you go to the movie and learn about why and how it was built. 
    • Go in the morning for great lighting and less people.
    • Go to the evening Ranger Talk and lighting ceremony. Stay for the retiring of the flag for the opportunity to honor all of the veterans in the audience. 
    • Get the Jr. Ranger booklets for your kiddos to do. Then make sure they get their badge. (my kiddos learned a lot and thought it was great to get a badge). 
  2. Wind Cave National Park - This is one of the largest caves in the world. It is really cool. This is a great choice if the weather is stormy.



    • Go there first thing. They often sell out of tours. (It's first come, first serve).
    • Natural Entrance Tour is good for kids. We went on this one. It was a lot of walking and not as much talking. The kiddos LOVED walking through the cave and seeing how cool it was. They were patient during the stories that were told, but I think much more talking would have lost their attention. 
  3. Custer State Park - There is so much to do here!
    • Sylvan Lake is a fun place to stop for lunch. There is a beach where you can get in and swim. You can also hike around the lake and some cool rocks in the area. 
    • Needles Highway is a must drive. It is beautiful and majestic. Lots of great photo ops.
    • Wildlife Loop is great especially in the morning or early evening. We went during the middle of the day and didn't see as much as we would have at a different time of day. We saw buffalo, prarie dogs, wild turkeys, burros, deer, and antelope. 
    • Iron Mountain Road - Another cool drive with fun tunnels and bridges. If you can't do the whole thing, start on the Keystone side and just go up through a couple of tunnels and then turn around and go back down. 
  4. Story Book Island - This is a MUST DO if you have children younger than 12. It is a park themed after stories, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes.  We played there for a good 3-4 hours. It is free and one of the highlights of the trips for the whole family. I don't have any picture without my kiddos, but just trust me, it's SO FUN!
  5. Crazy Horse Memorial - This is amazing. I found it fascinating to learn so much about people dedicated to a cause and what they are willing to sacrifice for it. 
  6. Stay in Hill City - Hill City is centrally located but isn't as much as a tourist trap as Keystone and Custer. It's a quiet little city with some fabulous eating places (Bumpin' Buffalos, Alpine Inn, Hill City Cafe) and some fun museums and shopping. We stayed at Trails End Cabins. Can I just say, if you can at all possibly stay there, do so. Doug and Mary are the owners. They were so helpful and kind. They were willing to make suggestions and answer any questions that we had. There is a firepit, hot tub, patio, and bbq area that we enjoyed using. It is just a couple of blocks off of the main road and borders a forest area. It feels like your in the forest away from the city. Their prices were comparable to other hotels in the area and the service was beyond compare! 
That was our trip in a nut shell. If you want to see how it all came together. Here is a copy of our Itinerary. 

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