South Dakota Panning for gold vacation style

We spent a week around the Rapid City area. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Spearfish as they have an indoor waterslide.  Do a search on things to do in South Dakota and you will be wildly surprised to see all the state has to offer. We were busy from sun up to sun down being one with nature, history and shopping. The locals are friendly and we felt welcome to be sharing their community.  Below are a few of the items on our list of activities we accomplished in our few days stay.

The Bay Leaf Cafe  offer a Bison burger which is a must try to blend with the locals.


The DC Fishery was established in 1896. The  D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives and is a fun family tourist stop. You can feed the fish, walk through the museum and fish train cart, historic house and short hikes. Take a picnic and enjoy the grounds.

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Spearfish Canyon Many of the waterfalls are visible from your car. If you are not into hiking this is your opportunity to see the waterfalls without the effort. Drive to see the Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls and you will not be disappointed.

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Mt Rushmore is a must see. Go along the President’s Trail Hike to see the faces of the famous US Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The flags of the states are a welcoming entrance. The profile of Washington’s is along Highway 244 about 1/2 mile west of the memorial parking area.

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Crazy horse The name is Lakota: Tašúŋke Witkó in Standard Lakota translates to “His-Horse-Is-Crazy.” He was the leader who rose to fame for the victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Crazy Horse’s Face is – 87 feet, 6 inches (completed June 3, 1998.) The museum is large and a family can easily spend an entire day hiking and taking in all the exhibits. We stopped and had lunch in Hill City. This small town has decent pricing on black hills gold and other treasures.

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Badlands The park is expansive covering 244,300 acres. An interesting fact is the park is considered one of the world’s richest deposits of mammal fossil beds. Drive to interior for a snack before continuing to one of my favorite trails castle trail.

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Black Hills 
The name “Black Hills” is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills were so-called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they were covered in trees. Find a creek, wild rock formations, flume trail, crow’s peak or devil’s bathtub.

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We saw signs all over the countryside for the Wonderland Cave and it did not disappoint. I found a coupon on their website so we saved on 6 entry fees. The tour last about an hour so bring a jacket.

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Devil’s Tower This natural gem is near Sundance in northeastern Wyoming. The tower rises dramatically 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 5,114 feet above sea level. In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt named the tower the United States’ first national monument. The tower is also known as Bears Lodge. The tower is considered a sacred worship site by many Native Americans who leave colorful prayer cloths tied to trees near its base.

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Wall Drug Store Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy purchased the drug store in December 1931. Dorothy created signs offering free ice water which started bringing in traffic and the rest is history. If you need a new pair of moccasins, taffy, hunting knife and lunch then you have come to the right place.

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Rapid City

City of Presidents Rapid City Find your favorite president and take a selfie with a man in history. The Presidents Information Center is open six days a week thru September from 10 AM – 9 PM. There is an unexpected piece of European history with the display of a piece of the Berlin Wall. Take a stroll around Memorial Park and have a picnic in the shade by the pond. See the photo of the Alex Johnson hotel said to have hosted Former Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
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We had lunch at the Firehouse Brewing Company before a tour of the facility and a wine tasting session. I took several pictures of the fire station upstairs while waiting for our food. I enjoyed the on tap selection as well as the food. We spent an hour walking around downtown capturing the well maintained historic story of this lovely town.

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Bear Country They charge for each person in the vehicle so no need to pack everyone into one vehicle. Adult’s are $16 per person and well worth it. Do not roll down your windows as they offer a cleaning station for your windows. The baby bears are adorable.

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A family could spend an entire week visiting all that Rapid has to offer. We only had 2 days so it is on our list to come back for more. A quick list of points of interest are:
Reptile Gardens
Custer State Park
Chapel in the Hills
Sitting Bull Cyrstal Caverns
Air and Space Museum
Dinosaur Park
Old McDonalds Farm
Watiki Indoor Waterpark
Museum of Geology
Art Alley
Storybook Island

The city is famous for being the location of one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world. We went in June when the town is quiet and suitable for children. Originally the town was called Scooptown as residents “scooped up” their pay from Fort Meade. In time the city changed it’s name to Sturgis in honor of the Civil War Union General Samuel D. Sturgis. The town was gearing up for live bull riding and roping. What could go wrong.

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Wiki states For most of the past 120 years, there has been some military presence at Fort Meade, near Sturgis, South Dakota. Many cavalry and infantry units were stationed here, including the 7th U.S. Cavalry after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry which saw the transition from horses to mechanization. Fort Meade still serves as a training site for the South Dakota National Guard and an Army National Guard Officer Candidate School. It is also home of Fort Meade National Cemetery. If you want to visit the cemetery do not use your GPS. The road is the turn before the entrance if traveling from Sturgis. The view from the cemetery of Bear Butte Creek is worth the short drive.

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Belle Fourche
Aug. 21, 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state Belle Fourche became the center of the nation city, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Society. The monument is next to a small visitor center and gift shop, and a log cabin that is open for a visit.

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Deadwood city was  once most famous for being the home of Wild Bill Hickok. Wild Bill was shot and killed while playing cards in the No. 10 Saloon. Legend has it his hand was two pairs: black aces and black eights. This is commonly referred to as a “dead man’s hand.” Wild Bill and Clamity Jane are both buried in the local cemetery. The city is kid friendly and the reenactments in the streets are entertaining. Kevin Costner’s casino is Midnight Star has polished brass and offers fine dining. One of my favorite casinos is Celebrity Casino. They have tv memorabilia ranging from Hill Street Blues to John Wayne. We collected several of the casino chips I prefer the old coins while my brother preferred the casino chips.

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We had a great 1.5 stop at the Broken Boot Gold Mine located at 1200 Pioneer Way, Deadwood open daily from 8-6. The tour which runs every 30 minutes is easy to navigate and offered a plethora of history on the town and organization. At the end of the tour we panned for gold.
Plan on spending the day gold mining, visiting the Adams house and museum, Mt Roosevelt Monument and all the charm the historic old town has to offer.

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