What are the best things to see and do in Rapid City?

Michael Ream

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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best shopping in Rapid City?

    Rapid City has an eclectic collection of shops packed into its downtown, where you can pick up everything from Western clothing to antiques and fine art. To find the best shopping in Rapid City, poke around the storefronts on St. Joseph Street, which is known for antique shops like St. Joe Antiques & Gift Mall. Nearby Main Street has some funky offerings like Global Market Imports, which showcases jewelry, knickknacks and housewares with an international flair; while Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries is a large emporium offering an impressive selection of Native American crafts, art and clothing. Those looking for a good selection of used books will find them at Everybody’s Bookstore, which is farther out on Main Street and features both Western- and Native American-themed themed titles.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best things to do with kids in Rapid City?

    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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best things to see and do in Rapid City?

    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.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best way to see Rapid City in one day?

    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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best nightlife in Rapid City?

    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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best Rapid City food experiences?

    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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best thing to bring home from Rapid City?

    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, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the best road trips from Rapid City?

    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 July 23, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Rapid City?

    The best places to eat in Rapid City are more casual than refined, but the fare itself is always delicious. Here are five restaurants that Forbes Travel Guide recommends.
     
    1. Firehouse Brewing Co. Housed in a renovated firehouse, this restaurant serves numerous varieties of suds brewed in giant vats upstairs. The menu is standard pub grub, including sandwiches, salads and steaks, as well as Mexican and Italian offerings. Head outside on a sunny day to enjoy your beer on the restaurant’s patio, where you’ll often find live music.
     
    2. Piesano’s Pacchia. A nice little pizzeria on the outskirts of Rapid City, Piesano’s Pacchia serves both classic (meat, three cheese) and more offbeat (Hawaiian, fajita chicken) pizzas. It prides itself on fresh ingredients and handmade crusts. There’s also a nice patio for outdoor dining.
     
    3. Tally’s Silver Spoon. A longstanding home-style eatery reborn as a hip diner, Tally’s Silver Spoon offers classic dishes with a modern twist, like the seared black bass with a citrus and orange cream soda sauce, or the blackened Creole rib-eye with foie gras fondue. You can also get good burgers and other sandwiches, as well as pastas and salads and old favorites like chicken and dumplings.
     
    4. Corn Exchange. This elegant yet casual downtown bistro has won acclaim for its fare prepared with fresh local ingredients. The changing menu has an eclectic array of dishes that draw inspiration from both international and heartland cuisine. Have a glass of wine or a beer with your meal, and don’t miss the desserts.
     
    5. Black Hills Bagels. For a delicious early-morning meal, check out this little shed, which offers an endless variety of bagels, as well as a full slate of toppings and cream cheeses. It serves bagel sandwiches at breakfast and lunch as well.
  • On July 23, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Rapid City?

    Rapid City might not be the epicenter of luxury hotels, but there are some top-notch places to stay in the South Dakota town. Here are five that Forbes Travel Guide recommends.
     
    1. Adoba Eco Hotel. This large eco-friendly hotel in the heart of downtown has rooms with flat-screen televisions and complimentary Internet access, as well as a business floor with expanded amenities. The hotel’s Enigma Restaurant is known for its organic dishes made with local ingredients, while the 445 Martini Lounge gives guests the opportunity to unwind after a day of shopping and seeing the sites.
     
    2. Alex Johnson Hotel. With a convenient downtown location, this historic hotel serves as an ideal base to explore the center of the city by foot. The refurbished interior has tons of character, and rooms are comfortable with plenty of amenities. The narrow bar area is a nice spot for a cocktail.
     
    3. Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn. Adjacent to Rapid City’s convention center, this downtown hotel provides plenty of amenities to its guests, including an indoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, fitness center and sun deck. As with the other downtown hotels, it’s conveniently located near shopping and restaurants, and also has its own restaurant and lounge.
     
    4. Audrie’s Bed and Breakfast. Tucked away in the Black Hills National Forest seven miles outside of Rapid City, this bed and breakfast is made up of log cabins and a renovated powerhouse. Each unit comes with its own patio, as well as a private bath with a hot tub. It’s a nice escape from the surrounding tourist meccas.
     
    5. Black Forest Inn Bed & Breakfast Lodge. Ideally located near the Sheridan and Pactola Lakes and Mount Rushmore, this rural getaway spoils its guests with delicious meals at breakfast and dinner. The sprawling inn is centered around its well-appointed great room, which features a stone fireplace. As for the guest rooms, the décor runs the gamut from knotty pine to muted tones.