Family Vacation 2017 is in the books!
This year we headed to the South Dakota Black Hills, and had a great time as a family.
We stayed three nights, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for us on this trip.
We hit up a lot of the sites geared toward younger kids, but there is still so much to do and see that we will probably go back when the kids are older.
Day 1: North Dakota to Rapid City
On our drive from North Dakota to South Dakota, we took the Enchanted Highway. Just beware of which ND/SD highways you take on a Sunday morning. There are not a lot of places to stop. (And when you are pregnant, this matters!) 😉
- Storybook Island: This is like Storybook Land in Aberdeen, but smaller. Admission is free, and it’s fun to walk through. They also have a train that the kids can ride for $3.
- Dinosaur Park: This is another free attraction in Rapid City. There are a lot of steps, but the view of the city is worth it. The kids had fun climbing on some of the dinosaurs and touching the larger ones.
We concluded Day 1 by staying at Ramkota in Rapid City. They didn’t have continental breakfast (which would have been nice!), but the pool was worth it. They have a zero-entry play area with pirate ships and water slides. It was fun!
Day 2: Rapid City to Rushmore
- Reptile Gardens: This is really like a small zoo, but with mostly reptiles. I have a boy who is into snakes, so he thought it was very cool! While you are at Reptile Gardens, you can take in different animal shows. We watched an alligator and a snake show, where the worker handles these creatures. We had the opportunity to pet giant tortoises, pet a python, and walk through the terrarium where you can get up close to different birds, lizards, and even snakes (a boa constrictor!) that roam free in this building.
- Mount Rushmore: This wasn’t the most eventful stop for the kids. We found the North Dakota flag on the walkway. We also took some photos with the kids and family in front of the faces, and that was about all we did at Mt. Rushmore.
- Needles Highway: By this point, I suggested we take a drive. It was mid-afternoon, and a good time for the kids to fall asleep. I enjoy scenery, so suggested we take this route. Let me tell you, it will take a lot longer than you think to drive though this loop! And if your kid gets queasy, it makes for an even longer drive. 🙂 But it was gorgeous and there were lots of tunnels to drive though. I’m glad we took it.
After our long journey though curves and hills, we headed to Rushmore Shadows, the resort we chose to stay at. We roasted hot dogs over a fire and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Day 3: Bear Country USA and Resort Relaxation
- Bear Country USA: This was great! It’s a drive-thru park where you get to see the animals close up. Keep your windows rolled up because the bears come right up to your vehicle! And they have more than just bears. Expect to see lots of other wildlife as well. We went first thing in the morning which worked out well. The animals were up, and there weren’t many people there at all.
We spent the rest of the day at the resort, with swimming and mini golf being favorites of the kids.
Day 4: From Old MacDonald’s Farm to North Dakota
- Old MacDonald’s Farm: This is a simple petting zoo, but the kids loved it. They offer a lot of hands-on activities such as bottle feeding, holding baby chicks, and going inside the pens with the rabbits and goats. If you are already from rural ND, your kids have probably “been there, done that”. But it’s still fun.
After that, we were on our way back to North Dakota.
Overall, the road trip was pretty smooth. The worst of it was the first five miles away from our house, when dad had to almost pull over and tell the kids that if they don’t stop fighting (over a yellow marker), we would turn around and not go on vacation. After that, it was clear sailing for the most part. Thank goodness, in part, to our ancient portable DVD player. 🙂
I’m glad we took the time to go on a family vacation. We made memories together, and I think it made my kids grow a little closer.
I’m excited to see where the road will take us next year!