Wall Drug Store

Location: Wall, SD – It’s probably not possible to miss this place.  The signs started several hundred miles away
Price: Admission – Free, Ice Water – Free
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, several

This is probably closer to a tourist trap than a weird roadside attraction.  It’s really a collection of random shops, a restaurant and some random other items.   There was some parking on the street but it was fairly full so we parked in a lot about a block down the street.

Wall Drug itself is part of a larger street of stores and restaurants.  Wall Drug takes up about half of one whole side of the street (several blocks) by itself so be prepared to do some walking.  Inside Wall Drug was very crowded so I would not suggest trying to bring a stroller inside.  There are maps available, I would suggest picking one up.

We had fun looking through several shops (although we found better priced t-shirts at a different shop down the street) and looking at the various artwork on display.  The kids had a lot of fun taking pictures with the various statues.  Outside in the courtyard, there was a giant jackalope statue that kids can climb up on along with several other large statues.  There was also a splash pad if you are inclined to let the kids get wet.  The other side of the courtyard in the back building (I told you this place was big) there was an animatronics T-Rex that goes off every 15 minutes or so.  He is kinda loud so little ones may be frightened by him.

We did choose to eat in the restaurant.  I’ve seen several bad reviews of the food.  I wouldn’t say it was bad.  It was about what you would expect from a fast food style restaurant (better burgers than McDonald’s but not as good as a sit down restaurant).  There was plenty of seating which was great.  My daughter did get one of their “famous” donuts for desert.  The donut was very good.  They are made fresh on site every day.  So even if you opt to get dinner elsewhere stop in and share a sweet treat.

How long you spend here really depends on how much shopping you care to do.  We spent about an hour and half here (including eating dinner) and saw all the major “attractions.”  Wall is about an hour East of Rapid City and about 10 minutes outside of the West entrance for Badlands National Park so Wall Drug could easily be incorporated as a side stop.

Overall impression: It was fun seeing once

Miss A and the fresh donut
Miss A and Miss E with the T-Rex

Corn Palace

Location: 604 N Main St
Mitchell, SD  57301
Price: FREE
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes – It was located in the gift shop when we were there.

I am a big fan of random and weird roadside attractions (seriously put up a sign about a giant ball of twine and I’ll make that detour).  The Corn Palace fits that description accurately.  Mitchell is about an hour West of Sioux Falls and about four hours East of Rapid City.  We had spent the morning exploring the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, SD so this made a good place to grab a quick lunch before heading on to Rapid City for the evening.

There isn’t food available at Corn Palace (I believe there was a snack bar but I’m not even sure if it was open).  There were plenty of options in Mitchell especially along the interstate.  We just grabbed some fast food because seating a party of 15 is serious business.  The Corn Palace is just a little ways off the interstate probably about 10 minutes depending on how unlucky you are with traffic lights.  There was a small parking lot adjacent to the building or one across the street.

I’m not sure what Corn Palace is normally used for but it was kinda set up like a concert hall.  On the first floor there were bathrooms (big bathrooms, fairly clean for the number of people there).  The second floor had access to the balcony, a hands on educational room about corn, pictures of the past murals and a gift shop.

The kids had a good time on the hands on exhibits.  The played on pedal tractors, directed a remote control “tractor” and other various corn related activities.  There was a lot of information.  I learned something about corn and that’s amazing because I grew up surrounded by corn.  Naturally the kids had to check out the gift shop which was fairly large and was priced as one would expect.

Outside there is a photo-op with the statue of the Corn Palace’s mascot, Cornelius the Corncob and you can check out the Corn Palace’s mural.  The mural is what the Corn Palace is most known for.  Each year they make a new set of murals on the outside of the building made completely out of grains.  It was fairly neat to see a giant drawing of Willie Nelson done entirely out of corncobs and wheat.

Between the activities, a bathroom stop and taking a few pictures of the mural the whole stop will take you 30-60 minutes depending on how much you really want to learn about corn.

Overall impression: it was worth seeing once

A side note here.  The lady working the gift shop register at the Corn Palace mentioned that since we were headed to Rapid City there was a nice rest area just East of Chamberlain, SD.  What she should have said was: There is this really awesome rest area just before Chamberlain, SD.  It has a huge statue in honor of our local Native Americans and amazing overlook of the Missouri River.  Because that isn’t what she said the car I was in missed this awesome stop.  Luckily we were the first car and a few miles ahead of the other two so they all knew to pull over and check it out.  If you have a few spare moments, I’d highly suggest it.

The kids with Cornelius

Laura Ingalls Homestead

Location: 20812 Homstead Rd
DeSmet, SD  57231
Price: $12 per person 5 and older
Smashed Penny Machine: No

I was a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie books growing up.  I won’t lie when I saw how “close” our South Dakota trip was going to take us to my childhood dream; I just HAD to go.  Parts of our group were not real happy with the 3+ hour detour when I originally suggested it but by the end everyone in our group had a lot of fun.

