3 Epic Days in Rapid City

On a visit to Rapid City, you learn that big things are sometimes found in small places. This is a packed itinerary to keep your belly happily full and your boots on the move!

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Rapid City
is not what you expect. It’s way better. It embodies the charm of a small town, the bustle of a big city, has the warmth of incredible, friendly people, and the opportunity for big adventures nearby, all while keeping your belly full and happy. This is a suggested itinerary that gives options of places to see, food to eat, and adventures to jump on.  

Day 1 - Breakfast at Tally's Silver Spoon

On a crisp summer morning, the outdoor patio area is the perfect starting point to enjoy a hearty breakfast surrounded by the lively ambiance of the surrounding city. Though Tally’s offers the basic breakfast staples you would expect to find in a diner, they seamlessly blend modern, sophisticated dishes without any pretention.  Be sure to snap a shot with our fortieth president Ronald Reagan who proudly presides just outside the restaurant, cowboy hat and all.

Presidential Corners

A must-do on anyone’s list on a visit to Rapid City is to take a self-guided tour of the City of Presidents, a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and sidewalks. You can learn more about the history behind these sculptures and download the Free Walking Guide here. Plan anywhere from 1-3 hours hanging out with our nation’s past leaders.

Shop ‘til you drop

The city has a plethora of small shops & restaurants to explore, and it would be easy to spend the entire day window shopping, but here are a couple of spots that shouldn’t be missed:

Roam'n Around is Rapid City's only Locally-Owned & Operated Travel & Adventure Gear Shop. It’s huge and so incredibly well-curated, the big box stores should be shaking in their boots! It was originally started as a map store in light of the owner’s passion for geography and bloomed into a full adventure store. (Hence the huge map wall!) Aside from an amazing selection of outdoor and travel gear, Roam’n Around offers gear rental services, consignment items, and shuttle services for certain activities. The staff is also super helpful and engaging, so don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions or the inside scoop for your next adventure.

Next door to the adventure shop is the oh-too-cute Mitzi’s Bookstore, a proudly independent, family-oriented bookstore featuring a unique blend of bestsellers, regional titles, children’s books, and gift items. In our fast-paced, everything digital world, it is so incredibly soothing and refreshing to take a moment and slow down, and what better way than to be surrounded by books. Let the warm nostalgic wave hug you as you climb the grand staircase that leads up to a terrace area where you can find tiny nooks with comfy chairs to really settle in and enjoy that “you time.”

Treat Yourself

With a new book in hand, it’s time to refuel and step back into the city. What compliments a new read better than coffee and ice cream? Nestled into the Main Street Square, you will find two fantastic shops that are next-door neighbors – how convenient is that?! Alternative Fuel House offers a full delicious coffee assortment sure to fix your java needs, just what the mid-morning ordered. 

Silver Linings Creamery, rated one of the best ice cream shops in the Midwest, specializes in fresh, bold and unique flavors all created in-house using the most up-to-date and freshest ice cream ingredients. Under the sun, surrounded by the sound of children playing in the water fountains, with all the tasty goodies in tow, Main Street Square sets the stage for the perfect summer afternoon.

See it from above

Explore the Skyline Wilderness Area, a 150-acre park that features numerous walking, biking and hiking trails in varying skill levels. It divides the east from the west of the city and is a two-fold experience. It can be enjoyed as a 2-mile scenic drive that grants great views that can be enjoyed at parking locations, or you can hop onto a hiking trail to feel the dirt between your toes.

Lunch at Sumo Japanese Kitchen

Sushi isn’t the first cuisine that comes to mind when South Dakota is mentioned, but the passionate husband and wife team at Sumo Japanese Kitchen have managed to change that perception. They are incredibly proud of their chef and bringing the freshest fish to the city, and it shows in every delicious roll. A quaint, unimposing exterior contrasts the modern artwork and chic vibe found inside. The Matsuri and Geisha signature rolls are highly recommended.  

Badlands National Park

Drive just an hour away from downtown Rapid City to find one of the most unique parks in the country: Badlands National Park. The ideal place to start exploring is via the East Entrance. It will lead you right to a trailhead that houses 4 of the best hikes in the park:

Door Trail – (0.75 miles roundtrip) Easy. An accessible ¼ mile boardwalk leads through a break in the Badlands Wall known as "the Door" and to a view of the Badlands.

Window Trail – (0.25 miles roundtrip) Easy. This short trail leads to a natural window in the Badlands Wall with a view of an intricately eroded canyon.

Notch Trail – (1.5 miles roundtrip) Moderate to strenuous. After meandering through a canyon, this trail climbs a log ladder and follows a ledge to "the Notch" for a dramatic view of the White River Valley.

Castle Trail – (10 miles roundtrip) Moderate. The longest trail in the park begins at the Door and Window parking area and travels five miles one way to the Fossil Exhibit Trail.

Expect to spend about 4-5 hours exploring these trails before heading out to see the rest of the park. Cedar Pass Lodge is a convenient stop to grab some dinner or snacks. They make their own fry bread and are known for their Sioux Tacos.

The drive on the Badlands Loop Road is incredible, especially during Sunset. Some recommended viewpoints are Pinnacles Overlook, Panorama Point, Big Badlands Overlook, and Yellow Mounds Overlook.

