We were so excited to visit South Dakota again this summer. This time, we stayed in Rapid City and it did not disappoint! We had such a blast, I wish we had stayed another day just to squeeze in a few more activities. Some of you messaged me on Instagram and asked exactly what we did because you were planning trips this summer/fall too, so below is a breakdown of our trip.


Family entering Storybook Island in Rapid City, SD

We took an early flight out, and it always amazes me how dads can sleep anywhere during anything. Pearl has been a little crazy on planes lately, so we were thankful it was only a 50-minute flight. First stop off the plane after landing in Rapid City was this amazing park called Storybook Island. By far the coolest free park I’ve ever been too, it’s full of playsets from storybook characters that kids can play and climb on. Our favorite was the pirate ship!

We went to lunch and grabbed a coffee at Essence of Coffee.  – which was SO good. We ended up going back to Essence of Coffee three more times! I’m still dreaming about my latte.


Father and daughters playing at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD

Next up was Dinosaur Park! I think we need one of these in every city. This was an easy drive and overall easy park to hike up with little kids. They have the long neck positioned just right that you can see it standing up on the hill when you’re driving around Rapid City. Olive still looks out the window and asks where are the dinosaurs!?


Paddle Boat dock at Canyon Lake Park in Rapid City, SD

My favorite thing about South Dakota is how family-friendly it is. There are so many outdoor activities accessible right in town. We visited Canyon Lake Park which is located right in Rapid City where you can rent paddle boats and fish. The girls had fun chasing the ducks and we had so much fun on the paddle boat. It was a lot of work with two littles who wanted to sit in our laps and kind of hard to get photos but definitely a super fun memory. We also wanted to hike M Hill, which is an easy hike right in the middle of the city, but each time we tried someone fell asleep.

That night we spent the evening at the Downtown Summer Nights, a free concert series hosted every Thursday during the summer, after grabbing dinner at Que Pasa Cantina (which was so yummy!). When eating out with the girls, we always try to find outdoor seating and this place was perfect! The concert was a blast too. We just walked over after dinner and they had so much going on – a live band that the girls loved to dance too, a jump house, face painting, and ice cream! 


Mother and daughter exploring the falls in Spearfish Canyon

When we travel, naps kind of get pushed so we can go and see all the things but this day, they were melting. So we grabbed a yummy breakfast at Harriet & Oak and headed up to Spearfish Canyon. One of you recommended Roughlock Falls on Instagram when I said we were looking for a long drive. So we headed up and the girls got some great sleep! I am not the best with using maps… and I made the mistake of thinking that after the girls slept we would be driving back through Custer State Park, to see the bison and do all the fun activities, and I was wrong. So we didn’t end up getting to go to Custer State Park and we were all bummed. So make sure you go and visit Sylvan Lake and take a jeep tour for us and I’ll live through your photos!

Getting to see Mount Rushmore National Memorial was for sure the highlight of the trip. On the drive up, you turn a corner and there it is, in all its glory! I was so surprised how once you park, you just walk right up to it! Everything was really accessible and there was a lot of information everywhere. We spent a good amount of time here going down different trails and taking it all in. South Dakota really lives up to their slogan of great faces, great places and I hope the girls treasure these photos forever! 


Girl dancing in the fountains at Main Street Square in Rapid City

After seeing the monument we headed to Bear Country USA. It’s a drive-thru wildlife park full of all sorts of animals! The highlight was for sure the bears. We let the girls sit on our laps and heard so many “whoas” and “oooooo’s”. There were SO many bears! They would stop in front of your car and hold up traffic. It was a blast to get to see them that close. For sure make a stop if you are visiting, and check out Reptile Gardens as well! After that, we went back to town for lunch and to play in the splash pad Main Street Square fountains. Then we headed back to our hotel to swim one more time and to change for dinner! We stayed at the Best Western Ramkota and loved the pool.

The Rapid City area is such a family-friendly destination. Filled with incredible parks and monuments, outdoor adventures, and kid-friendly fun - we can't recommend it enough as a vacation spot. Check out the related content below for more travel inspiration to help plan your trip!

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