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Itinerary do-able or too much?

La Crosse, Wisconsin
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Itinerary do-able or too much?

Hello everyone! You all sound SO helpful with planning trips and I could really use your help! We will be traveling to South Dakota for 1 week in July from Wisconsin. My husband and I have a six year old and a two year old. After reading some of your suggestions, I tried to switch our home base from Rapid City to either Keystone or Custer, but our budget dictates we must stay with Rapid City. Anyway, here is what I have planned. Can anyone tell me if this is doable for a six and two year old or am I setting myself up for a complete disaster? Any and all suggestions welcomed and appreciated!

Day 1

Leave Wisconsin early a.m.

Visit the Corn Palace, Stay in Chamberlain, SD

Day 2

Badlands National Park/Scenic Byway, Dinosaur Park

Day 3

Crazy Horse Memorial, 1880 Train, Reptile Gardens

Day 4

Mount Rushmore, Soaring Eagle Zipline, Alpine Slide, Bear Country USA

Day 5

Custer State Park, Flinstone Bedrock City, Magic Show (at Showbarn in Bedrock City)

Day 6

Visit Deadwood, Devils Tower

Day 7

South Dakota Air and Space Museum, Wall Drug, Head for home (will stop and stay night somewhere along the way).

It seems doable but I might be a little eager! If there is anything else out there that you think is a "must see", please share!

Thank you so much for your help!

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

Your itinerary is very doable; a nice, not overly crowded schedule which will be perfect for your 6 and 2 year olds. I would like to make a couple of suggestions which you can take or leave.

The Dinosaur Park in Rapid City is nothing too special but it is free. Your six year old can climb around and on some of the dinosaurs but if you wish to skip this park you wouldn't miss much. The dinosaurs can be seen from the car while passing through Rapid City.

The 1880 train can be alot of fun but may become a little boring if you do the roundtrip ride, especially for your 6 yr. old. If it all possible, I would suggest either you or your husband drive to the destination town and pickup those who choose to ride the train. Perhaps you will not want to split up, but it is just a thought.

We have been to Bedrock City, although several years ago, and found it to be rather run down. Storybook Island in Rapid City would be a better option, IMO, for your kids. Perhaps they have improved Bedrock City, but if so, I am not aware of it. Check out the reviews for Bedrock City on TA before you make a decision.

On Day 5 you can probably spend almost the whole day in Custer State Park. The Wildlife Loop Road is best if driven in the early morning, before it gets too hot, or late afternoon/early evening. The wildlife tends to be more active at these times. Bring some cut-up apples and/or carrots for the "begging burros". The burros love handouts and will be a big hit with your kids. Quite often the buffalo herds will move away from the main loop road and can be found by taking one of the side, gravel roads. Stop a ranger or stop in at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center across from the State Game Lodge, before you drive the loop road and ask where the herds can be found. They are usually a big help. Keep your eyes open for wildlife throughout the whole park. The Wildlife Loop is not the only area to see buffalo and other wildlife. Legion Lake and Sylvan Lake both have nice little beaches for swimming and you can also rent paddleboats Both areas have some nice, short hiking trails also as well as some longer ones. There is a little cafe at Legion Lake and a grill in the Sylvan Lake store/souvenir shop and/or you can picnic at both lakes. The Peter Norbeck Byway, which includes the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road are extremely scenic and best driven from the south to the north. However, driving the Needles Highway from the south to the north is not as imperative as Iron Mountain Road. The tunnel views of Mt. Rushmore are much better when driving from the south towards Mt. Rushmore.

Deadwood is not what I would call a child friendly town. Aside from gambling, they do have some interesting museums depicting Deadwood's history, but I am not too sure that would interest your 6 yr. old. They do have a re-enactment of the Shooting of Wild Bill Hickock and shootouts on the street throughout the day and they always get the kids involved. However, Keystone also has shootouts during the day. The Deadwood Gulches of Fun might be fun for your kids, but other than that there isn't much more for them. Before you go on to Devil's Tower, take a drive through Spearfish Canyon. starting at the south entrance off of Hwy. 87, south of Lead. The canyon is gorgeous and has several beautiful waterfalls, Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Falls and Bridal Veil Falls being the main ones. Roughlock Falls, located about a 1/2 mile or so behind the Spearfish Canyon Lodge, has a nice picnic area. Spearfish Falls can only be seen by taking a short hike and is located behind the Latchstring Inn across the street from the lodge. Bridal Veil Falls can be seen from Hwy. 14A, the main road, and is located about 3/4 of the way through the canyon towards the Spearfish entrance/exit. Devil's Tower is a little over a 1/2 hour drive from the town of Spearfish. If you need a place to eat, there is a great little cafe at Cheyenne Crossing, the south entrance to Spearfish Canyon, that I highly recommend. Great food all made from scratch, fantastic desserts, reasonable prices, very casual and friendly service. One of the best places to eat in all of the Black Hills.

Hope this helps. The Black Hills is a great place for a family vacation. Have a great trip and let us know if we can help in any other way.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

Great advice as always from Mt. Mama. I really agree with her advice and hope you are able to take advantage of her suggestions.

I agree with her advice about Bedrock City. I have not ever gone in, but from the roadside, it doesn't look like a place I'd like to check out. For day 5, I'd focus solely on Custer State Park.

