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Need MT, Black Hills, Bad Lands travel tips?


Ottakee
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We are taking a big family vacation out west in June.  I have the first part of the trip planned out quite well-----Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.  It is the last part of the trip that I am wondering what is worthwhile.

 

We will be in Bozeman Montana area and then headed back east towards Rapid City on 90 and towards Sioux Falls.  We will have 2-3 days to get from Bozeman to Des Moines, IA.

 

We have thought about:

Devil's Tower

Custer State park

Mount Rushmore

Badlands scenic drive

Wall Drug

 

Any thoughts on a good route or things to see or aren't really worth the time?  I have heard that Mount Rushmore is nice but a quick stop and quite out of the way.  My kids would rather see the wild burro and bison in Custer state park over that if we have to make a choice.  We are not out to shop, etc. so free/cheap/simple is good.

 

Thanks

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I was just going to ask about the Crazy Horse monument.  Dh is Native and the rest of us are part Native so the Native museum might really appeal to the kids----I saw a statue of a horse there so a Native horse would be TOPS with the girls :-)

 

Wall Drug would likely be a potty stop and quick look.  The kids each will have a SMALL budget but we are not out to buy stuff but rather build memories.

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I grew up in the Black Hills.  My parents have a magic show in Custer and my sister lives in Sturgis.  Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse are both must dos.  Crazy Horse is really amazing- there is a video you can watch, a large museum, an artist's quarters, and more and the restaurant there is good.  The town of Custer has various painted buffalo around town to view that are neat to see.  The drive through Custer State Park is really nice and there are some great pull off areas to view the animals.  Hot Springs is also a beautiful place to visit.  If your family enjoys hiking, I would recommend Sylvan Lake and Harney Peak.  It takes about 5 hours round trip to hike Harney Peak but it is well worth it.  The views are amazing and the hike is not too difficult.  There is an 1880 train that goes from Keystone to Hill Ciy and is a fun way to see the Black Hills.  The Badlands is a beautiful drive and Wall Drug is a fun place to stop but not really necessary.  If you have a chance, I would recommend stopping in the capitol building in Pierre.  It is a gorgeous building with hidden blue tiles to find while touring.  You can do a self guided tour there.  The Corn Palace in Mitchell is also a nice fun stop but not necessary.

 

I would be happy to give you recommendations for places to eat and/or stay.  If there is anything in particular that you are curious about- just let me know.

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We are taking a big family vacation out west in June.  I have the first part of the trip planned out quite well-----Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.  It is the last part of the trip that I am wondering what is worthwhile.

 

We will be in Bozeman Montana area and then headed back east towards Rapid City on 90 and towards Sioux Falls.  We will have 2-3 days to get from Bozeman to Des Moines, IA.

 

We have thought about:

Devil's Tower

Custer State park

Mount Rushmore

Badlands scenic drive

Wall Drug

 

Any thoughts on a good route or things to see or aren't really worth the time?  I have heard that Mount Rushmore is nice but a quick stop and quite out of the way.  My kids would rather see the wild burro and bison in Custer state park over that if we have to make a choice.  We are not out to shop, etc. so free/cheap/simple is good.

 

Thanks

Rushmore is not really out of the way. Sylvan lake is my fave place on Earth. We were going to do a renewal of vows this year at Sylvan Lake, but then, because dd is in public school, we could not schedule it. We said we would do it at our 25th. Rushmore is not far from Sylvan Lake.

 

Also..make sure you are not traveling during Sturgis. Rushmore is worth seeing. ALso, Rushmore is not that far off the State park Loop (Sylvan Lake is in the state park) and Needles Drive, etc. But, your time is limited for a 2-3 day trip from MT to DM, IA.

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Crazy Horse is expensive--check the prices before you decide.

 

We greatly enjoyed Custer State Park. Also check Wind Cave; it's not on your list but is interesting.

 

We also enjoyed Badlands scenic drive and their cabins as well. The remodeled ones were very nice and it was so quiet at night.

 

There's a homeschooler who runs a hotel in Custer; PM me if you want info.

 

If you make it to Cody we greatly enjoyed the Buffalo Bill museum. In addition to their usual exhibits, that days we saw a birds of prey demonstration. Luckily they were leashed because we also saw lots of baby bunnies on the grounds.

