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Need help trip planning

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Gilbert, Arizona
Level Contributor
34 posts
1 review
Need help trip planning

Hi! So my husband, myself, & our 5 year old daughter will be flying to Rapid City in early October. We arrive on a Monday around noon and leave the following Monday morning. I think this will give us ample time to experience the area. My husband has always wanted to go, I went when I was very young, and my daughter wanted to go as she has been studying Mount Rushmore in K. We live in Phoenix so it will be a beautiful scenery change...and weather change! :) I would appreciate any help/advice on how to best group activities/sightseeing/drives together. We would like to do the Fort Hayes chuckwagon show one night. Other than that, we would like to see & experience as much as we can during that week! We are up for driving, easy hiking, kayaking, etc. We are staying in Rapid City and will have a rental car. Thank you in advance for your responses!! :)

Gilbert, Arizona
Level Contributor
34 posts
1 review
1. Re: Need help trip planning

We also want to do jewel cave. :)

South Dakota
Level Contributor
3,338 posts
152 reviews
2. Re: Need help trip planning

First tip, plan for the weather. Snow in October is very rare but possible. On the other hand, the weather could be gorgeous, so plan for all of these scenarios when packing your clothes. A pair of gloves, a hat that covers your ears and a heavier coat may be needed. Hooded sweatshirts or light jackets may come in handy on those in-between weather days. This year has been warmer, so hopefully that will hold out for you.

Second, October is the off-season. Phone before you go to see what's open. Storybook Island, for example, is closed for the season.

Good pairings: Reptile Gardens with Bear Country; Wall Drug with the Badlands; Wind Cave with the Mammoth Site; Jewel Cave with Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore with the Alpine Slide and Big Thunder Gold Mine; Spearfish Canyon with Devil's Tower. Custer State Park needs a full day.

The hikes around Sylvan Lake and the Presidential Trail at Mt. Rushmore are short and should be doable for a kindergartener. Our then-preschooler did the Presidential Trail with no issues. If you do Jewel Cave, the most popular tour is also a hike in and of itself, but again, doable for a 5 y.o.

The caves get some controversy on here. If you've never been to a cave, you will like Jewel. If you've been to some of America's larger caves, it could be a letdown for you. Just a heads-up.

My opinionated tips:

* Skip Deadwood with a child unless she's well behaved in museums. She can't gamble and probably wouldn't appreciate the historical significance of the cemetery.

*While Custer State Park fills an entire day, the three scenic drives take longer than people think. Kids may get antsy if you try to do all three drives in one day. It's a good idea to break them up and/or bring something for kids to do in the car because, sadly, many of them fail to appreciate scenic beauty. (Maybe your daughter isn't like this- two of my three kids get bored looking at scenery).

*Devil's Tower/Spearfish Canyon and the Badlands will also require some driving in the car. Do what you can to space out your driving days with seeing things closer to your lodging.

*Change your base from Rapid City to one of the more centrally located towns. See the Top Question in the upper right corner of the South Dakota forum (this is the Rapid City forum) "How do I pick a base. . ."

*Some on here like the 1880 Train, some don't. We liked it, but in retropect, I wish we would have had one parent drive and only done half the trip. The return trip had identical scenery and dialogue.

Gilbert, Arizona
Level Contributor
34 posts
1 review
3. Re: Need help trip planning

WOW! Thank you so much!! I was totally bummed about Storybook Island! I guess I should have researched further before coming. I'm sure we will still have a great time though! :) Your pairings are a HUGE help as I had no idea how to do that! I do a lot of research, but it can also be overwhelming!

Our daughter has hiked a few tough hikes (not recommended haha) in Hawaii before, so I'm glad to hear of a few easy ones we can do! She for sure won't be into the scenic drives like we will. I will try to spread those out! We will do the cave since none of us have ever experienced one before. Thank you for the advice!

Which pairing would you add the Fort Hayes Chuckwagon show into? Also, what about seeing the Chapel in the Hills? Is there a better time of day to visit some of these sites or just pure preference?

We are renting a cabin in Rapid City because my daughter has a lot of food allergies, so we always have to stay somewhere with a full kitchen. :( We are okay with driving though.

Praying for some good weather! Our warm blooded bodies will be cold no matter what, but it will be a welcomed break from the desert heat! Our daughter would LOVE to see snow...me not so much! lol

Thanks again for all your help & advice!!!

