Things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota, are endless. Imagine waking up to the sight of majestic mountains, lush forests, and clear blue skies. Imagine spending your day exploring the stunning scenery and the rich heritage of the American West. Imagine having a fun and adventurous getaway with your loved ones in a place that has something for everyone. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it’s not. It’s Rapid City, and it’s waiting for you.
In this blog post, I will share with you the 13 best things to do in Rapid City, SD, that will make your trip unforgettable.
So, what are you waiting for? Read this blog, pack your bags, and get ready for a fun and adventure-packed getaway in Rapid City, South Dakota. You will never run out of things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota, whether you are into nature, culture, art, or history. Rapid City is the perfect destination for a fun and memorable vacation.
Before heading to things to do list, let me tell you some amazing facts that you should know before visiting Rapid City:
- Rapid City is the second-largest city in South Dakota and the gateway to the Black Hills, a mountain range that is home to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and other iconic landmarks.
- Rapid City is known as the “City of Presidents” because it has life-size bronze statues of all the U.S. presidents along its downtown streets.
- Rapid City is also a cultural hub that hosts many festivals, events, museums, and galleries throughout the year, such as the Black Hills Powwow, the Festival of Lights Parade, the Journey Museum and Learning Center, and the Dahl Arts Center.
Map of Best Things to Do in and around Rapid City, South Dakota
Here is the list of the 13 Best Things to Do in Rapid City, South Dakota
1: Visit Dinosaur Park
Image Source: Black Hills Badlands
One of the most popular and unique things to do in Rapid City is to visit Dinosaur Park, a free attraction that features seven giant concrete dinosaurs on a hill overlooking the city. The park was built in 1936 as a way to promote tourism and education about the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the area.
You can climb up the stairs to the park and take photos with the dinosaurs, which include a Tyrannosaurus rex, a Triceratops, a Stegosaurus, and a Brontosaurus. You can also learn more about the history and science of dinosaurs at the visitor center, which has exhibits, souvenirs, and a gift shop.
2: Explore Downtown Rapid City
Image Source: World Atlas
Another attraction on our list of things to do in Rapid City is to explore its Downtown area, which is full of charm, culture, and history. You can stroll along Main Street Square, a lively public space that hosts events, concerts, ice skating, and water features.
You can also admire the City of Presidents statues, which are scattered along the sidewalks and depict the U.S. presidents in various poses and expressions. You can also visit the Art Alley, a colourful and creative alleyway that showcases local and national artists’ murals and graffiti. And, of course, you can enjoy the many shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes downtown Rapid City offers.
3: See Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Image Source: Black Hills Badlands
No trip to Rapid City would be complete without seeing one of the country’s most iconic and impressive monuments “Mount Rushmore National Memorial”. This colossal sculpture features the faces of four U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The memorial was carved into the granite face of the Black Hills by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his team from 1927 to 1941. You can admire the monument from the Grand View Terrace, the Avenue of Flags, or the Presidential Trail.
You can also visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, which has exhibits, films, and a bookstore. And don’t miss the evening lighting ceremony held from late May to late September. This is just one of the many things to do in Rapid City that will make your visit unforgettable.
4: Experience the Badlands National Park
Image Source: PCDN
Another must-see attraction near Rapid City is the Badlands National Park, a stunning landscape of eroded rock formations, canyons, and prairies. The park covers 244,000 acres and is home to diverse wildlife, such as bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. You can explore the park by driving along the Badlands Loop Road, which has scenic overlooks and trailheads.
You can also hike, bike, camp, or join a ranger-led program. Some of the highlights of the park include the Door Trail, the Notch Trail, the Fossil Exhibit Trail, and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Badlands National Park is a must-have attraction in your things to do in Rapid City, SD.
5: Learn at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum
Image Source: CNET
If you are seeking engaging things to do in Rapid City and have an interest in aviation and aerospace, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, located at the Ellsworth Air Force Base, is a must-visit. The museum beautifully showcases the rich history and technological advancements of the U.S. Air Force, highlighting its pivotal role in the region.
With a collection boasting over 30 vintage and modern aircraft, including iconic models like the B-1B Lancer, the B-52 Stratofortress, the F-86 Sabre, and the SR-71 Blackbird, visitors are in for a treat. Beyond the impressive displays, delve into the missions and narratives of the dedicated airmen and women who served at this base.
For those looking to explore further, guided bus tours are available, offering an up-close view of the Minuteman Missile Silo, the Bomber Alert Facility, and the Pride Hangar.
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6: Enjoy the Reptile Gardens
Image Source: Gstatic
If you are a fan of reptiles and exotic plants and looking for captivating things to do in Rapid City. you will enjoy the Reptile Gardens, which is the largest reptile zoo in the world. The Reptile Gardens has more than 200 species of reptiles, amphibians, and bugs and a botanical garden with thousands of flowers, trees, and cacti.
