On a Rapid City family vacation, you’re not just filling their bucket lists early with visits to epic memorials like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. You’re giving your family moments of inspiration and joy along the way.
Rapid City makes it easy to satisfy the whole crew with travel ideas that give toddlers, tweens and teens ways to achieve your ultimate goal: a memory bank full of meaningful vacation experiences.
Big Things For Little Tots
They’re adventurous, curious and ready for action. In Rapid City, the youngest members of the family are in for big experiences that engage their imaginations and burn off some of that endless toddler energy. Added family bonus? It all happens in the midst of beautiful scenery and fascinating attractions.
- Dig for fossils at the Mammoth Site. Junior paleontologists may be digging for fossil replicas, but the feeling is real at the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, an active dig site with the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world.
- Step into a fairy tale at Storybook Island. Children meet their favorite characters, ride the train and become part of a magical world at the admission-free family fun park, Storybook Island.
- Ride the Black Hills Central Railroad. Choo-choo enthusiasts know what’s up: climbing aboard the real steam-powered 1880 Train for a narrated trip through the Black Hills. It’s two hours of captivating toddler time they’ll always remember.
- Drive through Bear Country USA. Give your car seat companions the chance to watch wildlife as they hang out on their own turf at Bear Country USA. Then take a walk through Babyland to meet fellow youngsters, including bear cubs, fox kits, otter pups and more.
- Meet T-Rex and his buddies at The Journey Museum. For little ones who know dinosaurs by name, there’s nothing like it. Learn and play every day at The Journey Museum & Learning Center with hands-on activities designed specifically for toddlers.
- Catch a squirmy show at Reptile Gardens. Visit Prairie Dog Town, pet a giant tortoise and watch the snake or bird show – the ways to encounter exotic animals is endless at Reptile Gardens. You can spend all day exploring the park, home to 50,000 flowers and more species and subspecies of reptiles than any other zoo or park in the world.
- Run for your life in Dinosaur Park. It’s easy to pretend high on a ridge above Rapid City in Dinosaur Park, where life-size concrete replicas have ruled the earth since 1936.
- Splash it out in Main Street Square. Plan to get wonderfully wet – playing in the fountains of Main Street Square is a totally cool way to use up some toddler energy.
- Learn to fish at Outdoor Campus West. Budding naturalists love the Children In Nature experiences and classes offered by South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks at the Outdoor Campus West.
A Chance To Soar For Tweens
The in-between years can be awesome. Tweens are starting to see their own place in the world, but still jump at the chance to spend time with family, are drawn to a good story and thrilled to explore the fantastic. Rapid City gives young minds experiences that occupy a powerful place in their hearts.
- Zoom through the past on the Black Hills Central Railroad. They may be old enough to be immune to choo-choo fever, but they’ll love being part of the throwback story of the 1880 Train.
- Be part of a happy vibe of Summer Nights. Family-friendly entertainment, live music on two stages, great food and a festive atmosphere where no one feels out of place. Rapid City Summer Nights are what vacation memories are made of.
- Ride into the herd on a Buffalo Safari. Head to Custer State Park for a wildlife encounter like no other. Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides take you off-road in a custom-built open-air vehicle.
- Go on a hike in the Badlands. It’s like being in the middle of a giant free-form sandcastle that doesn’t crumble. Kids love to hike and climb their way through the otherworldly landscape of Badlands National Park, where Visitor Center staff can direct you to trails right for your experience level.
- Find a new fascination at The Journey Museum. Whether it’s dinosaur bones in the Paleontology Tent, a real-time trip through outer space or the story of Mount Rushmore, The Journey Museum & Learning Center specializes in the kind of in-depth knowledge that gets kids inspired.
- Brave a cave. There are dark and mysterious places under the Black Hills, and kids can’t get enough of them. From the world’s third longest Jewel Cave National Monument and the complex passageways of Wind Cave National Park to the stalactite filled caverns of Rushmore Cave, cave tours are definitely cool.
- Ride the Eagle for a big thrill. You can share the 630-foot mountainside ride on the Soaring Eagle Zipline at Rush Mountain Adventure Park, where gem mining, the Gunslinger 7-D Interactive Ride and scenic cave tours offer more down-to-earth fun.
- Say “Awww!” for the cutest reasons. Watching bear families hanging out on the rocks as you drive through Bear Country USA inspires the oft-heard back-seat refrain. But Babyland is maximum cuteness that even tough guys fall for (we’re talking to you, Dad).
- Wow over world-record wigglers at Reptile Gardens. The world’s largest reptile collection earns Reptile Gardens a Guinness Book of World Records listing. Exotic birds, Komodo dragons, giant tortoises and amazing snakes will earn your respect.
- Try to figure out the Cosmos Mystery Area. This will be the subject of family debate for years to come. See mind-boggling demonstrations of natural phenomena on a tour of Cosmos Mystery Area, where gravity shifts, heights change and water seems to flow uphill.
- Get your nature fix at Outdoor Campus West. Kids get hands-on nature experiences through classes offered by South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks at the Outdoor Campus West.
Powered By Teen Spirit
While it may seem they’re on a fast track to growing up, vacation has a way of slowing down the process – at least for a little while. Give your independent thinkers new ways to explore the world in Rapid City.
- Find some perspective at the Mammoth Site. Today’s drama is just a blip on a timeline when you realize what came before us on a visit to the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs. Ancient history is revealed at this active dig site with the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world.
- Dance under the stars at Summer Nights. Live music on two stages, great food and a festive atmosphere that’s both grown-up and family-friendly. Rapid City Summer Nights give teens and parents a chance to relax and enjoy the party.
- Take an epic selfie on a Buffalo Safari. Head to Custer State Park for a wildlife encounter like no other. Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides take you off-road in a custom-built open-air vehicle – an experience that’ll inspire follower envy for sure.
- Feel small in the Badlands. When everything in life feels like a big deal, there’s something incredibly reassuring about looking up to the heavens. The ranger-led night sky programs at Badlands National Park are just right for sharing a moment with the ones who’ll always be there for you.
- Go underground for some cave drama. Exploring the dark and mysterious is a teenage tendency Hollywood has long counted on. Do it with zero risk of zombie attack in the Black Hills at Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park and Rushmore Cave.
- Scream it out on a zipline. There’s a big thrill on the 630-foot mountainside ride of the Soaring Eagle Zipline at Rush Mountain Adventure Park, along with gem mining, the Gunslinger 7-D Interactive Ride and scenic cave tours.
- Fall for animal babies. Watching bears give you the look as you drive through Bear Country USA is priceless. But the cubs, kits and pups of Babyland make everybody weak at the knees.
- Watch your parents squirm at Reptile Gardens. Home of the world’s largest reptile collection, Reptile Gardens is crawling with fascinating creatures. Take the snake show to prove you can handle it.
- Defy physics at the Cosmos Mystery Area. There’s advanced-level confounding science going on here. See demonstrations of natural phenomena on a tour of Cosmos Mystery Area, where gravity shifts, heights change and water seems to flow uphill.