Best Family Vacation Spots
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
I've found it.
One of the Best Family Vacation Spots in North America!
The answer was right there, all the time. Right in the middle of our great country sits South Dakota, with one of the iconic American landmarks, Mount Rushmore.
But this are of South Dakota is so much more than Mount Rushmore (although that is a pretty neat thing to visit in it's own right.)
My visions of South Dakota were limited to thoughts of bleak prairie, probably based on my reading of the Little House on the Prairie books as a youngster.
As an adult I find the prairie beautiful, and find the western corner of South Dakota truly breathtaking.
I've learned something doing road trips, and that is that if it is a place that motorcycle riders and bikers like to frequent, it is going to have some spell-binding beauty. Bikers know the best family vacation spots when it comes to scenery! I knew the bikers made an annual pilgrimmage here, and now I know why.
In addition to the beauty you'll find during a Mount Rushmore vacation, you'll find there are lots of ideas here for cheap family vacations.
Downtown Rapid City
Rapid City, South Dakota is just north of Mount Rushmore.
Some cheap travel fun includes visiting the U.S. Presidents - all of them in bronze! Statues are sprinkled around downtown. You can pick up a map and easily walk to your favorites for great photo ops.
A great cheap family vacations idea - visiting the statues are free!
If you work up an appetite while walking around the old town area, you might want to visit the Firestation Brewery. It's building is the original Rapid City firehouse, built in 1915 and listed on the National Historic Register. Find it at 610 Main Street.
While you are walking around the downtown area, keep an eye out for Art Alley. Evidently grafitti was a problem in the area, so an alley was set aside for grafitti (and other artists) do create masterpieces. As a result, the rest of downtown is clean, and Art Alley is a great place to visit. Think of it as an outdoor art gallery. You might even want to make your own contributions! Find it between Main Street and Saint Joseph and 6th to 7th Street.
Caves and Gold Mines
There are lots of caves in the area, but we opted to visit a gold mine instead on this trip.
Big Thunder Gold Mine offers tours of an real gold mine. After the tour, they'll teach you how to pan for gold. Maybe you'll find enough gold to pay for your tour!
We found the tour very informational, educational, fun, and just the right length for us.
Rushmore Tramway and Slide
We chose to get our first views of Mount Rushmore in a unique way. We took a tram to the top of a nearby mountain. We had beautiful view of Mount Rushmore off in the distance! At the top it is also beautifully landscaped making for a really nice spot to sit and rest. The tram was really fun, and to get down from the mountain you can either take the tram back or ride on an alpine slide!
Hard to tell from the photo, but Mount Rushmore is the on the mountain in the background on the right
Mount RushmoreA trip to this area wouldn't be complete without a visit to Mount Rushmore. Something every American should see in their lifetime.
Crazy HorseCrazy Horse is a monumental scupture!
As a matter of fact, it is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress today.
If you visit, you can only see it from a distance as it is still in progress. (unlike Mount Rushmore that you can walk under.)
An advantage of visiting in person is that for a donation you can pick out a block of rock to take with you. We thought this was a great souvenir and got one for each of the kids. That way, whenever they are grown up and come back with their own families, they can say "I was here when it was being created" and they'll even a have a piece of it.
If you aren't interested in the souvenir rock or the museum, you can avoid paying an entrance fee and get the same view from a viewing area parking lot just outside the gate to where you enter the Crazy Horse area. This can help with planning for cheap travel.
Flintstones Bedrock City
Our family thought that this Flintstone land was awesome!
As a fan of the show when I was a kid, I have showed the cartoon to my own kids. Bedrock City is full of little Flintstone houses that you can visit. There is a movie theater showing cartoons, and even a Mount Rockmore where you can get your photo made. A playground is a great way to burn off some energy. A fun stop for Flintstone fans and in great shape. If you aren't a fan though, you might want to skip this one and spend your time in one of the other great area attractions available for South Dakota vacations.
Visit them at: www.flintstonesbedrockcity.com
There is another park devoted to the Flintstones in Arizona. Flintstone Land at the Grand Canyon
Flintstones Bedrock City!
prehistoric Flintstone style!
Custer State Park
Every great road trip planner looks forward to unique things on the road. A couple of real hidden gems are within Custer State Park - rocks that you have to drive your car through!
I always thought the Black Hills would just be dark dirt hills, but it isn't! Don't know where I got that from - must be another childhood impression based on the name.
Instead...you'll also find beauty, beauty, and more beauty here.
My kid's favorite part (other than driving thru the narrow rock passageways?)...
Doing a little rock climbing on the dark sparkly rocks. (Maybe these cool rocks are where the name "black" comes from!)
We parked several times to get out and explore, go "bouldering", and enjoy the nature around us.
You'll only have to pay an admission price to get into the park, and then you can spend the rest of your time exploring. We even found a cave...but didn't go in...who knows what might have been sleeping inside!
Cosmos Mystery Area
Cosmos Mystery Area uses gravity to have some fun. Great family fun for my upper elementary age kids - as a matter of fact, at the time of this writing, ages 11 and under were free! Great value for inexpensive family vacations. My kids thought this was cool and made their personal best family vacation spots. But my warning as a mom is that this one might be hard for small children to visit and is not accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
We didn't get to make it here this trip, but next time, this spot is on the top of our list. Sure to be of interest and on a list of best family vacation spots for a horse lover! www.wildmustangs.com
Where to stay
During our Mount Rushmore vacation, we stayed in several hotels in the different area towns. Probably the most convenient place to stay was in Keystone. The President's View Motel has restauarants and shopping within an easy walk (the motel is located behind the boardwalk), as well as an indoor pool.
You'll find plenty to do here...
Activities that range from animals, to Native Americans, to archeology, to minigolf, and everything inbetween! Truly a spot for great family vacations.
There are so many great attractions here, it was hard to visit them all. If you've visited the area, please add your best family vacation spots to our list!
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More Cheap Family Vacations
Don't limit yourself to the Mount Rushmore area. The entire state of South Dakota is full of best family vacation spots and cheap travel ideas. More Vacation Deals across the State of South Dakota