15 Best Things To Do in Rapid City, South Dakota

by Arundhati Bhand Updated on 15 Oct 2018

Rapid City in the western part of South Dakota is located on the eastern slope of the Black Hills. It’s also called “The Gateway” to this mountain range. Base yourself at Rapid City and freely tour the Badlands, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Bear Country and the caverns of the Black Hills. Enjoy its galleries, museums, water and theme parks to the full.

Let's explore Rapid City points of interest and 15 best things to do in Rapid City:

1. Take the Mount Rushmore Tours

These tours are on offer from Fort Hays, a Wild West-themed estate, famous as a cowgirl and cowboy retreat currently. 4 separate tour packages are offered to Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Three of these tours is by coach. Mount Rushmore’s tour also includes a visit to the sets of the famous film Dances with Wolves. Its extended version includes meals and a music show by cowboys. A great option for wildlife lovers is the Buffalo Roundup Tour. History buffs would be delighted by the Train Sightseeing Tour of 1880.

2. Pay your respects to the founding fathers of America

This tourist spot is called America’s Founding Father Exhibit and tells you what the American Declaration of Independence was all about. You will be charmed by a 20-minute show that perfectly blends art with history in the form of a life-size sculpture installation, a painting by renowned artist, John Trumbull. This is all about the 56 patriots of the American Revolution. Additionally, you can hit its musket range and shoot a Kentucky rifle, a weapon used during the war of Independence.

3. Be witness to aeronautical marvels at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum

A must visit for lovers of aviation and aeronautics. You walk through the history of American aviation at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. This showcases thirty classic military aircraft from the Great War as also numerous missiles. See B-1B Lancer aircraft and the H-13 Sioux helicopters on display. Learn about the pioneers of American aviation and how they impacted American history. Guided tours are available for free. Rest assured you’ll want to visit again.

4. Study rocks at the Museum of Geology

A great place for geology enthusiasts, the Museum of Geology also exhibits paleontological and mineralogical specimens. You will be amazed at the vast collection of skeletons of fish, mammals, dinosaurs and marine reptiles as also rare fossils from the Badlands of the White River on display. Mineralogical displays include meteorites and the Hall of South Dakota Minerals. The museum’s fluorescent minerals room will also charm you and the kids who get to have some hands-on experience with minerals. You can even pick up some unique items, toys and books at the museum’s gift shop. Guided tours available also.

5. Visit Crazy Horse Memorial

Located on the tallest pegmatite granite mountain of the Black Hills, the Crazy Horse Memorial is an astounding creation because of its gigantic size. In fact, it’s the world’s largest sculpture and was done by Korczak Ziolkowski. The Memorial also has the Nature Gates, a Welcome Center, Ziolkowski’s home-studio, the Indian Museum of North America as also the Educational & Culture Center for Native Americans. Enjoy dance performances by local dancers or have a bite at its restaurant.

6. Say hello to the creepy crawlies at Reptile Gardens

Operational since 1937, Reptile Gardens is the world’s largest zoo, particularly for reptiles. This houses an amazing range of all types of reptiles and its pristine lawns, lush vegetation, colorful flora, ornamental trees and tropical plants, are truly a sight to behold. Look at the vast array of venomous snakes, exhibits on the bald eagle, prairie dogs and some giant tortoises. There are also some interesting live shows with snakes, birds and alligators, which would surely thrill the kids. Visit its ghost town, Bewitched and Jungle Outpost Gallery that showcases tribal crafts from all over the world. Truly an unforgettable experience!

7. Take the Black Hills Outdoor Fun Trip

Black Hills Outdoor Fun takes you on a 4-hour, ATV guided tour of the most famous trails of the Black Hills. Be prepared for some spectacular sights and don’t forget to carry your camera to take some memorable snapshots. Hike on well-maintained trails, particularly the Deerfield Trail that features stunning scenic beauty and some old homesteads.

8. See Rapid City by bus: Take a DubBus Tour

DubBus Tours are known by their lime green buses and offers numerous tours of the Badlands and the Black Hills. These VW Beetle limousines take you to Spearfish Canyon in the northern Black Hills, parts of the southern Black Hills, Badlands, Deadwood and Custer State Park. Those seeking to basically chill out should surely try DubBus’ most preferred tour, the Hill City Wine and Brew Tour. It starts at Prairie Berry, the oldest winery of South Dakota and includes four other spots as well. Guests also have the option of customizing their own tours.

