From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Located in western South Dakota, east of the stunning Black Hills National Forest, is Rapid City. Known as the gateway to the world-famous Mount Rushmore, the city is also home to charming architecture, several state parks and national parks, and numerous family-friendly attractions.
Whether you live within the city or are just stopping by, you’ll be able to indulge in a unique dining scene, explore local arts and culture, and escape the hustle and bustle for some tranquility among nature.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Rapid City has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Rapid City, South Dakota? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Rapid City has also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Just a 40-minute drive from Rapid City will take you to Custer State Park, one of the most popular state parks within the state. Known for its granite peaks, open ranges, and clear mountain waters, the state park is your home of outdoor adventure. Encompassing over 71,000 acres, you can enjoy everything from camping, hiking, and biking, to swimming, fishing, and so much more.
Bear Butte State Park is also less than an hour’s drive from the city and it is also referred to as Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain", which is its Lakota name. It’s home to just one of many igneous rock formations in the Black Hills and is sacred to many American Indian tribes who frequently practice religious celebrations here. Activities on offer include boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and more.
Rapid City is home to only a few state parks, but the world-famous Badlands National Park is also on its doorstep. Its 244,000 acres are home to striking geologic deposits, which contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Keep an eye out for bison, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs, which frequently roam the park. We also highly recommend witnessing a sunrise or sunset within the park. They’re magical!
The Wind Cave National Park is around an hour’s drive from Rapid City, and it too is a popular and well-known national park within the region. You see, it’s one of America's oldest national parks and features picturesque prairie grasslands and forested hillsides dotted with roaming bison, elk, and other wildlife. Check out Wind Cave, one of the longest and most complex caves in the world, or why not enjoy some backcountry camping while you’re here?
The Black Hills National Forest is also nearby, offering Rapid City residents and visitors with even more opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. Here, you’ll find rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches, open grassland parks, tumbling streams, and deep blue lakes. Just some of the popular recreational activities on offer include hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Rapid City, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Deemed a local’s best-kept secret, the Horsethief Lake Trails can be found within a half-hour drive from the city. There are numerous trails to choose from, all of which are easy to manage and feature beautiful scenery, including the granite spires of the Black Hills, pine tree forests, waterfalls, emerald pools, and more. The trails are also stunning in winter too, when the lakes and waterfalls have frozen-over.
The Little Elk Creek Trail follows Little Elk Creek 3 miles to near Dalton Lake. Much of the trail follows the creek, providing you with nice views and the tranquillity that water provides. It’s a bit of a strenuous hike, but the well-kept trail, swimming holes, and small waterfalls make it well-worth it. You can even bring your four-legged friend, if they’re up for the challenge!
Buzzards Roost is a heavily trafficked loop trail located within the Black Hills National Forest, providing a peaceful and picturesque forest setting. It’s rated easy, making it great for all skill levels, and is 3.5 kilometers in length. We hear the sunsets admired from this trail are quite spectacular, so be sure to time your hike well, if you can!
If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
A gyro or gyros is a Greek dish made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, so you can just imagine the delicacies waiting for you at The Gyro Club! They offer a range of Mediterranean classics, including lamb, felafel, shish kebab, tzatziki, and more. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy some good-fashioned Greek hospitality.
Kathmandu Bistro is a small, intimate bistro in a historic 1886 building in downtown Rapid City. It focuses on Nepalese, Indian, and Tibetan food, so expect mouth-watering dishes featuring chicken, lamb, fish, goat, buffalo, lobster, or vegetables. It may look unassuming from the front, but once inside, you won’t want to leave!
Looking for one of the best fine dining steakhouse restaurants in Rapid City? Delmonico Grill is every local’s go-to, as they use classic techniques such as in-house dry aging and a wood-fire grill to bring exceptional grill fare to your plate. Enjoy dishes such as bacon-wrapped shrimp, house-aged ribeye, honey bourbon steak, and so much more.
Remember how we said that the Delmonico Grill was one of the best steakhouses in Rapid City? Well, here’s the other standout: Dakotah Steakhouse. They serve prime rib nightly and even offer 20 craft-beers on tap. Try the Certified Black Angus, which has been aged on site a minimum of 30 days, or their local buffalo dishes, which are flavorful, naturally lean, and high in iron and Omega fatty acids.
