The first half of our almost-two-week-vacation was spent in South Dakota.
I used to be under the mistaken idea that there wasn’t much to do in South Dakota. I was so, so, so wrong. We could have spent our entire time there and still not have seen everything. However, we only had five days. Here are the four places we visited.
1. Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota. This museum/gift shop/tour is located on the exact spot where Charles Ingalls had his homestead. Which, if you are a Laura Ingalls nerd (I am! I am!), makes your heart sing just a little.
There is quite a bit to see and do on the tour. At the various exhibits the knowledgeable employees went out of their way to ensure that we not only had a good time, but learned a bit about the pioneer experience.
We spent only half a day here and there was a stiff entrance fee, but it was probably one of our kids’ favorite things on the trip. We walked away with dozens of photos, homemade corn cob dolls and ropes, and an even bigger love for Laura. Plus, I can now say that I trod where Laura Ingalls Wilder has trod.
Tip: If you go, make sure you and your spouse has read The Long Winter, in the Little House series. It will make this trip really come alive.
2. Badlands National Park. My one regret on this vacation is that we couldn’t stay longer here. We only had one night, which wasn’t enough.
This park has gorgeous scenery, a myriad of Park Ranger presentations, hiking, and more. We saw horned rams and lizards and the kids got to climb on a bunch of cool rock formations.
Tip: Try really hard to be there on a night when they do the Night Sky Viewing, right after the evening Ranger presentation. The rangers bring out telescopes and help you find different constellations and stars. The Badlands has one of the best views of the night sky in the United States.
3. Minute Missile National Historic site. This was another one of those I-wish-we-had-more-time places. We stopped at the main site, which is just outside the Badlands Park entrance. We watched the movie which discussed the Cold War and how the U.S. government responded by building and burying 150 missile sites in South Dakota alone. Eye opening, a little scary, but really cool, nevertheless. Our older kids earned a Junior Ranger badge here, which was pretty neat.
Tip: Be sure to get to the main site right when it opens, if you want tickets to tour the actual below ground missile facility. The tickets go lightning fast, and we found ourselves out of luck.
4. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments. We spent two days here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The national forest was absolutely breath-taking, while these two man made monuments were even more awe inspiring. The grandeur of Rushmore is unbelievable and the scope of Crazy Horse completely boggles the mind. Each facility had top notch museums and displays that carefully explained how each project came to be.
Tip: The bookstore at Mount Rushmore is fabulous, I could have spent our whole budget in that place alone. And be sure not to miss the short documentary movie at Crazy Horse; it is extremely well done. Also, if you have the time, visit Custer State Park and drive their Wilderness Loop. We saw buffalo herds and wild donkeys right from our car. My son took great delight in yelling, “Look! Wild ass!” and I couldn’t get mad at him.
Gentle Reader, have you ever been to these places? What were your favorite parts?