Rapid City, South Dakota Travel Guide

Are you considering traveling to Rapid City, South Dakota? This Rapid City, South Dakota travel guide will take you on a journey through the history, must-visit places, mouthwatering dining options, and top places to stay that make Rapid City a truly unforgettable destination. Nestled in the scenic Black Hills, this charming city offers a perfect getaway for history enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and food lovers alike. Immerse yourself in the rich history of the region, explore captivating attractions, indulge in thrilling activities, and savor the delightful culinary scene. As part of a partnership with Visit Rapid City, I spent a long weekend exploring this charming town and its surrounding areas.

History of Rapid City

Rapid City boasts a fascinating history, rooted in the Native American Lakota culture and the Gold Rush era. Visit the Journey Museum and Learning Center to gain insights into the city’s past, including the region’s geological formations, Native American heritage, and the story of the pioneers who shaped Rapid City.

Best Things to Do in Rapid City, SD

Explore nature and observe wildlife.

Custer State Park: This nature lover’s paradise and a must-visit destination is located just south of Rapid City. This sprawling park encompasses 71,000 acres of breathtaking landscapes, including rolling prairies, towering granite peaks, and serene lakes. One of the park’s biggest draws is its magnificent wildlife, particularly the free-roaming bison herds. To catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, head to the Wildlife Loop Road within Custer State Park.

Badlands National Park: This mesmerizing destination that transports visitors to a land of otherworldly beauty is located east of Rapid City. Embark on a scenic drive to Badlands National Park, where you’ll encounter striking rock formations, deep canyons, fossil exhibits, and the opportunity to hike along unique trails. When it comes to wildlife, Badlands National Park offers opportunities to witness a diverse range of species in their natural habitat.

While bison are not as commonly seen in Badlands as in Custer State Park, there is still a chance to encounter these magnificent creatures. The Sage Creek Rim Road, located in the western part of the park, is a popular area for bison sightings. As you drive along this scenic road, keep a keen eye out for the massive mammals grazing in the grasslands or crossing the road.

Black Hills National Forest: Immerse yourself in the 1.2 million acres of the natural beauty of the Black Hills National Forest, offering picturesque trails, scenic drives, and opportunities for camping, fishing, and wildlife spotting. Keep an eye out for native species such as elk, deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and wild turkeys as you explore the forest’s numerous hiking trails. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the presence of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and a plethora of other avian species that call the forest home.

Pro-tip: Remember, when observing wildlife, maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing or approaching the animals. Respect their natural behaviors and habitats, and never feed or approach them for your safety and their well-being.

Embark on a voyage through history and culture.

Crazy Horse Memorial: Experience the awe-inspiring Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota’s Black Hills. This monumental sculpture, honoring the legendary Lakota leader, stands as a symbol of Native American heritage and cultural preservation. Marvel at the ongoing work-in-progress as you explore the visitor complex, featuring engaging exhibits, the Indian Museum of North America, and cultural performances.

Don’t miss the chance to hike up to the sculpture during the annual Volksmarch or visit the Native American Educational and Cultural Center. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a remarkable tribute that embodies the resilience, strength, and pride of Native American culture. This was one of my favorite experiences near Rapid City! When completed the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest mountain sculpture in the world.

Chapel in the Hills: Experience the serene beauty and cultural significance of Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City. Nestled amidst the picturesque Black Hills, this Scandinavian-inspired chapel offers a captivating blend of architectural charm and spiritual tranquility. Designed as a replica of the famous Borgund Stave Church in Norway, the Chapel in the Hills is a popular attraction for history enthusiasts and architectural admirers alike. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and cultural legacy as you explore the intricate woodwork, ornate carvings, and stunning views from the chapel’s hillside location.

Also, don’t leave without taking a meditative walk through the Prayer Trail alongside the Chapel. It’s a great opportunity for reflection and taking in the scenery.

Mount Rushmore: No visit to Rapid City is complete without marveling at the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Witness the majestic faces of four U.S. presidents carved into the granite mountainside, a testament to American history and artistry.

City of Presidents: Go on a self-guided walking tour of the City of Presidents where you will find a series of life-sized bronze statues depicting past U.S. presidents, lining the streets of downtown Rapid City.

Dinosaur Park: One of the most popular parks in Rapid City South Dakota is Dinosaur Park. Here you will take a step back in time, where life-sized dinosaur sculptures await. Enjoy panoramic views of Rapid City while kids can dig for fossils and learn about these prehistoric creatures.

Explore local art.

Art Alley: Wander through the vibrant Art Alley, a colorful open-air gallery where local artists showcase their talents on the walls, creating a dynamic and ever-changing urban art experience.

Purchase Native American goods.

Prairie Edge Trading Co.: Step into a world of Native American artistry and culture at Prairie Edge Trading Co. located in downtown Rapid City, this unique store offers an extensive selection of Native American arts and crafts, including exquisite beadwork, pottery, jewelry, and traditional clothing. With knowledgeable staff and a commitment to promoting Native American artisans, Prairie Edge is a must-visit destination for those seeking authentic Native American treasures.