Day 2

Kick off the day with a hearty breakfast at Black Hills Bagels, serving 28 varieties of scratch-made, preservative-free, heart-healthy and delicious bagels, along with locally-roasted Dark Canyon coffee and espresso. They also blend their own 18 flavors of cream cheese with real fruit and fresh cut veggies.

Spring Volksmarch at Crazy Horse Memorial®

The public only has access to see the Crazy Horse Memorial® up close twice per year when construction halts for a special event allowing visitors to Hike the Volksmarch. It is a truly epic experience to get lost in the magnitude of such an incredible undertaking. The trail changes annually in order to minimize impact on the land and ends on the pointing arm of Crazy Horse, or what it will soon be. It is well marked and there are water and bathroom stations along the way to keep everyone safe.

Outside of the special events, access to the park allows visitors access to three museums, the orientation film, scheduled cultural programs, a view of the mountain carving from the Wall of Windows and the outdoor viewing veranda as well as the Laser Light Show at Dark in season.

Dining Options in Custer

During the busy season, expect to wait for a table. Being a small town with limited options, the restaurants fill up quick, but there are many shops to drop into to pass the time. 

Recommended lunch spots to try:

The Custer Wolf – (A local favorite) The old west gets some new flavor at Custer Wolf Food & Drink. This gastropub serves some of the best South Dakota comfort food, beer, and wine in a welcoming, laid-back environment. Craft beer lovers will always find something new to fill their glass with eight rotating flavors on tap.

Skogen – (A must-stop for flavor fanatics) An innovative, chef-driven restaurant is serving up unique breakfast and dinner items in downtown Custer. Skogen blends flavors from around the world to deliver a Black Hills dining experience you can't find anywhere else.

    The Crown Jewel of Custer

    Sylvan Lake is called the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park, and for good reason: it has it all from lodging and fine-dining in the historic Sylvan Lake Lodge, to campsites, a general store, amazing hiking trails and more. There's also a swimming beach and boat rentals (non-motorized only) where visitors can rent a canoe, paddle boats or other watercraft rentals. Fishing is allowed in any one of Custer State Park's lakes with a valid South Dakota fishing license.

    The Nightlife of Rapid City

    Back in downtown Rapid City resides a small restaurant with big flavors. Juniper artfully combines locally sourced ingredients into dining masterpieces. Start with the Charcuterie & Cheese Board followed by the French Onion soup, but leave plenty of tummy space for the entrée. The petite filet is so tender and juicy and amazing and yummy and ……just wow!!! Be prepared to protect your plate from wandering forks trying to get a bite of your fare. The menu is rolling at Juniper, so the cuisine might vary in plates, but never in taste!

    To help wash down a fantastic dinner, check out Pour 54 Taphouse. It’s a self-serve taphouse allowing you to be your own bartender.  Each tap has its own screen that gives you information about what beer is on tap, its A.B.V (alcohol by volume), IBUs (a measure of how bitter the beer is), price, and some tasting notes. It has three levels and some activities like darts, slide rock (shuffleboard) and a TV area that plays a variety of sports with comfortable couches.

    Day 3

    Breakfast at Harriet & Oak

    Harriet & Oak is a cafe and roaster in downtown Rapid City that has a cool without trying to be cool, hipster vibe. There is a VW bus parked off to one side, exposed beams and high ceilings, steel railing staircases and large windows that wooden tables tuck up against. It’s the quintessential coffee spot in the city. They offer a wide selection of delicious food, but their acai bowls are on a different level of yum. 

    Guided Fly-Fishing tour with Dakota Angler & Outfitter

    Rapid Creek is the largest stream in the Black Hills so it provides all sorts of angling opportunities. To ensure the best chance of catching a beauty, set up a trip with Dakota Angler & Outfitters to fish along Rapid Creek. They offer a very personal experience guided by locals who know the area well.

    Pizza time at Piesano's Pacchia

    Locally owned and famous for their made-from-scratch pizza dough, Piesano’s Pacchia is your classic mom-and-pop pizza shop around the corner. You know it’s going to be straightforward good pie when the tables are covered with red and white checkered tablecloths. They aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary or over the top different, and that’s the beauty of this place. It’s pure and simple great pie delivered with a warm smile.

    Hiking Options around Sheridan Lake

    Spring Creek Trail to Sheridan Lake (2.7 miles roundtrip) Easy, scenic hike that follows Spring Creek to a lookout over Sheridan Lake.

    Spring Creek and Flume Trail Loop (4.2 miles roundtrip) Easy to moderate hike that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until October.

    Fill up at Firehouse Smokejumper Station, an extension Rapid City's original Firehouse brewery and internationally awarded winery.  Enjoy made-from-scratch menu items paired with one of 40 unique brewed beers while kicking back in one of the wooden rocking chairs on the Creekside patio.

    Lighting Ceremony at Mt Rushmore

    The perfect finish to an epic trip to Rapid City ends with a tribute to our history as a growing and ever-changing nation at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The Evening Lighting Ceremonies are held from late May to September 30 each year. The powerful contrast of the monument lit up against the jagged and dark hill backdrop is gorgeous and moving.

    This beautiful city and the surrounding areas offer a wealth of outdoor adventure, rich cultural history, and a diverse and delicious culinary experience. On a visit to Rapid City, you learn that big things are sometimes found in small places.

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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