As you travel through South Dakota, there are some places you simply cannot miss: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, and the historic town of Hot Springs. Wherever you go, you will find a cozy resort, inn, or lodge offering a warm welcome, comfortable bed, and a good meal. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort
2.Bavarian Inn, Black Hills
3.Canyon Lake Resort
5.Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort
6.K Bar S Lodge
7.Legion Lake Lodge
8.Red Rock River Resort
9.Rushmore Express Inn and Family Suites
10.State Game Lodge
11.Sylvan Lake Lodge
12.The Lodge at Deadwood
13.The Roosevelt Inn
12 Best South Dakota Resorts
- Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort, Photo: Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort
- Bavarian Inn, Black Hills, Photo: Bavarian Inn, Black Hills
- Canyon Lake Resort, Photo: Canyon Lake Resort
- Creekside Lodge, Photo: Creekside Lodge
- Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort, Photo: Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort
- K Bar S Lodge, Photo: K Bar S Lodge
- Legion Lake Lodge, Photo: Legion Lake Lodge
- Red Rock River Resort, Photo: Red Rock River Resort
- Rushmore Express Inn and Family Suites, Photo: Rushmore Express Inn and Family Suites
- State Game Lodge, Photo: State Game Lodge
- Sylvan Lake Lodge, Photo: Sylvan Lake Lodge
- The Lodge at Deadwood, Photo: The Lodge at Deadwood
- The Roosevelt Inn, Photo: The Roosevelt Inn
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of bountome - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight in SD: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Known as the peaceful prairie with the power that could destroy the world, the national historic site South Dakota that housed the Minuteman Missile is an awe-inspiring place to visit for its historic impact alone. Visiting the site can bring home the seriousness of the Cold War and better understand the importance and danger of nuclear weapons.
The historic site is the only one operated by the national parks service that was designated specifically for the Cold War. It was established as an educational and historic site in 1999 to help people understand the arms race, the Cold War, and the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM). In fact, it houses the last standing Minuteman II system in the US. There are routinely around 50,000 visitors annually.
The site has three separate areas that are open for visitors to experience. It is open all year round
Visitor Center: Considered the best starting place for a visit to the historic site, the visitor center is home to a wealth of information about the story of the site (focusing on its impact on the Cold War) and the missile system located on site (known as the Minuteman, an intercontinental ballistic missile). There are staff located at the visitor center to help visitors find their way around as well as to answer any questions they may have. Also located in the visitor center are public restrooms, wi-fi, a film about the park, exhibits, and an on-site bookstore.
- Film: The park film, which lasts about thirty minutes, provides visitors with a deeper understanding of the importance of the missile defense system and its use as a nuclear weapon deterrent. It includes footage from the archives (interviews, recordings, images, etc).
- Exhibits: The exhibits located at the visitor center focus on the Cold War, and its challenges as well as its paradoxes. The outside showcases a sculpture that uses elements of bas-relief as a contrast to the symbolism of the two superpowers during the war. There are multiple exhibits located in the lobby as well as on the inside, with a variety of themes like meeting the men and women who handle the missiles, and split second decisions.
Launch Control: Visitors who wish to tour the facility that holds the launch controls for Delta-01 are required to make reservations in advance. This can be done either by email or by phone. The tours are led by park rangers and lead visitors through the groups as well as the topside support building. After that, visitors will take the 31 foot descent down the elevator into the underground portion of launch control. All guests must be able to climb at least two ladders that are 15 feet in length in the event of a failure of the elevator system,
Missile Silo: Another interesting place to visit is the missile silo for Delta-09. Operational from 1963 through the beginning of the 1990s, the aboveground portion of the facility is now open for tours (self guided for visitors who have the use of a cell phone).
Field trips are always welcome at the historic site, as it can be a great way to teach students history with the use of an actual historic site. The ranger led field trips and educational tours depend on the size of the class visiting.
Classes that have 18 students or fewer can tour Launch Control for Delta-01. This field trip usually takes around two hours and gives students a general, basic intro to the Cold War and the way that the missiles helped prevent war and preserve peace. After the intro, the classes will break up into smaller groups of around six students who will take a tour of the facilities located both above and below ground. The tour also includes a visit to the missile silo
Classes with more than 18 students will meet directly at the missile silo. It lasts around 45 minutes and includes a discussion about the role of the missiles, a general introduction, and the future of nuclear weapons.
Tours must be booked at least two weeks prior. They are free and are offered from October through May.
The historic site is home to an incredible bookstore with many different books that focus on topics related to the missile, the Cold War, and the people who have spent time there. With other educational information and gift related items, purchases made at the bookstore go back into helping support the programming offered at the site.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, 24545 Cottonwood Road, Philip, SD, 57567, Phone: 605-433-5552
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Attraction Spotlight in SD: South Dakota Air and Space Museum
Visiting the air and space museum in South Dakota is often inspirational, even for people who didn’t come to the museum with an interest or understanding of aviation and its history. Visitors should expect to spend a few hours here to take in all of the impressive aircraft and educational exhibits offered on-site.
Established just outside the front gate of the air force base in 1992, the air and space museum were the brainchild of the heritage foundation that was created in 1982 to help support and encourage the preservation of historic aircraft that were on display at Ellsworth. The mission of the museum is not only to continue to preserve the aircraft, but also to preserve the history of aviation in general, to help honor veterans (not only those that served at Ellsworth but all veterans across the nation), to help offer education for students, and (most of all) to provoke and inspire future generations to continue to innovate aviation.
The museum highlights aviation in its many different facets though a variety of galleries as well as exhibits not only about aviation but also featuring actual military aircraft and missiles. They are divided up between exhibits that are located inside the museum and those that are located outside the museum.