9. Enjoy the euphony of the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra

This orchestra was started sometime in the Thirties and included only string players initially. Today it has over ninety musicians who are committed to providing some of the finest orchestral performances and education on symphonic music to the Black Hills population. The orchestra performs regularly at Rapid City’s Performing Arts Center. You’ll be enchanted by its rendition of the Mount Rushmore Celebration and The Nutcracker Suite, to name  few.

10. Let the children have a ball at the Storybook Island

Storybook Island is a free theme park for children and was started in 1959. One of Rapid City’s cultural icons, the park has on display statues of characters from nursery rhymes, fables and other children’s stories which simply delight them. Its Children’s Theatre also hosts delightful theatrical productions during the season. Take the kids to see  The Great Magic Show and Duane Laflin. Chances are they’ll be asking for more.

11. Walk on the wild side at Bear Country

Bear Country is 200 acres of forest comprising rolling meadows and gigantic pines and is located at  Rapid City’s south. You get to see some truly great North American mammals like wolves, black bears, reindeer, bobcats, cougars and elk. Head to the Wildlife Walk area for chats with animal keepers and watch live demonstrations. As you drive through the forest, you could also see some animals walking over to your vehicle to take a peep.

12. Indulge in some culture at the Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries

If you’re a native American art aficionado, the Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries is just the place for you. Its Fine Arts Gallery displays some beautiful art pieces, including some ledger drawings by Donald Montileaux, a Lakota artist. You will also marvel at the collection of Insect Art by Christopher Marley and Allen and Patty Eckman’s paper sculptures. Book lovers will simply love its bookstore with its impressive collection of the literature of Native Americans as also their music.

13. Relax in the evenings at Downtown Rapid City

Spend your evenings at Downtown Rapid City, famous for its eight art galleries, theaters and museums. The gallery Reflections of South Dakota displays local fine arts talent including pottery, candles and jewelry. There are three museums and visitors will particularly enjoy the Journey Museum & Learning Center. This offers them a trek from the geological upheaval that led to the formation of the Black Hills to the Western Frontier.

14. Revisit prehistory at the Dinosaur Park

Built in 1936, Dinosaur Park is on a hill top and offers a grand view of the city. It has 7 dinosaur replicas and includes an apatosaurus, triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Edmontosaurus annectens, stegosaurus, dimetrodon and protoceratops. Each sculpture comes with its own educational information and were created on the information revealed by fossils found in the Western United States and South Dakota. No entry fees and simply the place for children to have a blast.

15. Explore the Black Hills Culture at The Journey Museum & Learning Center

The Journey Museum & Learning Center preserves, educates and explores the cultures, heritage and environment of the Black Hills area. It has 4 historic and prehistoric collections, each contributing to the history of the Western Great Plains. Interactive session is also there at the Center’s Wells Fargo Theater, Learning Lab and Paleontology Tent. A must visit for history buffs.

Author: Arundhati Bhand
An animal lover at heart, marketer by education and artist by passion, Arundhati aims to seek out to all that satisfies her diverse interests. She believes that it is only through experiences that one learns, and a traveller of sorts, she strives to ...

Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Rapid City

Check out the list of top tourist attractions in Rapid City! These are some inspiring things to do in Rapid City to create a wish list of your dream destinations.

  1. # 1 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 839 times in trip plans
    Bear Country USA

    Tags: Park

    Address: 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 07:30 am - 07:00 pm Details

    Easily Rapid City’s biggest and most popular attraction, the Bear Country USA is a 200 acre park that allows visitors to take a drive and observe animals like black bears, reindeers, cougars, bo...Read more

  2. # 2 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 780 times in trip plans
    Reptile Gardens

    Tags: Wildlife Park, Zoo

    Address: 8955 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    This unique zoo cum wild Animal Park is definitely a treat for wildlife enthusiasts. It plays home to a wide variety of reptiles and unique plants that aren’t seen just everywhere. In fact the R...Read more

  3. # 3 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 1007 times in trip plans
    Downtown Rapid City

    Tags: Pubs, Restaurant, Neighborhoods

    Address: 512 Main St #980, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    Probably the most popular and most busy area of Rapid City, Downtown is the place to head to if one wants to shop, eat or just spend the night partying away. Downtown Rapid City has an astounding numb...Read more

