The Way People See Us by Rick Geyerman a general guide for travel across South Dakota, the way that most people see us - from east to west... on Interstate - 90...
in the Summer... with a car full of kids ------------------- If you have time before you arrive, call 1.800.SDAKOTA, and get the latest South Dakota Vacation Guide by mail. Allow a couple months. Check our state tourism links.
Once you get near, Rest Areas have a huge selection of literature.
While driving through us, a true student of contemporary upper-plains life would tune his radio to WNAX - 570 on the AM dial.
It's hard-core farm markets, local sports, and home journals, and - late at night - those creepy UFO abduction call-in shows.
But, it has a HUGE broadcast signal and audience. Out in the country, it's what we listen to. Learn from it. Otherwise, press SEEK.
Any vehicle with kids will listen to whatever keeps them happy. press SEEK
Have a Safe Trip.
Sioux Falls, SD's largest - and fastest growing city - has some museums, but has never been known as a "tourist stop". If you find yourself with a couple hours to kill... Falls Park, where the town got it's name, or the Japanese Gardens at Terrace Park.
A relatively new attraction is the Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk.
At a few select park locations, but mostly lining Phillips Avenue's downtown sidewalks all year long.
Four or five on a block, on each side of the street.
Not a nice stroll in the winter, but on a summer afternoon, I was impressed, and even my jaded 19-year-old daughter stayed interested.
In February, 2007, T Denny Sanford made a $400 MILLION gift to the Sioux Valley Hospital System -
in Sioux Falls, the nation's largest-ever individual gift to a health-care facility.
The newly renamed Sanford Health System will rival Rochester's Mayo Clinic, especially for pediatric care.
Sioux Falls has most of the big-city amenities... giant shopping mall, great eats, IMax theatre,
several small and specialized museums. If you're here for a couple days, you can stay busy and stimulated.
If you are looking to come to SD and find a career, Sioux Falls is the place. It's gonna grow like gang-busters.
If you are a driving tourist, you'll most likely head west.
Just west of Sioux Falls, (about mile marker 391) you will find Buffalo Ridge, an abandoned tourist trap, built to resemble an abandoned ghost town. Keep your eyes peeled, because there *is* a herd of buffalo that can sometimes be seen in the valley just before the fort. Check both sides of the highway.
A few miles further, watch for the giant bull head sculpture on the left.
There is a whole Sculpture Park to view, but I've never got off the Interstate to do it. Most people hurry on to Mitchell... (For a more detailed tourist's description of Mitchell) The phone number to the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce is 1.800.257.CORN The radio station is K*O*R*N (1490 AM dial) The football team is the Kernels. Can you believe this? No corny coincidence, Mitchell is the home to the Worlds Only Corn Palace.
3000 bushels of colored grain, arranged in giant murals on the outside of the city auditorium.
Open FREE all year, except when there is an event. You came to see the *outside* anyway. Lit at night. Gift shop inside, in the summer. The Corn Palace Festival annual carnival top name entertainment... Polka Festival, ... the Prehistoric Indian Village, the only National Archaeological Landmark in South Dakota open to the public. Just finished "Worlds Only Archeodome allows year-round excavation in spite of our famous Dakota Winters. and a good small museum begun by Hamlin Garland ( Dakota Discovery Museum - Oscar Howe Art Center) Highlights of the museum's collection are "Dakota Woman"
by Harvey Dunn, a canvas which most will readily recognize, and life sized statues of Lewis and Clark, sculpted by James Earle Fraser, who later became famous for designing the buffalo nickel.
Also featured is Oscar Howe, the noted Lakota Sioux Artist and South Dakota's Artist Laureate
until his death in 1983 Mitchell has 800 motel rooms, and is a convenient place to overnight, before the 300 mile push to the Black Hills. Holiday Inn, Days Inn, Comfort Inn, Best Western, AmericInn, etc. If the Government ever succeeds in creating the Buffalo Commons, Mitchell will be that last stop for gas.
There is a guy in Mitchell that rents lots of campers, if you are thinking of turning your vacation into an extreme family thing. Jack's Campers..605.996.3268 I'm sure there are others. Did Laura Ingalls Wilder mean anything to you? "Little House on the Prairie" is in De Smet. I have not been there. I keep promising I will go, when my daughter is older. An hour and a half north of Mitchell.
