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Bison herd at Custer State Park

Rapid City: Bathed in natural beauty

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posted August 12, 2020
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It’s not unusual for groups to spend a day in and around Rapid City during a trek through the Dakotas. But it’s OK to settle in for a few days, too, according to Lindsey Myers.

“I always encourage groups to do a hub and spoke, because Rapid City is a central spot for the Black Hills travel experience,” says Myers, who serves as the director of group sales for Visit Rapid City. “You can visit lots of places without rushing off to another hotel.”

And in the wake of the COVID crisis, travelers will appreciate the area’s open-air vibe.

“Our destination lends itself to outdoor activities: hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and camping,” Myers says. “You can breathe in the fresh air and feel rejuvenated. And because we have so many trails, social distancing is easy.”

Along with revealing the outdoor splendor of the Rapid City area, Myers can keep visitors busy exploring museums, cultural sites, shops, and restaurants.

“We have themed itineraries for one day and more, and a group can customize it to fit their interests,” she says. Here’s a sampling of those itinerary ideas:

Native American Discovery

The Black Hills of South Dakota are rich in Native American culture and history, and visitors can hike and explore sites that have meaning to regional tribes: Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, and Bear Butte State Park. In town, groups can learn about local tribes and their art at several museums and galleries.

Wild for Wildlife

Travelers can visit Bear Country USA, a drive-through wildlife park where the deer and the buffalo roam (and bears, elk, cougars, and more), and nearby Reptile Gardens. At NTA-member Custer State Park, guests can drive the park’s 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road and get close-up views of 1,500 buffalo along with bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and prairie dogs. Also in the park, Blue Bell Lodge Stables offers guided horseback tours.

Thomas Jefferson statue in the City of Presidents installation
Thomas Jefferson statue in the City of Presidents installation (Photo by Visit Rapid City)

One- to five-day itineraries

Myers can build five days’ worth of exploring and sightseeing in the Rapid City region, one day at a time.

1. Downtown

A day in town can include visits to museums and shops and a stroll through the City of Presidents, 44 life-size bronze statues of past U.S. presidents positioned along streets and sidewalks. The City View Trolley makes narrated stops throughout town and gives a fantastic view of Rapid City along Skyline Drive.

2. Central Black Hills

The highlights of this day are Mount Rushmore National Memorial and its 60-foot-tall faces of four U.S. presidents and the colossal Crazy Horse Memorial, an NTA-member attraction focused on a gigantic carving of Lakota leader Crazy Horse that’s being blasted from a mountain. Both sites offer in-season shows in the evening.

3. Northern Black Hills

A departure heading west from Rapid City features stops at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and the Fort Meade Museum, a drive through Spearfish Canyon, and a visit to the Wild West city of Deadwood.

4. Southern Black Hills

This day includes activities at Custer State Park, a visit to an archaeological dig site near Hot Springs that has yielded 59 mammoths, a herd tour at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, and a return to Custer State Park for a hayride supper.

5. The Badlands

Before entering the moonscape terrain of Badlands National Park, groups can stop by Wall Drug for specialty shopping and famously free cups of ice water. Stops at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Red Cloud Indian School, and Oglala Lakota College Historical Center offer insightful looks at Native American history and culture.

During the summer, visitors can expect warm days and cool evenings. And if the weather turns gloomy, Myers has got you covered. Ask about her Rainy Day in Rapid City itinerary.

For more information, contact Visit Rapid City’s Lindsey Myers or go to visitrapidcity.com.

Top photo: Bison herd at Custer State Park
Photo by Greg Valladolid