Indoor: The galleries located at the indoor portion of the exhibit focus on aerospace and aviation engineering, science, history, and innovation. Looking at them through the lens of military history, the gallery celebrates how much innovation has played a part in aviation as well as looking forward to what aviation may bring in the future. There is also a selection of aircraft located in the indoor section that show the rich history of aviation in the United States. This area also looks at the history of the Cold War as it relates to aviation, some of aviation’s pioneers, as well as the history of the Air Force Base the museum is located on (Ellsworth). It makes sure to return to the history of aviation in South Dakota as well, tying everything back to the state’s impact on the nation and even the world when it comes to aviation.
Outdoor: The outdoor galleries and exhibits number over 30, and add the beauty of the Black Hills in the background. Visitors should make sure to check out the actual aircraft on exhibit - like the H-13 helicopter or the B1B Lancer airplane. These aircraft have been restored with historical accuracy and each aircraft on display comes with information on their history and the impact it had on aviation in general.
Guests to the museum should also make sure to check out the Aviation Hall of Fame. This huge and inspiring wall the beautiful bronze plaques tell the story of some of aviation’s greatest characters. Learn about their history as well as how it impacted the legacy of aviation in America. Full of inspiration, innovation, and invention, the wall will show guests just how many people have had their hands in leading aviation to the prominent place it occupies in America.
Tours are offered at the museum free of charge and are first come, first serve.
Although the museum does offer free tours, many visitors and groups to the air and space museum may be interested in taking a tour of the entire air force base as well. Available from the middle of May to the middle of September (although tour options are more limited toward the end of the season). This tour is offered by air-conditioned bus and takes about an hour. It is led by a tour guide and video equipment as well as cameras are permitted. No reservations are required, but tours are offered first come, first serve so guests should be aware that there may be a wait. There is a cost required for adult guests, as well as a discounted cost for children under the age of 12. Group discounts as well as student discounts are available. Student field trips are only available in May and September.
The air and space museum are home to a gift shop that focuses on one of a kind items related to aviation. Check out the apparel (the hoodie is a favorite, but they also offer t-shirts, hats, etc), the novelty items, educational resources for both children and adults, and other toys and gifts. The gift shop is open when the museum is, with the exception of January and February when it is closed.
South Dakota Air and Space Museum, 2890 Davis Drive Building #5208, Ellsworth AFB, SD 57706, Phone: 605-385-5189
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Attraction Spotlight in SD: Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA is one of the more unique and exciting, as well as educational, travel destinations in South Dakota. Guests can drive through in a car and see over 20 different species of animals in their natural habitat, all while learning about their conservation programs and little facts about each one.
Opened in August of 1972, the park was the brainchild of Dr. Dennis Casey (affectionately known as “Doc”) and Pauline, his wife. Started with 11 black bears, one wolf, one cougar, an elk, and three buffalo, the park has since ballooned to include over 200 black bears and many other animals on over 250 acres of land. The majority of the animals have been born in captivity, but all efforts have been made to maintain as close to a wild experience for them as possible. It is currently considered the biggest collection of black bears owned privately.
Despite its name, Bear Country offers so much more to see and do than just bears. The open season runs from April through November, although they are occasionally closed during that time as well. Guests are strongly encouraged to check the website prior to a planned visit to verify that they are indeed open.
For the private vehicular tours of the park, the rates vary depending on age level, with a discount provided for seniors, children, and military. There is also a maximum cost per vehicle. Children ages four and under are admitted free. They also offer season passes for local guests who plan on visiting more than once - it ends up paying for itself in the long run!
There are also group tour rates available. A group is defined as an identifiable and designated group of 15 people or more. Children under the age of five are admitted free. If available, “step on” guides can be added without additional charge as long as there is 24-hour notice of desire to do so. Tours take around two hours.
Animals on site:
- Arctic wolf
- Bighorn sheep
- Black Bear
- Canadian Lynx
- Grizzly Bear
- Mountain Lion
- Red Fox
- River Otter
- Rocky Mountain Goat
- Striped Skunk
- Timber Wolf
Other things to do while on site include making sure to catch all of the daily activities that happen in the wildlife walk part of the park. The majority of the time these activities are offered as a substitution for days when the wildlife doesn’t feel like hanging out with the general public, but they can also be enjoyed solo as they are included with admission to the park.
- Download and print off an activity page for children to color. There are available on the website.
- Talk to the resident keepers about the animals that live at the park and learn interesting facts about them, as well as watching demonstrations, talks, and other informative programs.
- Children can get temporary tattoos!
- Take a picture with the park mascot!
- Make use of the free strollers and stroll around the wildlife walk.
Visiting the park with a classroom full of students is the perfect way to get them to literally interact with the subjects they have been studying. Great for homeschooled children as well as both private and public schools, the website offers a huge variety of activity pages for download both before and after a visit (with subjects like what bears eat, an animal behavior BINGO game, and a fun word find activity) as well as summer camps meant to help students develop that connection with nature that is so imperative to help children understand the importance of conservation and preservation. They also help students be able to identify animal habitats, signs of animal life, and overall just to have fun while learning! Price depends on the activity and the number of students, so it is required for teachers to contact the park prior to a visit for additional information and reservations.
Dining and Shopping
Stop by the Cub Grub (a small grill located on the grounds for a quick snack, some cotton candy, or just a cold drink (especially on the hot days). It is available for the majority of the season (with the exception of occasional days during both the early and the late parts of the season). Also make sure to visit the gift shop for a selection of apparel (hoodies, t-shirts, etc), blankets, toys, tote bags, and more! All purchases go back into helping Bear Country USA provide for the animals located there.
Bear Country USA, 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702, Phone: 605-343-2290
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