Custer State Park is a South Dakota staple that many visitors enjoy while on their vacation through the state. The park is the second largest state park in the nation, boasting 71,000 acres of land filled with wildlife and countless breathtaking views.

The Wildlife Loop Road through the park is a visitor favorite and provides great opportunities to see the roaming bison, prairie dog towns, the begging burros and antelope. This loop road is open to anyone who has paid admission into the park. The entry fee is just $6 per vehicle for a day pass (or $30 for a year of entry to all state parks if you’re a regular). It sure is an affordable way to enjoy fine South Dakota scenery like the wildlife, beautiful lookouts, and Needles formations throughout the park.

Custer Resorts also offers a Buffalo Safari Jeep Ride through the park. I’ve been to the park dozens of times, and have been on a jeep ride a handful of times. Each time, I know I’m in for a ride! The staff members that drive the jeeps are well educated about the park, the Black Hills area, and the animals that call the park home. I always know I’m in for a treat and bound to learn something new.

This time, we had Dave as our driver. Immediately I clicked with Dave as he might have been sassier than I am! We had a great time playing park trivia, bumpin’ along looking for buffalo, and seeing how many prairie dogs we could spot in the park.

Make sure you visit Custer State Park on your trip through South Dakota, and take a jeep ride too!

{ 6 comments }

This post is provided by Jenna Carda, intern for South Dakota Department of Tourism

If you are like me, you love seeing all the baby animals in the spring. How could you not? They are adorable! So when the opportunity came for me to go to Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown, S.D. – I jumped on it.

When you walk into the building, you are immediately captured by all the indoor exhibits. I felt like a little kid wanting to run and look at everything the minute I walked in the door! From native South Dakota fish like trout and walleye to clownfish, lionfish, turtles and insects there was a lot to see.

In addition to the displays there are classrooms for their children’s educational lessons. From zoo detective classes to learning about animals around the world in 50 minutes, the educational opportunities sound like a great experience.

As you walk outside you can enter a bird cage. Inside, there are beautiful birds all around while you stroll along a path in a wonderful garden.

From there, you can check out any of the animals the zoo hosts from the animals found in South Dakota like bison, peacocks and prairie dogs to large jungle cats and monkeys.

I must say that my favorite part of the entire zoo was indeed the monkeys. There are lemurs; there are capuchins; there are spider monkeys. So many to see! And do I need to express how adorable the babies were? Clutched to the backs of their momma, they were comfortable as can be. Some of the lemurs even put on a little show for us, hanging upside down and running from branch to branch.

Hands down, spring is a great time to go to the zoo. In addition to baby animals, plants are blooming and the weather is great. Check out TravelSD.com for more information on zoo locations in the Mount Rushmore state.

{ 1 comment }

This post is provided by Jenna Carda, intern for South Dakota Department of Tourism

Looking for a unique place to stay in South Dakota? Nestled between the famous Wall Drug and the scenic Badlands National Park sits Frontier Cabins Motel. Located off I-90, the motel is a great option if you are looking for a central location to many of South Dakota’s main attractions.

The main store and front desk houses an array of merchandise. From handmade Native American jewelry to South Dakota made products, there is a lot to look at. The staff is friendly and will surely greet you with a smile.

There are thirty-three log cabins –placed in a cul-de-sac form – which are fully equipped with all the common amenities and decorated in a woodsy style. Log bed frames and bed-side tables are paired with log dressers and wrought iron lamps. To top off the rustic décor, each of the cabins has a front porch complete with log seating.

Set up in the center of the cul-de-sac of cabins is a play area for children – who stay for free if they are under the age of 12.  They will have a blast on the swings, slides and open forts. While they are running around after a long day in the car, adults can sit in the gazebo which holds a bar, as well as a grill and hot tub.

After a peaceful night’s sleep, guests can go to the main store where there is a free continental breakfast. There are so many options to choose from; coffee, juice or milk can accompany bagels, muffins, donuts, etc. If you are looking for other dining options, Wall has restaurants located a few short blocks away.

After a day of touring and traveling in South Dakota, the Frontier Cabins Motel is a great, unique option for lodging that you are sure to enjoy.

{ 4 comments }

This is a guest blog post.

Checking out Mount Rushmore or the Crazy Horse Memorial are good reasons to visit South Dakota. The Badlands National Park is most definitely worth a visit out, too. And, truly, there’s nothing remotely resembling the Corn Palace anywhere else in the States, or even the world. But here are the five ultimate best reasons why Canadians should visit South Dakota.

