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Summer trip for three adults

Memphis, Tennessee
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Summer trip for three adults

Our party of three adults (hubby, adult son and myself) are thiniking about a trip to SD this summer; maybe late May or June. We'll likely drive from Memphis unless we can find a really good airfare. Is staying in Rapid City pretty central where we could take some day trips or will we need to move every day or two? We hope to see Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug, Badlands, the corn palace, Deadwood and anything else that might be of interest to adults. We like easy hikes, quirky sights and outdoor attractions. We've been down in a gold mine in CO, so I'm not sure we'd care about that unless its really unique. We live very close to casinos in Tunica and go to Vegas every couple of years, so gambling isn't particularly important.

We can take one to two weeks total for this trip, depending on what it looks like as we make our plans. Also, if time allows, we might meander up to ND and/or over to MN to see a few sights while we're reasonably close as we've never been to either state.

We've both stayed in hotels and rented properties and are open to either option if the price is reasonable. I saw on another forum post about a property that doesn't allow drinking. While we're not party animals, we do enjoy some social drinking, especially on vacation. No drinking would definitely be an issue.

Thanks in advance for suggestions you may have.

South Dakota
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1. Re: Summer trip for three adults

Here are my misc. thoughts:

-Dates: June would be better than May. May might bring snow. June in SD works like this: First two weeks are usually cool and rainy. Then, around June 15th, a switch flips and it can get hot. There's no in between around here (with the possible exception of September). So, if you have a bit of flexibility, I'd go sometime around June 10-20ish. Decide whether you prefer the cool/rainy stuff or hot weather.

-Time to allow: You should see the Badlands, the Black Hills and Devil's Tower while out here. Allow 5-7 days touring time, not counting how many days you need to drive back and forth from Memphis. Devil's Tower is a side trip that will fill most of a day and ditto for the Badlands, although the Badlands can be seen on the way coming or going if driving from the east and the main loop can be done in as little as 2-3 hours.

-Lodging: We usually don't recommend staying in Rapid, although there are exceptions to this. As I explained in another post, Rapid is next to the Hills, but not IN the Hills in the same way that Denver is next to the Front Range, but not IN the mountains. For more on this, please read the top question in the upper right entitled, "How do I select a base . . .?"

-Quirky stuff: Cosmos Mystery Area, Reptile Gardens. Wall Drug would be REALLY quirky.

-Outdoor stuff:

*Rushmore. Do the short, but step-filled Presidential Trail.

*Custer State Park. Allow a full day, but split up the three scenic drives into different days (Iron Mt, Needles, Wildlife). Drive up Mt. Coolidge. Do the short hike around Sylvan Lake.

*Jewel Cave (if you've never done a huge cave, otherwise it might be disappointing; arrive at opening for tickets)

*Spearfish Canyon. Do the short hike to Roughlock Falls.

*Hike around the base of Devil's Tower.

*Badlands. Different trails here. Can combine with Wall Drug and the Minuteman Site. Arrive at the Minuteman Site at opening for tickets.

*Crazy Horse.

A couple of other places to consider: 1. The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. It's way down at the southern end of the Hills and doesn't take long to see, so don't go all the way down there just for that. If you can find other things to do in the area, it's worth the stop. 2. Bear Country. It's kind of for kids, but I think adults might like it. I went with kids, but would have enjoyed it without them. Depends on how you feel about being up close and personal with bears.

-On the way coming or going: Yes, see the Corn Palace if you like quirky. Allow around 30 minutes. The inside is pretty much just a gymnasium. The main attraction is the corn on the outside. Falls Park in Sioux Falls is nice and is free. Allow around 30 minutes.

-Other areas: If you go to ND, avoid the Williston area. They are having an oil boom up there and lodging is pretty much impossible to find and driving on roads with oil tankers coming and going in a continuous stream may not thrill you. Roosevelt National Park will be similar to the SD Badlands, but many people enjoy seeing both. Close to Sioux Falls, in Minnesota, is Pipestone National Monument. Allow 1-2 hours. Also close to Sioux Falls, in Garretson, SD is Palisades State Park and Devil's Gulch Municipal Park (site of Jesse James' jump- it's free). Allow 1-2 hours for both combined.

If you like quirky, you should definitely go to House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI if you've never been there. It's too far out of the way to do on this trip, but it is the epitome of quirky.

Memphis, Tennessee
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2. Re: Summer trip for three adults

Thanks for all of the excellent insights. I have read the top question about where to stay and am already leaning towards maybe splitting our stay.

Weatherwise, would it benefit us to wait until July or August? Being from Memphis, we're used to hot and humid weather, but are certainly not fond of it. Looking at weather averages for your area, June seems cooler, but there doesn't seem to be much difference between July and August. I know there's a big Independence Day celebration at Mt. Rushmore, but I'm not sure we care enough to fight the crowds. Also, I know for sure 100% we want to avoid Sturgis week.