The Wine Cellar Restaurant is the place to be for delicious food, great wine, and entertainment. It has a comfortable outdoor patio, not to mention is also dog-friendly! Some of their delightful menu items include the bison sliders, sea scallops with strawberry basil salsa, thin crust pizzas, whiskey honey salmon, and more.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Rapid City’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
All kids love learning about reptiles, whether young or old! Reptile Gardens was founded in 1937 and is still under the ownership of its original family. In fact, it’s now one of the leading tourist attractions in the Midwest. Here, you can observe exotic reptiles from various regions up-close, which is enough to make anyone a little giddy with excitement.
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf won the "Beautification Award" and was voted "Best in the State" for its miniature golf courses. At this original adventure golf attraction, you’ll find everything from carousing buccaneers, sunken ships, and cascading waterfalls, to dreaded pirate dungeons and romantic pirate lore from the 1700's. It’s the perfect family day out!
What should you do in Rapid City once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
It’s just not summer in Rapid City without a visit to the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort! With over 30,000 square feet of swimming pools and water slides, WaTiki Indoor Water park Resort is the largest indoor water park in the Dakotas. It’s also home to five hotels, several restaurants, and a huge arcade, making it your go-to place for a great night out.
Looking for another amusement park to entertain you one night? Flags and Wheels is an indoor entertainment park, offering laser tag, race karts, go-karts, paintball, batting cages, bumper cars, and an arcade featuring one of the largest selections of games in the region! Trust us, you’ll want to stay here all night.
What can you do in or around Rapid City that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
Storybook Island was founded in 1959 and its mission has always been “to provide a free, safe, educational environment for those young in years or young at heart to experience the power of imagination”. They also offer seasonal events, as well as fun attractions such as train rides, carousel rides, and an indoor bounce house, all with admission priced at just a few dollars.
Looking to journey through and learn not only about Black Hills history, but the history of our species? The Journey Museum and Learning Center focuses on subjects such as dinosaurs, early settlement, and past living conditions and offers some insight into Native American culture and the history of the beautiful Black Hills. Admission ranges from $7 - $12, with kids aged 5 and under free to attend.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Rapid City? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Rapid City that won’t cost you a cent.
With the Mount Rushmore National Memorial on your doorstep, it’d be a wasted opportunity not to visit it while living within or visiting Rapid City. Nearly three million people visit this iconic attraction each year, with the biggest crowds attending in June, July, and August. Why not camp or enjoy a long hike while you’re here?
It comes as no surprise that Dinosaur Park is one of the region’s most favorite attractions among young and old. After all, it features seven life-size concrete replicas of monstrous prehistoric reptiles and has been open to the public since 1936! The area has been linked to many prehistoric fossils and footprints, making it significant for the history of dinosaurs on our planet. Best of all? It’s free!
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Rapid City has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Whether you’re looking to unwind, look your best, or both - Mystique Edge Day Salon & Spa offers a wide range of services to help you do just that. Think body polishes, hydrating body wraps, radiant facials, manicures, and a wide range of soothing massages, all designed to help you feel incredible.
AJ's Wicked Salon & Spa has created an environment that is tuned into the necessities of comfort and relaxation. Best of all, they only use organic, paraben-free products, so not only will you look better, but you’ll feel good about your choices too. We hear their signature spa massage is heavenly, as is their facials and body wraps.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Rapid City is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
Need a gym that makes fitness easy? At Ultimate Goals Fitness, that’s their motto! Every class is designed for you to do at your own pace, and boy do they offer a wide range of classes! Whether you’re looking for a class in HIIT, hoops, Zumba, yoga, or just wanting to use the cardio machines and free weights; they’ve got you covered.
Sōl Yoga Collective gives practitioners and teachers alike a chance to come together through donation-based classes. It allows you to join a community of yogis and newbies with one goal in common: to live this life to the fullest; every moment of it. They offer a long list of classes too, so you could try something new every week and never get bored!
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Rapid City without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Just an hour’s drive from Rapid City is the city of Hot Springs. Though smaller in size than Rapid City, the place still offers a bounty of fun things to do and see, including The Mammoth Site, which is a museum showing Ice Age fossils, the Evans Plunge Mineral Springs, Pioneer Museum, and more. In fact, this region is a history lover’s paradise, as it’s filled to the brim with intriguing and historically significant attractions.
If you don’t mind driving around 2.5 hours and crossing into the neighboring state of Wyoming, then we whole-heartedly suggest a trip to Thunder Basin National Grassland. The national grassland provides abundant and unique opportunities for visitors, including hiking, sightseeing, hunting, and fishing. Along with its adjoining Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, this region covers a total of nearly 2.9 million acres.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Rapid City that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Rapid City? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.