Because the Landscapes Are Incredibly Diversified

Granted, Canada’s are too. Mountains, prairies, valleys, deserts… But South Dakota’s landscapes have all of this, only within a territory that’s about 50 times smaller than Canada’s. You can climb up a mountain, then get lost in deep, dark, wild forests; you can wander around the desert-like rock formations of the Badlands, and end your day by swimming in a pristine lake. South Dakota’s landscapes are so incredibly diversified for a state of this size, Canadians, known for their love of nature, will just dig it.

Because It’s a Great Place for Road Trips

Many Canadians cherish the dream of doing the infamous road trip across the States, from East through the iconic rock formations of the Midwest and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. While that whole trip would take a while, road tripping across South Dakota is shorter, simpler and real satisfying: Amazing “wild-westish” scenery, breathtaking landscapes and one-of-a-kind pit stops along the way, such as the Wall Drug.

Because It’s the Geographical Center of the States

When you want to discover a country, what best place to start with than its center? The small city of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, was designated as the geographical center of the United States in 1959 – that’s when, of course, you include Hawaii and Alaska. A monument called “Stone Johnnie” has been set up there to honor that fact.

Because It’s Packed With Wild West and Gold Rush History

From the historic town of Deadwood – where notorious wild west figures, such as Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp or Madame Moustache, lived and died – to the unmarked burial site of Jack McCall or the Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota is full of fascinating history.

Because of Its Many Natural Wonders

You think South Dakota and you think “the Badlands”. But there are many others natural wonders in that state. The glittering and shimmering Jewel Cave, for instance, is the third longest cave in the world, with over 100 miles of paths and passages within it. There is also the unique Lemmon Petrified Wood Forest, where you’ll see petrified wood formations like no other in the world. And last but not least, the Black Hills National Forest is of stunning beauty, and includes Harney Peak, the highest peak in the States east of the Rockies.

 

Mireille is a travel, music and theater enthusiast. She wrote for the stage and television, and is now working as a freelance blogger for Via Rail, Canada’s leading railroad transporter, offering unique packages for visiting Toronto.

{ 0 comments }

The presidents of Mount Rushmore National Memorial will embark on a 14-city tour across the Midwest, beginning May 23. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln will visit some of the most popular sites in the Midwest and personally invite residents to make a trip to South Dakota this summer.

 

The official tour by the presidential mascots and an accompanying street team from the Department of Tourism are part of the Department’s “Your American Journey” marketing campaign. The campaign encourages vacationers to visit places of great historic significance, unimagined beauty and patriotic inspiration within the borders of South Dakota. The group will ride in style in a bus wrapped with custom artwork depicting the variety that South Dakota offers travelers.

 

“All of the cities along this tour are filled with people who have a high propensity to travel to South Dakota,” says Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “The goal of the presidential mascots’ tour is to build awareness about South Dakota, create excitement among those who see them, and plant the seed of a South Dakota vacation with all of the potential visitors we have the opportunity to speak with one-on-one.”

 

Cities, in order of the tour schedule, include:

 

  • Rapid City, S.D.
  • Pierre, S.D.
  • Omaha, Neb.
  • Lincoln, Neb.
  • Kansas City, Mo.
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Chicago, Ill.
  • Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Madison, Wis.
  • Eau Claire, Wis.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Fargo, N.D.
  • Watertown, S.D.
  • Sioux Falls, S.D.

 

 

The presidential mascots and accompanying street team will also offer residents of these cities a chance to win one of four vacation giveaways. Contest details and registration can be found beginning May 15 on the Department of Tourism’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/SouthDakotaTourism. The contest runs through June 14, 2013.

 

The mascots, designed to depict the mountain carving in the Black Hills, have traveled across the country the past two years, including a stop in New York City to watch the “Mount Rushmore’s American Pride” float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The presidents’ journey can be followed online at www.Facebook.com/SouthDakotaTourism, or by using the hashtag, #SouthDakota, on Twitter (@SouthDakota).

Watch our social channels for more details on where the presidents are and what they are doing!

{ 1 comment }

Apr
24

2013 Birding Festival

by Katlyn Richter on April 24, 2013 · 2 comments

Gear up outdoor enthusiasts and bird watchers! South Dakota’s 3rd Annual Birding Festival is taking place in just a few days.

May 3-5, 2013, birding enthusiasts will migrate to Lake Andes, South Dakota, to see hundreds of bird species that have migrated to South Dakota after spending time in other parts of the country. Festival goers will also see birds that are temporarily in South Dakota before they move on to another region.

 

The Lake Andes area is known to play home to more than 322 species of birds, 164 of which are breeding species.

