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South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

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South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

My sister and I will have 4 days in South Dakota. I've read other posts on this forum....but want to know (in addition to the Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, etc.) if there are any "must-see" or "must do" activities that are 'off the beaten path". We are on a tight budget--any suggestions on where to stay/where to eat? Is staying in Rapid CIty (where lodging is cheap) and doing day trips feasible? Thanks for any and all advise!

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1. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

Consider staying in Keystone, very close to Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park and all surrounding activities. You can see Mt Rushmore from Keystone and there is alot to do in Keystone alone. You are close to Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, Mystery Spot, Crazy Horse and nothing compares to the wildlife loop in Custer. You can also visit Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, pan for gold, take the alpine lift up and slide back down. Take the 1880 train to Hill City and back (takes about 2 hours), however, be prepared for a hot ride if you go in the summer. It is really an 1880 train, no a/c, wooden benches, steam propelled and they do serve cokes, etc. on the train for a price.

Drive to Sylvan lake, possibly eat lunch there at the lodge, wonderful setting, great food, albeit a little pricey, but it's beautiful to eat out on the limestone terrace overlooking the Black Hills.

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2. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

I agree with memphisbelle to stay in Keystone or Hill City. You are right in the middle of all the sites. You can easily spend a day or two in Custer SP. Lots of great scenery and wildlife. We like eating lunch at the State Game Lodge in Custer SP. They have bison stew and homemade pies- very good.

Pitman, New Jersey
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3. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

Hmm..

Off the beaten path..

It really depends on what you like. What are your interests? Hiking? Shopping? History? Caves?

Memphisbelle gave you some great examples of attractions in the area. I love the caves she mentioned, and if you enjoy underground adventures, you will find many privately owned caves in the area.

The Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs is neat, but is a bit pricey, and I see you are on a tight budget. The tours are small and very personalized, so I think they are worth the price. I know not everyone shares my feelings. It depends on if you like horses.

I have a friend on this site who enjoyed the Four Mile Ghost town between Custer & Jewel Cave. The owner has many interesting exhibits on display and according to my friend, she' s quite the historical expert.

You could possibly do a Chuckwagon dinner. Many like the one at Blue Bell Lodge in Custer SP.

You could visit the Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City. The chapel is a gorgeous piece of Norwegian architecture. The caretakers are very friendly.

A side trip to Deadwood might be entertaining to you depending on your interests. The Adams House/Museum is great if you enjoy historic homes. You could incorporate Devil's Tower and Spearfish Canyon with this. Nearby Lead has some mining attractions.

Many like panning for gold at Wade's Gold Mill in Hill City. Hill City has some very quaint shops if that is your interest.

Keystone also has "less adult-like" shops..more souvenir based and also has The Borglum Story Museum.

As for eating, you can't go wrong with Custer's lodges. I rate Blue Bell Lodge high for food quality and service, and, as CeCe mentioned, the Game Lodge is good as well. The Alpine Inn in Hill City is also excellent, but they only serve filet mignon for dinner. You might enjoy their traditional German fare more at lunchtime. Desserts are outstanding! Prices are very reasonable, but it does get crowded, so arrive early. For more casual dining, BIg Time Pizza in Keystone is tops. I have yet to find pizza to beat it during our travels.

I would not lodge in Rapid City. It is feasible to do daytrips from there, but I personally think you'd have a better Black Hills experience staying in Keystone, Hill City or Custer as the ladies have already mentioned. Although Rapid is not a huge city, I still prefer a more rural feel.

I will also caution you to not overplan. With only 4 days in the area, you may find yourself only really having time for the must-sees. Custer State Park typically takes up a day itself. You can always return to see the off the beaten path sights.

Have a great trip.

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4. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

Thanks SO very much for your keen suggestions---you put some new ideas into my head. I'll check out lodging in Hill City and Keystone. Since I'm hoping to catch the very end of the national parks' season, there may be (if I'm lucky) an evening ranger program to attend at one of the parks, so closer lodgings will work.

Tell me if you can: is there anything in Rapid City that I should be doing/seeing? I've never been to the Dakotas before....

Thanks again,

Robyn

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5. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

I greatly appreciate your suggestions and will put Sylvan Lake on the list of 'to do's'. Not sure if we'll do the train since we're not great history buffs and economizing is the name of our vacation game :) --we like sightseeing, some hiking, experiencing local life (exploring small towns and local attractions).

One thing that I've added to my trip: I do plan to stop at Wall Drugs--have seen it on The Travel Channel and can't imagine the kitch that awaits me (not to mention the buffalo burgers)!

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6. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

Wall Drugs - a must see, just to see what all the fuss is about.

And---Big Time Pizza in Keystone, fantastic!

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7. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

Thanks for mentioning Wall Drugs--I meant to ask about it in my first post.

And thanks for the pizza suggestion--if anyone has inexpensive restaurants with "local" flavor to suggest in the region I'm traveling, PLEASE let me know.

Pitman, New Jersey
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8. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

The Alpine is probably one of the most reasonably priced places if you enjoy steak dinners. The small steak is $8.95 and the large is $10.95. Desserts run around $3-$5, which I think is cheap. Here in the northeast, desserts typically run $6-$7, and the ones here are far better quality than what we offer. Lunches are in the $7-$8 range.

I found the most "local" flavor restaurants to be the lodges in Custer SP. The area is known for bison.

We have only gone to the chains in Rapid City, so I will leave any suggestions there to a local.

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9. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

the food at the State Game Lodge was really good and very reasonable.

Another spot that is free (altho requires reservations ahead of time) is the Minuteman Missile site at the eastern entrance of the Badlands park. Not sure if you are interested? but they take you underground to see missile control and where the staff stayed, then up top to look down into a missile silo (complete with disarmed missile) Since you were looking for things a bit "different" and low budget-- thought I'd mention it. We liked it, but we're old enough to remember the cold war :)

http://www.nps.gov/mimi/index.htm

The best bang for your buck in the area is Custer State Park, hands down! We saw herds of buffalo, a zillion pronghorn, prairie dogs... and my favorite -- "wild" burros who stop you in the road and beg for food. They will stick thier heads into the open car windows even! LOL Loved it! Take a bag of apples to pay your toll to pass.

10. Re: South Dakota--Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, what else? 4/5 days

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