Mt Rushmore trip

Old Jan 13, 06, 10:53 am
  #1  
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Mt Rushmore trip

Anyone have any suggestions regarding a trip we are planning near July 4th to Mt Rushmore? We plan to be there a week. Certain places we want to visit are Wounded Knee, Badlands, Devil's Tower, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave. We will be travelling with another couple, and there will be 3 kids (5, 7, and 11) between us. We would like to do some
fun things with the kids. Good places to eat?
Also, we are planning on going to see the fireworks on the 3rd at Mt Rushmore. Any comments on that?

Thanks for your help
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Old Jan 13, 06, 2:20 pm
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If you get to Mount Rushmore early you can beat the crowds & have plenty of time to see it before it gets too hot.
There is a good restaurant on site that will serve anything from a snack to a full meal.
Whilst you're in the area visit Custer state park & get close to bison, burros & other creatures.
There are amazing views & plenty of things for the kids to do. The needles highway has some amazing rocks that kids can clamber on & you get some great postcard views of Mount Rushmore.
Keystone is a good place to recharge your batteries & if your kids are into the 'Little House' books, the town is where Laura Ingalls Wilders sister ended up.
We did both attractions in a day from Rapid City.
Badlands are incredible but take plenty of water as it's a very dry heat.
There is a good restaurant within the park.
Badlands takes most of the day from Rapid City & we did not get time to visit Wounded Knee.
Devils Tower has an interesting walk around the base which is all paved or has hard compacted dirt so it will be fine for kids.
Allow about 2-3 hours to walk round the base.
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Old Jan 13, 06, 3:03 pm
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Originally Posted by Tanya934
If you get to Mount Rushmore early you can beat the crowds & have plenty of time to see it before it gets too hot.
There is a good restaurant on site that will serve anything from a snack to a full meal.
Whilst you're in the area visit Custer state park & get close to bison, burros & other creatures.
There are amazing views & plenty of things for the kids to do. The needles highway has some amazing rocks that kids can clamber on & you get some great postcard views of Mount Rushmore.
Keystone is a good place to recharge your batteries & if your kids are into the 'Little House' books, the town is where Laura Ingalls Wilders sister ended up.
We did both attractions in a day from Rapid City.
Badlands are incredible but take plenty of water as it's a very dry heat.
There is a good restaurant within the park.
Badlands takes most of the day from Rapid City & we did not get time to visit Wounded Knee.
Devils Tower has an interesting walk around the base which is all paved or has hard compacted dirt so it will be fine for kids.
Allow about 2-3 hours to walk round the base.
thanks so much for your advice. How early is "early" to Mt Rushmore for the fireworks? Several hours or like early in the morning?
I did not realize Badlands is that far away from Rushmore area. We were hoping to squeeze in Badlands and Wounded Knee in one day.
Checking on prices of places to stay and am finding out that nothing is inexpensive. Even my fave Hilton chain is $170. I guess I can't complain since it's holiday season and it is a tourist area, right?
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Old Jan 27, 06, 4:17 pm
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Custer State Park is great for a drive! Also, go south (as I recall) a bit from there to see the Wooly Mamouth museum/site. With so many odd things to see in a fairly small area, you're going to have a great time.
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Old Jan 28, 06, 3:33 pm
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Be warned, Wounded Knee (Pineridge reservation) can be a stark and depressing trip for young kids (well, for any age); but it is educational.
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Old Jan 28, 06, 5:13 pm
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I enjoyed Wind Cave, but it definitely is not for those uncomfortable in small spaces. At one point on our (walking) tour, the guide turned the lights off for a few seconds, and it was completely black. As I recall, there were also some places which were wet and somewhat slippery.

Skim back through older posts on this forum, and I think you will see others suggesting that 2-3 days is more than plenty for places in the Rapid City area (Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave, etc.) I agree with that general notion. It is a good place to drive through but you (or your kids) may be bored out of your mind with a full week there.

