On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:From a dinosaur park to theme park with a storybook setting, kids will love exploring Rapid City. Here are four things that Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend you do with your kids in the South Dakota town.
1. Dinosaur Park. Standing atop a hill are seven concrete dinos, including a triceratops, stegosaurus and, of course, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This legendary dinosaur attraction has been around since 1936, and it’s just as much fun for each new generation of kids.
2. Storybook Island. Representations of classic American tales and nursery rhymes are found in this small park. Cinderella, Snow White and Winnie the Pooh all make an appearance, and there’s a miniature train ride, too. Walk around and then sit down for a picnic.
3. Bear Country USA. This sprawling wildlife park isn’t just home to bears — it also includes bighorn sheep, mountain lions, reindeer and wolves. You can see them all on a driving tour, and afterward, get up close with bear cubs and other baby animals in the center’s Babyland area.
4. Reptile Gardens. Reptile Gardens is a classic tourist attraction with some truly impressive snakes, alligators and giant turtles. It features different animal shows, and a friendly staff that can answer any of your animal-related questions.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:Rapid City is a charming frontier town with plenty of attractions for the visitors who come here on their way to nearby Mount Rushmore. Here are five things Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend seeing and doing in the South Dakota town:
1. Black Hills Powwow. A living display of Native American traditions and culture held every October, the Black Hills Powwow is one of the best opportunities to view the culture of America’s indigenous peoples. Dances, music and native crafts are all performed regularly, and participants come from all over for the many events, including the Grand Entry procession, an amazing gathering of powwow attendees dressed in their finest.
2. The Journey Museum. Take an extensive trip through the natural history of the Black Hills region by exploring this museum. It has artifacts and interactive displays demonstrating various geological phenomena, as well as special events that illustrate colorful moments in the area’s past.
3. Museum of Geology. Located on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, this free museum has an impressive collection of fossils found throughout the state. There are also meteorites, diamonds and dinosaur bones, and plenty of other rocks — some of which have an unbelievable assortment of colors.
4. Dahl Fine Arts Center. Rapid City’s art museum has a changing array of exhibits, which have included a variety of painting, sculpture and photography, all with an emphasis on Western art. The center also features the Cyclorama, a unique painting spanning an entire room, including sound and lights, which tells the history of the United States.
5. Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold Creations and Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold. Stop by these local spots to see and learn about Black Hills gold, a unique form of jewelry that can only be made in the area. There are free tours of the factory and a gift shop with some unique pieces for sale.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:The best way to see Rapid City in one day is to start with a walk around downtown, which most visitors eschew in their rush to the area’s more popular attractions. However, the area is filled with some hidden gems, like great shopping along Main, Sixth and St. Joseph’s streets, plus grand old homes along West Boulevard. Along the way, see how many American presidents you can spot — Rapid City is erecting a statue of every single chief executive along its downtown streets. Even if you’re not staying at the Alex Johnson Hotel, the lobby of the historic hotel is worth a visit to check out its furnishings and display of Western items.
Then, head to the kid-friendly Dinosaur Park, where kids can awe at the towering concrete dinosaurs. Many fossils have been found in the earth near Rapid City, and this park celebrates that legacy. Just north of downtown, adjacent to the Rapid City Civic Center are the Memorial Park Rose Gardens that were built in memory of the victims of a devastating 1972 flood.
Next, pop into one of Rapid City’s many dining options for lunch before heading out to one of the area’s museums, such as The Journey or the Museum of Geology. On a rainy day, spend your afternoon catching a movie at the downtown Elks Theatre, a century-old, wonderfully restored opera house.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:Rapid City might not have the most vibrant nightlife, but there are still a few places where you can live it up post-dinner. In addition to the bars and clubs in Rapid City, check out nightlife options in nearby Deadwood — home to some historic Western bars as well as numerous casinos — and the college-centric Spearfish. But if you want to stay in Rapid City, here are a few nightlife recommendations from Forbes Travel Guide.
