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First time visitors-need advice

Winnipeg, Canada
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42 posts
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First time visitors-need advice

Hi, I am planning on visiting SD with my family of 6 from Canada from August 24-28th. We have 4 kids under the age of 11. Any advice on where to stay, things to do, where to eat? I know the obvious tourist things like Mt.Rushmore and Crazy Horse, but would love any advice beyond that. Thanks!

Lead, South Dakota
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1. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Hello sdeblaere, I live in the Black Hills and

Work at the Golden Hills Resort in Lead. Here are a few attractions that I would suggest for the kids:

Bear Country - Drive through wildlife park (the adults will love this also)

Any of the Chuckwagon dinners

Cosmos Mystery area - I still remember visiting this as a child

Evans plunge - Do all of the kids swim?

Reptile Gardens - Absolutely do not miss this unless someone is afraid of snakes.

Storybook Island - The younger kids will love it.

The Roo Ranch - Close-up with Kangaroos

Where you stay depends on a lot of factors. Usually, I recommend that people split their time between the Southern Hills (Hill City, Custer, Keystone) and the Northern Hills (Deadwood, Lead, Spearfish). This way you can take in all of the major "must sees" with a minimum of driving time.

Winnipeg, Canada
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42 posts
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2. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Thanks for the information. Yes, my kids can swim and woudl enjoy that. Do you recommend a chuckwagon dinner/show? I was told to stay in Rapid City and do day trips but you would recommend the other 2 cities instead? Also, I see the States Fair is there that week, should we go spend a day there? What is your resort like? Any favorite restaurants?

Denver, Colorado
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3. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Our family just returned recently from the Black Hills. In Rapid City I would highly recommend visiting Storybook Island. It is a great park and your kids will really enjoy it. Our kids did (ages 11, 10 and 4). I would not commute from Rapid City but stay in the Black Hills in either Hill City, Keystone or Custer which is pretty central to all the activities. Aside from Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse you will definitely want to spend some time driving through Custer State Park (Needles Highway, Wildlife loop, etc). Your kids will enjoy seeing the wildlife and the drives offer great scenery. We went to the Circle B Chuckwagon and enjoyed it very much. The kids really liked playing on the various things they have, panning for gems and the pony rides before the show. Our 4 year old was a little bored during the show but the older kids enjoyed it. You may also want to visit the Badlands National Park. You can spend a few hours driving the Loop Road. The scenery is amazing and the kids will enjoy climbing around. As for restaurants I recommend Big Time Pizza in Keystone and in Custer Reetz's Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Pie or as our kids called it the "purple palace." Aside from great pie and ice cream, they also serve lunch. We didn't eat out much during our stay but I would definitely recommend those 2 places. Enjoy your trip.

Winnipeg, Canada
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42 posts
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4. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Thanks so much. Storybook Island won't have any plays when we are there so I'm not sure if we'll still go. Your information helps a lot.

Pitman, New Jersey
Destination Expert
for Rapid City, South Dakota
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5. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Hello,

Here's my short list of the must sees of the Black Hills:

Badlands National Park

Mt Rushmore

Crazy Horse

Custer State Park

Wind Cave

Jewel Cave.

Devil's Tower

There are many more things to see and do as the others have mentioned. Black Hills Guide has provided a good list of wholesome kid attractions that adults alike can enjoy. Reptile Gardens & Bear Country are great fun. You will be amazed on how quickly and easily you will fill your 5 days.

If you were staying a little longer, I'd consider splitting my time between the north and central regions of the area. With just 5 days, I'd probably stay central. The best towns to stay in are Keystone, Hill City or Custer. I would not recommend staying in Rapid City and commuting. IMO, you will not get a true feel of the hills by staying in town, and you will spend much more time in the car.

The Badlands will take close to a day to see by the time you go out and back, (unless you are driving in and will pass them enroute; in that case, see them on your way in or out). Devil's Tower would be a nice day trip, and if you go out, you can drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway coming or going, and you could also stop in Deadwood and see some of the sights there. The Adams House and Museum are particularly interesting.

