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Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 48
reviews: 19
Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Hello everyone. I have made my hotel reservations based solely on availability and am building a trip around those dates. We will be driving in from Chicago and this is what I have arranged so far.

Day 1: Chicago to Lake Okoboji

Day 2 and 3 : Reservation at State Game Lodge

Day 4 and 5: Reservation at Badlands national park.

Day 6 and 7: TBD

So, I don't know which loops to drive on which day and when is the best time or day to go to Mt. Rushmore. I know you answer these questions repeatedly, but would love to hear suggestions, as each family's trip seems just a little different. Thanks for your help

Apple Valley...
posts: 625
reviews: 24
1. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

What is the timing of this trip? i.e. will you be hitting the area during the Sturgis rally in August? What are your interests, will you want time to hike, do cave tours? Who is traveling, if kids, what ages?

Day 2 will mostly be driving as well. Falls Park in Sioux Falls is worth a stop as it is very pretty and has an observation tower.

Day 3 Drive Wildlife Loop in AM, then Iron Mountain Rd to Keystone for the afternoon at Mt Rushmore. If traveling with kids, checkout the Alpine Slide attraction in Keystone as well. Could also add Wind Cave this day before heading to Keystone if interested.

Day 4 Start at either Jewel Cave or Crazy Horse, then on to Sylvan Lake and then the Needles Hwy. Head out towards the Badlands. Depending on timing, stop at Wall Drug or do a night sky ranger program in the park. Maybe also hit any other attractions near Rapid City before heading out such at Bear Country USA?

Day 5 Start at Minuteman Missile Site if interested for tour and then drive Badlands Scenic Loop Rd with stop at the visitors center, etc. Hike at the Door/Window Trail, etc. If interested, possibly Wounded Knee museum in Wall?

Day 6 Head to Northern Hills, possibly to include Devils Tower in WY, Spearfish Canyon Scenic Drive (with waterfalls), Deadwood for the history, mining in Lead, etc. Stay overnight somewhere there and finish up the next day with anything else missed.

Have you ordered a visitors guide and trip planner from www.travelsd.com yet? Be sure to do that as it has a lot of information and some maps.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 48
reviews: 19
2. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Thank you very much for your detailed suggestions! You have eased my mind, as I will follow the itinerary that you have layed out. I will be traveling with my husband and adult daughter, so no little children involved. We will probably skip the caves, as we have done a lot of that in the past. Luckily we will not be there the week of the Sturgis rally, so hopefully crowds will be manageable.

Anyplace we should go at night?.. Or should we just plan on enjoying the night sky?

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
posts: 4,558
reviews: 35
3. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Iowagirl has a made a nice itinerary for you. As for evening activites, you could include the following:

Mini Golf at Putz & Glo Indoor Course in Rapid City

Reptile Gardens in Rapid City (fun for adults and kids)

Visit Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City

Do a Chuckwagon Dinner

Sunset in the Badlands

Evening Ceremony at Rushmore

Laser Show at Crazy Horse

These are just a few suggestions, and you won't have enough time to do them all, but you can pick and choose the ones that interest you most.

Let us know if you have additional questions.

Apple Valley...
posts: 625
reviews: 24
4. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Downtown Rapid City is nice and has some summertime evening events that include live music, Shakespeare, etc. You might want to check their website. If not the city itself, the Firehouse Brewery we ate at also had live music in their courtyard area.

I very much enjoyed the Ft Hays Chuckwagon Dinner & Show and the Mt Rushmore Lighting Ceremony!

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 48
reviews: 19
5. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Thank you for your suggestions. Is the Chuck wagon dinner just for families with young children, or would my adult family enjoy it as well? Also, how long would be appropriate to visit Mt. Rushmore? I would like to see the lighting ceremony as that sounds really beautiful, but I don't want to cut a day short and get there to early.

Would getting there an hour early be enough?

Apple Valley...
posts: 625
reviews: 24
6. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Mt Rushmore can easily take several hours (not including the lighting ceremony) to fully explore and take it all in. There is a nice exhibit hall with information, a video presentation about the building of the mountain, the sculptors studio, the Presidential Trail with information on each President, a small Native American area plus the viewing terrace and state flags. I got there after lunch and was there for at least 3 hours. Your parking pass is good until the end of the year so you can go back after dinner or another activity for the lighting ceremony.

I did not have any kids with me at Ft Hays and neither did other people we spoke too. There was a very big mix of ages there. It is fun for all ages! I actually (regrettably since it was quite nice) left the show a few minutes early to be able to get back to Mt Rushmore for the lighting ceremony that same evening.

There is also a restaurant on site at Mt Rushmore or you are just 5 minutes from Keystone so can leave and return easily.

My day 3 was basically what I gave you so it was all do-able. Wildlife Loop, we also did the drive up to Mt Coolidge Fire Lookout tower for the views, Iron Mountain Rd, Keystone Alpine Slide & Tram for lunch at the top with views of the faces, then Rushmore, Ft Hays and back to Rushmore. Long day but enjoyable! Ft Hays suggests you get there early to explore their shops and such but I thought that was time better spent at Rushmore....although you do have to stand in line to get your online pre-purchased tickets when you get to Ft Hays.

posts: 854
reviews: 23
7. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

We went about two hours early for the lighting ceremony. Gave us time to walk the trail, had dinner at the cafeteria (the food was actually pretty good and not expensive) took the food outside to eat and people watch. I saw people come in for the ceremony 10 to 15 minutes before it was to start, and they had no problem finding seats.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 679
reviews: 12
8. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

Another suggestion for night time activities would be to take in a play at the Black Hills Playhouse. Although not the calibar of plays we have seen in Chicago, we have enjoyed the summer stock theater. As far as watching the nightime skies, we star watch everynight and always see a ton of falling stars. Stargazing in the Hills and Badlands is so much better than in Chicagoland. No smog or city lights to inhibit your view.

9. Re: Hotel reservations are made, now tell me what to do

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