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On Crazy Horse I will have to check on the prices as it says Native Americans are free.  Not sure if that will mean all of us or just dh is free because the rest of us are 1/4 Native but he is an enrolled tribal member.  That might make a difference.

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Agreeing that you shouldn't skip Rushmore. I thought the drive to the monument was pretty spectacular! I especially enjoyed walking the boardwalk up and around the monument, and visiting the sculptor's studio near the end of that.

 

Be sure you pack a picnic lunch if you want to stop and visit the badlands. We were fascinated, stayed longer than we expected and there are few places to stop once you're in the middle of things.

 

And we loved Custer, actually camped there. Beautiful! Just watch out for those wild arses, if your window is rolled down they will stick their noses in and take bites out of things inside the vehicle! I swatted one on the nose just in time to keep him from taking a chunk out of my dashboard!

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And we loved Custer, actually camped there. Beautiful! Just watch out for those wild arses, if your window is rolled down they will stick their noses in and take bites out of things inside the vehicle! I swatted one on the nose just in time to keep him from taking a chunk out of my dashboard!

 

That would be the highlight of my girls' trip.  They ride a not so wild donkey at my friend's house.

 

Thinking that maybe we need to cut our time in Montana short by a day and give us a bit more time for SD.  If I just knew the weather for each day for next month it would really help.

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We did this last year and stayed at the cabins mentioned by a PP.  They are a convenient and central spot to stay at visiting that area.  We very much enjoyed Crazy Horse (it happened to be free the day we went; just needed a donation of canned foods) so I don't know how much it costs.  The museum there was great.  We stayed for the laser light show, and I'm not sure if that is an add'l fee, but that was the one thing we weren't impressed with.  Skippable IMO.  We thought Rushmore was worth the visit.  Custer State Park was phenomenal.  We took two days to tour it.  Great hiking, the burros, (they love carrots) Needles Highway; there is just so much to do.  This was also free the day we went :)  Also agree with PP that Wind Cave was a neat side trip, and that Cody is a great place--we spent 3 days there.  If you decide to go there, I can give you more ideas on what to do there. 

 

BTW, not sure of your itinerary, but if you're anywhere near Heart Mountain Internment Camp, that was also something we enjoyed.

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We will be in Cody for 2 days for suggestions for that area are welcome as well.  Same for the Jackson, WY area.

 

I will check out the other places as well.  Too bad we don't have more money and time.

 

Suggestions for places to stay and eat (as well as those to avoid) would be great.  We are on a budget so just need clean and safe, nothing fancy.

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It will be dh and I and the kids---26ds, 18dd and 17dd (all with special needs so their interests are very similar to those of kids 10-12).  We will have the mini van so need a hotel/motel.

 

Has anyone done the Louis and Clark Caverns in Montana near Bozeman?

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We are taking a big family vacation out west in June. I have the first part of the trip planned out quite well-----Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It is the last part of the trip that I am wondering what is worthwhile.

 

We will be in Bozeman Montana area and then headed back east towards Rapid City on 90 and towards Sioux Falls. We will have 2-3 days to get from Bozeman to Des Moines, IA.

 

We have thought about:

Devil's Tower

Custer State park

Mount Rushmore

Badlands scenic drive

Wall Drug

 

Any thoughts on a good route or things to see or aren't really worth the time? I have heard that Mount Rushmore is nice but a quick stop and quite out of the way. My kids would rather see the wild burro and bison in Custer state park over that if we have to make a choice. We are not out to shop, etc. so free/cheap/simple is good.

 

Thanks

Try checking out Wind Cave NP.

 

Look for the Hudson-Meng bison site in Nw Nebr. -- I went to archeology field school there! A couple hours north of that is Hot Springs, SD, where the Mammoth Site is and some great springs and scenery.

 

In SW ND (not far from the MT border) is Theodore Roosevelt NP. I highly recommend visiting the southern portion of it and taking a guided trail ride to see the bison. There's also a great campground there, for both tent and camper camping, and in the summer they have slide shows and talks by the Rangers. Just two words of advice: put your food away in the car during the night, and don't approach the bison. The ranger slide shows are a good way to find out about mishaps that befell tourists who thought bison were tame enough to approach.

