Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Estes Park, CO
Price: $20/car
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, we found one at the Alpine Visitor’s Center

Rocky Mountain National Park is a big park.  We only had one day here so we decided to hit one of the coolest highlights: Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road is a 48 mile scenic drive that runs from Estes Park to Grand Lake and takes you to a height of over 12,000 feet in elevation.  The road takes you from alpine forest through alpine tundra and crosses the Continental Divide.

I highly suggest you arrive at the park early if this is on your to do list.  We arrived at the park about 9:00 in the morning and there were already a few cars out ahead of us on the road but it wasn’t crowded.  We stopped at the first few pull outs with plenty of parking and only one or two other visitors looking around.  We took our time to explore and take in the lower regions and watched squirrels, pikas and chipmunks running about the rocks.  The day had been fairly overcast at the lower elevations.  As we climbed higher and got above the cloud cover the kids were amazed that it was sunny above us and we could stare over a sea of white fluffy clouds.

By mid-morning as we were approaching the tundra pullouts, parking was becoming much more of a problem and the overlooks were much more crowded.   We enjoyed seeing the fat marmots sunning themselves on tundra rocks and were very lucky to see a large herd of elk including several calves resting on the side of the road.

We stopped at the Rock Cut pullout and hiked the Tundra World Nature Trail.  The trail is paved but not a very even pavement.  The trail is also fairly steep.  We did managed to push the stroller up the path but we were fairly winded when we got to the top.  This is a fairly short hike and as long as you take your time (remember you probably aren’t used to working out at this altitude) your kids can easily do this hike.  There are also great little markers that line the path that talk about tundra life and how the plants and animals adapt to this harsh climate.  Also at this point it’s probably a good 20 degrees cooler than it was back in Estes Park (and very windy) even in the height of summer I would suggest bringing a light jacket to wear.  It took us probably 30-45 minutes to climb to the peak of the trail and then go back down to the car.  We were there in July during the height of tourist season, so the trail was fairly crowded (not Disneyworld crowded but still there were a fair amount of people walking the trail); I’m sure that this trail takes on a whole new life when the park is less crowded (remember in the road does close in the winter so check with the park service before your trip).  The big plus of doing this drive during the summer was the wild flowers were in full bloom so take time to really stop and see the details of the tundra.  Also a friendly reminder the tundra is a VERY delicate ecosystem, please stay on the trail.

We reached Alpine Visitor’s Center around 11:30 and by this time the road was PACKED. Parking at the Visitor’s Center was very crowded.  The Visitor’s Center has a nice museum in it and a gift shop with a small snack bar.  There is a short trail at the Visitor’s Center that will take you to the top of the mountain.  Although Alpine Ridge Trail is fairly short, it is not an easy hike.  The hike was pretty much just a giant staircase.   If you decide to take the hike, give yourself plenty of time and rest when you need to.  I felt myself getting a little dizzy a couple of times hiking to the top.  The view from the top was amazing and be sure to get a picture next to the elevation marker.

After getting some souvenirs, we headed back down Trail Ridge Road.  Rocky Mountain National Park was a little unique to us because not all ranger stations will do the JR Ranger oath.  We had to go to the JR Ranger Headquarters at the Hidden Valley Ranger Station and participate in a Ranger Led Program.  Hidden Valley looked amazing and while the older kids were attending their ranger program, I walked with the babies around the picnic area and mountain stream that crossed the area.  After completing the short program and receiving their badges, we decided it was time to eat and headed back to Estes Park for a late lunch.

Overall impression: A half day in the park gave us a great overview of the mountains.  We are due back to Estes Park in a few years for another family reunion and are already planning on visiting a different part of the park.  This is a must do if you are in the area!

