No Bummer Summer

Traveling in South Dakota | The Highlights and the Things I would do Differently

My heart is still in the Badlands of South Dakota.
Sounds a little corny, I know-but that National Park is forever embedded in my mind as one of the most serene and peaceful places I have ever been.
To reach this majestic destination was it was an awesome trip, but a loooonnnngggg drive. Eleven hours from my front door in Minnesota to be exact.
But worth it. Since we’ve gotten home and resumed our normal routine ( as “normal” as summer routines can be) I’ve had time to reflect about what we loved, and what we could have done differently/better. Here’s are my thoughts:
The Highlights of Traveling in South Dakota and the Things I would do Differently
Packing: I would pack less sh*t and more essentials. Seriously, I would have given my right arm for a toaster and a grill. Packing 2 cases of water was a BRILLIANT move on our part. These cases of water (24) were $1.99/case on sale in MN and $2.40 PER BOTLLE everywhere we went in SD.
P.S The orange life preserver was something we found alongside the road on the way #score.
South Dakota travel
Lodging: We stayed at the Best Western Golden Spike in Hill City and it was wonderful. Nice rooms, nice people and a kick ass continental breakfast 🙂 It’s also very close to Rapid City where all the fun stuff like Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, Fort Hayes, Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park is. We also stayed at Cedar Pass Lodge for our Badlands National Park leg of our trip. I have no complaints on either venue-they were both wonderful.
One of the smartest things we did was take the Mount Rushmore Tour Bus.
South Dakota travel
We did the full day tour and we got to see some pretty amazing things. It was awesome being able to see as much as we did and all parking and park passes are included in the cost of the tour. They also provide 2 of your meals and it was good food! It was also nice to have an experienced driver navigate the super skinny roads of Custer State Park and Needles Hiway. The roads are SUPER twisty and there are several tunnels that only one car at a time can get through. I would have had a heart attack or lost my marbles if I had to navigate that road! Our driver was absolutely hilarious and made the trip extra fun.
P.S. If you don’t use a tour bus, and stop at Crazy Horse Monument, I highly suggest paying the extra $4 and take a shuttle bus to the base of the mountain. There’s wasn’t enough time for our tour group to do that and I really wish we could have.
South Dakota Travel
Other Attractions:
After being on a tour bus all day Tuesday, we were happy to have an “anything goes” day on Wednesday. One thing I quickly learned is, even though you can plan out a slew of activities and stops ON PAPER, doesn’t mean your family can actually tolerate (or want to) do a laundry list of things. We made a beeline to Reptile Gardens and it was amaze-balls. I will be reviewing much more on that stop in my next post. We are one of “those people” who love reptiles and have 2 of our own. But Reptile Gardens wasn’t just snakes and lizards…there was tons to do and many different specifies too look at. The exhibit inside the Dome is mind-blowing especially the lower level that is set up like a Rain Forest. More details to come on THAT.
 Reptile Gardens South Dakota
Bear Country was cool too but expensive. I am still glad we went.There’s a ton to do in Rapid City and another one thing I wanted to do on this trip but ran out of time was tour one of the caves. Be sure and go to at least one (there are many).
My personal favorite was The Badlands National Park. I didn’t want to leave. Such a peaceful and beautiful place. We stayed at Cedar Pass Lodge and the cabins are gorgeous.
Cedar Pass Lodge South Dakota
You can walk across the road and be hiking in the Badlands in a matter of minutes. If you stay there, ask for a single cabin as opposed to a duplex. AND…no mosquitoes! It was WONDERFUL.
Things I Would Do Different with our next South Dakota Travel adventure.
*With the exception of the meal we had at State Game Lodge (Custer State park) and the killer breakfasts at Best Western Golden Spike, the food truly sucked.  We packed tons of snacks and fruit, but in hindsight we should have brought more microwave-able meals, a grill and a toaster and save some $$.
*If we would have had more time when we were in Hill City, we would have liked to go a little further west to Hot Springs and tour the Wind Cave and the Mammoth dig. Wyoming is just a little ways away from Hill City too so we could have technically gone into another state if we had another day.
*Keep your gas tanks above a half:I would also advise to keep your gas tank above 1/2 whenever possible since sometimes the gas stations can be few and far between.
Overall it was SO AMAZING. I can’t wait to go back!
South Dakota Travel
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4 thoughts on “Traveling in South Dakota | The Highlights and the Things I would do Differently

  1. I love this soooo much. THANK YOU for sharing where you stayed. I keep threatening (I say that b/c no one else seems to be up for it) to drive across the country next summer. Maybe I’ll just focus on South Dakota. I loved it there with my family as a teenager.
    I’m not doing the social media thing but I did start a small blog for learning WordPress
    (formerly Stanley & Katrina’s Cool Mom).

  2. Super cool post AND just in time for my own family vaca to SD!
    Loved it!!! Can’t wait to share my experiences with you when we return!!

  3. I loved your commentary and many helpful hints for families traveling by car, especially the food,gas and water part. Your scenic photos were amazing. One thing I wasn’t clear on was how much driving did you do? Or were you in charge of keeping the passengers entertained and well fed:)

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