 

This park (Theodore Roosevelt NP) is one of the best kept secrets of our NP system. Very inexpensive, rarely crowded, and soooo worth a visit! It's my favorite NP.

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Try checking out Wind Cave NP.

 

Look for the Hudson-Meng bison site in Nw Nebr. -- I went to archeology field school there! A couple hours north of that is Hot Springs, SD, where the Mammoth Site is and some great springs and scenery.

 

In SW ND (not far from the MT border) is Theodore Roosevelt NP. I highly recommend visiting the southern portion of it and taking a guided trail ride to see the bison. There's also a great campground there, for both tent and camper camping, and in the summer they have slide shows and talks by the Rangers. Just two words of advice: put your food away in the car during the night, and don't approach the bison. The ranger slide shows are a good way to find out about mishaps that befell tourists who thought bison were tame enough to approach.

 

This park (Theodore Roosevelt NP) is one of the best kept secrets of our NP system. Very inexpensive, rarely crowded, and soooo worth a visit! It's my favorite NP.

I forgot to mention Mitchell, SD, if anyone heads further east. They have the world's only Corn Palace, an archeology site on the shores of Lake Mitchell where my uncle used to dig up arrow heads with his Boy Scout troop, and the Oscar Howe Art Museum in the old library building (where my Mom and aunt once got locked in when they were kids). Oscar Howe is one of my all-time favorite artists. Mitchell has many other sites, too. We'll worth a visit.

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We will be in Cody for 2 days for suggestions for that area are welcome as well.  Same for the Jackson, WY area.

 

I will check out the other places as well.  Too bad we don't have more money and time.

 

Suggestions for places to stay and eat (as well as those to avoid) would be great.  We are on a budget so just need clean and safe, nothing fancy.

 

In Cody our home base was the Ponderosa Campround; they have cabins.  It was reasonable and clean and they have laundry facilities.  There is a Best Western across the street (called 8th Street at the Ivy) which has a really great restaurant!  We were surprised.  In Cody we liked the Buffalo Bill Dam, the Old West Miniature Village, the Buffalo Bill Museum (actually it's 5 museums and it took us 2 days to go through it) and Old Trail Town.  Beginning sometime in May or early June they have rodeos nightly, but we were too early for that.

 

In Cody, we ate at the 8th Street, as I mentioned before, as well as the Wyoming Chop House, which was pretty good.  They have the world's biggest margarita if that's something you enjoy :)  Also, Adriano's was yummy Italian. 

 

Heart Mountain internment camp is on the way to South Dakota once you leave Cody. 

 

The name of the hotel in Custer is Shady Rest Motel.  The (homeschool) host is named Ann.  She's very nice and helps recommend things for you to do and how to get everywhere, etc.  For restaurants in Custer, the Sage Creek Grill was pretty good and the Purple Pie place was decent for lunch.  Skip the Alpine Inn if you're stopping near Crazy Horse.  Skip Lintz Bros. pizza if you're near Rushmore.  Both were highly recommended to us but we were disappointed. 

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UGGG----too much to do and not enough time.

 

Should I plan one full day in the Black hills area?  Custer state park, the scenic drives, Mount Rushmore, etc?

 

Do we need a full day for the Badlands area or 1/2 day or ???

 

Trying to figure out if I can squeeze another day in by shortening our time in Montana.

 

I want to do/see so much but I have to remember that I have 3 special needs kids, 2 of which can get tired more quickly and 1 of those really needs some DOWN time each day so a full packed day from breakfast to bedtime just isn't going to work.  Time on a playground, just sitting in a swing, listening to her music, taking a walk (not a hike with a destination in mind) ,etc. will really help.

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The name of the hotel in Custer is Shady Rest Motel.  The (homeschool) host is named Ann.  She's very nice and helps recommend things for you to do and how to get everywhere, etc.  For restaurants in Custer, the Sage Creek Grill was pretty good and the Purple Pie place was decent for lunch.  Skip the Alpine Inn if you're stopping near Crazy Horse.  Skip Lintz Bros. pizza if you're near Rushmore.  Both were highly recommended to us but we were disappointed. 

 

THANK YOU.  I just booked a cabin for 1 night.  Sure wish we had more nights to stay.  She was very helpful.

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