Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Family Fun in South Dakota's Black Hills

On your family trip to the Black Hills region, you've likely experienced nature, western and Native American culture and American history.  If you're traveling with younger kids who are looking for old fashioned fun, there's plenty of that too.  

In Keystone, 10 minutes from Mount Rushmore and a town with an old west vibe, check out Big Thunder Gold Mine for a tour of an authentic gold mine and mining museum, and the chance to pan for gold from streams that brought miners to the Black Hills in the 1800s. Right nearby, Rush Mountain Adventure Park offers an hour-long tour of the limestone Rushmore Cave, an underground wonder full of dramatic stalactites, plus three heart-pounding exciting attractions - a 630-foot zipline ride, a 3,400-foot mountain coaster ride with speeds up to 30 mph and an interactive gunslinger 7-D ride with three thrilling journeys. Get your laser guns ready! 

There's lots of fun to be had in the environs around Rapid City. Want to see more animals? Bear Country USA, is a drive-through wildlife park where your family can take a safari from the air-conditioned comfort of your car and bring you face to face with bear, buffalo, elk, reindeer and mountain lions. However, it is worth it get out and stroll through to visit Babyland, the animal nursery area -- baby black bears are truly adorable. 

Baby Bear Cubs at Bear Country USA

Reptile Gardens, celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2017, is a family-owned attraction that welcomes thousands of visitors every year to the world’s largest reptile collection. You will see all kinds and sizes of snakes, lizards, frogs, alligators and crocodiles and have the chance to pet a giant tortoise and a baby alligator. There are beautiful birds, a prairie dog area, animal shows, and a botanical garden with plants and flowers from around the world.
Local flavor is offered at the Fort Hayes Chuck Wagon dinner and show. Wait for the bell to ring, line up for your authentic cowboy dinner: baked potato, BBQ beef, baked beans, biscuits, apple sauce, lemonade and spice cake served on tin plates, and watch the western-themed variety show featuring gee-tar players, fiddlers and other musicians who perform a family-friendly show with cowboy spirit.
An Entertaining Show at Fort Hayes Chuck Wagon
For more local flavor, don’t miss Wall Drug, another family-owned local landmark since 1931. And, you really can’t miss it because there are tons of signs along Route 16A as you approach the town of Wall, and it's less than eight miles from the Badlands. It’s kitchy and fun, and nothing like a drug store you've seen anywhere else. In 26 shops, they sell everything from Black Hills gold jewelry to delicious donuts, to western wear such as pricey cowboy boots and hats, to historic photographs, books, and souvenir upon souvenir. There is an outdoor area with fun stuff for the kids (like a giant jackalope to climb upon), and a restaurant which serves buffalo burgers and other casual fare, decorated with oil paintings by noted western artists. Also, free ice water is available to all. If you don’t know that story, you will after a visit to Wall Drug.
If you are need info on the classic destinations of the area read our story on Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.  And, if you plan to continue from South Dakota on a road trip to Yellowstone National Park and/or Jackson, Wyoming, read our Road Trip USA: Great Sights of the West story.
Further information and South Dakota itineraries are available at Travel South Dakota.

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