Look at AAA's tour guide for suggestions for motels (in Keystone you will be very limited for hotels). You might also look at B&B's.

Two hours at Devil's Tower would probably be fine. I stopped by en route from Keystone to Denver, all within the same day, without any problem.
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Old Jan 29, 06, 7:12 pm
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Growing up in North Dakota, Rapid City was often a vacation stop for us. There are so many things to do. While out at the Badlands, make sure you go to Wall Drug. This is not your ordinary drug store. It is a neat place. You will see billboards for miles and miles advertising "Free Ice Water". Also in the Badlands there are several helicopter tour places.

There used to be an amusement park in Custer, but I am not sure if it still there. One word of advice...dont eat, go to the amusement park, and THEN take Needles Highway (trust me...personal experience!!!)

Keystone has touristy stuff like mini-golf, and also a chairlift ride for a great view of Mount Rushmore...This would actually be a great place to watch the fireworks from.

Being a hotel manager now, I would recommend that if you really like HIltons, call and ask for the reservation manager. Tell him/her you will need two rooms for a week each. They will probably cut the price for you. This, of course, may work with other chains, but the smaller hotels would probably not have a resv. manager. I would suggest Rapid City as that is where many hotels are and you will not pay as much as you would for the few choices in Keystone/Custer.

There is also a water park in the area of Hot Springs that is fed by natural springs...dont remember the name, its been 15 years!

Deadwood has a Old West Cemetary with graves of Wild Bill and those sorts of characters.

Enjoy your trip...
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Old Jan 30, 06, 12:36 pm
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Originally Posted by kapitman
Growing up in North Dakota, Rapid City was often a vacation stop for us. There are so many things to do. While out at the Badlands, make sure you go to Wall Drug. This is not your ordinary drug store. It is a neat place. You will see billboards for miles and miles advertising "Free Ice Water". Also in the Badlands there are several helicopter tour places.

There used to be an amusement park in Custer, but I am not sure if it still there. One word of advice...dont eat, go to the amusement park, and THEN take Needles Highway (trust me...personal experience!!!)

Keystone has touristy stuff like mini-golf, and also a chairlift ride for a great view of Mount Rushmore...This would actually be a great place to watch the fireworks from.

Being a hotel manager now, I would recommend that if you really like HIltons, call and ask for the reservation manager. Tell him/her you will need two rooms for a week each. They will probably cut the price for you. This, of course, may work with other chains, but the smaller hotels would probably not have a resv. manager. I would suggest Rapid City as that is where many hotels are and you will not pay as much as you would for the few choices in Keystone/Custer.

There is also a water park in the area of Hot Springs that is fed by natural springs...dont remember the name, its been 15 years!

Deadwood has a Old West Cemetary with graves of Wild Bill and those sorts of characters.

Enjoy your trip...
The pool at the Hot SPrings area is called 'Evans Plunge' and it was abot $8 per adult in 2003.
You can also take a walk along the river bank to where the mineral water comes out of a pipe & stock up.

In 2003 there wasn't an amusement park at Custer but there were plenty of Bison & they certainly kept us amused, blocking our way to the nearest restroom when we were in dire need!
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Old Jan 30, 06, 4:05 pm
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I used to work at mount rushmore and lived in the area for four months (2002) 4th of july is the busiest time of year. make your reservations ASAP. Regarding the fireworks, get your spot early, and by early afternoon is a good time. the street leading up to the mountain gets parked on both sides with cars trying to get in. get up there early and park or leave your car at the hotel if your staying in keystone and walk up, its not that far of a walk, sometimes theres a shuttle. the food at the buffalo dining room (the name of the restaurant) i worked at and the food is decent and decently priced. go eat breakfast there in the morning, its not real busy and its just awesome view of the heads. go to these places when you are there. staying in rapid city isnt that bad, its only a 30min ride up. more hotels and things to do.