Miss A being a Ranger
Miss A in the tundra
Mr H and Miss L just above the alpine forest

Estes Park, CO

We spent several days in the general Estes Park area.  We spent a couple of days exploring town and the YMCA of the Rockies (where we stayed) and one day exploring parts of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Our first day in town the group split.  Some of our group went white water rafting.  There are several outfitters that do day and half day trips from Estes Park.  Our group went with Rapid Transit Rafting.  We had rafted with them before and had a good experience.  There really isn’t anywhere in Estes Park to raft.  So it’s about an hour drive to the river.   How good the rapids are is going to depend on a lot of factors like what time of year you are there and snow pack for the year.  Our group said they had a great time and that the river was running fairly fast but nothing too scary.

The other part of our group (the one’s that say rafting is for the young folk and the one’s watching the kids) explored the Estes Park Tramway.  This is located just a little ways outside of town.  I would get to the tramway station a little early in the morning if you don’t want to wait in a long line.   We were there about 20 minutes after opening (thanks to a wrong turn) and the line wasn’t too long.  I think we waited for about four cars to go up the mountain before we boarded.  They do really pack people into the cars so keep that in mind.  You can bring strollers but I would suggest folding it up and holding baby for the ride to the top.

The tramway does have a fee.  Adults were $14 and kids 6-11 were $10.  It’s about a ten minute ride to the top of the mountain.  Once there you can take in the views and there are some hiking trails.  We saw a lot of very fat chipmunks (or maybe some type of ground squirrels).  The lady working the gift shop mentioned they had a sighting of a bear just before busy season.  The kids had a good time climbing over the rocks and checking out how small the town looked down below.  There was a gift shop with a small snack bar (there is another gift shop at the base where you buy your tickets), and they did have a smashed penny machine.  We spent about an hour looking around the top.  We were able to get on the very next car going down the mountain (if two cars are running there is normally only about 5 minutes between cars depending on how fast they are able to load and unload).  Overall I think the tickets are a little pricey for what there is to do at the top.  It was a fun experience but I’m not sure I’d do it again.

Since our rafting group only did a half day trip, we met back up with them a little after noon and ate lunch.  We then had a lot of fun shopping down the main stretch of town.  There are lots of great little stores to explore.  The Christmas shop was my favorite but I think the kids enjoyed the ice cream shop and candy store more.  Parking can be a bit of a problem during the summer.  Check out Estes Park’s website for a listing of parking lots (https://www.visitestespark.com/).

We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies in one of their large family cabins and we spent some time each day exploring the grounds.  They have a lot of options some of which are included in your room rate (giant connect four anyone?) and other activities for a fee.  Several of my cousins took an archery class and they said they had a lot of fun.  We did some hiking around the grounds and saw a few deer.  The kids also enjoyed some downtime just playing on the swing sets.

Overall impression: Estes Park has a lot to offer.  It could easily be a weeklong destination.  It is a very busy town in the summer.  Locals I talked to said that if you visit in off-season it’s a completely different and much more relaxed experience.

MIss A and Miss E in the tram
Miss A, Miss E and Mr G playing on the rocks at the top of the mountain

Downtown Rapid City

Location: Rapid City, SD
Price: FREE
Smashed Penny Machine: Not that we found

We finished off our time in Rapid City by exploring downtown.  The downtown area has a nice collection of local shops and restaurants.  There are city parking lots you can use.  Fees to park depend on the time of day that you come to downtown.  Check out Rapid City’s travel website for more details on parking (https://www.visitrapidcity.com/things-to-do/downtown).

Downtown Rapid City has a fun collection of life-sized statues of all of our past presidents on the street corners.  Stop by the visitor’s center at 512 Main Street for a walking guide (or download from the website before you go).  My older daughter is fascinated with President Lincoln so we went on a quest to find his statue (get the map, downtown is bigger than you think).  But we enjoyed seeing all the presidents along the way.  We made a game out of trying to guess the president before looking up who it was (yes I’m aware of how big of nerds we are J ).  It was fun but educational as well (parenting win!).

