It’s summer and for many wanderers, the road trip plans are well underway. We take our summer plans seriously – we want the relaxation that comes from the perfect picnic, the joy that comes from endless beach days, the smile that follows ice cream at any time of day, and the sparkle that comes with the big bangs of Fourth of July fireworks. We always look to soak up every ounce of the vacation road trip fun. What are you planning this holiday season?
Are you joining the ranks of travelers heading off for that quintessential classic road trip? Are you loading up the RV for the first time this season, hopping in a rented van, fueling up your own vehicle, or booking flights to make your way to a new spot and a new adventure? One of the stops on a journey through the Rockies, plains, or heartland might be the tourist mecca of Rapid City, South Dakota. We came as ocean loving fans not knowing what to expect of this western city’s land-locked locale. In the state known for it’s welcoming signage – “Great Faces, Great Places” – we became fans. Before we made it there, Rapid City was on our desired travel spot list for what seemed like forever. It was over a decade ago that a friend from Minneapolis first mentioned the Black Hills, the Badlands, the road signs at Wall, and of course, the Corn Palace.
Why Rapid City?
We finally made it to Rapid City during our summer 2016 cross-country road trip. Whether you fly in or drive in, there’s heaps to do. Want to spelunk your way around? Head underground to the many caves in the area. Want to set up camp, do a few day trips to the surrounding area, hang out on Main Street, and rest up for the next road trip stop? You can do it all here. Need to hit some hiking trails, explore some natural sites, wiggle along stunning loop roads, and interact with wildlife aplenty and stone carvings galore? This is the spot for you. Rapid City is a great place to stop, hang, journey around, head off from, or rest your weary traveler’s head for a few days.
The Magic of the Stone Faces
Rapid City is best known for it’s access to all things South Dakota and of course, Keystone’s own Mount Rushmore. As a perfect jumping off point for your South Dakota adventures or entrée into the western part of the country, Rapid City has natural experiences, a hometown feel, and in summer especially, is filled with travelers doing exactly the same thing as you are. Mount Rushmore is a popular stop on the trail of America tourism. Visited by millions each year, this national monument (that took ages to create) houses history, topography, and incredible feats of both architecture and engineering. The view shifts with each angle and every step. Read the fact sheets, explore the heritage sites, photograph the flags, awe at the craftsmanship, or shop in the gift shop – it’s all here. Keep in mind that although your annual National Parks pass WILL NOT get you into this site, the parking pass you purchase is good for that specific vehicle for one entire year.
One City, Heaps of Experiences
In the four days we spent in and around Rapid City, we saw heaps of Americana, explored endless trails, learned about life in the center of the country, and left with our very own Wall bumper sticker. We entered the state from Nebraska and traversed north to the Corn Palace, then west through the pinnacles, spires, peaks, gullies, and otherworldly designs of the Badlands. Continuing west, the landscape-lining oversized billboards capture drivers’ attention and lead entrance to the land of eccentric kitsch, free ice water, freshly made donuts, and the famed five-cent coffee of Wall Drug. Amidst the driving journey, visitors can find the national historic site dedicated to the missile-watching minutemen. Here, guests can step back in time journeying through the nation’s nuclear history to learn what it’s like to literally sit with your hand on the button. Travelers in the market for those spectacular photos and experiences at natural settings embrace Needles Highway, Custer State Park, Wildlife Loop Road, Wind Cave, the Black Hills, the memorial to Crazy Horse, and of course the historic giant of Mount Rushmore. Ready for more? Ditch the South Dakota border and head west to Wyoming for the afternoon and take in the beauty, spiritual nature, and trails of Devil’s Tower.
How are you celebrating the 4th?
We’re the “all good things happen at the beach” kind of people. We get there early, stay late, watch fireworks, eat sweet treats, and no matter the time, find we always have sand between our toes. We’ve got friends who hang at the park, others who snuggle their pups in the evening so they won’t be frightened by the big bangs, and many who find their perfect spot to see the sparkling lights and make a day out of where they are. They line the streets of Manhattan, hang beachside in Boston, or spend the weekend at the lake in Minnesota. If you find yourself searching for something fun, fabulous, and festive check out what some of our clients are offering:
The Box House Hotel in North Brooklyn for a spectacular evening of rooftop entertainment and a clear view of the 42nd annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. (New York)
The Woodlands Resort outside of Houston for an entire week of outdoor awesome and a 4th complete with a carnival, music, games, prizes, and the evening’s entertainment in the sky (Texas)
The Wigwam in Phoenix for a fun-filled day of festivities that start at the pool, move to the lawn, include water-slide delights, and end with an epic fireworks display above a spectacular golf course (Arizona)
Favorite Australian Coffee Shop: The Essence of Coffee
Most Delicious Meal Spot: Murphy’s Pub and Grill (we went back more than once)
Longest Day Trip from There (That We Took): Devil’s Tower (Wyoming)
Cool Surrounding Towns to Explore: Sturgis (home of the annual motorcycle rally), Deadwood (stepping straight out of a western movie), Spearfish Canyon (gorgeous waterfalls and winding roadways), and the alleged geographic center of the nation, Belle Fourche
Most Intriguing Building We Drove Past in All of South Dakota: Corn Palace (further east, in Mitchell)
An Experience in Itself: Wall Drug (Wall)
Interesting Spelunking Journey: Wind Cave
Scariest Nuclear Encounter: Launch Control Center at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor’s Center
We love how everyone has their own version of the Fourth of July – how are you marking the day?
Stacey Ebert is a freelance writer, educator, event planner, volunteer manager and organizer who has traveled to over 50 of the world’s countries. Writing about adventure, journeys, choosing happy and perspective changing shifts, she encourages travelers to take the leap, use the world as their classroom and get outside their comfort zones. She has lived in Long Beach (New York), Melbourne (Australia) and is presently based in San Diego (California). Check out her blog at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.