-devils tower
-custer state park -- bring some carrots to feed the donkeys
-crazy horse ---but dont pay the money for the "tour" just ask to take pictures in the parking lot. the tour isnt worth it you cant get any closer.
-go to a chuckwagon supper, circle t, is one of them. fun times
-if your kids like dinosaurs, in rapid city there is a big hill with some big dino's on top, its a fun time.
-go to the mystery spot if you havent been to one.
-corn palace in mitchell, sd and wall drug -- a must stop.
ill try to think of more, pm me if you have questions.

grb

thought of more

horsethief lake is about 5 miles behind mt rushmore, they have a spot to park. we always went there after work to swim and jump off the rocks. its free and lets you cool off.
-pactola lake, a manmade lake is about 20 or so mins outside keystone. they have a beach. you can fish and swim. its on the way out to deadwood which is a fun place to go. i suggest taking the bus tour, it brings you too wild bills grave and shows you around deadwood. they might have more in terms of tours now that deadwood on HBO is so popular.
-- get your gas at walmart when you are in rapid city, get a gift certificate and use it at the pump you save 3cents or buy it at sams if you have a card you save more. FILL UP BEFORE leaving rapid city. you'll be glad you did.

or you could just take me along, posting this makes me remember good times.

Last edited by grbflyer; Jan 30, 06 at 4:16 pm
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Old Jan 30, 06, 4:32 pm
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Agree that you'll want to be at Mt. Rushmore pretty early in the afternoon. I was there for the Fourth of July a couple of years ago, and it was very crowded. I ended up parking along the curvy road between Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park. There are some pullouts along that road with great views of Mt. Rushmore. A lot of people do this as well, and picnic while they wait for the fireworks.

I highly recommend the scenic loops in Custer State Park for watching bison and checking out the prairie dogs.

Also, be careful with your speed. When I was there, there were a lot of police officers out and about looking for speeders. I got pulled over while rushing to drop off my rental car in Rapid City. They stopped me about 1 block from the rental place, and let me off with a warning.
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Old Jan 30, 06, 6:14 pm
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Originally Posted by escog
Agree that you'll want to be at Mt. Rushmore pretty early in the afternoon. I was there for the Fourth of July a couple of years ago, and it was very crowded. I ended up parking along the curvy road between Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park. There are some pullouts along that road with great views of Mt. Rushmore. A lot of people do this as well, and picnic while they wait for the fireworks.

I highly recommend the scenic loops in Custer State Park for watching bison and checking out the prairie dogs.

Also, be careful with your speed. When I was there, there were a lot of police officers out and about looking for speeders. I got pulled over while rushing to drop off my rental car in Rapid City. They stopped me about 1 block from the rental place, and let me off with a warning.
I forgot about the cops! It was about 15 years ago that my wife and I were there. That was the last time (that I know of) that she got a speeding ticket. As I recall, it was a Sunday morning at about 6:00.
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Old Jan 30, 06, 6:51 pm
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My family and I did a week in a rented RV in the region in late August 2005 and had a GREAT time. I just want to underline some of what's been said:

** The region had pretty well cleared out by late August and there were lots of inexpensive hotel rooms available. I didn't see much Hilton action in the region but there were numerous Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inns, Travelodges, etc. -- the budget level hotels. They seemed reasonably priced.

** Wall Drug is a gas. Get the buffalo burgers in the back room decorated like a bordello. Then take your kids' pictures astride the giant jackalopes.

** The Badlands are beautiful, but none of the pictures we took do them justice. It's too big. Incredible drive though.

** The Wounded Knee cemetery takes some finding. It's not very well marked. It is something to see, though. When we went we were the only ones there.

** The best part of the Rapid City/Custer/Mt. Rushmore zone are the roadside attractions: Reptile Gardens, Bear Country, the Cosmos Mystery Zone, Black Hills Caverns and the other caves... it's like a little slice of 1950s America, where everything isn't all plastic, pre-programmed franchises, and we loved it. Second best part is Custer State Park, where herds of bison cross the roads and stop traffic.

