Trip Review: Traveling in my Travel Trailer to South Dakota - Mt Rushmore
Written By: Chris Waters
Last Updated: 2021-03-03
So you want to visit South Dakota huh? Follow this guide for a fun filled adventure for your family visiting some of the nations coolest monuments, scenic lookouts, and endless entertainment.
Our Adventure Started During COVID
In the beginning of COVID, when everything went on lock-down and travel plans were derailed, people became fearful (or cautious) about going into public spaces, and businesses began to retract their once fruitful reach into the tourist industry into a depressive state unlike the world has seen in nearly a decade. Like most families, our travel trips were mostly cancelled or delayed to future dates as we waited for the news of when we could safely travel. Living in Colorado, we had a number of destinations that were likely safe, but none more inviting than South Dakota - one of the first places nearest us to really open up.
KOA In South Dakota
We stayed about 20 minutes away a TON of major attractions at the KOA just off the highway. We were told that because of COVID most of South Dakota was shutdown (including local restaurants, and most of the 'attractions' like Mt. Rushmore), but that we could still hike and try to visit the walking paths of various National parks and monuments. If you've followed my other blogs you know that we have two small kids (2 and 6 at the time), and while hiking is great for us parents, our kids aren't super engaged when it comes to dirt, hills, and a nice quiet walk... they like loud, fun adventurous trips, with plenty of lights, noise, and things that spin and jump! South Dakota had a few of these things, but remember, most of it was shutdown!
A Blessing in Disguise
What we didn't know at the time of our trip was that South Dakota was one of the first places to open up during the pandemic. The very weekend we happened to be up there was the first weekend that the local shops opened up just down the road. To that end we found some VERY yummy ice cream and pie shops, a few dine-in restaurants (the first we'd had in a long time), and the best stores were the seemingly endless rock/gem stores. My kids LOVED the rock stores. We still have rocks from this trip that my kids are trading with me and each other on a frequent basis. While we didn't have all the bells and whistles of a typical South Dakota trip, we had a camp that was mostly empty, less traffic, plenty of very happy local residents eager to greet tourists and get back to the 'new normal'.
Destination: Wine Country
Another gem we weren't aware of before our trip was that South Dakota has a wine country (here is but one example of a local winery where we were staying)! About 40-50 min away from our camp site we found all sorts of local wineries with plenty of options; rest assured, with our kids in tow and the responsibility to drive them back safely we opted against going to the wineries, but next time we return you bet we are making a few trips!
Destination: Bear Country (Kid Friendly)
OMG! This place is an absolute MUST VISIT. In short, it's a bear sanctuary where they have wide open spaces dedicated to the preservation of rescue bears of all walks and life. You take a short drive through the sanctuary, winding your way through the maze of open animals, and then BAM! There are what seems to be like 100's of bears that are grazing right next to your car (a few times we had to stop our vehicle to allow them to cross the road). Our kids were flabbergasted and awestruck (secrete: so were the parents). Be sure to bring a camera and don't be afraid to drive slow.
Destination: Mount Rushmore
OK, you can't talk about South Dakota and the Black Hills without talking about Mt Rushmore and the various other geological structures in the area. Even though Mt. Rushmore was closed to the various museums, it was still open to foot traffic and you could 'climb the staircase' to the base of the Presidential fixture; my daughter thought it was called Mount "Shushmore", we thought that was too cute, so we continue to use it. Another thing we learned while we were there was that Mt. Rushmore was but one of a few really neat monuments and natural/outdoor events we could visit. We won't spoil all the other attractions - but, it'll be VERY obvious once you get there what's in the area.
Yes, We WILL Be Back
We had so much fun in South Dakota and didn't get to explore the caves, mystery spot, wineries, adventure parks, hiking, and night life. We WILL be back with our family, perhaps annually. If you go to South Dakota and find hidden gems that you'd recommend, reach out to us and let us know - we'll definitely add your information to our review!