In previous years, birders have enjoyed the sight of Snowy owls, and a Western grebe paired with a Clark’s grebe. The sighting of the two together is very rare and special for the enthusiasts.

Registration for the event is in Pickstown, South Dakota. The group will be taking “field trips” to Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge – this is the only time that the Refuge (near the Fort Randall Dam) is open to the public. Other activities include bird banding, bird identification, a session with birding experts, guided field trips and activities for children.

For more information on the festival, visit this link.

{ 2 comments }

Go Outside!  Play!

It was beginning to seem like spring would never come, but finally, thank goodness, it is here. Warmer temperatures are a welcome change in their own right, and combined with the color explosion that is close at hand, South Dakota will soon be an even more wonderful place to spend time outside.

From canyons to trout, to foxes and ringed-necked pheasants, there’s plenty to see while enjoying the upcoming warm temperatures. Whether you’re a South Dakotan or a visitor, here are some of the best spots in the state for enjoying springtime treasures.

Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway

It can be a downer when the weather doesn’t match the season. In South Dakota, cool temperatures often still make the prospect of getting outside on foot a little daunting. This is why the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park is such a treasure. Without leaving your car you can see a variety of animals (foxes, deer, coyotes, elk, prairie dogs, pronghorn), including one of the world’s largest buffalo herds. There are also other great scenic drives in the park to complete your truly American safari experience.

McCrory Gardens

The McCrory Gardens maintained by South Dakota State University in Brookings is a must-see for flower and plant enthusiasts. The gardens consist of 25 acres of flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs and grasses. Especially exciting is the rose garden with over 30 varieties of roses, given that they’ll soon be blossoming. Just think of the smell!

McCrory Gardens
photo taken by: Jeremiah M. Murphy


Roughlock Falls Nature Area

The Roughlock Falls Nature Area in Spearfish Canyon may be one of the most picturesque spots in the state. A multilevel waterfall spills onto moss covered rocks, making it a popular subject for photographers and admirers alike, but the falls themselves are only half the fun. The Roughlock Falls Nature also boasts ample hiking trials and trout fishing spots, and a wonderfully high concentration of wildlife and bird life.


Roughlock Falls
photo by Matthew Paulson

Oyate Trail

The Oyate Trail is a grassroots, alternative route for traveling along South Dakota’s southern border from North Sioux City west to the southern Black Hills. The trails system of highways, like US-18, bend and twist through some of the state’s most beautiful and most culturally important areas. The vistas are endless and the trail’s path connects thousands of visitors to several places to learn aboutNative American culture and history. The Oyate Trail is superb option for those who’d like to enjoy the outdoors with a few creature comforts.

Bid Winter Farewell

Even when winter seems hesitant to leave, we can take heart in the fact that spring is right around the corner. Outdoor excursions, concerts, wildlife viewing, hikes, photography, fishing; these are just a few outdoor options South Dakota offers in the spring to those who’ve been craving fresh (warmer) air.

No matter if you do your exploring on foot or behind the wheel, enjoying spring’s resplendent glory in South Dakota can be the perfect post-winter recharge. Have fun, and remember your camera!

Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel expert and enthusiast. Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group bus tours in the US and Canada, including popular bus trips such as the Smoky Mountains bus tour.

{ 0 comments }

South Dakota is home to six National Park Service (NPS) units. Despite federal sequestration, visitors should know that our national parks in South Dakota are ready to welcome them this summer. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Missouri National Recreational River are open for business!

Wind Cave National Park

South Dakota is fortunate and proud to be home to these great parks in the Mount Rushmore State. We certainly encourage you to visit their webpages at www.nps.gov for more information before your visit to confirm hours and educational programming.

As of today, here is the status of the National Parks in South Dakota:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Operating normally. Visit their website for information on programming.

Badlands National Park: The Ben Reifel and White River Visitor Centers will remain open as normal. Cedar Pass Lodge, operated by Forever Resorts, LCC, will open on April 12. Check their website for ranger program information.

Wind Cave National Park: Visitor center hours will be slightly reduced from June 9-August 10. Elk Mountain Campground will be closed for the summer. Visit their website for information on visitor hours, cave tours, etc.

Jewel Cave National Monument: Some minor changes to some visitor services, but otherwise operating normally. Additionally, the visitor center will be displaying new exhibits for the summer. Visit their website for information on visitor hours, cave tours, etc.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: Some slightly reduced services, but barely noticeable. Visit their website for information.

Missouri National Recreational River: Slightly reduced hours at the visitor center. Check their website for information on visitor center hours.

South Dakota looks forward to making your family feel welcome in our great state filled with Great Faces and Great Places.

