Mount Rushmore National Monument is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, about 60 miles southwest of Rapid City. It is one of the most iconic tourist destinations in the country, if not in the world. The massive granite sculpture, created in 1941 by New York sculptor Gutzon Borglum, features the faces of four American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can take a ranger-led tour of the monument or hike one of the many trails. Admission to Mount Rushmore National Monument is free of charge.
Did You Know?
Borglum originally wanted to carve the presidents’ bodies as well as their heads, but he was forced to abandon this idea because of the difficult terrain and lack of funds.
Badlands National Park
The park protects 243,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Badlands National Park consists of two units, the North Unit and the South Unit. The South Unit is notable for its scenery and wildlife: bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, coyotes, bobcats, elk, and pronghorn. It is also home to the largest concentration of bison in the United States. The North Unit is mostly prairie and has more of a ranching history. There are also more than 1,000 species of plants in the park! The park is open all year, but the North Unit is closed in winter.
Did You Know?
The word “badlands” is an Americanization of the French term mauvais terres (literally “bad lands”), applied to an area of land that is unsuitable for farming or other human activities.
Reptile Gardens in Rapid City gives you a chance to view a variety of reptiles from all over the world. The gardens feature everything from snakes and lizards to crocodiles and alligators. Visitors can learn about the different species of reptiles and their habitats, as well as see them up close. The gardens also offer educational programs for schools and groups. Admission is just $5 for adults and $3 for children, so next time you’re in the area, be sure to add Reptile Gardens to your list of things to do in Rapid City, SD!
Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on the Crazy Horse Mountain in the Black Hills. It is the brainchild of Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, and it is designed to commemorate the Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, but also all Native Americans. Construction is ongoing, with no completion date announced yet. When completed, it’s going to be the largest sculpture in the world by volume. The memorial is on private land, but the Memorial Foundation has an agreement with the owners that allows access to the site.
Did You Know?
Crazy Horse was a warrior chief who fought against the U.S. Army in several battles in the 1860s and 1870s, including the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was killed by U.S. soldiers in 1877. Today, he is revered as a hero by the Lakota people.
Bear Country USA
Another exhilarating thing to do in Rapid City, SD, Bear Country USA is a drive-through wildlife park. The park features North American animals, such as bison, elk, deer, and of course, bears! Visitors can choose to drive through the park in their own vehicles, or take a guided tour on one of the park’s buses. The park is a great way to see some of America’s most iconic animals up close! The park is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission fees to the park are $18 for adults, and $12 for children ages 3-12. The admission also includes access to a petting zoo, which is perfect for families with young children.
Did You Know?
Bear Country USA was the first drive-through wildlife park in the United States! The park was founded in 1972 by Bob and Betty Hart, a couple of avid outdoorsmen who were passionate about sharing their love of nature with others. The Hart family continues to own and operate the park today.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is a beautiful state park in Rapid City, about an hour’s drive from the city center. It’s known for its incredible wildlife, including bison, elk, and deer. There are also a number of hiking trails and scenic vistas to enjoy, as well as plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking, fishing, and camping. The park is a great thing to do in Rapid City, SD regardless of the season.
The park was named after Lt. Col. George A. Custer, who was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, and is therefore home to a number of historical sites related to the battle, including the Custer Battlefield Museum.
The Dinosaur Park is the ultimate thing to do in Rapid City, SD for dinosaur enthusiasts of all ages. Featuring over 25 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, the park provides an up-close look at these prehistoric creatures. In addition to the dinosaurs, the park also has a playground and picnic area. The park is open seasonally from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Admission is free, making it an affordable and fun activity for the whole family.
If you’re looking for a fun-filled day of family entertainment, be sure to check out Storybook Island. This 14 acre park is strewn with many different rides and attractions, all based on classic children’s stories. Families can enjoy time together riding the carousel, exploring the Enchanted Forest, or playing in Old McDonald’s Farmyard. There’s also a variety of storybook-themed gardens, a castle, a giant frog, and other whimsical features. Admission is free for kids under 3, and just $5 for adults.
Things to Do in Rapid City, SD: Recap
It’s hard to be bored with so many things to do in Rapid City, SD… and that’s not even all! So, what are you waiting for? Go and explore this South Dakota gem for yourself.
Source: Beatmastermatt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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