Rapid City, South Dakota: the gateway to the Black Hills and an excellent launching-off point for a great vacation. Rapid City sits at the foot of the Black Hills in southwestern South Dakota. This small town and its surrounding areas pack a punch. Here are 3 unique things to do in Rapid City, SD.
Unique Things to do in Rapid City, SD
A visit to Rapid City is less about doing things in Rapid City – as in the city limits of Rapid City, but more about what Rapid City gives you access to – from the city. As the largest town in the general area, Rapid City gives visitors access to a renowned recreational playground: the Black Hills of South Dakota.
In fact, Rapid City itself really isn’t that interesting (sorry folks). It’s just a town with a commercial airport and a healthy drug business (as is common for some of these Plains-towns). Sure, the downtown area is neat and has gone through a period of gentrification. There are artisanal shops, cool eateries, and hipster brewpubs – all of which are fun, but visiting Rapid City is seldom about doing something in Rapid City, but rather: heading to the hills. The Black Hills that is.
Home to Mount Rushmore, world-class trout fishing, mining towns like Deadwood and Lead, fascinating geological formations, and so many more fascinating and interesting things, the Black Hills are an easy jaunt outside of Rapid City and it’s where visitors will find the most interesting things to do.
Private Tour of Mount Rushmore
Although a bit pricey, a private tour of Mount Rushmore is a unique way to experience this awe-inspiring attraction. Many tours offer free transportation, meals, and interactive guides. For a more VIP-like experience consider a private tour of Mount Rushmore and many include a visit to the nearby Custer and Crazy Horse memorials as well.
Book your tour reservations here
Visit the Apocolyptic Landscape that is the Badlands
This apocalyptic-looking national park will remind you of the vastness and power of nature and leave you stunned, at times, with some of the neatest naturally occurring formations in the country. If you can see the park around the end of the day – it will be cooler and the views are ‘gramworthy.
Biophilia-The idea that humans have an innate tendency for seeking connections with nature and other forms of life.— Badlands Nat’l Park (@BadlandsNPS) May 30, 2021
How do you connect with nature?#FindYourPark #EncuentraTuParque
NPS Photo/ E. Perez-Foust pic.twitter.com/6CtJvBWP69
Check out the Black Hills Caverns
Cool off with an underground tour of the Black Hills Caverns. It’s no surprise that the Black Hills have some amazing caves and caverns given the unique geological activity the region has experienced over the last million years or so and the Black Hills Caverns are a great example. This 2 hour visit is a great way to experience some of the more unique aspects of this special part of the United States and is sure to be memorable.
Additional Things to do in Rapid City, SD
If you are looking for more things to do around Rapid City here are a few additional ideas, including some more traditional things to do in the vicinity of Rapid City, or within a short drive.
- Visit Mount Rushmore – the public way – the preeminent destination in the area, a visit to the Rapid City area is not complete without at least peaking at the carved faces of four famous presidents. Parking is easy, entrance fees cheap and while the crowds can be busy, it’s worth it – at least once.
- Fish the Rapid Creek – some incredible trout fishing lies on the Rapid Creek where anglers can pull in fish for hours. Start your fishing journey from Johnson’s Siding which is where the most accessible fishing spots on the Rapid Creek start and work your way down to Rapid City – ending in Canyon Lake. You won’t be disappointed.
- Feed that sweet tooth at Candyland – a massive warehouse of sweets that are sure to delight adults and kiddos.
- Check out the bears at Bear Country, USA – on the way to Mt Rushmore this somewhat kitchy attraction lets you see real bears from a safe place. The kids will like this place.
- See the Chapel in the Hills – this replica of a nearly 900 year old Norweigan church has to be seen to be believed and is a stunning display of architectural creativity. A short drive from Rapid City the visit is quick, easy and memorable.
Final Thoughts on visiting Rapid City, SD
Rapid City remains your Black Hills launching-off point for a memorable experience in one of the prettiest and most accessible parts of the country. Use our guide on what to do in Rapid City and the surrounding area to plan your next big vacation. Happy planning and happier traveling!
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I was in Rapid City a couple years ago. These are good suggestions. I also liked the High Plains Heritage Museum in the Spearfish region and the South Dakota State Railroad Museum in Hill City if you are into history like I am. The drive through Spearfish Canyon was very scenic as well.
Great suggestions! We were actually going to add the train ride from Hill City to that other town that escapes my mind right now to our list. That museum is pretty cool! And that spearfish drive is pretty awesome too! It’s just a neat part of the country, really.