Growing up in a family with four kids (all in braces) we never really had the money to take lavish vacations…instead we took lots of road trips. My dad would hook up the camper and my mom would pack coolers full of snacks and away we would go on our “Griswold-like” getaways. We always made lots of stops and enjoyed the sights along the way. Today, I still look forward to a good road trip, especially across South Dakota. That’s because there are so many fun and interesting stops along I-90 that can make your road trip a true adventure. So grab the kids and hop in the car because here are my top 10 places on the way to the “faces”.
10. Palisades State Park in Garretson - This will take you a few miles off the interstate but it’s worth the extra time. You’ll be driving along next to cornfields when all of a sudden you’re in a quartzite canyon carved by a meandering creek. Rock climbers love the Palisades for its 60-foot vertical cliffs, be we love it because of the unique beautyf in the middle of a flat prairie.
- HISTORY BUFF ALERT! Located in the park is Devil’s Gulch. This is where legend tells of the outlaw Jess James jumping the gap to escape lawmen. Today, a bridge will guide you across the gap or you can take a pontoon ride on Split Rock Creek and learn all about the infamous incident.
9. Sioux Falls – Located just off I-29 and I-90, Sioux Falls is the place for fine dining and excellent shopping. You’ll also find all kinds of family-friendly attractions like museums, zoos and water parks.
8. Mitchell – Home to the World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell offers unique family attractions you’ll only see as you head west on I-90. Mitchell also has museums that showcase homesteading, prehistoric and Native American history.
7. Chamberlain – Nestled along the shores of the Missouri River, Chamberlain is a great place to find some peace and quiet. Visit the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center to view historic exhibits and Lakota fine art, then head over to the South Dakota Hall of Fame to learn about famous South Daktoans.
- HISTORY BUFF ALERT! Stop at the I-90 Visitor Center and re-trace the footsteps of explorers Lewis & Clark. The visitor center has exhibits and artifacts, not to mention an overlook shaped like the deck of a keel boat.
6. Pierre – The capital city on the Missouri River has many activities for families. The galleries of the Cultural Heritage Center tell stories of South Dakotans with life-sized exhibits. It’s always fun to feed the geese that live on Capitol Lake, or look for the elusive blue tiles in the Capitol building. The war memorials are a must-see as well. These life-like statues depict men and women from all service branches who have fought in WWI, II, Korea and Vietnam.
5. Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo – Nothing says road trip more than a collection of historic cars, rocks and other Americana nostalgia. The Pioneer Auto Show has almost 400 rare and collectible cars, tractors and motorcycles. Highlights include a 1948 Tucker, the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee and Elvis Presley’s Harley Davidson.
4. Badlands National Park – This truly unique site features lunar-like rock surfaces and colorful plateaus. Badlands National Park is filled with water-chiseled ridges and rugged canyons perfect for hiking and stretching your legs. If you’re really lucky you might catch a glimpse of the endangered black-footed ferret which was re-introduced into the park in 1994 as part of a recovery effort. The Badlands are also home to big horn sheep, buffalo, deer and antelope.
- HISTORY BUFF ALERT! Western South Dakota played a key role in the Cold War with more than 150 nuclear missile silos and 15 launch control facilities buried under the prairie grasses. Two of these sites, the Delta One Launch Control Facility and the Delta Nine Launch Facility, have been preserved to provide visitors with a unique Cold War history lesson. The launch facility dates back to the Cuban Missile Crisis and only a few modifications were made when deactivating the site. The Minuteman National Historic Site is located near the north entrance to Badlands National Park.
3. Rapid City – Before you get to Mount Rushmore National Memorial make a stop in Rapid City. While you’re there, wander downtown among the Presidential statues or visit one of the family-friendly attractions.
2. Crazy Horse Memorial – More than 50 years ago an immigrant sculptor began this mountain carving memorializing the great Lakota Sioux chief Crazy Horse. Today, you can see this monument-in-the-making and learn more about the rich Native American heritage of the Black Hills.
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – You will stare America’s history in the face when you stand at the foot of Mount Rushmore. Carved out of a granite mountain, this Shrine of Democracy symbolizes our country’s commitment to freedom and democracy. Don’t miss the nightly lighting ceremony where you will learn more about the making of the monument and pay tribute to our troops who bravely defend the United States.
Those are my 10 places on the way to the faces. Do you have a favorite I-90 stop?