In South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial may be the best-known draw, but this state has far more to offer. One of the few states in the nation to boast five or more national and state parks, landscapes here range from the striking Badlands to the Black Hills to the Great Plains that perfectly embody the true American West. Families have long been loading up their modern day wagons to experience South Dakota’s many wonders and fascinating history.
Long ago a vast sea met the land, and the bones of many of these fierce prehistoric creatures are still discovered. Then there was Earl Brockelsby, keeping rattlesnakes under his cowboy hat to surprise Rushmore-bound travelers stopping by his pop-up roadside attraction - which later grew into a Guinness World Record holding collection of critters called Reptile Gardens.
Meanwhile, Ted and Dorothy Hustead started their kitschy-road side attraction by serving free ice water and 5-cent coffee to those crossing the vaunted Badlands, but today it’s the collection of surprises and delights known as Wall Drug.
South Dakota is one world-class family destination full of things to see and do for kids. Its mix of parks and attractions, from border to border, make it one big playground. It’s where kids (and adults) are encouraged to run, climb, dig, fish, explore and use their outside voices until they go hoarse.
Take kids to visit these incredible experiences and develop your own SoDak spirit.
Courtesy of South Dakota Tourism
Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres that more resemble the moon than the neighboring prairie or the nearby Black Hills. Beautiful spires, striated buttes and colorful canyons will inspire awe. But what makes this park so kid-friendly is the many trails that encourage exploration of this surreal landscape. The littlest ones will enjoy the Fossil Trail and the older kids love finding the surprise on Notch Trail.
For the full impressive experience the Badlands can offer, plan to rent a cabin in the park, pitch a tent overnight or stay in nearby Wall. Because the whole of South Dakota experiences minimal light pollution, especially Badlands National Park which is over a hundred miles from any larger towns, the stargazing in the park is an unparalleled experience not to be missed.