Over the summer, we had an opportunity to take a short vacation to South Dakota.  We took our time getting there.  Two days drive there, two days drive home and two days to actually spend in the area of our vacation.  After all, there were 6 of us piled in the car and me, being pregnant and all, made for frequent stops and roadside stretches.  So, we decided to make the most of all that and sight-see along the way.  It’s amazing what you can cram in during a short time when you map it all out and scoot from morning til dusk.  It was tiring, but well-worth it all.  I only wish we had more time to enjoy there.  South Dakota is a beautiful area with such a diverse landscape that I often found myself just staring out the windows in admiration.

Day 1

First stop, Sioux Falls, where there was a lovely park aptly named Falls Park.  It was beautiful, but it was also a very hot, muggy day out, so we weren’t there terribly long before continuing on our journey.  The kids had a blast there, though, wanting to climb on all manner of dangerous ledges.

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Picture the roar of the roar that accompanies the awesome power of such a water formation!

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Day 2

Next stop, the Mitchell Corn Palace in the morning…a unique place celebrating all things corn.  Every year, artists map out new pictures to cover the walls of the palace.  It’s fascinating.  The inside, however, is mostly a giant, albeit decently priced, gift shop.

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Next we stopped off at the 1880 Town, which was very cool.  We had lunch inside an actual railcar.  The barn housed paraphernalia from the movie set, “Dances With Wolves”, which was filmed nearby.  The town had original and refurbished buildings and was essentially laid out as it was over 100 years ago.

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This guy was great!  We carried on a nice conversation with him about the beauty of simplicity.

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Is it just me or is that a radioactive symbol?  That just makes me think of toxic salt.

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I want a playhouse that mimics this schoolhouse someday.  It’s so darn cute!

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We actually hit the Badlands on this day, too, before arriving at or cabin in Rapid City.  Because we also stopped in the Badlands on the way out, I’ve just grouped all those pictures together.

Day 3

We hit up the Reptile Gardens, which boasts housing the worlds deadliest snake, among other things.  This was good fun for the kids, too.  There was plenty to see, including a few shows.

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Next up was Bear Country.  It is a large, privately owned reserve that housed free-roaming bears, among other animals.  It was really neat to see the bears just wandering about, blocking cars at their whim.  Some even acted as sentries, guarding the gates, making it difficult and a slow-going process to pass.  It was hilarious.

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We made a pretty quick stop at Cosmos Mystery Area, which seemed to have strange anomalies with the way things behaved there.  The trees would grow and bend in multiple directions and things seemed to take on impossible characteristics, such as water running uphill.  Optical illusions played their part, but I have to admit, that there is a very strong pull inside the shack.  It was difficult to walk through and I even felt a little strained and nauseous once it was all done.  In retrospect, pregnancy was probably not the best time to check that place out.  It was neat, though, for sure.

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Last stop of the day:  Mount Rushmore.  The girls, as young as they are, didn’t get the full significance of this, as we did, but still had a good time.  They probably enjoyed running up and down the steps of the outdoor amphitheater the most.

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Day 4

We hopped on the 1880s Train and took a nice scenic ride through the countryside.  It was relaxing and lovely to see so much of the beauty of the surrounding nature, but I think the girls would have been perfectly content with about half the ride of what we actually got.  I concede that it was pretty long without anything very exciting happening.

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After our train ride, we head on down to the Crazy Horse monument.  It was also very interesting to see, knowing that when (if) this ever reaches completion, it will be an awesome sight, dwarfing Mt. Rushmore in size.  We spent quite a while here, simply because there was such a massive museum area…a lot to explore.  There was also a nice show put on by a local Sioux, who incidentally told a different perspective about the Battle of Little Bighorn.

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Doesn’t Tater Tot just look so excited here?

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Bison or buffalo or whatever, just out roaming the plains.

Last stop of the day:  Mammoth Springs.  It was fascinating to see the actual excavation area with mammoth bones, among other creatures.  Silly me, though, didn’t take a single picture of the excavation site.  Don’t know what I was thinking, so only museum stuff for sharing our memories.  Oh well.

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The girls brought back a meteorite-type thing that they could excavate and find the treasure inside.  They really enjoyed this and chipped away determinedly at that thing for quite a while.  Tater Tot had the focus of a paleontologist.

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Day 5

On our way back home.  We stopped off at Wall Drug, apparently a kitschy place that we “just couldn’t miss”, according to others.  It was a decent place to eat and a great place to spend money, if we were so inclined.  My son got himself a Katana sword there.  Go figure.

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Our final scenic stop on the way home:  The Badlands, round two.  On our way in, we drove through and stopped off at the top of the hills and it gave me heart palpitations just picturing one of my kiddos slipping down one of the crumbly sides of the steep rocks.  I was a bit of a nervous wreck and suggested climbing from the bottom, which we did on our way out.  This was probably the favorite activity for all four kids of all the things we did on our vacation.  Did I mention my kids really, REALLY enjoy climbing?

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And that was pretty much the extent of our super-short, cram-packed, fun-filled family vacation.  We highly recommend it to anyone, but remember…enjoy the journey and it will become part of the destination.  🙂