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Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Missouri
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Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

After much research in the South Dakota travel guide and this website as well as other sites, I have come up with our itinerary for our trip to SD in late June. We are a family of 3 (hubby & I and our 5 year old daughter. We like history and scenic places and it looks like the black hills has plenty of both.

Friday, June 21 - Leave SW Missouri and drive north, stopping for the night at Mitchell where we have a room at the Best Western

Saturday, June 22 - Quick stop at the Corn Palace and then a quick stop at Chamberlain. Arrive at the east entrance to the Badlands around noon. Any suggestions on where to eat or get some picnic food in this area? I've read that the Cedar Pass Restaurant is only so-so. In the late afternoon we will head up to Wall where we have a cabin booked for 1 night at Frontier Cabins. After check-in, head over to Wall Drug for dinner and tour the rest of the store.

Sunday, June 23 - Wounded Knee Museum first thing and then leave Wall and head to Rapid City, arriving around noon. Drive into downtown RC to see the Presidents' statues. Any suggestions for a good restaurant in downtown? Museum of Geology, Storybook Island, and Dinosaur Park. Then head south on 16 to Keystone and check in to our cabin at Powder House Lodge where we will spend the next five nights. Dinner at the Powder House Restaurant and relaxing at the pool.

Monday, June 24 - Sylvan Lake, Needles Highway, lunch at Legion Lake Lodge. Gold panning at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center at 1pm. Drive the Iron Mountain Road from south to north, arriving at Mount Rushmore in the late afternoon. Tour Mount Rushmore, eat dinner at the Carver's Cafe there, and stay for the evening lighting ceremony.

Tuesday, June 25 - Start out at Fort Hays for the 99 cent pancake breakfast. Then head over to Reptile Gardens for the rest of the morning and afternoon. Eat lunch at the cafe there. In the late afternoon, head back over to Fort Hays to tour the film set and craft demonstrations and then stay for the evening dinner and show.

Wednesday, June 26 - Head into Custer State Park and drive the Wildlife Loop from east to west. Head south on Highway 87 to Wind Cave. Take the 10:40 am Garden of Eden tour. Head back up Highway 87 into Custer State Park and stop at the Blue Bell area. Eat at the BB Lodge or get some picnic food and find a spot. Drive up to Mount Coolidge Lookout. Quick stop at the Gordon Stockade, then head west into Custer City. Tour the 1881 Courthouse Museum and then eat dinner at the Black Hills Burger & Bun Company. Then head to Crazy Horse for the laser light show and the Night Blast.

Thursday, June 27 - Head up 385 to Deadwood. Drive by Adams House and take a few pics from the outside. Continue on to Mount Moriah Cemetery for pics of the graves and the view. Stop next at the Adams Museum. We need a place to eat lunch somewhere near Main Street that is not in a casino (i.e. kid-friendly). Walk down Main Street to the Saloon #10 for the 1pm show of the Killing of Wild Bill. Watch the shootout on Main Street in front of the 4 Aces at 2pm. Head north to Spearfish and then drive south through Spearfish Canyon, stopping to take pics and short hikes. Stop at Cheyenne Crossing for dinner. End in Lead to see the Homestake Mine Big Cut. I've read that there is a free viewing platform at the visitor center. Is this platform accessible when the visitor center is closed? If we don't get to Lead until after dinner, the center may be closed, but we still want to see the big hole.

I wish we had time to go out to Devil's Tower but just don't see how we can squeeze it in. On Friday we will leave the Black Hills and head south into and across Nebraska. We want to drive home via a different route and see other stuff. We plan to stop at Carhenge, Chimney Rock, North Platte, and Lincoln before heading home.

Thank you for your help.

Apple Valley...
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1. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

On Saturday you may want to pick up picnic supplies while in Chamberlain before heading to the Badlands. Are you planning on seeing the Lewis and Clark markers in that area?

On Tuesday you may also have time to add Bear Country USA (very close to where you already are that day) if Reptile Gardens ends up not being an all day thing. Loved seeing the baby bears play!

If you are looking for a break on the drive up, I would stop in Sioux Falls as their namesake park is very pretty and also has some historical markers.

Sounds like a very nice, well thought out plan, have fun!

Rockford, Illinois...
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2. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

For Friday – maybe hit Falls Park in Sioux Falls if you have the time – as I am not sure how far you are driving this day. Maybe even see the Corn Palace in the evening. Do not worry if it is closed as it is something to see from the outside.

For Saturday – Get your picnic supplies from Wal Mart in Mitchell that morning or even get them the night before. Then you do not have to worry about finding a place to get them later in the day.

Tuesday seems light – with a 5 year old you may want to visit Old Macdonalds farm – as this is something our kids (7 and 11) really liked last year. Your admission is good for three days, so you can visit more than once.

Wednesday – you may be rushed in the AM if you are trying to get to the 10:40 AM cave tour. Driving the wildlife loop can take time and if the buffalo herd is on the road you may be stopped for a while. Also, with a 5 year old – how long is this tour? A long tour may not hold her interest. We did the shortest tour and it was good for the kids.

