We stayed here around Thanksgiving. We were looking for someplace nice downtown (there aren't many options) and this fit the bill. The hotel itself is good and fairly inexpensive, but the reason you reserve a room here is for the location and walking access to the surrounding area. It is a landmark in Rapid City, easy to navigate to because it is one of the tallest buildings in town and has large red lettering that is illuminated at night. The rooms are comfortable and adequate, and the suites spacious with a view of "the city". One worthwhile diversion is their sky bar to get a panoramic view of the city and bordering hills. The Alex is a historic building located conveniently next to the new town square, some boutique clothing stores, the always amazing Prairie Edge Native American "shop" that in our opinion is an attraction unto itself. The store spans 3 floors with its local and heritage artwork, Italian bead gallery, bookstore, and showroom full of amazing pieces from artists working around the Black Hills.
Rapid City has been built up over the last decade in a planned and caring manner, complete with restored building fronts and even the new square that offers plenty of benches, a firepit, locally mined granite sculptures, a small stage for performances, an ice rink in the winter months or a elaborate set of fountains that families can play in and enjoy in the heat of the spring and summer. The downtown area now has plenty to offer both tourists and business travelers with local, upscale restaurant options, shopping for anything from Native American art, chic (albeit not high fashion) clothing options, organic food stores (Staple & Spice being a standout), a cigar/wine store, regional antiques, outdoor gear, and even a comic book store (also located across the street from the Alex). A multi-story parking garage is located on one side of the square and a small shopping center filled with non-chain, local stores (a cute toy store, art galleries, a gaming hangout, a snowboard/skate shop, and a really great bookstore that's perfect for lounging) and a top notch hamburger/malt/soda fountain joint that sources its food from only the best suppliers which is must if you are in the area.
There's some other excellent places to eat within walking distance of the Alex, the Firehouse which is a local brew house with tasty food and live music several nights a week, Tally's Silver Spoon is across the street which is one of the more "gourmet" options in town with a creative menu and good service, Delmonico's is another that is praised for its steak, Botticellis serves quality Italian food, and there's even the option to have Indian food just a block away as well. For a great fine dining experience in the Black Hills, the Corn Exchange is my favorite with its candle lit tables, simple but expertly arranged menu and wine list, and attentive service. Their sister store, the Potted Rabbit is a great place to stop in as well. It hasn't been open for long, so it's still adding to its stock list, but it's definitely worth a stop if you are a foodie. For coffee lovers, there's plenty of hangouts. Bully Blends is one of the more popular ones with free wifi, plenty of family style seating and also good breakfast and lunch food, but it is more on the expensive side. Sanford's is a great place to hang out, get some creative menu choices, and grab a beer or three with friends, and it's located just past the Radisson if you are walking from the Alex. There's even a vintage candy/soda shop across from the new square as well, but again a bit pricey.
If chain restaurants are more your style, there's plenty that have sprung up recently, but you'll need to drive a few minutes to get there. Most of the venues are near the mall side of town, which is spread out over several miles along the highway. You can choose from Famous Daves, Outback, Chilis, On the Border, Fuddruckers (in the Rushmore Mall), and Texas Roadhouse.
Another great entertainment option within a block of the Alex is the Elks Theatre, which has the state's largest viewing screen. It plays second run movies at only 4 dollars per person, one of the best movie deals you will find. It's clean, has pretty decent staff as far as movie theaters run, and they did an excellent job in the restoration of the stage and entryway. The theater was originally built in the 1800s and it was almost torn down in the late 1900s during the push to improve the downtown area, but with enough local support, it managed to get spared and underwent a dramatic facelift to be what it is today. The Dahl Fine Arts Center is another great place downtown to go for local drama performances and a rotating art gallery.
For nightlife and the bar scene, the main place to go is near the Radisson (the only other real option if you want a nice hotel in downtown Rapid City). There's a whole street several blocks long if you want to do a pub crawl and several of them have local bands playing a few nights a week. Dublins, Murphy's (just renovated and usually the younger college crow hangs out here), and the 445 Martini Lounge of the Radisson are the most lively with the best drink options and entertainment.
Throughout the year, the Rapid City Civic Center has no shortage of plays, sporting events, festivals, and other diversions. The Stock Show is one of the largest in the country and takes over the entire civic center complex with rodeos, buffalo auctions, livestock competitions, and even a petting zoo. The summer Pow Wow is a spectacle to behold as well and a great cultural event for the entire family. And there's the local semi-pro hockey team, the Rapid City Rush, which plays every week when they are in season at the state of the art ice rink that packs in over 5,000 people each match and is sold out most games each year. You can look up any number of the places I mentioned on the tourism website for Rapid City, which has some great coverage of things to do, places to see, and where to stay and eat http://www.visitrapidcity.com/
Of course if you are looking for places to go outside of Rapid City, there's Mount Rushmore about a half hour away in the Southern Hills and if you want check out Reptile Gardens (one of the largest collections of reptiles and birds in North America, and they take great care of their animals with the help of a great staff and plenty of room for the wildlife to roam) and Bear Country (a huge natural wildlife preserve that you can drive through) along the way. Hill City is just past Mount Rushmore with a great collection of fossils and real and replica dinosaur bones in the Hilly City Museum, going farther south you have Jewel Cave if you want to go spelunking, Custer State Park with the Needles for avid rock climbers and Sylvan Lake to enjoy the same area that they filmed the latest National Treasure movie and do some family camping. Up to the north is Sturgis about 20 minutes away, and farther into the central Black Hills is Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon, which are both well worth a visit. And, in the winter, there's two main ski resorts, Terry Peak and Deer Mountain with an elevation rise of over 1,000 feet.
Rapid City has a lot more to offer than it did 10 or 20 years ago, and there's plenty to do in and around town whether you are there on business or on a family road trip. You can look up any number of the places I mentioned on the tourism website for Rapid City, which has some great coverage of things to do, places to see, and where to stay and eat http://www.visitrapidcity.com/ . Take a few days to see the main sights, eat some great and comparatively cheap food (if you are used to being in a big city), and enjoy the company of the friendly locals who will be more than happy to tell you about their favorite places to go.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Since 1928, the historic Hotel Alex Johnson has welcomed visitors from around the globe. Located at the heart of Downtown Rapid City, the Hotel Alex Johnson is an easy 25-minute drive from Mount Rushmore and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hotel Alex Johnson includes 143 rooms and suites and houses the Vertex Sky Bar, Paddy O'Neills Irish Pub, Seattle's Best Coffee, Chubby Chipmunk Hand-Dipped Chocolates, AJ's Wicked Salon and the Alex Johnson Mercantile. The Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City is now a part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and welcomes Hilton HHonors guests. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Alex Johnson Hotel
- Alex Johnson Rapid City