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7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

New York
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7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

I'm usually excellent at researching and planning amazing trips, but for some reason I'm really confused as to what I can reasonably fit into each day and what order to visit the sites without re-tracking the same routes over and over again. I was hoping someone could help me arrange a 7-day itinerary.

I've looked at many posts, but it doesn't seem like many people spend a full week in just the SD area, so I have nothing to really compare my situation to. It seems like a lot of people include this area into a cross country trip or combine it with Yellowstone, etc.

We're an adult mother and daughter duo who will be arriving in Rapid Center and renting a car from Saturday to Saturday in late June.

We want to hit all of the major attractions and scenic drives as possible. We're not interested in hiking, mostly getting in and out of the car to take photos and casual walks around. We love to gamble and would like to spend a day or two in Deadwood. I was interested in staying at the new Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel which is scheduled to open in April. Also, we like to shop, so I want to go to Wall Drug.

Can someone please help me arrange a 7-day schedule that covers as many of the popular sites and scenic drives as possible, including some time to gamble in Deadwood. Also, where to stay. I know everyone recommends Keystone, Hill City or Custer, but I'm willing to stay in 2-3 different hotels if it makes sense driving wise. Since we have an early flight going home, I thought we'd end our trip at Badlands and stay the last night in Rapid City to be closer to the airport and start the trip further out near Devils Tower or stay in the center of everything.

Are there any "real" gold panning sites in Lead where you can rent a shovel and pan and do it yourself in a creek, as opposed to tourist trap set-ups?

The only thing we're not interested in are the caves.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!!

Edited: 29 March 2012, 18:23
Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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1. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

Since you are interested in gambling and Deadwood, I'd spend two nights there, four nights in Hill City (based on your self description), and your final night in Rapid since you have an early flight out.

Here's a possible rough itinerary:

Saturday: Arrive and head to Deadwood. Check out the Adams House/Museum if you arrive early enough. You could have the evening for gambling time

Sunday: Drive out to Devil's Tower and walk around the base (level, 2 mile walk). Come back through Spearfish Canyon (beautiful scenic drive with easy waterfall hikes). Additional time to spend in Deadwood (more gambling?), Saloon #10 and wild west history in town. There are shops as well.

Monday-Thursday: Head to the central region of the area, preferably taking scenic Rt. 385. Overnight in Hill City each night. You can spend your time doing the following:

1. Mt. Rushmore

2. Crazy Horse

3. Custer State Park (Allot one day for the scenic drives)

4. 1880 Train? You could head into Keystone from Hill City and check out the boardwalk shops there (rather touristy, but you might enjoy them).

5. Reptile Gardens & Bear Country (Road side Americana at its finest)

6. Mammoth Site and Wild Horse Sanctuary

7. Rapid City has places where you can watch Black Hills gold being made.

8. Chuck Wagon Dinner?

You could also spend some time shopping in Hill City. The shops there are a bit more upscale and adult oriented than Keystone.

I have not been there, but many like Wade's Gold Mill in Hill City for gold panning. People say it's least touristy out of the bunch.

wadesgoldmill.com

Friday: Drive out to the Badlands and Wall Drug. If time permits, you could also add the Minuteman Missile Site.

Saturday: Home

My list of activities for Monday-Thursday are things I have found interesting. I have not done the Black Hills gold tours, but I am thinking because you enjoy shopping, these would be fun. This is also why I recommended Hill City for lodging, as it's more adult oriented, and the shops are much nicer than Keystone.

If you tell us a little more about your likes, maybe we could choose even better activities for you. If you haven't already done so, be sure to order a travel guide from travelsd.com.

Hopefully this will get you started. Please let us know how else we can help.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

Your statement that many people do not spend more than a couple of days in SD is because most people do not realize how much there is to do and see in this part of the country. The Black Hills is America's best kept secret. We spend a week to 10 days each year in the Black Hills, usually twice a year. We find plenty to do, although we love to hike and trail ride. Even though you do not like to hike, you will find plenty to do too. To add to srltravleplanners excellent advice, walk around Sylvan Lake while in the Needles. It is beautiful and fairly easy to do. You can also rent paddle boats which is quite fun. Does a trail ride interest you? There are many to choose from in the area. Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park has a nice, scenic trail ride and Andy's Trail Rides in the Deadwood/Lead area is a great, scenic ride also. Andy's web site is: http://www.andystrailrides.com/

