Rapid City’s Reptile Gardens is a zoo and botanical garden with the largest collection of reptiles in the world according to the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records. You can see giant tortoises, prairie dogs, bald eagles, snakes, and frogs. Stroll through the massive indoor three-level Sky Dome to view a tropical oasis with exotic birds, a Komodo dragon, Australian saltwater crocodile called Maniac, fossils, and a Safari Room filled with tropical plants including orchids, bromeliads, and caladiums. Kids will love gold panning and gemstone sluicing at the Rattlesnake Gulch exhibit, or seeing snake, alligator, and bird shows which run throughout the day.
For a pioneer experience, head to Ingalls Homestead where famous author of ‘Little Town on the Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up. The whole family will enjoy the various activities here including demonstrations of twisting hay sticks and making a jump rope and a corn cob doll. Kids will love visiting the farm animals and many guests’ highlight of the trip is the chance to drive the team of horses when taking a covered wagon ride! There is also the opportunity for children to visit the schoolhouse and wear pinafores and bonnets or straw hats while a teacher explains interesting stories and example activities students would have performed. You can even camp here for the night in the covered wagons, bunkhouse, RV and tent sites.
Located in the heart of the Black Hills, the famous Mickelson Trail stretches from Deadwood to Edgemont is one of the best places to go for a bike ride, hike, or horse ride in North America. This 109-mile trail will take you past spruce and ponderosa pine forests and contains four rock tunnels and more than 100 converted railroad bridges. The trail has gentle slopes making it the ideal place for a family bike ride as children can ride this trail too. If you’re looking for accommodation nearby, stay at Quality Inn Hill City Mount Rushmore which is located directly in front of the Mickelson trail. This hotel even has a room dedicated for guests to store their bicycles in, in addition to an indoor heated pool, free Wi-Fi, and a free hot breakfast.
The Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center at St. Joseph’s Indian School aims to honour and preserve the rich culture of the Lakota people. The museum has an intriguing collection of artefacts and displays that can be used to educate people about the unique history of the Lakota people and their fascinating culture today. There are four key parts of the museum tour including Camp Circle which focuses on the historical relationships between the tribes and Two Worlds Meet which looks at the arrival of the Euro-American explorers and traders in the early 1800s. Broken Promises details the U.S. government’s involvement in the loss of traditional lands and treaties, while Continuity and Change focuses on how Native Americans have adapted to their new way of life and successfully preserved their rich heritage and important traditions.
The Black Hills is home to the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a huge sculpture of the four Presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the mountainside. The Mount Rushmore Society and the National Park Service interpretive staff now offer self-guided tours where you are provided with a personal device that works like an iPhone. It will explain why and how Mount Rushmore was carved, with pictures and videos. With the tour translated into Spanish, German, French and Lakota, and 29 fascinating stops along the way, this will be a great experience for all. This tour is ideal for families as there is a new adventure called ‘Junior Ranger Quest’ where children can take part in 16 challenges at different tour stops. After completing 12 challenges, they receive a Junior Ranger badge from a ranger desk! There is also an on-site Presidential Trail, gift shop, dining hall and two museums. Read more about Mount Rushmore self-guided tours.