We had spent the night in Sioux Falls.  The homestead was about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Sioux Falls.  The homestead is a little outside of the town of DeSmet on a gravel road.  There is good signage directing you there and the GPS found it with no problem.  There are accommodations on the property and I really wish we could have stayed the night, but you have to bring your own linens.  Sadly, we didn’t have the room since this was only one night of a nine-day vacation with fifteen people.

We arrived about 9:30 in the morning, so the weather was still mild even for mid-July.  But it was hot by the time we left around noon.  So pack some water bottles and wear sunscreen there isn’t a lot of shade.  There were several other families walking around but the farm is so spaced out that it never really felt busy.  Although by the time we got back to the car I was surprised to see the parking lot was nearly full.

Since we had two babies on this trip we took our folding umbrella style stroller.  The path around the grounds isn’t paved but the ground was firm enough that we could push the stroller without too much difficulty.  However unless you have really little ones like we did I wouldn’t bother with a stroller.  The tour didn’t require that much walking (probably about a mile or so total) and toddlers and bigger kids are going to want to run around and touch everything.

It’s hard to say what the kids enjoyed the most.  The two middle kids (4 and 6) loved hand-washing clothes (why can’t I get this level of help at home), playing with the working pump well and driving the pony cart.  The little ones were excited with anything to do with animals.  The 10-year-old fell in love with the kittens at the stables.  The thirteen year old seemed unimpressed with everything (isn’t that standard for teenagers) but since he didn’t complain about being hungry until we had been there well over two hours I know he was having fun.

The adults all agreed that the staff was the best part about the place.  Everyone was super friendly and extremely knowledgeable.  Everyone that we spoke to KNEW the books and they knew tons about prairie life in general.  My personal favorite part about the stop was the trip to the one room school-house.  Each kid was allowed to drive the horse-drawn covered wagon.  The school teacher did a small lesson engaging each of our age groups just like a real one room school-house would have worked.

The gift shop (also where you pay admission, bathrooms are located and there is a small educational film about the family) had a nice assortment of Ingalls themed items, prairie themed items, books (both from the series and the time period in general) and period style clothing.  The girls each enjoyed picking out their own prairie bonnet.  Another great perk of the stop was there were several opportunities for the kids to make their own souvenir toys like Laura and her sisters would have played with.  Our kids each made a button game, corn cob doll and jump rope.  Each of these were free to make and keep (the line to make the jump rope did get a little long at times because they can only make one at a time).

We spent about 2.5 hours here.  We probably could have spent a little more time as they had a special speaker that was going to tell true tales from people who had lived in the area during the same time as the Ingalls.  We skipped that as the kids were ready for lunch and we had to make it to Rapid City that evening.  There were picnic tables available by the gift shop so you could pack a lunch.  The town of DeSmet also has a few other Ingalls and prairie based attractions so if you were vacationing in the Sioux Falls area you could make an easy day trip out of the area.

Overall impression: We had a great time.  I would highly recommend.

Miss A pumping water
Miss A washing clothes
Miss A and her corn cob doll
Miss A driving the covered wagon
Miss A at the one room school-house

 

South Dakota and Rocky Mountains Trip – July 2017

Every few years our family holds a big family reunion in Estes Park, CO.  When we go to the same location multiple times, we try to find new routes or activities along the way.  This time we decided to go to Colorado via South Dakota.  There is a lot to do in South Dakota.  In fact you could easily make a whole vacation out of just this state.  We had a very large travel group this time.  Our total group was 15 people: my grandparents and great-aunt (ages 75-80), my parents (ages 58), my family (33, 31, 6, 8 months), my sister’s family (29, 27, 4, 1.5) and two cousins (10, 13).  Below is our overall trip and I’ll do separate posts for each stop.

Day 1: Travel from Evansville, IN to Sioux Fall, SD

Day 2: Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, SD;  Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD;  Wall Drug in Wall, SD;  Hotel in Rapid City, SD

Day 3: Badlands National Park; Mount Rushmore National MemorialDinosaur Park in Rapid City, SD; Hotel in Rapid City, SD

Day 4: Devil’s Tower, WY; Storybook Island in Rapid City, SD; Downtown Rapid City; Hotel in Rapid City, SD

Day 5: Travel from Rapid City, SD to Estes Park, CO; Afternoon/Evening activities family time

Day 6: Group A – White Water Rafting; Group B – Estes Park Aerial Tramway;   Afternoon/Evening activities family time

Day 7: Rocky Mountain National Park; Afternoon in Estes Park

Day 8: Travel Estes Park to Lincoln, NE

Day 9: Travel Lincoln, NE to Evansville, IN

A couple of things to note:

  1. You’ll notice on this trip our evening activities once we reached Estes Park mostly revolve around hanging out with family (it’s a family reunion that’s kinda the point right?). However, if you are not meeting up with extended family there are a lot of really neat things to do in the Estes Park area check out their website https://www.visitestespark.com/ for lots of cool info.