(2007 note: my daughter has grown and moved away from home, and we've still never been there.
I just couldn't get her interested. Now that she's gone, I'll have to go alone. Maybe.) Mitchell to Rapid City is 300 miles... you'll have a new appreciation for billboards.
The biggest danger for motorists on the Interstate (or any highway in SD) is hitting a deer.
They are mostly active around sunset.
Those little "anti-deer" whistles that screw on your bumper DO NOT WORK.
Reduce your speed at night, please. The rest area at Chamberlain, before you cross the Missouri River, is one of the great scenic views in the state. You be Lewis. Ill be Clark. Two miles north of Chamberlain, the Akta Lakota Indian Museum... A new resort on the Missouri River (Cedar Shores) opened June 1995. Al's Oasis in Oacoma, just across the river from Chamberlain. ... is famous... Gas up, have a
buffalo burger, buy the kids something to occupy the next three or four *long*
hours on the road...
Note: this might be the first place you'll see real Native Americans.
There are a couple Reservations nearby, and Al's is a favorite stop for groceries.
They dress like you and me, but have a great year-round tan.
On the highway, watch for pheasants, skunks, raccoons, gophers, turtles, snakes, coyotes... you might spot an antelope (in the distance) between the Badlands and Rapid City. Hitting a deer with a vehicle is no fun. Be wary after dark. By the way, the name of our state capitol is Pierre, pronounced PEER - not PEE AIR. An hour north of the interstate, on the river. Most people won't go there unless elected.
Gain an hour (set your clocks back) as you enter the mountain time zone, near Murdo.
Somewhere between Murdo and Wall, I think, there is a metal-sculpted statue of a man leading a dinosaur.
A trip thru the Badlands, on the way to the Black Hills, is worthwhile. 21 mile loop highway parallels Interstate-90. Park headquarters is a motel (Cedar Pass Lodge), restaurant, and ranger station.SD Indian Reservations I remember - on a very hot day - watching a car overheat and burn up there in the parking lot, when I was little. The KOA nearby has been recommended by another traveler. You are an hour out of Rapid City. Wounded Knee... A side trip thru the Pine Ridge reservation - or a day trip from a Black Hills vacation - would be interesting. More people should.
Most SD Indian Reservations are dirt poor, but efforts are being made to improve their lot,
and increase tourism and economic development.
Unfortunately, they are not located on the major tourist route, Interstate-90.
The Sioux are proud people who have been horribly mis-treated by the US Government. See Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Red Cloud.
They still claim title to the entire Black Hills as their Sacred Ground,
and have turned down MILLIONS in government funds in exchange. Wall Drug. Free ice water, and 5 cent coffee. A million kids have had their photo taken on that stuffed buckin' Bronc out back. (Is it still there?) Signs around the world - GI's even took 'em to Viet Nam - advertising Wall Drug. Rapid City... the gateway to the Black Hills - or Paha Sapa as the Sioux would call them.
The Black Hills is extremely family-friendly to tourists, and the reason most people visit South Dakota. there's the skyline dinosaur drive, in Rapid. Lotta stuff like: Reptile Gardens, Chuckwagon Dinner Show, Petrified Forest, Bear Country, Flintstone Village, Trout Haven, StoryBook Island... if you've been reading the rest-area brochures, you'll have your trip planned by the time you arrive.
About lodging in the Black Hills... there are rooms and campgrounds everywhere. But, some towns can fill up when "their event" is in progress...
Most notably, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (early August) will fill almost every room in the Hills and for 150 miles around.
Check your dates.
If you are seriously into dinosaurs, the Museum of Geology at the SD School of Mines in Rapid City
and the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City are two of the top in the nation.
Don't miss Mt Rushmore... . The night lighting ceremony is worth special planning.
