City Editor Rilee here. These days I’m all about Swan City (aka, Lakeland, FL), but growing up I was more concerned with bison than swans.
My family spent time visiting relatives in Rapid City, SD, taking drives through Badlands National Park, hiking in the Black Hills, and drinking Shirley Temples around the Saloon No. 10 table where Wild Bill Hickok met his end. Add this spot to your bucket list to experience a bit of the Old West, the outdoors, and everything in between.
- Visit Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and other parks and monuments.
- Find fall foliage starting annually in September. Pro tip: Use this online map to plan your drive through scenic highways and canyons.
- The area boasts unique events year-round, but autumn events like the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup, the Black Hills Powwow, and the Stratobowl Historic Balloon Launch are known for their cultural and educational impact.
- City Editor Rilee suggests a secret hike: Poet’s Table. The trail is unmarked, but you can find a helpful guide (with pictures) online.
Act like a local:
- Outdoors: Take Needles Highway in Custer State Park to the Sylvan Lake Shore Trailhead. From there, embark on the 6.4-mile out-and-back Black Elk Peak trail.
- Experience: Ride the 1880 Train through the Black Hills Forest for views of Black Elk Peak, old mining encampments, and more — the two-hour, 20-mile ride is narrated by local historians.
- Food: Head to Tally’s Silver Spoon for upscale dining and a South Dakota classic dish, chislic.
- Drink: You’ll need to book a table ahead of time, but the effort is worth the specialty cocktails at Vertex Sky Bar.
- Coffee: Fuel your vacay with a stop in Harriet & Oak, Essence of Coffee, or one of these spots.
- Explore: View wildlife from the safety of your car at Bear Country.
- Shop: Use this list of local shops, Native American-owned stores, and outdoor gear suppliers to plan your shopping trip.
Where to stay: