We are firm believers that the best vacations don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and that the words fun and free aren’t a thing of the past. In our area, there’s plenty of amazing free places to experience that might just be the highlight of your vacation. So, in no particular order, here are 33 free things you can do in Rapid City and the Black Hills.
1. STORYBOOK ISLAND
This magical children’s park is every kids dream. Their excitement will be sky high as they play in the houses of the three little pigs, slide down the hill with Jack and Jill, and discover all their favorite characters scattered across this 8-acre park. Entrance to the park is free, but donations are always welcome.
2. CHAPEL IN THE HILLS
Rapid City is full of surprises – one of which is this wooden chapel in the trees. Chapel in the Hills is an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. During a visit you can take in its stunning architecture, and tour the grounds which offers a museum, gift shop and meditation trail.
3. CITY OF PRESIDENTS
After each presidential term, a group of dedicated locals get to work organizing, planning, and creating a bronze replica to take their place among past American Presidents in Downtown Rapid City. This free walking tour is called the City of Presidents and it provides an opportunity to walk through life-sized history as you explore the downtown area.
4. M Hill
With over twenty miles of trails for hiking and biking, and even bouldering routes, Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park (commonly referred to as M Hill) is home to thrilling outdoor opportunities for those seeking it within city limits. It’s great location offers stunning views of the area from the summit. The trail head is also conveniently located across the street from a few local breweries – now that’s a win-win.
5. DINOSAUR PARK
Standing since 1936, the quirky creatures of Dinosaur Park have been a memory-making stop for countless families over the years. Kids (and adults) can climb the dinosaurs and roam the park all while taking in the 100-mile views.
*Dinosaur Park is currently under construction to create accessible pedestrian routes, update safety features, and upgrade visitor amenities including site interpretation. You can still visit the park during this time with access through the hiking trail.
6. SKYLINE WILDERNESS AREA
Discover a network of single-track trails in the center of Rapid City. Skyline Wilderness Area spans for 150-acres and offers a variety of mountain biking and hiking trails for everyone to enjoy. Surrounded by ponderosa pines you’ll forget you’re smack dab in the center of town.
The world’s only museum and pawnshop combination can be found in Downtown Rapid City. As you shop their collection of Black Hills Gold jewelry and musical instruments, you’ll also discover historical items like Michael Jackson’s gloves or one of hats of Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkows.
8. DAHL ARTS CENTER
Art comes in many forms inside the walls of the Dahl. Visitors can tour the rotating galleries or those with children can spend time in the Bruce H. and Deanna Lien Children’s Interactive Gallery where they can experience and create art in different mediums.
9. CANYON LAKE PARK
Peaceful picnics and outdoor fun await you at Canyon Lake Park. Enjoy a leisurely walk or bike ride around the lake, cast a line if you have your South Dakota fishing license, or start a game of sand volleyball.
10. SUZIE CAPPA ART CENTER
Artists of all abilities create and sell their work at the Suzie Cappa Art Center. Tour this unique art center and you’ll discover that disabilities are not a boundary in environment where everyone can be creative.
11. MAIN STREET SQUARE
In the heart of Rapid City is the lively fun of Main Street Square. The square’s interactive fountains or splash pad is open for all to enjoy as you lounge on the turf and soak up some sun. Free events also take place year-round, ranging from movies under the stars to live music.
12. ART ALLEY
Surround yourself with colorful street art with a stroll through Art Alley. Located in Downtown Rapid City this alleyway allows artists who’ve obtained a permit add their artwork to these ever-changing walls.
13. TUSWECA GALLERY
Ranging from traditional to contemporary styles, the art featured at this local gallery reveals empowering stories from Native American culture and traditions. Located right downtown, it’s a great place to browse or purchase artwork and support their mission to showcase indigenous artists from across South Dakota.
14. MEMORIAL PARK
The serene walking paths of Memorial Park lead its visitors to many things. One of the most iconic things this park is home to is a piece of the Berlin Wall. Explore and discover a handful of memorials, the sights and sounds of Rapid Creek, and a wonderful playground that has accessible and sensory features.
