Rapid City, SD
Rapid City is South Dakota’s second-largest city, located on the southwest side of the state. Rapid City tourism is due in large part to the city’s proximity to Mount Rushmore National Monument, which prompted its nickname, the “City of Presidents.”
Rapid City rests at the base of the Black Hills, only 24 miles from Mount Rushmore. The sculpture of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt was carved by Gutzon Borglum and took over 14 years to complete, finishing in 1941. The monument is one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, claiming over three million visitors each year.
The Black Hills National Forest is a great source of outdoor activity for nature lovers visiting Rapid City. Known also as the “Gateway to the Black Hills,” Rapid City is six miles from the forest’s edge. Hikers gain higher ground and unsurpassed views of the surrounding wilderness from Crow Peak Trail. Mountain bikers carve through the hills on trails of varying difficulty, with Mickelson Trail being the calmest and most family-friendly. A majority of the forest trails are horse accessible as well.
Back in Rapid City, summer tourism bustles at Storybook Island. Parents traveling with kids make magical memories at the fairytale-themed park, where little adventurers play at Snow White’s house, run through a maze and ride the train. Afterwards, admire the view from Skyline Drive while the kids play at Dinosaur Park, where seven life-sized concrete dinosaurs loom over visitors. Both attractions have free admission.
Historians visiting Rapid City can piece together the area’s past at the Journey Museum, located on New York Street. Tourists learn how the Black Hills formed over 2.5 billion years ago and about the Native American tribes that once populated the area, including the Lakota and Cheyenne peoples.
The highlights of Rapid City tourism are all easily accessible via the City View Trolley. Visitors are transported to key destinations like Storybook Island, the Journey Museum and Downtown Rapid City.
Head downtown for lively entertainment, dining and sightseeing. Adorning the city center’s streets is a series of life-sized bronze statues depicting the country’s past leaders in a public sculpture tour entitled, “City of Presidents.”
Visitors in need of an afternoon pick-me-up get a lift from Main Street’s Alternative Fuel Coffee House or lunch on Asian pan-seared tuna salad at the Firehouse Brewing Company. Then, take off to explore Main Street Square. The square is the meeting grounds of the community, offering fun-filled activities year-round. Kids splash in the fountain and take in an outdoor movie in the summer, and skate on an outdoor ice rink in the winter.
For dinner in Rapid City, lovebirds and trendy folk frequent Enigma Restaurant on Mount Rushmore Road. The restaurant, a highly rated establishment, serves innovative dishes such as their award-winning chai pork in cantaloupe cream sauce.
After a stellar dinner, travelers cap off the night with a cold one or a hot toddy on the rooftop deck of Manchego’s on Main Street.