Sure, Rapid City is the gateway to Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and the Badlands, but go on. Lift the tourist veil. Get off I-90 and live a little. It’s only then that you’ll find a Midwestern city ready to defy your expectations, with music festivals, some serious elevation, and even a few European touches.
The city, it turns out, is the heartbeat of these hills. Here are 10 facts that will definitely surprise you — even if you’ve already pinched Washington’s face between your fingers.
1. You can touch a piece of the Berlin Wall.
No, you haven’t been redirected to a different article — there’s a
While at Memorial Park, take your time. Reflect. Walk and observe the displays, the WWII tank traps, the Veterans Memorial, Flood Memorial Fountain, and Memorial Lake. All of these elements are connected by picnic areas and pathways, and all have their own story.
2. Downtown is the top.
While plenty of South Dakota is forever flat,
And looking over it all is
If you’ve never been to South Dakota, prepare to be blown away by what you see from the vantage point of Dinosaur Park. This region will forever undo any images you have of the prairie — think fields of sunflowers, granite spires, some of the world’s longest cave passages, and Martian-esque badlands (all within driving distance of the city locals refer to simply as “Rapid”).
3. Between the art galleries lies…just about everything.
There are several cool art galleries in Downtown Rapid. Don’t miss the
And hiding among all this class?
4. You can go on a scavenger hunt for all the Presidents.
You know the four granite faces carved in nearby
Bonus points if you can spot the seven presidents with hats.
5. In spring, we go back to the wilderness…
After spending the
But that’s just as well, because on April 21, most of the “national everythings” are free (which is great, since Rapid City is super close to four of the state’s most important and beautiful national parks, monuments, and memorials). And come May 18-20, South Dakota’s state parks have their Open House Weekend. Get that sunscreen ready!
6. …and summer and fall are just as wild.
Both seasons are prime for getting outdoors — start off easy with a cruise down
Then it’s time to get out of the area. Go
7. The city hosts a huge powwow.
Celebrating its 32nd year in 2018, the annual Black Hills PowWow — or, rather, the He Sapa Wacipi Na Oskate — is one of the premier American Indian events in the U.S. Hosted at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center every October, the gathering sees hundreds of dancers and singers from around North America, along with thousands of onlookers and other participants. Over the course of three days, the city lights up with American Indian tradition — and modern events, too. There’s the He Sapa Win pageant, a parade, fine arts shows, dances, archery, hand-game tournaments, and the chance to win $33,000 in prizes in a singing contest. (Hey, can’t win if you don’t play.)
But celebrating the area’s history requires more than just a three-day event. Make sure to check out Prairie Edge Trading Co & Galleries for American Indian wares and
8. There’s a true British pub in South Dakota.
Get your bad British accent ready. At the
There are plenty of local craft beer options, too — try the Firehouse Red from Firehouse Brewing Co., based right here in Rapid, or the Canyon Cream Ale from Crow Peak Brewing, out of Spearfish.
9. The local summer music festival is free.
The words “free” and “music festival” will get most people’s attention, and here in Downtown Rapid, that’s been the case for decades. For more than 30 years, the Hills Alive Summer Music Festival has been held in Memorial Park each July. Bring sunscreen, bring your friends, bring a blanket, and bring your appetite — there are tons of vendors, too.
As a family-friendly festival, there’s plenty to do for the little ones, including a bouncy-house village and a children’s tent. Lots of people come out for the three-day event, with around 20,000 showing up each day in previous years.
10. Downtown Rapid is your portal to everything good in South Dakota.
Blocks of art. Dinosaurs. European and Native American history. Beer, beer, beer. Live music. Rooftop bars. And that’s just what’s inside Downtown Rapid.
Then there’s Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument…when it comes to awesome day trips out of Rapid City, there’s almost too many options. Which will you choose?