  4. # 4 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 577 times in trip plans
    Dinosaur Park

    Tags: Park

    Address: 940 Skyline Dr, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 08:00 pm Details

    The Dinosaur Park is a very popular destination and possibly the top most priority in the checklist of every tiny-tot who come to Rapid City with their parents. There are several life-like dinosaur fi...Read more

  5. # 5 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 332 times in trip plans
    South Dakota Air And Space Museum

    Tags: Museum, Specialty Museum

    Address: 2890 Davis Dr, Ellsworth AFB, SD 57706, United States

    Timings: 08:30 am - 04:30 pm Details

    The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is a part of the National Museum of the US Air Force. It is located just a short drive away from Rapid City and the motive behind its foundation was to educate an...Read more

  6. # 6 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 239 times in trip plans
    WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort

    Tags: Amusement Park, Water Park

    Address: 1314 N Elk Vale Rd, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 09:00 pm Details

    The Watiki Indoor Waterpark is one of the most popular water based amusement parks in the whole of South Dakota, courtesy its numerous attractions like the Koko’s Kingdom, Activity Pool, Lazy ri...Read more

  7. # 7 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 300 times in trip plans
    The Journey Museum And Learning Center

    Tags: Museum, Specialty Museum

    Address: 222 New York St, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Journey Museum and Learning Center is quaint and spacious museum in Rapid City with over seven acres of garden area. It aims at telling the history of the Black Hills, beginning from the Native Am...Read more

  8. # 8 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 166 times in trip plans
    Berlin Wall

    Tags: Historical Site

    Address: 100-, 206 N 8th St, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    Though unexpected, the Berlin Wall exhibit is a very important attraction in Rapid City as it is associated with a very significant piece of world history. Two sections of the ‘Berlin Wall&rsquo...Read more

  9. # 9 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 382 times in trip plans
    America's Founding Fathers Exhibit

    Address: 9815 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    This exhibit aims at educating the masses about the very birth of the American democracy. You can see and hear the story about how the United States of America came into formation with the signing of ...Read more

  10. # 10 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 318 times in trip plans
    Black Hills Caverns

    Tags: Cave

    Address: 2600 Cavern Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    The Black Hill Caverns were discovered in 1882 by curious gold seekers but the actual credit of the discovery actually goes out to the Lakota Indians who were well versed in the power of the calcite c...Read more

  11. # 11 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 457 times in trip plans
    Thunderhead Falls

    Tags: Outdoors, Waterfall, Nature

    Address: 10940 SD-44, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 08:00 pm Details

    Unlike other waterfalls, the Thunderhead Falls are unique because six hundred feet within the mountain, the 30 foot long fall gushes out from the wall and then again flows into the passage through the...Read more

  12. # 12 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 109 times in trip plans
    Dinosaur Museum

    Tags: Museum, Specialty Museum

    Address: 8973 S Highway 16, Rapid City, South Dakota 57702

    Timings: 09:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    The Dinosaur Museum Rapid City - world's largest collection of prehisotric animal sculptures, located at  Hwy 16 next door to the Reptile Gardens. Rapid city dinosaur museum makes up fo...Read more

  13. # 13 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 465 times in trip plans
    Dahl Arts Center

    Tags: Art Gallery, Arts And Crafts

    Address: 713 7th St, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States

    Timings: 10:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    Ever since it opened back in 1974, the Dahl Arts Center has been a shining beacon for artists all over the South Dakota region in the fields of contemporary visual arts, performing arts and arts educa...Read more

  14. # 14 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 494 times in trip plans
    Motion Unlimited Antique

    Tags: Museum, Specialty Museum

    Address: 6180 SD-79, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 09:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    This one of a kind museum in Rapid City is entirely dedicated to antique cars and bikes. It can probably be termed as a paradise of sorts for motor aficionados with its huge list of restored vehicles....Read more

  15. # 15 of 435 Things To Do in Rapid City | Added 202 times in trip plans
    Fish Hatchery

    Tags: Leisure

    Address: 4725 Jackson Blvd, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States

    Timings: 09:30 am - 02:30 pm Details

    The Cleghorn Springs Hatchery is the institution that is responsible for providing trout and salmon for stocking all through the area of South Dakota. As these two species are not native to the area, ...Read more

Activities And Tours

Explore these activities and tours for awesome experiences in Rapid City: