Explore history and nature (and eat really well) in Rapid City, South Dakota, a mere 23 miles from Mount Rushmore.
badlands national park
Credit: Ryan Donnell

Bucket List

Black Hills National Forest 

With Old West adventure, stunning scenery, wildlife, ancient caves and paleontology, this wilderness just west of town comprises a getaway all its own, and Rapid City makes a perfect home base.

Badlands National Park

An eerie landscape of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires stretches in Badlands National Park, an hour southeast of Rapid City. Cruise the 39-mile Badlands Loop Road for an overview or trek paths like the Notch Trail to see formations up close. 

Vertex Sky Bar

This cocktail bar perched atop Hotel Alex Johnson, Rapid City's tallest building, serves Black Hills views alongside potent drinks and occasional live music.

city of presidents tourists with statue
Credit: Courtesy of Visit Rapid City

City of Presidents

Strike a pose with life-size bronze statues of 43 presidents on downtown streets. Afterward, cool off in the kid-favorite fountains at Main Street Square.

Custer State Park

Open ranges awe visitors at Custer State Park (30 miles south of town). Drive the scenic Wildlife Loop Road, hike trails that circle lakes or head toward peaks, or explore on horseback with a guided trail ride.

firehouse brewing company live music
Credit: Kevin Miyazaki

Where to Eat


At Tally's Silver Spoon, order French toast buried in blueberries, sweetened with cinnamon, topped with foie gras or subbed with ice cream instead of butter … because you're on vacation.


Thirst Extinguisher cream ale helps tame the blazing cayenne pepper kick of Hyperventilation Wings at Firehouse Brewing Company, South Dakota's oldest brewery.


Ramen-eating brought Justin Warner and Brooke Sweeten together, and now it's your turn to fall in love with their bison, mushroom, beef, miso and pork variations at Bokujo Ramen.

reptile gardens snake
Credit: Ryan Donnell

Family Hits


Armadillos Ice Cream Shoppe serves up desserts in tempting combos like Banana Cream Pie (vanilla ice cream served with toasted coconut dip, bananas and whipped cream).


Meet Maniac the Giant Crocodile(16 feet long!) at Reptile Gardens, a zoo and tropical oasis filled with amphibians, birds, prairie dogs and yes, reptiles, on the road to Mount Rushmore. 

Budget Pick

Roll down the hill with Jack and Jill, and tour the Three Little Pigs' homes at Storybook Island. Children and kids at heart love seeing favorite tales and characters come to life at this free park. 

Where to Stay

Hotel Alex Johnson played host to six presidents—fitting for a city close to Mount Rushmore. The brick-clad boutique stay features 143 renovated rooms and art that pays homage to Lakota and Sioux culture.

Day Trip

Western South Dakota was built for the all-American road trip. From Rapid City, drive 30 minutes to Mount Rushmore National Memorial to take in the 60-foot-tall faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Granite peaks pierce the sky along the scenic Needles Highway. Detour to sky-blue Sylvan Lake on the way to Crazy Horse Memorial. Since 1948, the great Oglala Lakota leader has been slowly emerging from a mountain.