Depending on your kids, they may or may not enjoy the train. I found it ok, but not as scenic as the drives you will be doing. The best part of the ride was going from Keystone to Hill City at lunch time and having lunch at the Alpine Inn.

Definitely add Spearfish Canyon on your Devil's Tower day.

I agree your pace is fine and won't be overwhelming for a 2 year old. I applaud you for not trying pack in too much. I have seen many families trying overload very young children.

Some additional options if you find you have the time and energy:

Your kids might enjoy Old McDonald's Farm in Rapid City since you are staying there. It's a small petting zoo that could be a nice diversion for a short time.

A rainy day option might be Putz N Glo Mini Golf or WaTiki Water Park, also in Rapid.

I am assuming you are skipping the caves due to the ages of your children. As much as I like caves, I actually think this is very wise on your part.

Please feel free to ask additional questions. Enjoy your trip!

South Dakota
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3. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

Totally agree with and wanted to second what the other posters have said.

We did the round trip 1880 Train ride and I wouldn't do both ways again. Get on the first train of the day in Hill City before it gets too packed. Have one parent drive and meet you in Keystone. If you get out in Keystone to use the bathroom, you'll get behind a huge mob of people waiting to get on and you won't get your original seats back or possibly even find seats together. We got spread out over three cars. The dialogue on the return trip is identical to the dialogue on the way over. The novelty had worn off for our kids on the way back and they got restless. You may want to rearrange your schedule so you do the Alpine Slide on this day since it's right in Keystone. Another kid-friendly Keystone attraction is the Big Thunder Gold Mine. This might be a better bet than Bedrock City.

I also agree with skipping Dinosaur Park. It's rather run down, is not stroller accessible and involves climbing a lot of steep stairs (not fun in the heat).

If you follow the previous suggestions of skipping Deadwood and doing Spearfish Canyon, stop in Spearfish at the fish hatchery. It's free, scenic and the kids can feed the fish. There's a nice park adjacent to it for a picnic lunch.

Finally, people in Mitchell won't like me saying this, but you might find Falls Park in Sioux Falls to be a more interesting attraction than the Corn Palace. The falls are very pretty and you can ride up in an elevator to a viewing tower which overlooks the city.

South Dakota
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4. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

Oh yes, and please take Mtn. Mama's advice of visiting Storybook Island in Rapid. Your kids are at the perfect ages for that. It's a really neat place.

Jackson, Wisconsin
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5. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

Double check to see if the zip line is back up and running . Had been closed in June

Fort Worth, Texas
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6. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

We just returned from an 8 day trip with a six year old. We loved Crazy horse, spent 4 hours here. Rushmore took about 3 hours. I personally would not try to squeeze in too much. The children will be cranky. Try to schedule some "down" time--you will enjoy your trip more if you do. The dinosaur park is easy to skip. We did about 1.5 hours at Storybook Land--Clean and free. The drive up IRON MOuntain will take much longer than anticipated so will the drive through Custer ( bring carrots) and Sylvan Lake---allow a whole day for this park--We stopped at Sylvan Lake and let the little one swim--Big Hit! Take some sandwhiches. The drive through Spearfish-not to be missed! Stop at Spearfish Canyon Lodge and make a left-go about 1/4 mile and get out and have a picnic----This is sure to be a hit with the kids. Deadwoodn is not for children...we split up, Hubby went to casino and I took child to Park about 2 blocks away. Be careful where you eat---Food is generally mediocre at best. Better to pack sandwhiches and fruit every day. Let me know if you need any other info. Have lots of pics coming soon. Oh yeah, we did Reptile gardens and Bear Country in the same day. Highly recommend Reptile Gardens. Bear Country is nice but would skip it if time is an issue.

Edited: 30 June 2012, 03:41
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7. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?


We did the same trip from Wisconsin 2 years ago with a 7-year-old. I don't know exactly where you are leaving from - we are in the Milwaukee area. We stayed overnight just outside of Minnesota in South Dakota on Day 1 in Sioux Falls.

On Day 2, we stopped by the Corn Palace, Wall Drug and did the Badlands Loop. I believe we drove to Mt. Rushmore that evening after getting situated in our motel. If we make this trip again, we will skip the Corn Palace and Wall Drug. I think people should visit once but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them. The Badlands loop is on the way to Rapid City - I recommend making that trip en route.

Speaking of Rapid City and places to stay, I cannot say enough positive for the Big Sky Lodge. It is clean, comfy and the owner is super helpful. The price is ridiculously affordable and the location is not inconvenient.

I think trying to do Deadwood and Devils Tower might be too much - it was for us. We never made it to Devils Tower. Spearfish Canyon on the way was gorgeous.

I suggest a day for Custer State Park alone. We tried to avoid the kid-geared places, though but I can see why you might want to with a 2-year-old. They remind me of the Dells.

No offense to Crazy Horse but we didn't want to pay the fees (we were on a budget) and saw what we could driving outside of it.

I think if you don't hold yourself fast to your list, pick one item a day that is a must see/do and then be flexible from there, you will be happy.

Have a great time. We are taking a trip this year and almost chose to get back - we loved it so much. The drive was so pretty in August - lots of sunflowers.

8. Re: Itinerary do-able or too much?

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