Check your maps closely. A *few* roads in the Hills are not wide enough for big RVs and trailers. Other things in the Black Hills... Mt Moriah Cemetery (in Deadwood) Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Potato Creek Johnny, and Preacher Smith are buried there. Before you go, check at the Bullock Hotel for directions to Seth Bullock's grave. Seth haunts the hotel, according to NBC's Unsolved Mysteries. Kevin Costner (yes, THAT Kevin Costner) owns the Midnight Star Casino and (the attached) Jake's restaurant. He was building a $100 million resort in Deadwood which would have it's own railroad spur from the Rapid City regional airport. (2006 info - Lacking investors. Don't count on it .) Deadwood has legalized gambling, which makes it real busy all year long. Kids are not discouraged, but there is not a lot for them to do. They cannot be near enough to *reach* the machine, if you are playing. Note: In the rest of the state, "Casino" generally means alcohol and video poker games. Fancy word for Bar or gas station that sells beer. The half dozen Indian Casinos, located on tribal land at various locations off the interstate, are for real. Slots, Black Jack, Poker, food and entertainment... popular with bus tours. Cheap (or free) Limo rides available from most major SD towns.
SD skiers head for Terry Peak and Deer Mountain in the winter. In Lead, (pronounced LEED) ... North America's largest (Homestake) Gold Mine. (Now closed, and soon to be a large underground
Custer Park and the Needles Highway, Sylvan Lake and Lodge, Spearfish Canyon, Roughlock Falls... great scenery... Wind Cave Natn'l Park... tour the cavern, see the buffalo herd. Do not approach the buffalo herd.
Devil's Tower (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) just across the border (100 miles) into Wyoming... Crazy Horse Memorial, mountain carving in progress, and the Indian's answer
to Mt Rushmore... so big, that Mt Rushmore could fit under the Indian's arm. Near Custer. Black Hills Balloons, in Custer - hot-air balloon rides - (tell Bauer that Rick, the pilot from the Mitchell balloon museum said Hi) Bear Butte State Park, on the eastern edge of the Black Hills. "Hike to the top of the Sacred Indian Mountain" the brochure advertises. The White Guys versus the Indians again. In truth, a very sacred Native-American place. Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (Hill City) in the news recently, because of Sue, the $8 million dinosaur...confiscated by the SD National Guard, because of claims she was found on state, rather than private, land. Climb Harney Peak, highest summit between the Rockies and the Alps... see 4 states. Keep an eye on your kids. They lost one there (honest) for 5 days, in May '95. Trails are well used, I dunno how it happened... My little girl liked the Cosmos - one of those anti-gravity places when she was seven, and still thought it was great when she as 19.
Water runs uphill. Actually, I've never talked to anyone who wasn't mystified by the place.
One of the least-touted and most fun attractions in the Black Hills.
16 miles south of Rapid City. Probably takes an hour including the tour. 1880 train ride in Hill City. Evan's Plunge (pool and natural hot springs), and the enclosed Mammoth site (excavation) in Hot Springs... The obvious place to try is Sylvan Lake Resort 605.574.2561 Mountain-top retreat, Indian motif, executive rooms, martinis on the veranda... also hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, a family place. Blue Bell Lodge - western guest ranch 605.255.4531 Legion Lake Resort - family spot, economy cabins, lakefront atmosphere 605.255.4521 State Game Lodge - historic hotel used as a summer retreat by Coolidge and Eisenhower 605.255.4541 All of these are located in, and operated by Custer State Park. Reservations also at 1.800.658.3530 The Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City 1.800.888.2539 and the Franklin Hotel, in Deadwood 1.800.688.1876 are "historic" favorites. Another place we've been, the Palmer Gulch Lodge, on the road to Mt Rushmore.
They are a BIG campground and RV area, but do have some secluded housekeeping cabins. Nightly bus tours for the Mt Rushmore lighting, horse rides to the top of Harney Peak. Kids quickly congregate near the video games and gift shop. The Sturgis Motorcycle Classic and the Days of '76 (in Deadwood) fall on consecutive weeks in August. 500,000 bikers. Make sure your room is booked well in advance. Can fill up every room in the Hills and for 150 miles around.
Usually well-behaved, but adds to the general clutter. There is no motorcycle helmet law. On a rainfall map, South Dakota is the same color as Arizona. Real Dry.
Temperatures in July can be way over 100. Real Hot. In the winter, sometimes 20 below zero.
Real cold. And, always the wind. In the winter, buy gasoline with 15% corn-alcohol (Ethanol). Every gas station has it. Helps to reduce moisture in fuel lines, and you won't need to add a product for that, such as Heet. In the hottest parts of the summer, avoid gas with alcohol (Ethanol). It has the reputation for causing vapor lock, causing your car to stall, on very hot days. Enjoy South Dakota
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