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We will be traveling to the Badlands SD, Mount Rushmore and then on to Yellowstone National Park this summer. Anyone been to these places and have any suggestions for area, things we MUST SEE, Things we MUST DO? Cheap or free would be best but not necessary.
Also any other hints suggestions and things to avoid would be greatly appreciated. We will be traveling with our 13yo son and no other children, keep that in mind. Thanks in advance for your help!
Denise from Ohio
Fogot to tell you check out your local library for videos and books with photos on Yellowstone. We did that on our first trip there in 1992. Elizabeth
Not too far east from Mt Rushmore in Wyoming is a Place Called Devil's Tower. It was a lets just go check it out on our vacation and it ended up being one of the favorite places we saw. On the way to Devil's Tower we saw a advertisement for a Buffalo run that had reciently been discovered. If you had the energy you could hike all the way down see the layers of buffalo bones. IT was really neat. I think they were supposed to be getting funding on on making it kind of like a museum. This was around 2001 so don't know what has happened to it since.
My very favorite was Devil's tower. Walk around the base of it..Blows the idea behind Close Encounters of the Third kind, but it's a lovely walk.
There's the Crazy horse museum and Wall Drug, but I see others have already told you.
Add my 2¢ worth for Devils Tower, the bad lands, and Wall Drug. Also, take drive around the Wild Life Loop, and sign up for the Chuck Wagon Dinner. It's a little pricey, but well worth it!
I'm from the Black Hills (Rapid City), so I was excited to see your post. All the suggestions everyone has posted are great ideas. Here are a few more I'd suggest depending on how much time you have and what your interests are:
1). Rapid City: You pretty much have to pass through Rapid City on your way to Mt Rushmore. A good website to scroll through is http://www.visitrapidcity.com/ You can send for information, if you want.
A free attraction in RC that I loved visiting as a kid is called Dinosaur Hill. Kids loving climibing on the dinos and you get an awesome view of Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills. Here's the info:
Hours: Dinosaur Park is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Directions: The simplest way to reach the park is from the citys historic West Boulevard residential district, just southwest of downtown. From West Boulevard, turn west on Quincy Street. As the road ascends the hill it will turn into Skyline Drive. The park is located at the top of the hill. The route is well-marked with signage.
Parking: A large parking lot is located off Skyline Drive at the base of the park. The stairs to the park begin at the west end; a gift shop and refreshment stand, open in summer, is located at the east end.
2).On the way to Mt Rushmore . Once you leave RC you will probably get to Rushmore by Hwy 16. There are a ton of attractions along this road. Two of my favorites are Reptile Gardens and Bear Country (Google them both to get their website). I used to work at Reptile Gardens in high school and it's a cool place for anyone who likes snakes, alligators, etc. Bear Country is right up the road and it's a drive-thru wildlife park. They have Bison, Elk, Mt Goats, Wolves, and Bears. Fun place! Neither are free...but both are memorable.
Another place on the way to Mt Rushmore, although I've never been, is called the Cosmos. It's a place I bet a 13yr old would like -- it's kind of an optical illusion, "defy the laws of nature" place where water runs uphill. I've never been, but I hear it's kind of a unique place.
3). Custer State Park. The Black Hills are just loaded with scenic drives and opportunities to hike. Custer State Park is a cool one because it's beautiful and often there are herds of buffalo near the road and several times I've seen donkeys that come up to cars to be fed potato chips. The town of Custer is right outside of the Park and on your way to Custer you'll pass Crazy Horse Monument. You have to pay admission to get into the monument, but you can easily see it from the road. Also in Custer is an attraction called Flintstone Park (as in, Fred Flintstone). I was only there once as a kid, but I had fun. Not sure if it's too juvenile for a 13 yr old boy, though. I'm sure they have a website, as well.
4). Deadwood When you are leaving SD and on your way to Yellowstone, there are also a lot of things in the Northern Hills to visit. Deadwood is a great place to stop. It's loaded with casinos, but even walking down Historic Main Street is cool. It's a neat place to walk around and try to get a feel for the history. A free attraction (at least last time I went there) in Deadwood is Mt Moriah Cemetary. It's within walking distance of downtown and it's where Wild Bill Hickock is buried.
5). Other things to consider: If you go to the Badlands National Park on your way into the Hills and you are going to Yellowstone, they have a pass you can purchase that will get you into all the National Parks, without having to buy a pass at each park. The NPS website has more info (www.nps.gov).
Mount Rushmore has an awesome lighting ceremony at night. The warm part of the summer (June-Aug) is the best time to see this. Someone else posted that it was foggy at Mt Rushmore when they went. Certain times of the year are worse than others (like early spring). I've been there dozens and dozens of times and I've been lucky each time.
Also, no matter what time of the year you visit our wonderful Black Hills, make sure you bring sweatshirts and have pants available. Even in the dead of summer it is not unheard of to have really strange weather (I'm talking like 40 degrees and drizzle at Mt Rushmore and sun and 80's in RC only 30 miles away). That's not the norm, but SD is known for it's rapidly changing weather.
Well, I could just keep going on and on. There are literally hundreds of things to do in Western South Dakota and I hope you enjoy your time. I absolutely love being from this place. If you have any more specific questions, you can sure email me through the thrifty fun website. I'd be happy to give you more info.
Happy Travels! Kathy
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This was a time when I was really scared, and had nowhere to run. This was taken outside the east gate of Yellowstone National Park. I had decided to go for a short walk, and encountered a moose coming out of the brush. As I slowly walked across the road backwards, this cow stopped at the side of the road. Thank God she didn't go after me!
By Diane S.
Eek! I know that encounter was scary!
Out of all my photos, this is my favorite. It is a shot of the mountains I took while we were in Yellowstone National Park. The sun was perfect and the water very still. I love this picture.
It was such an adventure in Yellowstone National Park! To see these American Pelicans in a row with a snowy background, and the reflection's was such a beautiful sight.
By Diane S.
A beautiful lake when winter does not want to leave, and spring is trying to break through.
By Diane S.
We went on vacation to Yellowstone, and stopped here at one of the sites called the Falls. It was so incredibly beautiful! It took my breath away.
To see this in Yellowstone was so amazing to me. Two wolves from the Hayden Run wolf pack feeding off a bison remains. I am sure it was the alpha male and female.
While visiting Yellowstone Bear World I visited the petting zoo. This peacock put a fine show on for his three peahens as well as us visitors.