When planning a road trip, the first thing I do is look at the driving route, and search for attractions along the road. Having an interesting attraction to visit while stretching your legs is an excellent way to break up a long drive, especially if you are traveling with little ones. Here are some places to stop along I-90 through South Dakota.
DRIVING EAST TO WEST
When we began our RV journey, one of our first stops was in Sioux Falls. Falls Park is a lovely little stop, with a pretty waterfall flowing through the park. The low rock formations made an exciting playground for the kids. There is a visitor center with a bathroom, making it a perfect picnic and stretch break! Climb to the top of the tower for even better views!
Another option is The Outdoor Campus at Sioux Falls, featuring a variety of hands on outdoor skill building activities for kids. Nearby is a massive picnic pavilion and playground.
Also worth a mention is SculptureWalk Sioux Falls, located downtown containing over 60 outdoor sculpture exhibits.
We stayed overnight at Sioux Falls Jellystone Park. There are tent, rv, and cabin accommodations here, in addition to a pool, playground, jumping pillow, and so many more activities for families.
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, is a unique tourist stop, located on the city’s Main Street, first created in 1892. Each year murals are designed based on a chosen theme. The ears of corn are nailed to the palace beginning in May. Up to 12 different colors are used. Then the murals are taken down each August in preparation for a new theme.
This is a free attraction, with restrooms, food, and shopping within the Palace. Stroll around the inside of the Palace and examine all of the interesting murals and facts about corn. Enjoy the quirky photo opportunities as well. An hour allows you plenty of time to explore.
Badlands National Park is stunning, a destination rather than a stop off. Located three miles off I-90, this colorful park has buttes and spires that make a delightful vacation destination or a scenic drive. Buffalo, prairie dogs, and even rattlesnakes call the Badlands their home. If time is limited, you can opt for the 38 mile Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD 240). If you have a full day, you can explore the parks numerous trails, overlooks, and passes.
There is a wonderful visitors center, offering Junior Ranger programs, walks, hikes, exhibits, and a movie theater. Cedar Pass Cabins and Campground are located within the Park, and convenient to the restaurant and gift shop.
To read about our experience in the Badlands, click here.
It would be hard to miss the “Free Water” signs lining I-90. Wall Drug is another tourist stop that has something for everyone. Shopping, food, restrooms, and some quite interesting statues in the “backyard” that will be sure to delight your children. Who wouldn’t want to pose with a Jackalope or on a covered wagon?
High up on a hilltop, towering over Rapid City, stands Dinosaur Park. If you’re stopping for the views, arriving toward sunset would make it worth your while. My kids burned off some energy, running around looking at the 7 different life-size dinosaur reproductions. This site is free to visit.
To see our experiences at Dinosaur Park, click here.
Located in Rapid City is Reptile Gardens, a really nice museum for kids and adults alike. Outdoor exhibits include prairie dogs, tortoises, turtles, and alligators. An awesome playground with tortoise and snake shaped equipment is sure to be a hit with little ones. Animal shows are performed at the outdoor theater. While visiting, we attended a snake show, and my kids got to pet an albino python snake! Inside, a three story sky dome displays exotic animals and plants, along with reptiles, amphibians, bugs, and fossils. Animal lovers will definitely enjoy the visit!
Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is a bit of a drive from Rapid City, but a nice place to camp or explore for the day. There are many scenic drives available throughout the park. We chose Needles Highway, and were happy to see bison, deer, and oxen along our drive. Our car made the tight squeeze through a rocky portion of the park, and we couldn’t resist stopping to allow the kids to climb around the rocks.
We passed a couple beautiful campgrounds within the Park, which I believe would be worth checking out.
Mount Rushmore is probably on just about every American’s bucket list. The Visitor Center has a movie and exhibits that bring to life the stories surrounding the excavation of this marvel that cost many their lives to build. There is an enormous viewing platform of the Monument that is reached after strolling down the walkway of state flags.
Do not miss the 1/2 mile Presidential trail to get a closer look at the Presidents! It gave a really unique and close up perspective of the monument. Near the end of the trail, there is an interesting Sculptor’s Studio, with a scale model of the monument.
To read about our visit to Mount Rushmore, click here.
Nearby stands the Crazy Horse Memorial, built as a tribute to Crazy Horse and the North American Indians, to honor and preserve their culture and traditions.
Road Trip Summary: South Dakota
- Falls Park, Sioux Falls, SD
- Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD
- Badlands National Park, Interior, SD
- Wall Drug, Wall, SD
- Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, SD
- Reptile Gardens, Rapid City, SD
- Custer State Park, Custer, SD
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Key Stone, SD
- Crazy Horse Memorial, Crazy Horse, SD
Total Mileage: 442 Miles, 8:03 Drive Time