The call of the wild echoes loud-and-clear throughout this natural region of western South Dakota. The Black Hills are a gold mine full of family adventures located within an hour from where you live. If you’re thinking that a little staycation might be what the doctor ordered, or if you’re faced with the dilemma of finding something for your family to do for the day, consider the following ideas:
1. Before the kids head back to school take in a few days of the tourism opportunities that are right here. Maybe even go camping in the Hills. Millions of people travel from all over the world to visit the area and see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and all that the Black Hills has to offer. Don’t overlook the awesome opportunity for your own vacation right here.
2. Experience the Stampede! According to officials at Custer State Park, last year’s Buffalo Roundup attracted approximately 14,500 onlookers. Feel the ground shake as 1,300 buffalo stampede the park in late September (see our calendar). There’s no better place than South Dakota for a family experience with Wild West splendor.
3. Get a family-friendly spook in late-October (see our calendar) from the Halloween Night Hike at the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center in Custer State Park. This short, one-mile trail is guided by a professional and lit up by jack-o-lanterns.
4. Go Geocaching! The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks website provides a long list of latitude and longitude coordinates where geocaches can be found buried in the Hills. Grab a GPS and go treasure hunting…or bury some treasure of your own and register it on http://gfp.sd.gov.
5. With 30,000 square feet of water park, arcade, and concessions, your family won’t find more fun in one location than at the Watiki
Indoor Waterpark in Rapid City. You’ll need to bring your own towels, appropriate swimwear, and funds for the arcade, concessions and lockers. Showers are available so bring any necessary toiletries. A swimwear diaper is required for all children that are not potty trained.
6. Hop on the Holiday Express at the Black Hills Central 1880 Train. Experience the magic as you take a journey from Hill City to the “North Pole” where Santa is waiting to get on board the train. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies from Santa’s elves. Each child will get the chance to meet Santa and receive a small Christmas gift. This holiday fun is perfect for the whole family!
7. The Black Hills snowmobile season opens in mid-December, and there are multiple off-road vehicle rental facilities in the area. Rent a double-seat sled and head out into the powder! Children under the age of 14 must ride as passengers, with an adult of course.
8. One plank or two? Skiing, snowboarding, and even snow tubing can quickly become a frequent family activity. The Zero Gravity Tube Park at Mystic Mountain will take your old-fashioned ideas of saucer-style sledding to a whole new level. Your entire family will get a rush from it! Sign up for lessons and rentals if you’ve never hit the slopes before—this is the surest way to get the most out of these much-loved winter sports.
9. Take in a tour of the Museum of Geology. Then grab a copy of Visitor Magazine and head to historic downtown Rapid City for a walking tour of the bronze presidential statues, to shop the boutiques, and view the art galleries. While there, the whole family can check out the new Main Street Square. It’s a beautiful public space that features special events, live concerts, seasonal ice-skating and interactive fountains.
10. Go Spelunking–believe it or not, Jewel Cave tours are offered throughout winter! Let yourself be wowed by the caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites (your guide will explain the difference), while your kids complete the Junior Ranger Program. There is no additional charge and your Junior Rangers will leave with an honorary badge pinned to their chest!
It’s so important to treat your staycation as much like a traditional vacation as possible. It’s a good idea to devote as much of the time to relaxing, having fun, and breaking out of
a rut. For any vacation, staycation or traditional, you have to unplug. Unplug from work, from your chores, from the daily compulsion to get things done.
You’ve got the ideas for some fun—now it’s up to you and your family to provide the sense of adventure!