Breaking up the Winter Monotony

Winter months allow locals to reclaim the hills and enjoy their splendor in a light many never get to see. The smaller crowds have an added bonus this year, as we all seek ways to break our cabin fever. Here are a few family-friendly ideas and itineraries to break out of the monotony and have some fun! 

Hot Springs

Evans Plunge has been a favorite for generations, and although only the pool and fitness rooms are open this year, it still offers a welcome respite for all ages. Dry off and head downtown to grab lunch or fuel up on coffee and take in beautiful views of the southern hills. Finally, visit the Mammoth Site, where their self-guided tour app lets you experience all the site has to offer while maintaining a safe social distance.


Custer State Park turns into a wonderland with a coat of snow. Don’t miss the Sylvan Lake Shore Trail—just be careful on icy rocks! From December 11th until New Year’s Day, check out the visitor’s center for festive trees decorated by local organizations and vote for your favorite. After the park, head into town for lunch, where you’ll find local favorites without the usual wait in line. Plan your trip for the weekend of January 18th and catch the Burning Beetle—a fun local tradition that includes a bonfire and fireworks!

Rapid City

Head over to Main Street Square’s ice skating rink, both a winter favorite and social distancing approved activity. Rent a pair of skates and hit the ice, or watch from a distance with a warm beverage. For some indoor fun, visit the Dahl Arts Center for fun classes and free exhibits. Finish your day at one of the many family-friendly restaurants downtown, whose variety will satisfy the picky eaters while still entertaining the most daring of taste buds. 


Few winter wonderlands can compare to Spearfish Canyon after a snowfall. Start your day out by renting snowshoes or a snowmobile at Cheyenne Crossing and trek up the path to see Roughlock Falls, then come back down to the lodge for lunch. Continue up the canyon into Lead, and check out the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, with free exhibits and an awe-inspiring view of the old mine.

Hit the Road

Prefer a day trip from the warmth of your car? Fill your travel mug with cocoa and hit the road for some incredible views: 

  • Custer State Park: drive the wildlife loop looking for bison. Bonus: they love road salt, and have a tendency to lick it off cars.
  • Iron Mountain Road: start from Custer State Park to see the famous view of Mount Rushmore framed in a rock tunnel—just be sure to check if the road is open before going.
  • Badlands National Park: claim the park for yourself without the usual crowds, which might mean a better chance at seeing wildlife and uninterrupted views at lookouts.
  • Rapid City Tour de Lights: love holiday light displays but don’t know where the best ones are? Download this Google map layer for a self-guided tour of houses decorated for the season starting December 1st.