In their natural habitats, you can see snakes, crocodiles, alligators, lizards, turtles, frogs, and more. You can also watch live shows and demonstrations, such as the snake show, the alligator show, the bird show, and the gator wrestling. Don’t forget to visit the SkyDome, a tropical oasis that houses a variety of animals and plants, such as parrots, pythons, orchids, and banana trees.
7: Discover the Crazy Horse Memorial
Image Source: Muskrat Magazine
Another impressive and inspiring monument in our things to do in Rapid City list is the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a tribute to the Native American leader and his people. The memorial is a massive carving of Crazy Horse on his horse, pointing to the land where his ancestors are buried. The carving is still in progress and is expected to be the largest sculpture in the world when completed.
You can see the progress of the carving from the viewing deck, the visitor centre, or the bus tour. You can also learn more about the history and culture of the Native Americans at the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and the Sculptor’s Studio.
8: Have Fun at the Storybook Island
Image Source: Square Space
If you are looking for family-friendly and whimsical things to do in Rapid City, you should have fun at Storybook Island, a free theme park that features characters and scenes from classic children’s stories and fairy tales. You can see Cinderella’s Castle, the Three Little Pigs’ Houses, the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City, and more.
You can also enjoy the rides, such as the train, the carousel, the balloon, and the pirate ship. And if you visit during the winter, you can see the park transformed into a magical wonderland with lights and decorations.
9: Relax at the Chapel in the Hills
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Looking for peaceful and serene things to do in Rapid City? You can relax at the Chapel in the Hills, a replica of the Borgund Stave Church in Norway. The chapel was built in 1969 as a tribute to the Norwegian heritage of the region and as a place of worship and meditation. A beautiful garden, a waterfall, and a log cabin museum surround the chapel.
You can admire the intricate woodwork and carvings of the chapel, which features dragons, crosses, and other symbols. You can also learn more about the history and culture of the Norwegian settlers at the museum, which has exhibits, artifacts, and a gift shop.
10: Taste the Wine at the Firehouse Wine Cellars
Image Source: Travel South Dakota
If you are a wine lover, you should add this to your things to do in Rapid City list and taste the wine at the Firehouse Wine Cellars, a local winery that produces award-winning wines from South Dakota grapes. The winery is located in a historic fire station that was built in 1915 and has been renovated into a cozy and elegant tasting room.
You can sample a variety of wines, such as the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot, the Riesling, and the Raspberry Honey Wine. You can also buy a bottle or a case of your favorite wine, or join the wine club to get exclusive discounts and benefits.
11: Watch the Wildlife at the Bear Country USA
Image Source: Having Fun in The Texassun
If you want to see some of the most amazing and adorable animals in the world, you should visit this place from our things to do in Rapid City list and watch the wildlife at Bear Country USA, a drive-through wildlife park that has more than 200 black bears and other animals. You can drive your own car or join a guided bus tour through the park, which covers 250 acres of natural habitat.
You can see bears, elk, deer, bison, wolves, mountain lions, and more. You can also visit the Babyland area, where you can see the baby animals up close and personal. And don’t forget to stop by the gift shop, where you can buy souvenirs, snacks, and drinks.
12: Visit the Museum of Geology
Image Source: Darwinsdoor
If you are fascinated by fossils, minerals, and rocks, you should consider visiting the Museum of Geology from our things to do in Rapid City list, which is located at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The museum has a collection of more than 300,000 specimens, including dinosaurs, mammoths, marine reptiles, and meteorites.
You can see the skeletons of a Tyrannosaurus rex, a Triceratops, a Mosasaurus, and a Plesiosaurus. You can also admire the displays of gems, crystals, ores, and meteorites. If you want to learn more about the geology and palaeontology of the region, you can join a guided tour, a workshop, or a lecture.
13: Hike the Black Elk Peak Trail
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If you are looking for challenging and rewarding things to do in Rapid City, you should hike the Black Elk Peak Trail, which is the highest point in South Dakota and the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The trail is about 7 miles long and has an elevation gain of 1,500 feet.
The trail takes you through the Black Hills National Forest, where you can see pine trees, granite rocks, and wildlife. The trail ends at the Black Elk Peak, where you can see a stone fire tower that was built in 1939. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding hills, lakes, and plains from the peak.
As you can see, Rapid City, South Dakota, is a wonderful destination for couples who want to have a fun and adventurous getaway. There are so many things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota, that you will never get bored. You can see amazing monuments, explore stunning landscapes, learn about history and culture, and have fun with animals and plants.
Rapid City is a place that will surprise you and delight you with its charm, beauty, and diversity. So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Rapid City today and experience the best the American West offers. And don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends and family who might be interested in visiting Rapid City too. Thank you for reading, and happy travels!