We are going in July and are staying in Rapid City. Most people say to get a real feel for the area that it's best to stay in Hill City, Keystone, or Custer, which I understand. However, we found a hotel that we liked in our price range and it's in Rapid City. I know we'll have to drive a bit more to see some of the attractions, but others (like the Badlands and Wall Drug) will be closer.
I would say if you are spending more than a day or two in the area, and don't like to switch hotels, then YES Rapid City is a prime location. However, if you want to get out of the city and have a quieter evening and don't mind switching hotels/cabins, it's probably more enjoyable to stay in the hills.
There is nothing wrong with staying in Rapid City. Located at the base of the Black Hills, Rapid is a nice little city that has more chain hotel choices and possibly better prices. Although, not a big city, Rapid is an urban area and the ambiance not the same as staying in the Black Hills. Driving to the attractions are further from Rapid, but not by much. From Keystone and Hill City, Deadwood is about a 40 to 45 minute drive; from the town of Custer, about an hour. From Rapid, Deadwood is probably a shorter drive if you take I90 but you miss the beaurtiful scenery by taking this route. I would not choose Deadwood as my base as most of the attractions are located in the central and southern portion of the Black Hills. Deadwood and the northern Hills can be a daytrip from where ever you base. I have run into quite a few people who chose to stay in Rapid, but I will admit, many of them have stated that after being in the Black Hills they wished they had stayed in the Hills and would do so the next time they visit the area.
Rapid City is a very nice town...but it doesn't have much "character" to it, if that makes sense? It's right off the interstate, and could be a town you'd drive though anywhere in the US. Lots of chain restaurants, chain hotels, a Wal-mart...you get the picture. It was a bit too urban for us.
The other little towns surrounding the area (Keystone, Custer, Hill City) are tiny, and a little more unique. Not so many chains. Cute little shops if shopping is your thing. "Mom and pop" motels/hotels and restaurants. Located more in the hills, so more scenic.
No matter where you stay....you'll have a great time, and the driving to anyplace isn't too bad.
I forgot to mention, there is no need to switch hotels when visiting the Black Hills. It is a very compact area and everything is within an hours drive, 2 hours if you include the Badlands and Devils Tower. That is unless you choose to stay in Hot Springs which is to far south, IMO.
It isn't necessary to drive I90 from Rapid City to Deadwood. Though a little slower, either Nemo Road or hwy 44 through Johnson Siding lead to 385 and north to Lead/Deadwood, both roads have lovely scenery. Even the I90 route can be left at Sturgis to drive Boulder Canyon.
But then, I live in Rapid City because it is so easy to day trip into the Black Hills.
L:ast year our family stayed in Deadwood, and while we liked it it was too far north. This year we are staying in Rapid CIty - as I am using hotel points for a free stay. I really like the idea of having a Wal Mart Super Center and big grocery stores, so we can buy stuff for picnic lunches while we enjoy the black hills.
You've received some great ideas here and rationales for staying either in Rapid or outside. As you have probably ascertained by now, lodging is truly a personal choice.
Mike N states he likes the idea of having a Super WalMart close by for picnic supplies. We have shopped there ourselves, but coming in from Keystone. We like the idea of being 30 minutes outside the more urban area. As others have said, Rapid is perfectly fine if you are looking for perhaps more nightlife in the evenings, chain restaurants, and stores like Kohls, Penney's, Best Buy, etc.. Keystone and Hill City are pretty quiet and do offer shops, but those of the souvenir and craft type. Being from the typically crowded northeast, we like a little more peace and quiet and stay away from the more urban Rapid City as a base. It's great to have it close by, however, for when supplies are needed. The Black Hills is like the best of both worlds.
In summary, staying in Rapid is really not an issue if it meets the needs of what you are looking for. If you are looking for a more rural, charming experience, I'd opt for the small town vibe of Keystone or Hill City.
I just visited the area for the first time. I don't know how many are going with you or what you plan on doing, but I think Rapid City is fine if you like the description and price of the accommodations. We spent part of a day exploring the downtown and visiting the chapel there.We spent a lot of time at Custer State Park and stayed in Keystone. If I returned at a different time of year and could not get accommodations at a price I wanted to pay in Keystone, I could consider Rapid City. Also, gas was cheaper in Rapid City.
-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-
This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.
To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html
We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.