Day 1: The artsy Adoba Hotel Rapid City boasts newly renovated guest rooms with a Western flair. From there, you’re primed for a downtown experience. Take in the fountains, or join a Downtown Rapid City WalkingTour to learn more about former U.S. presidents in America’s “most patriotic” city. Then head to the Museum of the American Bison. For lunch, grab dollar pints and Cajun food at Sanford’s Grub & Pub. Walk off the calories by checking out the Native American art at Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries. Refresh with an old-fashioned malted in a new-fangled flavor such as Reese’s chip at Armadillo’s Ice Cream Shoppe. After dinner at Murphy’s Pub and Grill, catch a show at the Black Hills Playhouse or Community Theater, or a concert by the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra.
Day 2: Get an early start for a day in the Black Hills—from Mount Rushmore to Deadwood, there’s lots to see and do. Head first to Dakota Thyme for housemade baked goods, sandwiches, and picnic fare. If you opt for an organized itinerary, try an outfitter like Mount Rushmore Tours-—if hiking, biking, caving, or fishing appeal, these can be included in a tour package, as well. Extend your road trip and cross the Wyoming line to visit Devil’s Tower. Triple R Ranch is located within the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, just outside the Black Elk Wilderness Area, and specializes in trail rides. Post-ride, walk the wooden sidewalks of notorious Deadwood. If you’ve got the kids in tow, end your day at Fort Hays Old West Town (aka the “Dances with Wolves” film set) for a chuckwagon dinner and Western-themed musical variety show.
Day 3: After traditional diner fare at Tally’s Silver Spoon, hit the open road for Badlands National Park. Give yourself time to explore the 25-mile Loop Road, which winds through the arid, 37-million-year-old landscape of ghostly spires, buttes, and dry basins. Keep an eye out for bison, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn, and don’t forget to hit Wall Drug on your way back to Rapid City. For dinner, the Wine Cellar offers small plates of European and Mediterranean-inspired fare; cap things off with a microbrew and live music at Firehouse Brewing Co.
*Note that if you take an organized tour, there may be some overlapping regions on the itinerary between the Black Hills and Badlands.