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Old 06-13-2011, 10:00 AM
 
Location: St. Louis City
132 posts, read 355,332 times
Reputation: 66

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We're planning a very short family vacation to South Dakota at the beginning of October. It will be our first time there, and we're trying to make the most out of it. Due to finances, we can only stay a day and a half, and these are the attractions that appeal to us the most:

Mammoth Site
Black Hills of Custer (more to drive by than to explore on foot)
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Memorial
Reptile Gardens
Thunderhead Falls

We are considering staying in Hot Springs for 2 nights. We would visit the Mammoth Site when we arrive in the afternoon, and then possibly go out driving to the Black Hills. The next day we would travel to Reptile Gardens and Thunderhead Falls in Rapid City, then go to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse as we head back to Hot Springs for the night.

Is this too ambitious? We can get in and out of places fairly quickly as long as they're not too crowded. For example, we probably wouldn't stay at the reptile zoo too long, even if it meant not seeing everything.

If we had to skip one of the attractions I listed, what would be best? Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are at the top of our list, so I'm thinking maybe we would skip either Reptile Gardens or Thunderhead Falls. We chose them because they are the kinds of sights we enjoy. We try to visit the zoos in every city we travel to. Also, Thunderhead Falls sounds nice, but we've already traveled to many caves in Missouri (where we're from), so maybe it's not unique enough to warrant a visit. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you!
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Old 06-13-2011, 11:52 AM
 
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Sometimes it is better to see a few things very well than to see a bunch in a rush and not get to truly appreciate any. Custer Park and the Black Hills including Mt. Rushmore will take you a day easily dawn to after dusk.

If you are driving I-90 across coming from Missouri you will be missing out if you don't plan either on your way in or out to drive through the Badlands, IMO. When driving normally I would advise to take I-90 and in one direction and the Native American Scenic Highway the other so that you can see as much as possible. People who only drive I-90 really have no idea of the beauty of SD that they miss entirely.

October is still quite a way off and perhaps you can build up your reserves to spend more time. It seems a shame to only spend as long on the West side of the state as it takes to drive there and back from the East side of Missouri (730+miles each way).
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Old 06-13-2011, 01:01 PM
 
Location: Hot Springs
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If memory serves me correctly a guided tour of the Mammoth site in Hot Springs takes about an hour. After that you have nothing scheduled for the Hot Springs area such as the wild horse sanctuary or Evans plunge. My question is, why are you staying in Hot Springs? Custer would be much more centrally located and would save an hours drive to the other locations you are planning to visit.

uh
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Old 06-13-2011, 01:14 PM
 
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Or hill city would be a better base imo
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Old 06-13-2011, 03:28 PM
 
Location: St. Louis City
132 posts, read 355,332 times
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Besides finances, we were cutting the trip short because we're already taking our kids out of school for a few days. Another day in South Dakota means another missed day of school. But we'll consider staying an extra day. We initially came up with Hot Springs b/c the motels were a bit cheaper than those in Custer or Rapid City. Also, when we leave, we'll probably drive home through Nebraska. (We're taking I-90 across the state on our way there.)

I found a place online called the Mountain View Lodge & Cabins in Hill City, SD that has modest accommodations for about $60 per night, so we will consider that if people think that's a good central location for sightseeing. We're not interested in the Evans Plunge water park, and the Wild Horse Sanctuary seems expensive, but thanks for the suggestions.

Here's another itinerary I came up with based on two full days in the area:

Day 1: Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer Park
Day 2: Mammoth Site and Reptile Gardens or Thunderhead Falls in Rapid City
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Old 06-13-2011, 03:58 PM
 
Location: Custer, SD
1,582 posts, read 2,866,291 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SouthCityGal View Post
Besides finances, we were cutting the trip short because we're already taking our kids out of school for a few days. Another day in South Dakota means another missed day of school. But we'll consider staying an extra day. We initially came up with Hot Springs b/c the motels were a bit cheaper than those in Custer or Rapid City. Also, when we leave, we'll probably drive home through Nebraska. (We're taking I-90 across the state on our way there.)

I found a place online called the Mountain View Lodge & Cabins in Hill City, SD that has modest accommodations for about $60 per night, so we will consider that if people think that's a good central location for sightseeing. We're not interested in the Evans Plunge water park, and the Wild Horse Sanctuary seems expensive, but thanks for the suggestions.

Here's another itinerary I came up with based on two full days in the area:

Day 1: Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer Park
Day 2: Mammoth Site and Reptile Gardens or Thunderhead Falls in Rapid City
In October, a lot of the outside exhibits from Reptile Gardens will be closed. I would probably recommend Bear Country USA, which will still be open on the weekend, and have many more active animal exhibits (plus, you drive right through most of the exhibits in your car!).

I definitely agree w/others that Hot Springs should not be your first choice for base. If you need cost effective accomodations and don't have to have a 4 star hotel, consider the camping cabins that Custer State Park has on their camping site (search Custer State Park camping reservations)! They run $35-45 dollars a night and sleep up to five. They have heat, so if it gets too chilly for you at night, you won't freeze! They are very clean - you just have to bring sleeping bags and pillows. The downside is, you will have to wait about 2-4 weeks to make reservations, depending on when you are coming. October does not show up yet on the reservations calendar!

Just a word to the wise - a lot of attractions change their hours after the main season. Shoulder season tends to run until the end of October for most things, but I would call ahead if I were you, especially if they don't post shoulder season hours on their websites!
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:18 PM
 
26,968 posts, read 34,699,981 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SouthCityGal View Post
Here's another itinerary I came up with based on two full days in the area:

Day 1: Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer Park
Day 2: Mammoth Site and Reptile Gardens or Thunderhead Falls in Rapid City
That seems to be a reasonable schedule to keep.

Day 2 would be good to do the northern hills if you wanted. Would be good to run up to Deadwood and perhaps Spearfish, Spearfish canyon. However by october the leaves have fell and it isn't as pretty. It is still a nice drive and a great way to spend some time.

Was in hot springs this weekend... It was pretty. But it kinda reminds of that half way good looking woman at the bar. She doesn't look bad from a distance... As you get closer your opinion kinda changes... Then as she talks to you, soon you figure out she if nucking futs.

It is okay to visit. But to spend any real time, you would be disapointed. Custer, Hill City and by that time maybe even Rapid would have better options.
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:27 PM
 
Location: S.F.
509 posts, read 1,259,616 times
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To be honest, if you're going to spend the day in the Northern Hills during October, Spearfish Canyon is a great drive during that time frame. Bear Country is also a good spot to drive through that's nice.
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:32 PM
 
Location: South Dakota
62 posts, read 188,162 times
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I would suggest that you see Mount Rushmore BEFORE you see Crazy Horse if possible. If you see them the other way around, Mount Rushmore seems like just a cute little sculpture rather than a national monument. Crazy Horse kind of dwarfs Mount Rushmore. Both are very good. Enjoy
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:43 PM
 
26,968 posts, read 34,699,981 times
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Actually if you go in October you might be able to get in on watching the Buffalo Round Up in Custer State park.
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