This is my third post about this trip, and I've really appreciated all your feedback! I've made a few changes, and I think this is the itinerary we've settled on - all the lodging reservations are made, and we are getting excited! I'm still open to suggestions. Please let me know what you think.
*Friday: Depart Minneapolis area late afternoon and drive to Sioux Falls. Overnight in Sioux Falls at Quality Inn & Suites.
*Saturday: Drive straight from Sioux Falls to the Badlands. Planning to eat lunch at Cedar Pass Lodge - has anyone eaten here, or have any idea what the food is like and how expensive? Spend several hours exploring some trails. Make a quick stop in Wall (mostly to see what the fuss is about!), and then drive to Rapid City and check in to the Comfort Suites. (This hotel was chosen for certain amenities that we wanted but could not find in Keystone or Hill City.)
Planning to have dinner in Rapid City (not sure where yet), then spend the evening exploring the downtown area and seeing the president sculptures.
*Sunday: Drive to Devil's Tower and walk the base. Return via Spearfish Canyon. (Question: Is the drive through Spearfish worth it alone, or do you really need to park and hike to enjoy it? Not sure if the kids will want to hike all day long.) Probably head back to the hotel in Rapid City to relax for a bit and let the kids swim. Head to Mount Rushmore in late afternoon to explore, and then stay for the evening lighting ceremony. Stay overnight again in Rapid City.
*Monday: Head to Jewel Cave for a tour. (I'm thinking a 10:00 reservation?) Then stop at Crazy Horse, which I expect won't take more than about an hour or two with the kids. Then spend a few hours at Sylvan Lake and perhaps rent a paddleboat. Drive Needles Highway to Iron Mountain Road, and depending on time maybe stop in Keystone to eat/shop. Head back to Rapid City for the night.
Question: Based on maps, it appears that you can cut across Custer State Park from Needles to Iron Mtn Road without also driving the Wildlife Loop, correct? If so, that is our plan. How long should I expect it to take to drive this route?
*Tuesday: Check out of our hotel in Rapid City, and head south to visit the Mammoth site. Back to Custer State Park and eventually check into a 2 bedroom housekeeping cabin at State Game Lodge. Plan to spend the afternoon and evening enjoying the park.
I've considered stopping at Wind Cave either before or after the Mammoth Site, but it appears you cannot make a reservation for tours and their website says that Tuesdays are some of their busiest days of the week - I'd hate to waste the morning waiting around, and we don't really intend to wake up at dawn to be the first people there. So I'm leaning toward skipping Wind Cave for this trip.
*Wednesday: Explore Custer State Park. I have reservations for a 2 hour horseback ride at Blue Bell Stables at 1:30, so I am considering trying the lunch buffet at Blue Bell prior to our ride. Stay again at the Game Lodge cabin.
*Thursday: Check out of the cabin and start the trip home on I-90. Planning to stop briefly at the Minuteman Missile Site. (My oldest son has been studying the Cold War in his American History class, so I think it's worth a stop for the real-life illustration.) Planning to then stop in Mitchell to stretch legs and take a photo at the Corn Palace, then on to Sioux Falls. Check back in to the same hotel in Sioux Falls, and then head to the downtown area and explore Falls Park. (Thursday will alternatively serve as our back-up day for the Badlands in case weather is bad on Saturday.)
*Friday: Sleep in a bit, and have an unhurried drive home.