As well as great shopping, Hill City has a couple of wineries. We especially love to wine taste at Prairie Berry Winery and love their wines. The town of Custer has some cute shops too. As well as the suggested Chuckwagon Dinner, another evening entertainment idea would be the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. If you go to this site you can see their 2012 schedule:

…weebly.com/2012-season.html

Rapid City's downtown area has some interesting shops and I highly recommend The Prairies Edge. This shop has gorgeous souvenirs and some very high end items that are fun to look at. The lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel is very interesting as well as the bronze statues of American Presidents on the downtown streets. Rapid also offers Bear Country and Reptile Gardens which are both worthy attractions. Bear Country is a drive through zoo. Many of the animals can be seen in their natural habitat in Custer State Park, however, you will not find bears in the wild in the Black Hills. The bears here are numerous and fun to watch. At the end there is a walk through zoo with all the baby animals and the bear cubs are most entertaining. Reptile Gardens is an excellent reptile house. We were amazed to find one this good in South Dakota.

Once you leave Deadwood, lodging in Keystone, Hill City or the town of Custer are excellent choices but staying in Custer State Park in one of the lodges or lodge cabins is really special, IMO. We have stayed in the cabins at Blue Bell Lodge and really love this resort. Although we have never stayed at State Game Lodge, Legion Lake or Sylvan Lake Lodge, we have spent time at all three and would love to try them someday.

If you have not already done so, order the free South Dakota Vacation Guide from www.travelsd.com. It is packed full of information, maps, places to see and stay, etc., that you will find very helpful.

Edited: 30 March 2012, 07:00
Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

For some reason the Black Hills Playhouse web site did not post correctly. I am going to try it again.

…weebly.com/2012-season.html

Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

Sorry! For some reason it will not post right. Just do an online search for the Black Hills Playhouse if you are interested.

5. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

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Chicago, Illinois
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6. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

Your choice to stay in Deadwood the first couple days of your trip and in Hill City or Keystone are perfect. You could base in Rapid City but I think you will like your other choices better. Rapid City, although a small city, is an urban area based at the edge of the Black Hills. The other areas are in the mountains and close to the attractions you wish to see. I believe the comment that by basing in Rapid City you will not have huge daily commutes is very misleading. Keystone and Hill City are no further from any of the Black Hills attractions than Rapid City. Rapid is closer to the Badlands but you are planning to stay in Rapid the night you return from the Badlands anyway.

New York
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7. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

Thanks to everyone's suggestions, I think I finally came up with a close to final itinerary. Days 4 and 6 seem a little light. Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!

DAY 1

Arrive 3:00pm

Check in at Best Western Four Presidents Lodge in Keystone

Mt. Rushmore lighting ceremony

DAY 2

Mt. Rushmore

Crazy Horse

Keystone boardwalk, shopping

Best Western Four Presidents Lodge in Keystone

DAY 3

Custer State Park

Take the scenice Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake ) and Iron Mountain Road ( U.S. Highway 16A) to make up the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway.

Best Western Four Presidents Lodge in Keystone

DAY 4

Fort Hayes – All You Can Eat Cowboy Breakfast – 99 cents

Visit the Dances with Wolves film set

Bear Country

Fort Hayes Chuck Wagon Dinner and Cowboy Show (6:30pm – 8:15pm)

Best Western Four Presidents Lodge in Keystone

DAY 5

Drive out to Devil's Tower and walk around the base

Come back through Spearfish Canyon (beautiful scenic drive with easy waterfall hikes)

Visit Homestake Gold Mine Visitors Center

Check-in to Deadwood Hotel - possibly Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel (grand opening in April)

Gambling

DAY 6

Deadwood - Walk around town and experience wild west history and shops.

Adams House/Museum

Gambling in the evening

Deadwood Hotel

DAY 7

Drive out to the Badlands. Allow full day.

Wall Drug – shopping outside Badlands entrance

If time permits, add the Minuteman Missile Site, watch Black Hills gold being made, stroll the Presidential Walk with life-size bronze statues of the Presidents.

Check-in to Rapid City Hotel

DAY 8

10:00am flight from Rapid City

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

A very, well planned itinerary. Day 3, I suggest driving the Wildloop Road in the early morning hours, before it gets hot. We usually try to drive this road between 6 and 10 a.m. or late afternoon or early evening. The wildlife is usually more active at these times.

When you get back, write some reviews. We are always interested in hearing how posters trips have gone. Have a great time.

9. Re: 7 Days in South Dakota! Itinerary Help Please!

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