It’s surprisingly easy to plan an affordable getaway to Rapid City and the Black Hills. Weave these locations into your vacation itinerary to help keep costs down without giving up any of the fun.
Affordable Attractions for young kids:
Short on attention spans and high on energy. Free attractions are the perfect match for young kids. These locations let your kids run wild at little or no cost to you, and they’ll probably be the highlight of your vacation.
Fond memories for many can be traced back to this iconic city park. Since 1936, families have explored Dinosaur Park and enjoyed the 100-mile views it offers perched on top of the hill. There park features seven cement dinosaurs made for climbing fun, and the educational plaques offer information about each dinosaur. Don’t skip out on the Visitor Center at the bottom of the hill, it’s a great place to enjoy an ice cream cone after playing in the park.
*Dinosaur Park is currently closed for construction until May 1st, 2023.
A magical place filled with characters from your favorite childhood books. A visit to Storybook Island allows kids to climb through a treehouse and find Winnie the Pooh or visit the homes of the Three Little Pigs. Admission is free but the memories made are priceless. The park operates off donations, and they also have a few paid experiences within the park like train rides and a carousel ride.
The heart of Downtown Rapid City also serves as a place for endless entertainment. Whether you are sipping on an iced coffee and enjoying the sweet sounds of summer, or running through the interactive fountains, you could spend hours enjoying everything the square has to offer. Main Street Square also offers free events throughout the year like live music, evening movies and more! Check out our events calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.
Affordable Attractions for All Ages:
You don’t have to be traveling with young kids to enjoy the affordable attractions of our area. In fact, there’s a great mix of free and budget-friendly places to explore that are fun for all ages!
Chapel in the Hills is affordable in two ways: it’s free to tour, and it saves you a trip to Norway! The Chapel is an exact replica of the of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. The Norwegian Department of Antiquities provided a set of blueprints so Rapid City could have its own slice of Norwegian culture. The grounds include the chapel, a meditation trail, a gift shop housed in a Stabbur, and a Norwegian Museum inside an authentic log cabin.
A free walking tour found throughout Downtown Rapid City offers a fun way to refresh on presidential history. Each bronze statue is a replica of the president, except William Howard Taft who was a little to spendy to recreate to his exact weight. The statues are made to be posed with, and you can also enjoy the scavenger hunt if you snag the City of Presidents map from the Visit Rapid City office at Main Street Square or the Mount Rushmore Memories Gift Shop on Main Street.
Hungry eyes find happy places during a tour through Art Alley in Downtown Rapid City. Artists that obtain a permit can leave their mark on the alley walls, and the result is a stunning mixture of creative expression. Every little corner offers surprising new treasures.
The free factory tour at Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold shows you an impressive behind the scenes look at the intricate steps taken to create each piece of Black Hills Gold Jewelry. They share the unique history of this long-loved jewelry line as you witness the grape leaves, grape clusters and vines in tri-colored gold come to life.
Affordable Outdoor Adventures:
Outdoor adventures offer some of the best ways to experience our area, have fun, and keep vacation costs low. There are even free ways to learn valuable outdoor skills right in Rapid City.
Expand your outdoor knowledge with a visit to Outdoor Campus West. Learn more, or start at the very beginning to master skills in hunting, fishing, kayaking and more! They’ll meet you at your experience level to help you succeed, all for free. You can also explore the hands-on exhibits showcasing Black Hills wildlife along with a 4,600 gallon freshwater aquarium.
For me, it’s hard to beat a hike in the beautiful Black Hills. There are trails for all experience levels in our national forest and they are all free to explore. The best deal out here. A couple highly rated options are:
- Little Elk Creek (5.4 miles) a pleasant walk alongside a creek.
- Buzzards Roost (2.5 miles) an incline hike to a stunning view.
- Or if you want something short with something historic, check out Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower which leads to a tower built in 1919 that was dedicated to President Roosevelt.
Friendly reminder to leave no trace as you explore the Black Hills, stick to the designated trails, and maintain a safe distance of at least 25 yards from all wildlife. Find more hiking tips here.
Affordable Places You Can Spend Hours enjoying:
Locations that charge an entrance fee but provide hours of entertainment are great ways to keep vacation costs down.
Reptile Gardens is one of the most popular attractions in our area. Once you pay the entry fee all the experiences at the world’s largest reptile zoo are at your fingertips. This includes taking in all the botanical gardens, up close experiences with reptiles in the Sky Dome, and the ever-thrilling shows that feature snakes and gators. Don’t forget to ask about the Vacation Pass which is included for free with your admission tickets. There admission prices change with the seasons, so if you want to pack in more savings visit in spring or end of the season in November.
Hours of entertainment can be found for families in the swimming pools and water slides of Watiki® Waterpark. This indoor waterpark operates all year round and has an attached restaurant and bar. Plus, we all know pool time is one of the most sought after activities for kids on vacation. Discounted admission tickets are available for hotel guests and military, and kids two years old and under get free admission. Be sure to always check out their deals page for any current promotions!
The entrance fee to enjoy the beauty of Custer State Park is worth every penny. Encompassing 71,000 acres in the Black Hills, this park offers miles of one-of-a-kind trails to explore – including the tallest peak in South Dakota, mountain lakes for swimming, scenic drives with wildlife encounters, and hands-on experiences at Visitor Centers. You can spend a whole day or more just checking out the free top experiences within the park and still want more time to explore.
While entrance to the memorial is free, there is still a parking fee. A small price to pay for the amount of time you can spend exploring the grounds. Take time to tour the Sculptor’s Studio which holds fascinating history of the carving and the people who made it happen, walk the Presidential Trail to find unique angles of these iconic faces, and end with some delicious ice cream that was Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe! Find more experiences others often overlook while visiting the memorial here.
Affordable meals on vacation doesn’t mean you’re limited to the dollar menu at a fast-food chain. In fact, many local restaurants offer delicious meals at extremely affordable prices.
I don’t think it gets any more affordable than the Fort Hays 99 cent all-you-can-eat cowboy pancake breakfast. They are open from May to October and breakfast is served daily from 7am to 11pm. Added bonus: touring the Old West Town Square is a free experience at this attraction you can check off after getting your fill at breakfast!
This hidden gem of a restaurant in Rapid City serves up a delicious breakfast menu at an equally delicious price. Located in Downtown Rapid City it’s an easy way to start off any day in Rapid City.
When you spot a cowboy on a bagel, you’re going to want to stop in. Black Hills Bagels are made from scratch, preservative free, and low fat and with no cholesterol. They offer 28 different flavors, along with 18 specially blended cream cheeses – or you can enjoy one of their bagel sandwiches.
Budget-friendly meals don’t limit you in Rapid City. In fact, you can find affordable and delectable Greek cuisine at the locally owned Gyro Hub. They also offer options for gluten free and vegetarian.
For years locals have loved the pizzas, salads and subs found at Pauly’s along with their reasonable prices. Their subs are the perfect thing to grab and go for a picnic in the hills.
Let Rapid City be your affordable getaway so you can start making the vacation memories you deserve! Explore more budget-friendly places in our related content below and sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive more great ideas on ways to save in Rapid City!