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Beginning planning stages - help!

Ridgeway, VA
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120 posts
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Beginning planning stages - help!

We are a family of 5 (kids are 11,15,&15). We just recently decided on South Dakota for our family vacation (meaning tonight😄). Because I have companion passes for airlines, we need to fly into Sioux Falls. We will arrive around noon on 7/5 and leave around 1 on 7/13.

We have never been to South Dakota. Please suggest how we make the most of our trip. I am thinking a day in Sioux Falls then on the rapid city? And yes I plan to order the travel info that everyone recommends. I am really trying to figure out what region/town/city to stay in and for how long.

Thanks in advance! Just an FYI for anyone who can vouch for SD - our decision was between here and the Grand Canyon via phoenix or Las Vegas - did make the right call?

Ridgeway, VA
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11. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Would you recommend staying in keystone, hill city or rapid city? Would rapid city have things to do in the evening?

Ridgeway, VA
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12. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Would you recommend staying in keystone, hill city or rapid city or Custer? Would rapid city have things to do in the evening?

Atlanta, Georgia
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for Road Trips
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13. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Just my opinion but to me Rapid City is just a moderate size city. Keystone is close to Mt. Rushmore and is a bit touristy. Hill City is nice and Custer seems to be a bit out of the way.

South Dakota
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14. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Hill City, if you can still find something at this point. Custer would be my second choice, only because it is slightly less central, but still a good option. Rapid City has the Watiki Waterpark. That might give the kids something to do at the end of the day. There's also the Putznglo mini golf.

About teens and travel . . . for a lot of families, there really isn't a decent time to take them on "scenic" vacations. Little kids do not have the patience or the interest to spend long days in the car looking at mountains and vistas. Teens think many things are lame. I suppose there is a golden age somewhere in between, but when you have more than one child, this is tough. Someone is always too old or too young. My advice is to just do it. Vacations are not just all about the kids, as we told ours when we made them visit the Thomas Edison/Henry Ford Estates in Ft. Myers, FL on our last vacation. Mom and Dad want to see some things, too, before they die! :) My own parents dragged me against my will to Yellowstone (twice), the Tetons and Glacier National Parks when I was in high school. I kept my Walkman on and made it clear that I HATED it. Now, as an adult, I'm so thankful they did this because I realize they took me to some of America's national treasures. They will appreciate it someday! :)

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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15. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Staying in Rapid City will add distance to get to the major attractions, but others like it because you have more modernizations and conveniences. For instance, you will have Wal Mart (lots of variety), a small mall and other stores like Kohl's, Best Buy, etc., and some chain restaurants and hotels. The problem for me is that I have all of those things back home; it's just not unique. I don't mind heading in there for supplies at all, and in the grand scheme of things, it's on the small side for a city. Watiki Water Park would certainly be a consideration if your kids enjoy waterparks, but I don't know if, to me, it would be worth the extra driving time it would take to get places. But..if it keeps the kids content, it could be a great investment. lol. As a side note, you will find cheaper lodging in Rapid City.

Hill City is nice because it's not too touristy, and your older kids will probably like the shops there, which are a little higher end. If you have girls, they will enjoy looking at the jewelry and crafty items. You also have the excellent Alpine Inn located in Hill City which boasts a very reasonably priced filet mignon for dinner. It does get very crowded, so many of us prefer to do lunch there. They serve traditional German food at that time, and desserts are great anytime. The alpine is closed Sundays and doesn't take credit cards.

Keystone is definitely the most touristy, as was mentioned by Peach. However, I do think it's the best option for families. IMHO, there's just a little more to do. You have the Alpine Slide, Holy Terror Mini Golf, Big Thunder Gold Mine, a small boardwalk lined with shops, and the 1880 Train, which runs to Hill City and back. The downside of Keystone is limited dining options. Big Time Pizza is excellent. Your kids might like the shops at Keystone a bit more than Hill City, as they are more of the t-shirt and mood ring type.

Custer is a bit further away from many of the attractions, but it does offer some newer hotels that are well rated on this site. It has a small town feel, but some reason, I've never found it as appealing as Keystone or Hill City.

Also, Putz N Glo Golf that 3174 mentioned is a lot of fun! It's indoors and is a great rainy night activity.

I hope this helps you in deciding the best place for your family. There's really no right or wrong answer; it depends on what type of atmosphere/amenities you are looking for.

Ridgeway, VA
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16. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Thank you! We had a little attitude discussion tonight 😄they are now much more excited! I'll check hill city and keystone to see what is still available. Thanks for all the help.

Apple Valley...
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17. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Staying in some parts of Rapid City (off I-90) will add 30 minutes to the drive each day for activities. I stayed at the Country Inn which also had a pool with waterslide although not a water park per se. There seemed to be other hotels on the southern side of town that would be closer to the Keystone area. The downtown area was very nice but we only spent the one evening walking around after dinner.

Vestal, New York
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for Auburn, Finger Lakes
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18. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

i stayed just outside Keystone (a bit away from the tourist din); it is a nice option if you have kids as there seems to be alot there for them. I probably would stay in Hill City if I went back but Hill City seems more suited for adults so I'm not sure if your kids would have as many options.

Stillwater...
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19. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

The Black Hills are a great choice. There are so many things to see and do.

I think Hill City is a great place to base out of, and there are plenty of places that have swimming pools, a couple with in-door pools.

hillcitysd.com/around-town/…hotel-motel

If you are driving across SD, from Sioux Falls, it's best to let the kids have their electronic devices, (ipods, games, music, etc.), as it is a loooong drive across the state, with little to see or do until you reach the Badlands. I'd vote for leaving Sioux Falls, the first day, put some of those miles behind you. Stay in Murdo, (about a 3 hr. drive), and be on The Badlands doorstep in the morning.

http://www.murdosd.com/

While in The Hills, go to at least 1 of the National Park/Monument caves, (Wind or Jewel) and take one of the spelunking tours. While the "normal" tours are great, these tours really get you "into" the cave, which may be a bigger hit with the kids.

nps.gov/wica/planyourvisit/tour-caving.htm

nps.gov/jeca/planyourvisit/wildcavingtour.htm

Both caves now have a first come system for tickets, (no reservations), except for the wild cave tours. So this is also a great way to get tickets without a long wait, (or showing up first thing in the morning).

Alberta, Canada
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20. Re: Beginning planning stages - help!

Don't forget to take a couple bags of apples or carrots to feed the wild burros in CSP. We only had 1 bag on our first trip and quickly found out that it wasn't enough; we made sure we had 2 bags on the second trip. The burros were so entertaining - fun for all ages. As we were trying to drive away, we had to go very slowly as the burros were running along beside us with their heads in the windows. LOL.