Dakota Drum Company: This specialty store in Rapid City showcases a wide range of handcrafted drums, flutes, and other musical instruments inspired by Native American traditions. Explore the store’s unique collection of drums made from natural materials like elk hide and cedar wood, as well as an array of intricately designed flutes. Whether you’re a musician or simply appreciate the beauty of Native American music, the Dakota Drum Company offers a captivating experience and a chance to bring the enchanting sounds of the Plains to your home.

Best Places to Eat in Rapid City


The Mud Hole of Black Hills: Satisfy your breakfast cravings for Southern-inspired dishes at the Mud Hole, a quaint cafe where flavors and comfort collide.

Daylight Donuts: Start your day on a sweet note with fresh, made-from-scratch donuts and a cup of coffee at Daylight Donuts, a local favorite for breakfast treats.

Lunch/ Dinner

Bojuko Ramen: Dive into a bowl of authentic and flavorful ramen at Bojuko Ramen, a hidden gem serving up traditional Japanese cuisine. They also offer the option to reserve a private Karaoke room!

Bashful Bison: Enjoy this unique delicatessen offering delicious hot and cold sandwich options.

Windsor Block Bar: Indulge in classic comfort food and craft cocktails and high-end spirits at the swanky Windsor Block Bar.

Vertex Sky Bar: Elevate your dining experience at Vertex Sky Bar, a rooftop restaurant offering panoramic views of Rapid City and a delectable menu of modern cuisine.

Sabatino’s Italian Restaurante: Transport your taste buds to Italy with the exquisite Italian dishes and warm hospitality offered at Sabatino’s Italian Restaurante.

Delmonico Grill: Indulge in a fine dining experience at Delmonico Grill, known for its delectable steaks, fresh seafood, and elegant ambiance.

Firehouse Brewing Company: Quench your thirst at Firehouse Brewing Company, housed in a historic fire station. Savor craft beers paired with delicious pub fare, including burgers, sandwiches, and handcrafted pizzas.

Tally’s Silver Spoon: Visit Tally’s Silver Spoon for a taste of local flavors, featuring farm-to-table cuisine made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.


Armadillos Ice Cream Shop: Cool down with a scoop or two of homemade ice cream, packed with delightful flavors, at Armadillos Ice Cream Shop, a charming local-favorite dessert destination in Rapid City.

Rapid City South Dakota Lodging


These top hotels in Rapid City provide a range of accommodations to suit various preferences and needs, ensuring a memorable and comfortable stay in this charming city.

Hotel Alex Johnson: Immerse yourself in historic elegance at the Hotel Alex Johnson, a landmark hotel offering luxurious accommodations and a prime location in downtown Rapid City. Enjoy stylish rooms, upscale amenities, and breathtaking views from the rooftop lounge.

The Rushmore Hotel & Suites: Experience comfort and convenience at The Rushmore Hotel & Suites, located in the heart of downtown. This modern hotel boasts well-appointed rooms, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant, making it an ideal choice for both business and leisure travelers.

Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza: Enjoy a comfortable and family-friendly stay at the Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza. With spacious rooms and easy access to popular attractions like Mount Rushmore, this hotel is perfect for those traveling with children.

Adoba Eco Hotel Rapid City/Mt. Rushmore: If sustainability is important to you, consider staying at the Adoba Eco Hotel. This eco-friendly hotel features stylish rooms with environmentally conscious amenities, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant committed to farm-to-table dining.

Residence Inn Rapid City: Ideal for extended stays, the Residence Inn Rapid City offers spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens and separate living areas. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool, and convenient access to nearby shopping and dining options.

Hilton Garden Inn Rapid City: Experience a blend of comfort and convenience at the Hilton Garden Inn Rapid City. This modern hotel features contemporary rooms, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant. Its location near Rapid City Regional Airport makes it an excellent choice for travelers.

Cambria Hotel Rapid City: Discover contemporary style and upscale amenities at the Cambria Hotel Rapid City. Located near popular attractions, this hotel offers spacious rooms, a modern fitness center, an on-site restaurant, and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the Black Hills.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Rapid City: Offering a comfortable stay at an affordable price, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Rapid City provides well-appointed rooms, complimentary breakfast, and a heated indoor pool. It is conveniently located near shopping centers and popular dining options.

Rapid City, South Dakota, offers a delightful blend of history, attractions, activities, and culinary delights that will leave you with cherished memories. Explore the city’s captivating past, marvel at iconic landmarks, embark on outdoor adventures and indulge in delicious dining experiences. Whether you’re seeking cultural immersion or thrilling exploration, Rapid City has something to offer every traveler. Plan your visit to this remarkable destination and create unforgettable experiences in the heart of the Black Hills.

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Jewels Rhode

Frequent Flyer. Chief Enjoyment Officer. Helping you make your travel dreams a reality!