We stopped at a lot of those touristy places we had all seen as kids. First was the "world's only" Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. The kids really got in to the many billboards advertising the Corn Palace and Wall Drug that we saw along the road.
On our East coast vacation we realized that the kids were often more interested in random things along the trip instead of the main attractions. South Dakota has lots of attractions that rival the most exciting rest stop or park bench. They got to see a building decorated with corn with a man dressed as an ear of corn inside! They got to climb on lots of random statues! And the rest stop we stopped at had a big boat and free coloring books!
Jackalope at Wall Drug!
The 8 of us shared a chalet in Keystone, SD. It was great to have room to relax and eat some of our meals. The chalet had a big deck that was perfect for our early birds to play while everyone else slept until a decent waking-up time. What it did not have was an oven! Frozen pizza on the gas grill tasted great after a day on the road.
The next morning we set off to see Mt. Rushmore. We had checked out a great book from the library ("Who Carved the Mountain?" ) and it really helped the kids understand what we'd see there. Again I was impressed by how interested the kids were in looking at the mountain and watching the video in the museum. M2 really wished he could have visited when they were using the dynamite.
The hiking trails near Mt. Rushmore were closed that morning, so after a drive by the Crazy Horse Memorial we headed to Rapid City to walk around the Dinosaur Park. These dinos were built in the '30s and the kids had a lot of fun checking them all out, climbing, and exploring.
After lunch we went to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. The museum is free and they have many airplanes, rockets, and helicopters on display outside. The older kids enjoyed walking around outside and showed interest in some of the indoor exhibits as well.
M3 was ecstatic about the airplanes outside. She wanted to get down and walk to each one and she pointed excitedly at everything. She made the "want that" sign for a missile! She and I started walking toward our group to enter the museum, but she kept turning around to go back to the planes!
After the museum we headed back to the chalet for a bit and then saddled up for dinner at the Circle B Chuckwagon. We had a great time at the ranch. There were activities for the kids (pistol shooting, goat feeding, pony rides, panning for gold, and more... ) before supper, a shoot-out with the Biscuit Bandit, a "cowboy style" chuckwagon supper on tin plates, and a Western entertainment show after dinner.
The next morning we drove to Jewel Cave. M3 and I stayed above ground, but everyone else went on a 90 minute tour of the cave. They decided that it was interesting, but 90 minutes was about 45 minutes too long. They did enjoy that point in the tour when the guide turned all the lights off.
We had a great time traveling with friends and the kids liked having a friend their age along. On the way home we all had supper together at Al's Oasis. Al's is big restaurant, grocery store, gift store complex that has been around for ages. It was a great atmosphere for relaxing a bit mid-drive and one more chance to have fun all together before our cars split up and our friends headed back to Minnesota.