If you’ve been to Rapid City, you know that there’s nothing quite like it, especially when it comes to family travel. As the second-largest city in South Dakota, Rapid is an ideal place for visitors of all ages to explore, with a walkable downtown and numerous things to do, with national parks, monuments and forests all within easy reach.
And while those of us who hang our hats here know it’s a wonderful family destination, it seems the folks at Good Housekeeping agree, as Rapid City was named a winner in their 2024 Family Travel Awards.
Known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills,” Rapid City was listed in the Experiences - Must-See Cities section of the Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Awards.
Here’s what the magazine had to say about Rapid City…
Our testers noted that the vibe was geared toward families with young kids. They especially liked how it catered to a wide range of interests, from history and museums to animals to water parks and more. Prioritize visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial, especially in the morning when it’s less crowded. “The memorial itself is much larger than you'd expect,” said our tester. “The story behind it, as well as the Indian Museum of North America® located on the nearby grounds, is truly remarkable.”
With an array of family-friendly offerings, it might come as no surprise that Rapid City really is the ultimate family vacation destination. If you’re planning a family trip to western South Dakota, there are several items to put on your must-do list.
A few of note:
Known as the world’s largest reptile zoo, Reptile Gardens is ideal for all ages. They have botanical gardens, a sky dome that’s home to beautiful flowers and plants from around the world – as well as reptiles, bugs and fossils – alligators and crocodiles, a prairie dog town and giant tortoises.
A world-renowned destination, Mount Rushmore is an easy drive from Rapid City. And while you could make it a drive-by activity, we recommend taking the time to stroll through the Avenue of Flags, peruse the visitor center and walk the Presidential Trail. If you visit from Memorial Day weekend to late September, be sure to catch the Mount Rushmore Evening Lighting Ceremony.
Home to a drive-through wildlife park and walk-through wildlife center, Bear Country USA has 200 acres where black bears, deer, bobcats, reindeer, bighorn sheep, bison and more reside.
One of Rapid City’s original tourist attractions, Dinosaur Park, was built in 1936 to honor the dinosaur history in the area and to attract visitors from Mount Rushmore to Rapid City. Today seven dinosaurs keep watch over the city, while also welcoming visitors from near and far. A few things to know: you can climb on the dinosaurs, the park is free and you have 360-degree views from the top, including 100 miles to the east.
Arguably one of the most scenic state parks in the country, Custer State Park is well worth a visit. At 71,000 acres, the park has scenic drives and gorgeous lakes. It’s also home to over 1,400 free-roaming bison. For a unique experience, attend the annual Buffalo Roundup which takes place every September. While you could spend a few days exploring this park, if you only have time for a drive, check out Wildlife Loop Road and Needles Highway.
Located in the heart of downtown Rapid City, Main Street Square plays host to about 150 events throughout the year. In the summer, you’ll find families relaxing on the grass and playing on the splash pad and fountains, while winter brings an ice skating rink – complete with rentals.
Additional activities that are great for families include a tour on the City View Trolley, taking in a local event, shopping downtown, visiting the (free) Museum of Geology and dining in local restaurants.
Want to read more? Check out the awards here. You can also pick up a copy of the January/February print issue of Good Housekeeping.
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