{ 0 comments }

Jan
28

Buffalo Interpretive Center

by Katlyn Richter on January 28, 2013 · 0 comments

South Dakota residents and visitors alike are able to better acquaint themselves with Native American culture at the Buffalo Interpretive Center. The Center is operated by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and is located seven miles southeast of Fort Pierre on S.D. Highway 1806 – which is also a part of the Native American Scenic Byway.

 

Visitors to the Buffalo Interpretive Center have the opportunity to learn about the importance of the bison to Native American culture from a variety of educational exhibits, and to view a herd of bison from the large windows of the Center.

 

The Center houses a great collection of educational programming, such as hands-on exhibits and interpretive videos, as well as a gift shop that offers products created by Native American artists. Occasionally, there are artists’ demonstrations of the techniques used to create their arts and crafts.

 

The herd of bison dwells on 6,200 acres of land owned by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Occasionally visitors are able to see them from the windows inside the Center. Tours of the pasture are also offered by the facility.

 

Since opening in 2004, the Buffalo Interpretive Center strives to “further cross-cultural understanding by teaching the story of the buffalo, its importance and significance to Native American culture, and its relationship to the people of the Lower Brule Tribe.” For a small admission fee, visitors are welcome to take part in this educational and cultural opportunity.

 

The Center is open year-round on weekdays, weather permitting. Visitors are encouraged to call the Center at 605-223-2260 or 888-323-2260 for current hours of operations.

 

South Dakota’s Great Places weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, designed to highlight places in South Dakota that are unique to travelers and residents alike. Click on the “South Dakota’s Great Places” link at www.MediaSD.com to access the complete list of articles.

{ 0 comments }

We hope that travelers continue to plan the family road trip to South Dakota, especially now that AAA predicts that gas prices in the coming year should go down. See the recent release issued by AAA.

Today’s (Jan. 8, 2013) national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.30. As recently as Dec. 20, the nationwide average stood at $3.22. However, after setting new all-time daily records for each calendar day since Aug. 20, the price last Saturday fell below the year-ago national average.  

 

According to FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com, motorists in six states (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, Idaho and Oklahoma) currently pay less than $3.00 per gallon at the pump. Only drivers in Hawaii pay more than $4.00 per gallon. The highest average prices in the continental United States are found in California and in the Northeast.

 

South Dakota’s statewide average today is at $3.112 which is 21 cents lower than one month ago. The most expensive gas in the state today can be found in Philip, $3.532 per gallon. South Dakota’s least expensive gas is in Piedmont, $2.739.

 

While retail gasoline prices are currently rising at a slower rate than they did to start 2012, the average is pressured higher by crude oil prices that have continued to slowly increase in recent weeks. At yesterday’s close of formal trading on the NYMEX, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled at $93.19 per barrel, up 10 cents on the day. This is the highest settlement price since Sept. 18, but is still well below the 2012 high of $109.77 per barrel registered on Feb. 24.

 

Gasoline prices this year will be less expensive than in 2012 as a result of increased domestic oil production and lower demand, according to AAA. The national average price of gasoline should peak at $3.60-$3.80 per gallon barring any significant unanticipated events, which compares to a peak of $3.94 a gallon in 2012.

 

Gasoline prices should rise steadily through April or early May, but at a slower pace than last year. As is typical for this time of year, prices will rise as a result of seasonal demand increases and in anticipation of the switchover to more expensive summer-blend gasoline. Following a late-spring peak, national price averages should drop during the first half of the summer to as low as $3.20-$3.40 per gallon before rising again in advance of the Gulf Coast hurricane season and the switchover to winter-blend gasoline. Prices should end the year by falling to low or near-low averages for 2013.

 

Absent significant storms, major wars or production and distribution outages, the single largest factor that will influence gasoline prices in 2013 will be the strength of the U.S. economy. Stronger than expected growth in the economy would result in higher oil and gasoline prices in anticipation of higher consumption, while a weaker than expected economy would drive prices downwards. Inaction by Congress to reach a debt deal in two months also would result in increased concern about the U.S. economy and could lead to lower gasoline prices.

 

In the first 90 days of 2012, geopolitical tensions with Iran pressured the national price at the pump almost 65 cents higher. Without a similar market moving story to begin 2013, it is likely that the year-over-year discount will widen in the coming months.

 

A not-for-profit organization, AAA South Dakota serves its 92,200 members across South Dakota with emergency help on the road, auto travel assistance and a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through branch offices, and the Internet at AAA.com.

           

# # #

 

{ 0 comments }

Posted in Travel Tips