Family Fun in Rapid City and Black Hills, South Dakota

Family Fun in Rapid City and Black Hills, South Dakota

South Dakota offers a wide array of memorable activities and adventures in Rapid City and the Black Hills for groups and families with kids of all ages to enjoy.

There’s pure family travel gold in Rapid City and Black Hills, South Dakota. In this case, the treasure can be found in the region’s spectacular beauty and its wealth of exciting experiences for every family member. Those who plan family vacations know destinations with this kind of group-appeal are rare indeed.

Rapid City, South Dakota, is an ideal home base for families and multigenerational groups interested in exploring the area’s many attractions. Family-friendly Rushmore Hotel & Suites is well-situated in downtown Rapid City, and kids will love the themed room décor at this Best Western Premier Collection property. Rapid City is often called the “City of Presidents,” and families will enjoy taking a stroll through the downtown area. Plan to take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s bronze sculptures of past U.S. presidents and view Art Alley in Rapid City, a unique backstreet bedecked with colorful art murals. 

Here are some things to do for families and multigenerational groups visiting Rapid City and Black Hills, South Dakota:

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Black Hills Powwow
  • Bear Country USA
  • Firehouse Brewing Co.
  • Prairie Berry Winery
  • Badlands National Park
  • And plenty more!
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter
Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Visiting the majestic Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a memorable experience for families and multigenerational groups. Located just a short 30-minute drive from Rapid City, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot-high carvings of the heads of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Carved in granite, the faces of these presidents tower over the surrounding landscape in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  

Begin your visit at the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and then walk along the Presidential Trail to take in the spectacular views. Families can learn more about Mount Rushmore’s history at the Sculptor’s Studio. Mount Rushmore has a great Junior Ranger program for kids, and the Ice Cream Shop at Carver’s Café offers tasty treats. If you’re looking for additional family fun near Mount Rushmore, check out the exciting activities at Rushmore Tramway Adventures. 

Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota 

Families will marvel at the immense size of the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest mountain carving currently in progress in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Crazy Horse Memorial is being crafted to honor Native Americans and the legacy of Crazy Horse, an iconic Oglala Lakota warrior and leader. Once completed, the width of the Crazy Horse Memorial will be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is privately owned, and the story behind this impressive carving is amazing. Well over a million visitors view the Crazy Horse Memorial each year, and there’s much to experience at its Visitor Complex. Plan to spend time at the Museums of Crazy Horse Memorial to participate in educational activities and view the massive collection of art and artifacts. The gift shop at the memorial is excellent, too. 

Bison roam along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter
Bison roam along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is a phenomenal scenic playground for families, offering a wealth of wildlife and opportunities for adventure. This 71,000-acre park is home to one of the country’s biggest free-roaming bison herds, so don’t be surprised if your family encounters a “buffalo traffic jam” while driving along the park’s Wildlife Loop. It’s no surprise that South Dakota and Custer State Park have been recognized as one of the world’s top ten wildlife destinations. Here you’ll find bighorn sheep, elk, prairie dogs, mountain goats, pronghorn, deer, and the wildly-popular burros that come up to car windows to beg for food. If you’d prefer to go off-road and leave the driving to someone else, take a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour departing from the park’s State Game Lodge Resort. 

Families may want to spend several days exploring Custer National Park since there’s so much to see and do. The park features scenic drives and multiple lakes, such as picturesque Sylvan Lake, offering hiking trails, water activities, and spectacular views. Don’t miss driving Needles Highway, a breathtaking drive with numerous pullouts for photos. The vistas along this 14-mile road are stunning. 

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is located about an hour’s drive east of Rapid City, and its magnificent landscapes attract visitors year-round. This 244,000-acre national park offers a wide array of outdoor activities and an abundance of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, pronghorn, and black-footed ferrets. 

Families will enjoy driving through Badlands National Park and witnessing nature’s beauty. The park’s vibrantly-colored layered rocks and geological formations are extraordinary. When you’re on your way to the Badlands National Park, plan to stop at Wall Drug, conveniently located near the park’s entrance. The homemade donuts there are delicious. 

Black Hills South Dakota Powwow

The Black Hills Powwow is a three-day celebration of Native American culture and community held in Rapid City each year. This spectacular October event is one of the country’s largest powwows, bringing together hundreds of Native American dancers, drummers, singers, and artisans from across the United States and Canada. Several tribes participate in this event, including the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations. The Black Hills Powwow draws thousands of spectators to Rapid City’s indoor arena as well. 

There’s so much for families to experience and learn at this enriching and memorable event. In addition to the fantastic dancing and singing performances and competitions, there are also tournaments, the He Sapa Win Pageant, and a fine arts show to enjoy. If your family plans to visit Rapid City during this event, make sure to attend the parade in honor of Native American Day, as the holiday is known in South Dakota. 

South Dakota Bear Country USA  

If seeing wildlife is high on your family’s must-do list, you’ll want to visit Bear Country, USA. Set on over 200 acres just eight miles from Rapid City, this drive-through wildlife park is a wonderful experience for families with kids of all ages. Families can take a leisurely three-mile drive in their own vehicles while spotting bison, elk, bighorn sheep, reindeer, cougars, bobcats, wolves, pronghorn, rocky mountain goats, and “the largest collection of privately-owned black bears in the world.” 

Reptile Gardens. Photo Credit: Visit Rapid City
Reptile Gardens. Photo Credit: Visit Rapid City

Reptile Gardens, South Dakota

Rapid City is home to many exciting family-friendly attractions, including the world’s biggest reptile zoo. Reptile Gardens features giant tortoises, lizards, snakes, birds, alligators, crocodiles, and lots of other creatures. In addition to viewing the many exhibits, families can also enjoy cool alligator shows, snake shows, and bird shows.