** In Keystone you can get your picture taken in Wild West cowboy or barroom regalia. Tons of fun.

** Mitchell and the Corn Palace are a good long way from the Rushmore/Badlands/Rapid City zone. The other side of South Dakota actually.

** If you are interested in camping, the KOA campground at the foot of Devils Tower in Wisconsin shows "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" on a big outdoor screen every night at sunset. The night we were there, just as the movie's characters (and UFOs) were converging on Devils Tower for the movie's climax, real shooting stars flashed by over our heads. A great moment.

** RAP is a nice, if underused, airport. NW provides the only mainline service. We flew in on a Skywest RJ from SLC.

Have fun! We loved our visit.
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Old Jan 31, 06, 10:33 am
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thanks everyone for your great insight. We've now added a few more things on our list of things to do. Really had not planned on Custer State Park, but will definitely do that now.

We are very unpleasantly surprised that airfares from southern CA to RAP is (for now) at $500. Is it always that bad? I could get to Europe for that price!! Then, we are pricing car rentals and so far have been getting $300+ a week. I've held one but will, of course, continue checking weekly.

As for lodging, I found the Slate Rock Ranch (they only have like 4 cabins) and was quoted a extremely reasonable price of $120 a night for a 3 bedroom but 1 bath cabin. Has anyone had any experience with the place? The lady on the phone sounds very friendly, helpful, etc....etc. But the couple we're with really wanted to see the inside of the cabin to make sure it's not a dump. The outside looks decent and we like that it has trees and lots of land near by, and of course the price is great as compared to even a Best Western and over $100 a night. I definitely will try to call the "reservations manager" at the Hilton that we plan to stay at. It's worth a try.

Keep the tips coming!
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Old Jan 31, 06, 11:06 am
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Originally Posted by faithng
thanks everyone for your great insight. We've now added a few more things on our list of things to do. Really had not planned on Custer State Park, but will definitely do that now.

We are very unpleasantly surprised that airfares from southern CA to RAP is (for now) at $500. Is it always that bad? I could get to Europe for that price!! Then, we are pricing car rentals and so far have been getting $300+ a week. I've held one but will, of course, continue checking weekly.

As for lodging, I found the Slate Rock Ranch (they only have like 4 cabins) and was quoted a extremely reasonable price of $120 a night for a 3 bedroom but 1 bath cabin. Has anyone had any experience with the place? The lady on the phone sounds very friendly, helpful, etc....etc. But the couple we're with really wanted to see the inside of the cabin to make sure it's not a dump. The outside looks decent and we like that it has trees and lots of land near by, and of course the price is great as compared to even a Best Western and over $100 a night. I definitely will try to call the "reservations manager" at the Hilton that we plan to stay at. It's worth a try.

Keep the tips coming!
i think i know which one your talking about, but just to be sure, is the cabin right in keystone? do they have a web address?

i usually fly grb-rap. and it can get expensive. ive seen it for around 214.00 which is cheap. you just have to keep your eyes peeled for a good deal, they dont come often and dont last long. when you rent a car, rent from enterprise, they arent at the airport and call them directly. once i flew in reserved through avis, took the car for one nite, called enterprise the next day they asked what i was paying, they undercut by three dollars a day and didnt ahve to pay the airport tax on it.

Last edited by grbflyer; Jan 31, 06 at 11:09 am
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Old Jan 31, 06, 11:15 am
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I'm very surprised it has not been mentioned yet, but if you really want to see bison upclose and personal take the safari jeep tour in Custer SP. Go in the late afternoon. By then the drivers know exactly where to look for the herds and actually drive right next to them. The kids will love it.

WARNING - DO NOT GO ON THE EARLY TOURS. The drivers are trying to locate the animals and seeing them is hit or miss.
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