1. Brass Rail Lounge. This retro bar is shoehorned in between downtown storefronts. It’s a no-frills drinking den where you can expect to find plenty of regulars and old-timers who stay well into the wee hours.
2. 445 Lounge. Located inside the Adoba Eco Hotel, this swank martini bar offers a long list of upscale cocktails, plus it’s a nice place to relax with a drink at the end of the day. It gets a little more raucous when live bands play; check with the bar for the music schedule.
3. Paddy O’Neill’s. Tucked away on the first floor of the Alex Johnson Hotel, this narrow bar features lots of dark woods and a tin ceiling, which complements its historic setting. There’s a nice selection of beers and liquors, and on some nights you’ll find live music.
4. Budd Ugly’s. This place caters to both sports lovers and dance enthusiasts, with a downstairs festooned with televisions broadcasting all the games and some decent pizza. It’s a different scene upstairs, where you’ll find DJs cranking up the music for a largely young party crowd.
5. Teddy’s Sports Grill. Another combination sports bar and dance club, Teddy’s Sports Grill features televisions tuned to the games on one side and lots of current pop hits pumping out of speakers on the other. The extensive food menu will help you fuel up for more dancing.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:Some of the more well-known restaurants in the Black Hills area are found outside Rapid City, in more touristy areas. But no matter if you’re planning to stay in or out of the city, here are the food experiences you must try.
1. Steak. Chow down on broiled slabs of beef at any one of the region’s many steakhouses. Many of them specialize in prime rib, including Big Al’s Buffalo Steakhouse in Deadwood, the Elk Creek Steakhouse in Piedmont and Harold’s Prime Rib & Steakhouse in Rapid City.
2. Trout. The Latchstring Inn, located at the Spearfish Canyon Resort, is well known for its pan-fried trout.
3. Italian fare. You can find top Italian fare at Rapid City restaurants, including Botticelli Ristorante and Piesano’s Pacchia.
4. Bagels. For a taste of New York in South Dakota, visit one of its bagel spots, such as Black Hills Bagels and The Beanery, where you can also grab soups and sandwiches.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:When you’re looking for a souvenir to bring home from Rapid City, you can’t go wrong with a Western or Native American souvenir — and the Black Hills region has a plethora of shops where you can find them. Choose from a wide selection at Prairie Edge Trading Company & Galleries or Sioux Pottery, both in Rapid City; or, make a trip to Antiques & Art in Piedmont. The Indians in Keystone has authentic, certified Native crafts and jewelry, as well as Kachina dolls, clothing and artwork.
Of course, remember that the Black Hills region is known for its namesake gold jewelry. You can peruse the offerings of Black Hills gold at numerous shops in the area, including Stamper Black Hills Gold, Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold and Landstrom’s Original Black Hills Gold; the latter two even offer tours of their gold-making factories.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:In the heart of one of the oldest, most venerable tourist destinations in the United States, Rapid City is a jumping-off point for attractions throughout the Black Hills, ranging from the highbrow and historic to the decidedly tacky. While Mount Rushmore is the most obvious destination, don’t forget the statue of Crazy Horse, which is making slow progress toward completion. There’s also Custer State Park and the surrounding Black Hills National Forest, which both have numerous outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Black Hills Institute Museum in Hill City has numerous displays of fossils and dinosaur bones that were found in the area, including those of “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus Rex; while, at the other end of the spectrum, Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer has Hollywood’s take on prehistoric times.