Reptile Gardens offers experiences and attractions for all ages. Guests can walk through Reptile Gardens’ three-story Sky Dome, which displays an incredible array of orchids and tropical plants as well as collections of fascinating reptiles, amphibians, bugs, and fossils. It’s also fun for families to learn about the many animals that are native to South Dakota here, too. 

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Museum of Geology  

Looking for a fun, free activity in Rapid City that’s educational as well? Head to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Museum of Geology. This free museum is filled with fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs, marine reptiles, mammals, and fish. The Museum of Geology also has a massive collection of thousands of minerals and meteorite specimens from around the world. The museum’s exhibits are outstanding. Make sure to check out the museum’s gift shop, which offers educational toys and items for all ages. 

Prairie Edge offers unique treasures and gifts.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter
Prairie Edge offers unique treasures and gifts.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Rapid City, South Dakota Shopping for Unique Treasures

Rapid City is filled with specialty stores and boutiques for shopping. One of the largest is Prairie Edge, a two-story store and art gallery specializing in high-quality, handcrafted items. Prairie Edge offers an extensive collection of authentic Native American artwork, crafts, hand-sewn star quilts, blankets, jewelry, books, and herbs and botanicals. The store is dedicated to preserving the Northern Plains Indians’ heritage and culture, and its selection of work created by Northern Plains artists is superb. 

The Dakota Drum Company is another excellent place to find Native American art and locally-made pieces. Lakota Artist Sonja Holy Eagle hand paints traditional buffalo hide drums and also creates hide paintings and leger art. The Dakota Drum Company carries traditional beadwork, quillwork, jewelry, and other handcrafted items by local Native American artists. 

Art lovers will also want to visit the Suzie Cappa Art Center, a non-profit studio and art gallery which supports artists of all abilities. Founded in 2001, the Suzie Cappa Art Center has more than 20 full-time artists and some part-time artists working at the art studio and gallery, where they can showcase and sell their beautiful pieces. 

Rapid City SD Dining Options

Sharing meals together is always a memorable family vacation highlight, particularly when traveling with multigenerational groups. Rapid City SD offers a wide array of dining venues from which to choose. Here are a few of the city’s many exciting options:

The award-winning Colonial House Restaurant & Bar serves up tasty American cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The family-owned restaurant’s nostalgic atmosphere is both comfortable and fun. Colonial House offers a wide array of menu selections, and online ordering is available. Make sure to try some of the exceptional Colonial Bake House items, including luscious pastries, cookies, bars, pies, and other desserts. 

Tally’s Silver Spoon is an excellent option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This upscale “fine diner” restaurant features locally-sourced menu items, comfort food favorites, and vegan and gluten-free selections. Tally’s is a popular choice in downtown Rapid City, and the food and service are outstanding. Their blueberry bison and bison burgers are particularly good. 

Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter
Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City.  Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Rapid City’s Firehouse Brewing Co. is perfect for families who enjoy casual dining in a unique, historic setting. The restaurant and craft brewery is located in Rapid City’s original brick firehouse structure, built in 1915. The walls are adorned with fire hoses, ladders, and other gear, and the pub-style fare is delicious. The restaurant offers a kids’ menu, and kids receive fire hats with their meals. Adults can sample Firehouse Brewing Co.’s craft beers, which are brewed in-house.  

Families seeking a fine-dining steakhouse venue should check out Rapid City’s Delmonico Grill. The restaurant features a wood-fired grill and techniques such as in-house dry aging. The Delmonico Grill rotates their menus seasonally and offers locally-sourced meats and produce. 

Black Hills Bagels is an excellent quick-service option for families, offering an extensive selection of bagels, breakfast sandwiches, gourmet coffees, lunch sandwiches, salads, and more. With two convenient locations in Rapid City, this locally-owned eatery produces 180 dozen bagels daily. Try their delectable white chocolate chip bagels, and plan to take a few with you on the road. Advance orders are recommended for reunions and large family groups.

Rapid City and Black Hills South Dakota Local Wineries 

Family travel doesn’t always involve young kids. Some family trips are taken with grown kids, and reunions can be comprised solely of adults. Prairie Berry Winery is an award-winning winery set in the Black Hills, South Dakota, and it’s a great spot for wine tastings and casual dining. Fifth-generation winemaker Sandi Vojta has handcrafted a wide array of wines, often based on her great-great-grandmother’s recipes. Prairie Berry Winery is known for fruit wines, such as its best-selling Red Ass Rhubarb wine. The Kitchen at Prairie Berry Winery also serves a variety of tasty menu items. 

Downtown Rapid City also has some excellent options. Firehouse Wine Cellars is a locally-owned winery with a wine production area and tasting room in the heart of downtown Rapid City. The winery offers a good choice of award-winning wines, including its Winemaker’s Collection. The tastings are very reasonably priced, and a selection of craft beers is available for any non-wine drinkers in the group. 

Adult family groups can also gather to enjoy high-quality craft cocktails at the Windsor Block Bar. Named after its historic Windsor Block location in downtown Rapid City, this unique local bar offers an extensive whiskey collection as well as its signature in-house, barrel-aged Old Fashioned, and Manhattan cocktails. The Windsor Block Bar’s setting and décor offer glimpses into Rapid City’s history, and its mixologists are exceptional. 

By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor

Header Photo Courtesy of Visit Rapid City