We dined at Firehouse Brewing Company which is housed in a converted fire station.  We were seated on a covered outdoor patio and despite it being mid-July it was a comfortable experience.  Firehouse has its own microbrewery.  I am not a beer drinker but the members of our group that sampled the various beer flights only had positive things to say about it.  Food was very good and moderately priced.

After dinner we decided to explore Main Street square.  This small park surrounded by boutique shops was a great way to unwind in the evening.  The weather had cooled off as the sun went down but it was still warm enough for the kids to play in the splash fountain.  There wasn’t any live music the night we were there but they did have music playing throughout the square.  On a Wednesday evening it wasn’t extremely busy but there were several groups of people playing around.

Overall impression: I think downtown has a lot to offer to everyone in your group.  If you enjoy shopping this is a great place to visit.  It was a very relaxing spot and the perfect ending to this stage of our trip.

Storybook Island

Location: 1301 Sheridan Lake Rd
Rapid City, SD  57702
Price: FREE
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes

If you have young kids and are in Rapid City then you really need to stop at Story Book Island.  This city park is full of statues and play structures featuring all of your childhood favorite characters.  The younger four kids in our group were enthralled by the park.

The park has a nice paved walking path that will take you past all of the play structures.  The kids had a blast walking the yellow brick road with Dorothy, steering Captain Hook’s ship, tumbling down the hill with Jack and Jill and riding on Aladdin’s magic carpet.  Some of the characters like Yogi Bear they had no clue who they were but it’s still fun to climb into a giant picnic basket.  The entire park was fenced which was nice when chasing multiple kids from one climbing structure to the next.  There was even an area that had slides and swings dedicated to kids under five.  We were there on a Tuesday afternoon so it wasn’t very crowded.

In addition to the statues, the park also had a carousel and a train ride for an additional cost.  Our kids did ride the train and it was around $2 a kid.  There was also a small snack bar and a gift shop.

Overall impression: If you have little kids it is a must do.  Older kids I’d probably skip it.  The 13-year-old was fairly bored long before the others were ready to leave.  We spent about an hour and half here.  We were able to play on all the different characters, but the kids could have played a lot longer if we had let them (it was starting to rain so we opted to leave).

Devil’s Tower National Monument

Location: Devil’s Tower, WY
Price: $15/car
Smashed Penny Machine: Not in the park but we did find one in a small gift shop across from the campground just outside the park

Devil’s Tower is about a two-hour drive from Rapid City making this another easy day or half day trip if you are using Rapid City as a main hub.  We arrived at the park about 10:00 and the main gate wasn’t too busy.  When we got to the other side of the park to the visitors center (there is only one road through the park) the parking lots were PACKED.  I highly suggest getting to the park very early or plan on coming much later in the day.

We then waited about 30 minutes to use the restroom. The bathroom was maybe three stalls big and there were probably 30 ladies waiting in line.  I would guess that during off-season this park is not busy at all and that’s why there aren’t many facilities.  If you are able to travel during off-season, I’m sure the park isn’t nearly as hectic.

We started up the Tower Trail (a little over a mile loop that goes around the base of the tower) and the trail was packed.  I was thinking to myself this was a colossal mistake.   However after we got past the trail junction (where the loop meets) the people just vanished.  And from then the number of people was much more manageable (until we got back to the visitor’s center).  Tower Trail was not a hard trail (some small hills but just about anyone is going to be fine, my 80-year-old grandfather walked it); however it was a very narrow trail.  We had opted to put the babies in backpack carriers instead of the stroller because of the crowds at the visitor’s center.  Even though the crowds are thinner on the trail, it is still not a very stroller friendly trail.  So while you could in theory push a stroller on this trail I would not recommend it.

The trail gave some nice views of the tower which looks a little different from each side.  There was also nice over views of the surrounding countryside.  We saw several mule deer along the trail including a fawn.  Also remember this is a sacred place to local Native American groups, please be respectful of prayer bundles and stay on the path.