Thursday – Any of the casino restaurants can be visited with kids. The kids just need to stay (I think) 2 feet away from the gaming. I would research places to eat here on TA and pick the one that seems best for your family. I would suggest after doing your Deadwood things to hit up the Homestake mine, as it will be open. It is not much to see, but it is impressive how much dirt was removed. I would then head towards Cheyenne Crossing and drive Spearfish Canyon S to N. Then turn around and drive it N to S stopping at Cheyenne Crossing to eat. You could also eat in Spearfish.

The second year we went to the black hills for our summer vacation – we packed picnic lunches every day. This saved us from having to find a decent place to eat for lunch. There are places all over the hills that are perfect for a picnic lunch, so finding a place is easy.

Missouri
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3. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Yes, I do plan to see the Lewis and Clark stuff in Chamberlain. That is the main reason I want to stop. Always been interested in Lewis and Clark history. Is Al's Oasis anywhere near Chamberlain? It sounds like a cool place to stop. Very similar to a place we stopped at in Texas, near Austin, called Bucky's. A huge gas station / convenience store / grocery store / deli / souvenir shop, etc.

If Reptile Gardens doesn't take all day, we may consider Bear Country or Cosmos Mystery area.

If we have time we may stop in Sioux Falls. We estimate a 10-12 hour drive on the first day so may be pretty tired.

Thanks for your suggestions, goodiowagirl!

Apple Valley...
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4. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Yes Al's Oasis is in/near Chamberlain, on the west side of the river, just off the Interstate exit. The gas station is separate from the gift shop/restaurant (bad reviews)/grocery store.

Sounds like a very long drive the first day! You might be better off staying in Sioux Falls instead of Mitchell. You will still have plenty of time on Day 2 I think to see everything you want. Many people do it that way. The Corn Palace is a very very quick stop honestly. I was disappointed in Al's Oasis after the build up/hype of the billboards....and with doing Wall Drug the next day, I would choose that over Al's just for the sake of the 5 year old.

Missouri
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5. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

If we get into Mitchell really late Friday night, we will be tired and will probably wait until the morning to see the Corn Palace.

Good to know that there is a Wal-Mart in Mitchell. We can pick up anything we might have forgotten to pack.

If we do run out of things to do at Reptile Gardens, we will look at going to Bear Country, Mcdonald's Farm, or Cosmos Mystery Area. I think they are all close by.

For Wind Cave, I tried to pick the shortest cave tour that had the least amount of steps. This is their least strenuous tour at 1 hour, 1/4 mile and 150 steps. If we don't make it to the 10:40 tour, we can wait for the next one and push everything else back.

We might eat at one of the casino restaurants just to stay in the Main Street area to make it to Saloon #10 by 1pm.

I had thought about going to Lead after Deadwood, then north through Spearfish Canyon and then turning around and coming back to eat at Cheyenne Crossing. We'll play it by ear.

I hope to eat picnic lunches as much as we can to save time and money. We'll bring our cooler filled with drinks and pick up picnic food wherever we are that day.

Thanks for your suggestions, Mike!

Missouri
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6. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

We had talked about staying at Sioux Falls the first night, but wanted to make it a little further. Now I am second guessing that decision. We may see how early we get started and if we can make it all the way to Mitchell or need to scale back and bunk in Sioux Falls.

If we spend a good amount of time in Chamberlain, we may skip Al's Oasis. Is is right off the interstate? I thought I read that it is a few miles in town.

Rockford, Illinois...
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7. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Al's is right off the interstate. That said last year we stopped there and were disappointed. We kept seeing the billboards, so we decided to stop. There are groceries there if you need some.

Missouri
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8. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Thanks Mike. Do you know how far it is from the Visitors Center in Chamberlain to Al's?

Pitman, New Jersey
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9. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

In Rapid City, the Firehouse Brewery seems to get good feedback on this site. Goodiowagirl, I think you ate there and liked it?? Am I remembering this correctly?

On Tuesday, I do recommend adding something else. Bear Country, the Cosmos, or Old McDonald's Farm would be great choices for your daughter. You can see Reptile Gardens in around 3 hours or so.

Has your daughter visited a cave before? Wind Cave has lower ceilings in many spots than Jewel Cave and tends to leave some feeling rather "claustrophobic." I have seen a man get a full blown panic attack with heavy breathing down there. It doesn't affect everyone this way, but I just wanted to let you know. It's a great tour experience as long as your daughter feels comfortable. We usually recommend Jewel Cave for those with children who have not toured a cavern before. It just has a more open feel. They will turn out the lights on both tours, so you might want to warn your daughter about this beforehand.

I agree that Deadwood casino restaurants, particularly the buffets, would be fine for your daughter. I believe we have tried Four Aces Buffet and found it to be fine.

Also, we visited Homestake after hours and viewed it from the platform you mentioned. It was an amazing sight, although I don't think there's much else there besides a viewing experience.

Your plan is quite good, and I think you will have a very enjoyable trip. Let us know if you have additional questions, and we hope you write a trip report. We love to hear how vacations went.

Apple Valley...
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10. Re: Need opinions/suggestions on my itinerary

Yes I did eat at the Brewery, funny you remember! :-) LOL They also have a LOT of billboard signage across the state.

The food was fine, it was a unique setting in an old firehouse. There was an outdoor patio area as well and evening entertainment I believe. I do not drink beer but my friend liked it (although her food came out cold). It was centrally located in downtown Rapid City.