Travel Leisure

16 Things To Do in Rapid City, SD for a Perfect Getaway

Rapid City, South Dakota is a city with a rich blend of Native American history, indigenous culture, natural scenery, outdoor activities, and more. Most people know the city for its proximity to one of the great monuments in the United States, the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial but those interested in immersing themselves in the history of the US and honoring the original inhabitants of this land will find many more things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota.

If history isn’t quite your thing, Rapid City still has a lot to offer in the form of diverse wildlife, beautiful nature, and natural structures that have been preserved for many years. In addition, multiple zoos, aquariums, and exhibits are around to learn about or leisurely observe. There is also a diverse community with restaurants, shops, bars, community centers, and more to check out. If you live nearby or can get up to the area anytime soon, check out all the things to do in Rapid City that are likely to make you glad you decided to visit. 

Monuments and Museums

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota

Rapid City is home to the iconic Mount Rushmore. Visitors can marvel at the iconic sculptures of four United States Presidents and embrace the history of the location. Also, attend the evening lighting ceremony if you visit during the summer. No matter the time of year you can stop by the Sculptor studio to learn how this iconic structure was made or you can take a nice walk through the various walking trails. 

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Visit the ongoing mountain carving dedicated to Crazy Horse, an indigenous person who was a member of the native Oglala Lakota on Rapid Creek. He is an iconic figure in American history known for devoting his existence to protecting the livelihood and land of his people before being killed. The mountain carving honors Crazy Horse and members of the Oglala Lakota and stands as a symbol of remembrance for a land that was violently taken from them.

The Journey Museum and Learning Center

The Journey Museum and Learning Center is another location that offers more to learn about the rich history of the land it sits upon. Dive into the history of the Black Hills region and the native people that originally inhabited it and still do on a much smaller scale today. Exhibits cover geology and paleontology, Native American culture, and pioneer history.

The Great Outdoors

Outdoor Campus West

A river in south dakota

Engage in outdoor education and recreational activities at Outdoor Campus West. Here you can take free classes for adults and kids that are held throughout the year. You are also able to get hands-on practice and learn about all things regarding outdoor skills. Some of the many activities offered include archery, fishing, and hiking. Additionally, you can find western habitats and wildlife exhibits on the inside, as well as an aquarium. 

Skyline Wilderness Area

Park with bison in south dakota

One of the more relaxed things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota is to visit the Skyline Wilderness Area. Here you can take a drive through the 2-mile-long road and get a great view of the city. Also, you can stop at any of its parking areas for a hike or bike through the scenic trails in this urban wilderness.

Rapid City Parks and Recreation

Take advantage of city parks, offering playgrounds, sports facilities, and green spaces. Canyon Lake Park is particularly worth checking out because of its picturesque scenery. Other recreational activities available at the park include a swim center that offers several water-related lessons, an ice arena where visitors can take ice skating lessons, a hiking club, and more. 

Storybook Island

Storybook Island is a free children’s theme park featuring fantastical storybook characters. It has a lot to offer for kids and even adults including playground areas, rides, and a train for young kids. The park is open throughout two seasons within the year and closed at other times. These seasons consist of the summer season between May and September and the Fall/Winter season from late October or early November through February. Visit between late November and most of December to experience the Christmas Nights of Light. 

Reptile Gardens

A close up of a rattle snake

Explore a collection of reptiles, birds, exotic plants, and more with the whole family here. Visitors get to enjoy educational shows and interactive exhibits. Reptile Gardens boasts of being in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Reptile Zoo and housing “some of the world’s deadliest snakes.” Botanical Gardens are also available to explore. 

Bear Country USA

Bear napping in the rain

Drive through this wildlife park with various animal species native to North America like bears, wolves, elk, and more. Visitors can also walk through the area for closer encounters with baby animals. Bear Country USA insists that it strives to imitate the most natural habitat for its animals and give them a large comfortable home. 

The Arts

Dahl Arts Center

Visit the Dahl Arts Center to admire contemporary art exhibits and cultural events. Here you will find five visual arts exhibits, art classes for visitors of any age and skill level, and more. Check for rotating displays and local artist features.

The Monument

The Monument, previously known as Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, is an exhibition center where you can attend concerts, theater performances, and sporting events. Check the schedule for its variety of upcoming shows. Some types of shows and events you can expect to find here are dance recitals (including many upcoming Christmas shows), wrestling matches, country and blues music concerts, stage performances, and more. 

Downtown Rapid City

If you are looking for a central hub that offers various things to do in Rapid City, take a trip Downtown. Explore the vibrant downtown area with its numerous shops and restaurants. Attend events for a lively atmosphere like Summer Nights, trivia, and bingo nights at local restaurants and bars, performances, sports competitions, and more.

Main Street Square

Included in Downtown Rapid City is Main Street Square. Relax in this city square with more events, shops, and restaurants that are unique to this area. Main Street Square can be enjoyed throughout the year as visitors can ice skate in the winter or enjoy outdoor concerts in the summer.

City of Presidents

Stroll through downtown to find life-sized bronze statues of US presidents. There are over 40 statues to see that were built by a team of only six artists. Take a self-guided tour and learn about each president with an online provided walking guide

Day Trips

Wind Cave National Park

Bison in Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park offers a variety of experiences in one. First enjoy the above-ground nature and wildlife which includes bison, elk, and other animals that roam around the forests and grasslands there. Once you have explored what is above, make sure you have a ticket secured for a guided tour where you will explore Wind Cave, which is considered one of the world’s longest caves.

Black Hills Wineries

Barrels of wine

Discover the many local wineries in the area and enjoy wine tastings. Some wineries available to visit include Prairie Berry Winery, Sick-N-Twisted Brewery serving Naughti Wines, Grapes & Grinds, Belle Joli Winery Sparkling House, and more. Many of these spots also offer beautiful scenery to accompany the great drinks.

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