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
4,913 posts
35 reviews
4. Re: Need help trip planning

Super advice as always from 3174. The suggested pairings are excellent. With a week's time,you will be able to include many activities. In October, keep in mind that hours on attractions are a bit shorter than in summer. Also, keep a watch on the weather, and take some layers. The evenings will be chilly, and yes, snow could happen... Hopefully not. :)

It's a great idea to spread out the Custer State Park scenic drives. The Needles and Sylvan Lake are good to group with Jewel Cave & Crazy Horse. The Wildlife Loop works well with Wind Cave or the Mammoth Site. Iron Mt. Rd goes well with Rushmore, but make sure you drive it from south to north for the best views of the monument.

I am one who is pretty lukewarm on the 1880 Train. I rate it as just ok, but I'm not a big fan of trains. If you do it, I'd recommend taking it from Keystone to Hill City. Have lunch at the Alpine Inn and head back on a later train.

I agree with changing your base, unless you are on a tight budget. Keystone or Hill City are more centrally located. I like Rushmore Express or the Roosevelt Inn in Keystone. I believe the Rushmore Express might close by the end of September, but you could check. Roosevelt is open year round. Both offer family suites.

You might also consider making a trip to the DC Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish when you go out to Devil's Tower. It's a great side trip and totally free. Donations are gladly accepted.

If you haven't done so, be sure to order a travel planner at travelsd.com.

Let us know if we can assist further.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
4,913 posts
35 reviews
5. Re: Need help trip planning

We were posting at the same time. :)

Chapel in the Hills is gorgeous. We drove out there in the evening, but that was in summer. I'd check to make sure the hours before heading out. THe caretakers were lovely people.

I understand why you are going with a cabin due to your daughter's dietary needs.

Since you are staying in Rapid, you could really fit the chuckwagon dinner in any time.

Also, the Badlands does include some driving, but the beauty of this park is that you can get out of the car and climb on the formations, which is totally acceptable. Our daughter is a teen and has loved this park since being just a little older than your daughter. She still ranks it as one of her favorites. I think your daughter will love blowing off some steam here.

Gilbert, Arizona
Level Contributor
34 posts
1 review
6. Re: Need help trip planning

That sounds awesome!! We are so excited to go! It is hard traveling with a child where you have to pack all her food & snacks, but we don't let it slow us down! :)

I got my vacation guide in the mail today! Are there are Native American authentic pow wow celebrations we can see around there?

Thanks again to both of you for your help!! It is much appreciated!!

South Dakota
Level Contributor
3,338 posts
152 reviews
7. Re: Need help trip planning

I was on here today rereading this. You know, instead of buying a heavy coat, gloves and hat before you leave, I would just play it by ear and see what the weather is going to be like. You may not need those things and they take up a lot of room in a suitcase. Since you're staying in Rapid City, you're going to be close to many stores and could always hop over to Walmart, etc. to buy those things. The stores are well-stocked right now with winter gear. Who knows? I've seen it snow on Halloween in MN and our kids have gone trick-or-treating here in SD with no coats at all. Have a fun vacation!

Edited: 10:17 am, September 25, 2013
Missouri
Level Contributor
11 posts
106 reviews
8. Re: Need help trip planning

We just went to this area in June with our 5 year old daughter. We wanted to see the Fort Hays show as well, so I paired it with Reptile Gardens because they are only a few miles from each other. Bear Country is only a few more miles away. You could do either one or both and then go to the show that evening. Be sure to arrive in time to look around at the buildings at Fort Hays.

I also agree with splitting up the 3 drives in Custer State Park. We did Sylvan Lake and Needles Hwy in the morning and stopped for lunch at Legion Lake Lodge. We then went up the Iron Mountain Road to Mount Rushmore and stayed there for the lighting ceremony. On another day we started on the Wildlife Loop and then went to Wind Cave and ended the night at Crazy Horse for the laser light show. Driving for a few hours and then getting out and walking around awhile made it much more pleasant than being stuck in the car all day.

Hope you all have a fun time in the Black Hills!

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
Level Contributor
4,913 posts
35 reviews
9. Re: Need help trip planning

You asked about powwows. Here's some information I found for one in Rapid City in October

October

He Sapa Wacipi Na Oskate - Black Hills Powwow

October 11-13, 2013

Location: Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Rapid City, SD

www.blackhillspowwow.com

contact: 605-341-0925

Crazy Horse has Native American exhibits which are very interesting. Although your daughter is young,she may still enjoy looking at the costumes.

Also..about the caves.. Jewel Cave is a great "starter cave" for those who haven't toured a cave before. It's very open and doesn't have the claustrophobic feel that Wind has. Wind is very cool, but I've seen a few have to leave with full blown panic attacks. I think the entire family will really enjoy Jewel Cave.

Gilbert, Arizona
Level Contributor
34 posts
1 review
10. Re: Need help trip planning

Thank you so much everyone for all your help!! Your suggestions are so helpful!! :) I will be working on our itinerary in a few days.