A slightly longer drive brings you to Badlands National Park, with its bizarre rock formations. Finally, for true roadside aficionados, make the trek down I-90 to the small town of Wall and the iconic attraction of Wall Drug. A lot of things all under one roof, this is far from your average drug store. There’s a giant concrete dinosaur out front, and inside, an eclectic collection of bobbleheads, books, postcards and T-shirts.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:The best shopping in Oklahoma City is found in unique markets and shops that hawk finds that represent the city’s western heritage. OKC Farmers Public Market is a faded Spanish Mission-style structure that was the city’s farmers’ market for many years beginning in 1928 (seeing the building alone is worth the trip). Today, a number of small antique dealers, fresh cut flowers and other eclectic stores have set up shop inside. Poke around and see what local one-of-a-kind goodies you can find. The Paseo Arts District is home to a slew of galleries and artists’ workshops, where you can pick up all sorts of local art pieces and handmade jewelry. If you’re visiting the area in the summer, the city hosts an annual arts festival over Memorial Day weekend. Stockyards City is the place to go for western-style clothing and other items, while Bricktown’s The Painted Door is an upscale gift shop with handmade soaps, jewelry and Oklahoma City-specific souvenirs.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:The handful of museums, the city’s rich history and the Old West nostalgia provide an endless wealth of activities for you and the little ones. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do with your family in Oklahoma City.
1. Frontier City. A large amusement park jam-packed with rides, including several roller coasters, as well as classics such as a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, kids’ rides and bumper cars. The on-site water park, which includes a flume and rapids ride, is perfect for cooling off on a hot day.
2. Harn Homestead and 1889ers Museum. Dating from the early days of Oklahoma City, this restored farm has all sorts of displays and demonstrations that will keep kids engaged in its gardens, two barns and one-room schoolhouse. Its centerpiece is a fine Queen Anne farmhouse, built by one of the state’s prominent early settlers. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy after your tour.
3. The Museum of Osteology. This modest building houses a true treat: Some 300 animal skeletons are displayed inside, including birds, reptiles, primates and, yes, humans. Displays include everything from the smallest mouse to a massive humpback whale. Visitors can handle skulls and learn how bones help different animals adapt and survive.
4. Oklahoma City Zoo. Consistently rated one of the best zoos in the country, with nearly 2,000 animals. The zoo’s new elephant area, which opened in 2011, has several yards for viewing the giant pachyderms, as well as a pavilion with daily displays. There are daily animal shows, rides and opportunities to feed some of the animals.
5. Science Museum Oklahoma. With a planetarium, a giant dome movie theater and exhibits featuring scientific fun facts, this large museum is a delight for kids and adults. The museum also has regular scientific demonstrations, such as the science of solving crimes, guaranteed to thrill visitors.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:From modern architecture to Old West must-sees, Oklahoma City is chock full of sightseeing opportunities. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ five picks for things to see and do in Oklahoma City.
1. Oklahoma State Capitol. This domed and colonnaded structure has a truly Oklahoma touch, the campus is famous for its oil wells. It is in fact, the only state capitol grounds in the U.S. with active oil rigs, pumping away on the grounds. Tours are available, with knowledgeable guides speaking on state history as well as the capitol itself, or you can opt for the self-guided option.
2. Stockyards City. Home to the largest cattle market in the world, this historic district gives visitors the chance to step back in time to the days of the cowboys. You’ll find over 70 western-focused shops here, selling everything from boots to Stetsons to horse saddles, as well as furniture and jewelry.
3. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Housed in a towering downtown building, this museum has impressive collections that ranges from 18th and 19th century paintings to sculptures to more contemporary works. There are interesting temporary exhibitions featured throughout the year as well.
4. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. A must-see for fans of the Old West, this massive museum has a treasure trove of cowboy-related items spread throughout its galleries, including rooms devoted to rodeo, firearms and western art. Kids will dig Prosperity Junction, a reconstructed western town that includes a railroad depot, blacksmith shop and stable. The museum also tells the story of Native Americans in the West, both in its Native American gallery, and most strongly with its prominently displayed “End of the Trail” sculpture, which features a weary and defeated brave atop his horse.