15. SOUTH DAKOTA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
Walk through the history of aviation at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. With an impressive collection found in their indoor and outdoor exhibits, it’s hard to believe a visit here is free.
16. MUSEUM OF GEOLOGY
Found on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, this museum is a true hidden gem of Rapid City. The Museum of Geology boosts an impressive collection of minerals and fossils and makes for one interesting and educational visit.
17. FORT HAYS
Step back in time at the Fort Hays Old West Town Square and tour the film set of the movie Dances With Wolves. Extend your stay and fill your belly with 99 cent cowboy pancakes or purchase a ticket to attend the Chuckwagon Supper followed by a live music variety show.
18. OUTDOOR CAMPUS WEST
Explore the indoor exhibits of South Dakota wildlife, hike over 1.5 miles of outdoor trails or attend a class to hone in on the skills needed for fishing, hunting, kayaking and more all for free at the Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City.
19. PRAIRIE EDGE TRADING COMPANY AND GALLERIES
Offering more than great locally made products, Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries is also home to an outstanding collection of Native American artwork, books, music and more. Check their social media to coordinate your visit when a local artist will be in store painting.
20. FROLFING AT JACKSON PARK
Enjoy a game of disc golf or frolfing at the beautiful Jackson Park in Rapid City. This course features 18 holes and is great for all skill levels.
21. MT. RUSHMORE BLACK HILLS GOLD FACTORY TOUR
Witness the creation of Black Hills Gold jewelry up close with a free tour at the Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory. You’ll see the fascinating process that takes place to hand-craft the signature grape leaf design dating back to the 1870’s.
22. SUMMER NIGHTS
Join the party of Summer Nights in Downtown Rapid City. Every Thursday night during the summer months visitors and locals mingle on the street to dance the night away to live music.
23. PRAIRIE BERRY WINEry TASTING
Treat yourself to the unique flavors of Prairie Berry Winery. Free wine tastings allows you to sip your way through a handful of their creations to find the one your palate likes best.
24. DC BOOTH FISH HATCHERY in Spearfish
Explore the grounds of one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country that’s dedicated to fish culture and resource management.
25. SPEARFISH CANYON
One of the top scenic drives in the Black Hills, take a cruise through the curves of Spearfish Canyon. Between these canyon walls awaits waterfalls, hiking trails and beautiful scenery all around.
26. FRIENDSHIP TOWER
Enjoy a picnic and hike at the Historic Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower. Built in 1919 by famous Deadwood Sheriff, Seth Bullock, the tower honors his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt and offers a great place to take in the beauty of the Black Hills.
27. WALL DRUG
You can enjoy more than free ice water at Wall Drug. During a visit you’ll also be able to explore the gift shop, take in some quirky photo opportunities, and ride a jackalope.
28. IRON MOUNTAIN ROAD
Stretching through the Black Hills for 17 miles, Iron Mountain Road features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails, 3 tunnels, and four famous faces. It’s a must do drive in the hills and all you need is car.
29. BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST
Consisting of 1.2 million acres, the Black Hills National Forest offers a lot of ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. With hundreds of hiking trails to explore, beautiful bodies of water, rock climbing opportunities and a plethora of picturesque picnic spots, you could spend days playing in the forest and never get bored.
30. DEADWOOD SHOOTOUT
Step back in time and witness an old west shoot-out on the Main Street in Deadwood. These historically accurate gunfights happen three times a day, six days a week. There’s no killing on Sundays.
31. TERMESPHERE GALLERY
Step into the world of local artist, Dick Termes, at the Termesphere Gallery. A visit to his gallery allows you to experience the uniqueness of his creation – the Termesphere®.
32. BLACK HILLS GLASS BLOWERS
Take in the mind blowing art form of glass blowing with a visit to Black Hills Glass Blowers. Local artists Peter Hopkins and Gail Damin use a 2,000 degree furnace and blowpipes to create stunning pieces of art you can purchase.
33. DAHL'S CHAINSAW ART
View the Dahl brother’s impressive chainsaw art at one of their three locations in the Black Hills: Keystone, Deadwood, and Hill City. Their galleries showcase their unique pieces of work and provide some great photo opportunities.