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Days four and five in Rapid City, South Dakota were so full of memory-making moments for our family and I am so excited to share all about it in this sponsored post.
We started our day early because it was our last full day in Rapid City and we wanted to make sure there was time to see everything left on our list. Of course, as we were leaving the next day, we all knew we had to come back soon because we had a whole new list of things we wanted to see and do! I consider that a successful vacation!
Our first stop of the day was to the Reptile Gardens.
There is a very good chance that you have heard of the reptile gardens even if you have never been to Rapid City! If you haven't, here is more info for you:
Reptile Gardens, located 6 miles south of Rapid City on Hwy 16, the botanical garden showcases 50,000 flowers. Includes exotic birds, great shows. The world's largest reptile collection as listed in the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records, is on display along with Orchids and other tropical flowers in an indoor jungle, giant tortoises, and birds of prey. Winner of State Hospitality & Travel Writer's Awards. AAA rated. Open April to October. Now Featuring Komodo Dragons, Reptile Gardens was listed as a top 10 roadside attraction by USA Today.
You really could spend hours here. Between the exhibits, the shows and activities and the cafe, if you can plan for 4-5 hours, that would be great! We had a little over an hour so we hit all the highlights!
The indoor jungle, touching a snake and experiencing a giant tortoise were all highlights…
But of course, this was Emmy's favorite and we had to practically drag her away from her prairie dog friends!
There are so many wonderful experiences for children to touch and interact here that has to be on your list.
The teens loved it too!
Next stop was the nearby Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA, located 8 miles from Rapid City, features the world's largest collection of privately owned black bears. Take a leisurely 2 mile drive through this spectacular wildlife park nestled on 200 acres of Black Hills beauty where you'll see black bears, grizzly bears and over 20 other species of North American animals like buffalo, wolves, and elk all from the comfort of your vehicle. After your drive through tour, walk around Babyland where baby bears frolic in the outdoors. You'll need 1.5 hours for your visit to Bear Country USA.
I'm showing the pictures backward because we drove through and then got out… but baby bears!
They were so cute! They have keepers that are stationed outside the baby area that are great at answering your questions and they also sell fruit to feed the babies in a keepsake cup. We bought a couple of treat cups and the girls had fun feeding the bear cubs. We quickly learned that blackberries were the favorite!
Back to the beginning. As you approach the entrance, you are given a map and some instructions, like keep windows up in the bear and wolf area and then you are on your way.
You drive slowly through the exhibits and if you want to stop for a picture you just pull over so other cars can pass. We really took our time because there was so much to see.
The wolves and the bears were the favorites for our car, but all the animals were fun to see!
Just a couple bears swimming in the pool… This is a really fun thing to experience and really well done.
Our next adventure was at The Outdoor Campus West.
I feel like we hit the jackpot at “Campus West”, as the locals call it. Even people who live in Rapid City are still discovering it!
This newly constructed center is a learning mecca!
You can explore trails outside after exploring the outdoor pond at the entrance and the play areas. The outside also has a stream habitat to learn about. We took a short walk on the nature trail that goes over 1.5 miles. Inside the areas are divided between, prairie, and wetland habitats where most pieces of the exhibits can be touched to create a richer immersion experience. I love that we could see an overview of the diverse ecosystems in South Dakota! Another favorite was the 4,600-gallon freshwater aquarium.
Campus West also has regularly scheduled learning and enrichment programs so call ahead and see if any of those are happening. Even better, admission is free!
Because we still had a lot of energy… we went to the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark for more fun… this time in the water!
Who doesn't love a good old fashion water park?
With huge slides, a lazy river, splash pads and fun areas for the whole family, this was the perfect afternoon activity for us!
The waterpark was right around the corner from our hotel and close to the highway, so it is perfect for spending an afternoon at to relax and regroup before getting back on the road to see more things in the area!
We headed back to Comfort Suites, Rapid City to take showers and get a quick snack before it was time for more fun.
One thing about Rapid City that you start to realize is that it is a real small town USA. People care about each other and they appreciate the tourists that visit. The small-town feel comes from the friendly people and all the community activities for both locals and visitors. There are two summer events that scream summertime fun…the Monday night movie and Main Street Square Concert Series!
We parked in one of the many places downtown and walked a block to the square.
It was like the town knew we were coming because the band was Abby Road, a Beatles Tribute Band! Emmy and I sang and danced along. Well, she danced, but we both definitely sang. They were really good, and the energy from the crowd was contagious! They have these concerts every week during the summer so be sure to check out who is playing when you are in town!
We decided to eat dinner downtown too. There are restaurants sprinkled throughout the streets and they all looked great. This is also where you will find the City of Presidents, a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and sidewalks.
While we were in Rapid City, we very much enjoyed learning about the Native Americans that called this beautiful place home and continue to today. We loved this statue also in historic downtown Rapid City. We felt emotional as we gazed upon it and saw the wisdom and tenderness shown as one generation touches the next. It is located right next door to the Prairie Edge Trading Co so we had to go in and do some shopping!
They have everything from handcrafted Native American items to one of the best bead collections we have seen, plus almost every South Dakota keepsake item you could imagine. My friend from the plane ride home said that she spent a pretty penny in the store and practically had to pull herself out. There were just so many great things here.
We explored downtown a bit more and then headed back to our hotel for the night. We were going non-stop all day and were ready for some rest. It wasn't until later that evening when we started to get sleepy did we realize just how much we had done that day! Time flies when you are having fun, right?
We woke up pretty early the next morning because we had a flight to catch, and we still had one more stop to make before we could complete our “first ever tour of Rapid City, South Dakota”. See how I said “first ever”, yep, we are totally planning another visit back for even more family fun. Five days just wasn't enough!
Our last stop was at Chapel in the Hills.
Chapel in the Hills is on the city tour driving route and is a pretty impressive exact replica of the Borgan Stavkirke in Norway. There is also a museum that shows how Scandinavian immigrants might have lived and a gift shop inside an authentic Norwegian Stabbur! It is the perfect spot to relax and stretch your legs while learning new things!
Feeling refreshed and full of family memories, we had to say goodbye to the Comfort Suites, Rapid City and head to the airport!
We had such an amazing kick-off to summer in Rapid City. We discovered what a family-friendly vacation spot South Dakota is and we can't wait to come back! You can see all of our Rapid City, South Dakota family vacation stories and tips here.