5. American Banjo Museum. A more offbeat destination, this Bricktown museum has galleries full of unique examples of the four-string instrument, including some that are extremely rare. Displays tell the story of the banjo and its importance in American music, ranging from the Old South plantations to the most prestigious concert halls in the world.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:Getting around vast Oklahoma City requires a car — fortunately, many attractions are clustered in a few areas. Choose from a selection of museums and related attractions, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, or Myriad Botanical Gardens, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. After some museum stops, head to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a moving tribute to the victims of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building — it’s less than a mile from your first stop. If you have specifics interests, there are a few museums in the city with a focus. The American Banjo Museum and the International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum are both unique city spots. After a long day of sightseeing, relax with a pour of fine wine and a fresh Oklahoma City steak at one of the many restaurants in the Bricktown district (we like Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse and Cattlemen’s Steakhouse).
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:For the best nightlife in Oklahoma City, head to Bricktown. This former warehouse district has been reborn as an energetic nightlife quarter, with a slew of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Check out Tap Werks Ale House for a huge selection of brews on tap and in bottles, or Citywalk or Skybar Ultra Lounge if you’re into the dancing scene. You can also take a water taxi down the canal that winds through the neighborhood for a more scenic, romantic evening. If music is what you seek, head over to Oklahoma Rodeo Opry, in historic Stockyard City, for a look at some upcoming country music talent. Oklahoma City also offers a full plate for sports lovers, with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder joined by the RedHawks (minor league baseball) and Barons (minor league hockey), giving fans plenty of choices when it comes to seeing a game, with all three teams playing conveniently at downtown facilities.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:You’ll be hard-pressed to find a place with as varied fresh meat option as Oklahoma; its location gives the city the best of cattle in the area. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best food experiences in Oklahoma City.
1. Steak. Carnivores will be satisfied with the city’s more than ample selection of no-frills eateries offering up every formed of grilled, broiled and smoked goodness. Check out Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the historic Stockyards City complex, where diners chow down in an authentic Old West atmosphere.
2. Barbecue. Meanwhile, ‘cue aficionados will want to hit Jack’s BBQ and local hot spot, County line BBQ, which has been steadily cranking out brisket, ribs, and other tangy delights for over 50 years.
3. Fried chicken. Oklahoma City chicken is fresh and juicy, and when it’s fried, there’s really nothing like it. Check out Ann’s Chicken Fry House, whose fried chicken and chicken-fried steak are a favorite among locals.
4. Mexican cuisine. Oklahoma City is chock full of tasty Mexican restaurants, keep your eyes peeled for the mom and pop variety, over the chains, for the most authentic dishes.
5. European specialties. Locals love the European specialty meats and baked goods from Ingrid’s Kitchen—for 30 years; this spot has been bustling with locals and tourists. Be sure to stop in for some fine bratwurst, wiener schnitzel and their classic reuben.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:When deciding what to bring home from Oklahoma City, you can’t go wrong with an authentic western item, such as a button-down shirt or hat. Clustered in Stockyards City, there are over 70 stores with the west on the brain. Check out Langston’s Western Wear, with a wide range of boots, hats and shirts,
Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, which custom makes cowboy hats on the premises and National Saddlery has plenty of custom leather goods. Native American crafts and jewelry make for beautiful souvenirs from the area as well, and Oklahoma Native Art & Jewelry, also in Stockyards City, has a nice selection, including many silver and turquoise pieces.
On August 16, 2012Michael Ream answered the question:While America’s iconic transcontinental highway passes through Oklahoma City, you really need to get out into the country to experience the feeling of the iconic road. Stop off in the town of Arcadia, which has a famous round barn that houses a Route 66 gift shop and modest museum. Farther down the road, the towns of Chandler and Stroud are also worth a visit, with the latter, home to an iconic Route 66 café. The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is located just over an hour to the west of Oklahoma City in the town of Clinton, and it’s worth a visit.
While it’s not on Route 66, the town of Guthrie, north of Oklahoma City, is a nice stop for road trippers. As the original capital of Oklahoma, the town has several historic sites, including an entire neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places, consisting of hundreds of Victorian homes and redbrick commercial buildings. The Oklahoma Territorial Museum, part of a complex that includes the town’s historic Carnegie Library, has many displays related to state history, while the Oklahoma Sports Museum is full of memorabilia from Oklahoma’s many famous athletes and teams.