Atlanta, Georgia
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3. Re: Summer trip for three adults

Hi Deb,

You have been given great advice. The DE on this forum is very helpful and so is 3174.

Late May/early June can still be cold in the Black Hills. The last time we were there we almost froze to death at the night ceremony at Mt. Rushmore and we had coats, hats and gloves.

In Custer SP be sure and eat lunch or dinner at the State Game Lodge or Blue Bell Lodge for a delicious buffet with bison stew, homemade pies, etc.

We like staying in Keystone at the K Bar S Lodge while others like the Roosevelt Inn in Keystone. I would stay in either Keystone or Hill City.

We have flown in and out of Denver on Southwest airlines when doing the Black Hills but we also included Yellowstone national park. Rapid City is usually a bit expensive. Have friends who found some good air fares in and out of Billings, MT.

We just spent the day in Deadwood seeing Adams House museum and going to Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

If you are a fan of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind then a stop in Devils Tower is not to be missed.

Go online and look at the Black Hills travel guide at www.travelsd.com. You can also order a copy. It has loads of great info.

Agree to avoid Surgis which is August 4-10 but bikers start arriving usually around the first of August.

Hope you enjoy your trip.

South Dakota
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4. Re: Summer trip for three adults

There's another top question in the upper right corner about the best time of year to go. There's a month-by-month list of weather. Of course, all of it is a guess as no one can predict the weather. Yes, July and August are going to be hot. Also, as Peach Belle said, bikers arrive early and stay late, so you basically have to avoid the last few days of July and the entire first two weeks of August.

I think the end of June would be a good fit for you. Also, although this doesn't happen every year, and the Hills is a huge area, forest fires increase in prevalence as the summer goes on. I like the air better out there in June.

Memphis, Tennessee
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5. Re: Summer trip for three adults

Thanks again for all the good info. Lots for us to consider and I need to get booking some reservations.

Pitman, New Jersey
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6. Re: Summer trip for three adults

I have been to the area in late July and late August, and I personally prefer late August, after Sturgis. Weather can be hot, but we have experienced cooler temps with some rain. The crowds were light and I never minded touring anything.

In late July, we did notice more bikers, as some do arrive early. I have heard late June is also a good time to go, so that's something to consider. Besides Sturgis, I'd also avoid July 4th. I think lodging always seems more expensive everywhere this time of year.

Since you are driving, I would try to take 2 weeks to allow for plenty of time to drive and see the sights. I would also recommend seeing the Badlands on your way in, particularly if you enjoy photography. Sunrises and sunsets in the Badlands are wonderful. You could stay in the area for a night to give you the opportunity to see these. Cedar Pass Lodge has some new cabins and is located inside the park. Pioneer Cabins in Wall are well rated (I have a friend who stayed in them and enjoyed it) and might be a little cheaper.

Deadwood casinos will seem very miniscule to you since your are near Tunica. Many of the casinos are quite small and located in storefronts.

Wall Drug, Corn Palace, and the Cosmos Mystery Area are extremely quirky, so I think you will find those enjoyable. The Minuteman Missile Site near the Badlands is rated well and is very unique. Just be sure to arrive early to secure tickets. They tend to sell out early in the day, as I believe only 6 people are taken in the control facility at a time.

For lodging, I like staying in Keystone at the Rushmore Express or Roosevelt Inn. K Bar S gets great ratings, but it has no pool and caters to tour groups. Others like Hill City or Custer. All 3 towns have chain hotels, but many find dining options better in Hill City or Custer State Park. Keystone has limited choices that are good. Powder House Lodge and Big Time Pizza are theiri best places. For 3 adults, I'd recommend Hill City, as I find Keystone caters more to families. Some people find it too touristy, which it definitely is, but it has never bothered me.

I hope this helps you. Please let us know if any other questions arise.

Memphis, Tennessee
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7. Re: Summer trip for three adults

Thanks so much. Late August is more appealing to me because of possibly smaller crowds after some schools start. However, someone mentioned possible forest fires later in the summer. We certainly wouldn't want to get caught up in that. Weighing our options!

South Dakota
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8. Re: Summer trip for three adults

As I said before, I would not worry a whole lot about the fires. It's such a big area, they are unlikely to affect you. The only thing I noticed was that when I compared photos from our last trip (in early June) to those of friends who went in July the same year (when there was a fire going on), their photos were not as clear as ours. The air looked like it had more haze. They still had a good time.

South Dakota schools will all be in session before the end of August, so there won't be many local tourists after about Aug. 20th.

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