The rest of your time could be filled with the other places I mention, plus you can add any of the other worthwhile sights you have time for.

Big Time Pizza in Keystone has the best pizza I have ever tasted. I wholeheartedly agree with the previous poster who recommended this. We also enjoyed the Alpine Inn in Hill City. For dinner, they only serve filet mignon, so you might want to try it for lunch. They have traditional German fare and a kids menu. FYI--they don't take credit cards. Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park is also good, and others have recommended the State Game Lodge. They have a lunch buffet. I don't think you can go wrong with any of the lodges in Custer. We found the food and service at Blue Belle exceptional.

If you have time, your kids might enjoy gold panning. One of the regular posters on this site, Casa Azul, has recommended Wade's Gold Mill, and those who have gone seem to have enjoyed it. It sounds less "touristy" than others.

You have chosen an excellent time to visit. Crowds will be lighter, and you might even have a little cooler weather.

Please feel free to ask additional questions. Have a great trip.

Chicago, Illinois
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683 posts
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6. Re: First time visitors-need advice

I agree with the others that you will have a better experience staying in the Black Hills versus Rapid City. I do not know what your budget is but we love Blue Bell Lodge Resort in Custer State Park. Cabins are rustic, clean & comfortable. We always experience alot of wildlife at the resort that I am sure your kids would get a kick out of. Blue Bell has a stable for trail rides and a Chuckwagon Dinner, both of which I highly recommend. Food at the resorts dinning room is excellent. Check out the reviews for Custer State Park and Blue Bell Lodge. Actually, any of the CSP resorts would be a good place to stay depending on your budget. If you go to the following website you will find quite a bit of information and ideas: http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/

If your kids like to swim both Legion Lake and Sylvan Lake have nice little beaches. Our kids especially love Sylvan Lake. Another place your family might enjoy is the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, especially if any of your kids like dinesours. Hiking in CSP is great also. Lots of wonderful trails. I highly recommend the hike to Harney Peak from Sylvan Lake. It would be a good one for the ages of your children.

Chicago, Illinois
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7. Re: First time visitors-need advice

In regards to my previous input, hiking to Harney Peak may be too ambitious for your kid's ages. Not knowing how young the youngest is, I would not attempt with any child younger than 5 or 6 due to the length of the trip. If your kid's are old enough to climb the trail around Sylvan Lake might be a better one. It is mostly flat with an area where you need to climb over some rocks. Your can pick up trail maps at the lodges or the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center that advise the lengths and difficulty of trails in CSP.

Another activity your kids would enjoy is the Alpine Slide in Keystone.

Winnipeg, Canada
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42 posts
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8. Re: First time visitors-need advice

All this information has been so helpful. I have a good idea of what activities to do. I'm working at booking a hotel now, i've done all the research on the accomodations recommended and am trying to find something reasonable. I am also wondering if I shoudl bother taking them to the States Fair in Rapid City.

Lead, South Dakota
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182 posts
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9. Re: First time visitors-need advice

Hey sdiblaere, Definately split your time between Southern Hills and Northern Hills. There really isn't any reason to stay in Rapid City. I can't really tell you much about the Golden Hills Resort on this forum because tripadvisor carefully monitors it for anyone trying to solicit business (and rightly so). The Web site address is www.goldenhillsonline.com but there are many options in both areas.

As far as restaurants in the Northern Hills is concerned I recommend the Railroad Roundhouse, and the Stampmill in Lead (note:both of these are housed in interesting restored historic buildings), The Silverado Buffet in Deadwood (note:This is a casino but children are welcome in the restaurant, especially good on Fri/Sat when they serve all you can eat crab legs), and Sanfords in Spearfish (note:the atmosphere there is more for adults).

Winnipeg, Canada
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42 posts
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10. Re: First time visitors-need advice

thanks again for the info. we are going to stay in Hill City for 3 nights and Rapid City for 2 while we do Reptile Gardens, Bear Country and a chuckwagon show. I'm not sure what attractions are in the north other than the town of Deadwood. Is it worth a day spent up there as that's all we'll have?