South Dakota Travel Information

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota Travel Information for a Family Road Trip

Look no further – here is all the South Dakota travel information you need for a trip to a Top US travel destination.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are calling.

It is like taking a field trip with your kids. There is so much for them to learn, see, and experience plus more fun than you can imagine for the entire family.

I have put together all of the South Dakota travel information and family travel tips we have found through the last 12 years of summer road trips to the Black Hills.

It is not easy to get to this destination by plane unless you fly into the small regional airport in Rapid City. So pack up the car and take a road trip!

Here are my travel tips and recommendations:

Where to go:

Hill City, Custer State Parks, Keystone or the town of Custer

When to go:

Summer! It is prime tourist season but that is also when everything is open. In October, it looks like a ghost town and there is no one but the locals around in the winter months.

How long to go:

A week at least but be sure to add your drive time too.

Where to stay:

Recommended: Custer State Parks for campers and families that prefer a lodge room or cabin.

For making reservations at the campgrounds or in the camping cabins, click here

For making reservations at the lodges or cabins, click here

Blue Belle has reasonably priced camping cabins. These are basic but have heating, ac, electricity and a porch. There are no kitchens, bathrooms or running water but it is a great, low-cost alternative to camping in a tent.

Center Lake has the best campsites but only take same-day reservations which can be scary during tourist season.

Note: Reservations for Custer State Parks start January 2nd. If you want to stay at your first choice options, call right away. Also, try to stay away from traveling to the Black Hills over the 4th of July and during Sturgis Bike Rally, these are extremely busy travel times.

Best campgrounds/campsites in Custer State Parks:

Sylvan Lake – campsites # 1E, 3E, 4E

Legion Lake – campsites #1, #2

Stockade Lake North – campsites #17, #19

Blue Bell – campsites #4, #21

Other campgrounds outside of the Custer State Park = Bismark Lake. Book through Black Hills National Forest. Best campsites = #4, #8, #14.

 

 

 

Top things to do in one of the Top US Travel Destinations:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial– hike the Presidential Trail. The National Monument has no entrance fee except for the parking fee.

Big Thunder Gold Mine – take a tour of the mine and pan for gold.

Bear Country USA – drive through wildlife park is a great way to see the animals up close without the danger. Try to go when they feed the animals, the bears were really active around lunchtime.

Reptile Gardens – this is the place to see every reptile you can imagine.

Crazy Horse Memorial – check out the progress of the Memorial.

Cosmos Mystery Area – for older kids. A slightly unbalanced tour for the family.

Wind Cave and Jewel Cave National Parks – this is for older kids, lots of stairs and walking.

Note: Book your tour by calling (605) 673-8300 before you go. Tours book up each day and the caves are not close by. You can book one week in advance.

Evans Plunge – a great place to cool off. It is located 1 hour south of Custer in Hot Springs, SD.

Mammoth Site – this is geared more for older kids and is also in Hot Springs, SD. Try to book one of the Educational Programs. They offer the Jr Paleontologist Excavation for ages 4-12 year olds and the Advanced Paleontologist Excavation for ages 13 and up. Make reservations in advance for these programs.

Badlands National Park – it is about 1 hour east of Rapid City. Kids of all ages will love to explore and hike around in the Badlands.

Note: Go early in the morning, it is about 10 degrees hotter in the Badlands than in the Black Hills. Bring lots of water and plan on at least 2-3 hours if you take the Badlands Loop Road.

Right after you visit the Badlands, stop by Wall Drug if you haven’t been lured in yet by all the signs. It is like nothing you have seen and I have seen a lot of touristy things. You can get a great lunch there and it is perfect if you need to get out of the car and stretch your legs.

 

Top things to do in Custer State Park

Swim in Legion Lake

Hike to the tallest point in South Dakota – Harney Peak, definitely for older kids.

Drive the Wildlife Loop, Needles Highway, and Iron Mountain Road (on different days of course). These are long, slow, winding roads; not for towing your camper or huge RV’s even though I have seen them.

Hike around Sylvan Lake

Find the buffalo herds and burros in the park.

Note: Ask your camping host or ranger where the buffalo have been spotted so you will be sure to find them.

Horseback riding at Blue Bell Stables

 

Great Family Restaurants:

Big Time Pizza in the Roosevelt Inn for family dining.

Looking for a western dining experience? Try the Circle B Ranch Chuckwagon, Flying T Chuckwagon or Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show

If you are looking for more information, contact me.

Have a great family road trip to the Black Hills!

Estes Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado Family Vacation
to Estes Park

Summer travel is the best time to take a Colorado family vacation to Estes Park. This is a perfect destination for all families.

There is so much to do and enjoy with Rocky Mountain National Park right in your backyard. We have had some great Colorado vacations to Estes Park.

Enjoy a family vacation to Estes Park next summer!

 

Here are my travel tips for a Colorado family vacation to Estes Park:

Where to go:

Estes Park, Colorado

When to go:

Summer!

How long to go:

A week

 

Where to stay:

Recommended:

Mary’s Lake Lodge & Resort– Beautiful views in every direction. Condos, lodges, cabins available. A great salt water pool for the kids.

Brynwood on the River – Perfect location close to Downtown Estes Park and great cabins with kitchens.

Upscale and for older kids that like abnormal activity- The Stanley Hotel

The Estes Park Resort – rooms with views of Estes Lake.

YMCA of the Rockies – stay in the cabins but you must book early. They have a great kids camp program that you can sign up for individual days or for the week. There are great arts & crafts at the Design Center. Even if you don’t stay here, you should visit for the day (small daily fee for non-Y members).

Be sure to check the reviews on Trip Advisor!

 

 

Top things to do:

MUST VISIT: Rocky Mountain National Park

Hikes/Scenic Drives in Rocky Mountain Natl Park

  • Drive the Trail Ridge Road.
  • Hiking: Bear Lake and Sprague Lake are pretty accessible and short hikes for families.
  • Cub Lake Trail is an easy hike for the entire family.
  • Lily Lake is a ¾ mile paved hike and very scenic.
  • Cascade Falls and Calypso Falls are not as busy and beautiful. This is a moderate hike to Calypso Falls.
  • Flat Top Mountain Trail (families with teenagers looking for a challenge) is 8.8 miles and elevation is over 12,000 feet.

Check out this website for more information on hiking in Colorado.

Note: For any hiking, plan accordingly with lots of water and food and wear layered clothes for all conditions.

 

A few of my other favorite things to do in and around Estes Park:

  • Jackson Stables for a wonderful horseback ride.
  • YMCA of the Rockies – Arts & Crafts at the Design Center is a great way to spend a rainy day.
  • Shopping in Downtown Estes Park – there are so many little shops to check out.

 

Restaurant Recommendations while in Estes Park:

Cascades Restaurant at the Stanley Hotel

Cheesy Lees Amazing Pizza or Village Pizza are great family options.

The Egg & I or Donut Haus for some breakfast options.

A favorite for kids and the adults – Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

Estes Park Brewery and Fun City family amusement is right next door – happy parents & happy kids!

 

Enjoy a great Colorado family vacation to Estes Park!