At the base of the tower you can climb on the boulder field.  The older kids and some of the adults in our group had a great time scrambling amongst the boulders.  They made to the top of the boulder field and came back.  It was not a difficult climb but use caution and watch your footing.  Climbing any higher than the boulder field requires a permit and from watching the climbers on the tower (there were 3 or 4 groups) some real skill in climbing.

We return to the visitor’s center and the throngs of tourist (had kinda forgotten they were all there while we were on the trail) and turned in our JR Ranger booklets.  There is a small gift shop on site as well but it was very busy.  We then went back down the road to the picnic camping area for lunch.  Devil’s Tower is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.  Just outside of the park there are two small gift shops that offer food but neither are very large.  So plan your trip accordingly.

The picnic area was nearly deserted just us and one other family.  There were plenty of tables and lots of shade.  So we had a nice lunch with a great view of the tower.  Also at the picnic area is a small monument to bring awareness to the importance of the tower to native people.  If you stand behind the statue the tower will be framed inside the smoke circle.  It was a really neat way to view the tower.  Also all around the picnic area is a large colony of prairie dogs.  The kids had a lot of fun watching them play.

Overall impression: Despite my initial reservations, I really enjoyed the park.  I would highly suggest taking the trail and getting away from the crowds to fully enjoy the tower.   Plan on spending one to two hours at the park if you plan to take the trail.  There are other trails so you could spend more time if you wanted.

Side note: Because the visitor’s center and gift shop were so crowded we decided to stop at one of the two gift shops just outside of the park.  We were able to find a penny smashing machine here and they had larger bathrooms.

This deer was about 20 ft off the trail. I took this with a cell phone camera. This deer really didn’t care at all that we were there.
Miss A and Miss E getting Jr Ranger badges

Dinosaur Park

Location: 940 Skyline Dr
Rapid City, SD
Price: FREE
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, in the main gift shop

On the bluff above Rapid City sits this quintessential roadside attraction.  You can see the large dinosaurs from just about anywhere in the city.  To get to the park you’ll drive through basically residential streets as you climb the bluff.  There is a parking lot and a small gift shop/snack bar.

Across the street from the gift shop is the trail to the dinosaurs.  There are a lot of steps to climb.  The path is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.  Once you get to the top there are five large dinosaur statues.  Kids are welcome to climb up on the statues.  Although early in the evening the weather was pleasant, the statues had been baking in the sun all day and were a little warm to the touch.  There isn’t much shade in the park so if you go in the middle of the day be prepared.

The kids had a lot of fun climbing all over the statues and getting their pictures taken while “riding” a stegosaurus.  There were two smaller dinosaurs back at the gift shop that you are able to climb on as well.  The gift shop had just about any dinosaur themed souvenir you could want.

The ice cream for dinner was catching up to us a little by now so we got a quick snack at their snack bar.  It was a fairly good deal of a hot dog and a soda for less than $2.

Overall impression: Other than the dinos there really isn’t anything to do at the park.  It was a lot of fun to get pictures and such.  I would say 30 to 45 minutes is all the time you are going to need to experience the park.  If you are in the area, it’s worth the stop.

Mount Rushmore

Location: Keystone, SD
Price: $10/car
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, in the main gift shop

We arrived at Mount Rushmore around 3:30 in the afternoon.   It was crazy busy when we first arrived.  We did the customary pictures of everyone in front of the monument with the Avenue of Flags behind you (and probably 200 people accidentally photobombing you).

We then went to the visitor’s center museum to collect JR Ranger booklets.  These were by far one of the hardest JR Ranger books we had ever worked on (you really had to explore the exhibits to find the answers).  Some of our group watched the film about the carving of the monument and they really enjoyed that.

The weather had started to cool off a bit by this point (or maybe it just seemed cooler than Badlands) so we took the rangers advise and walked the President’s Trail.  The Trail from the visitor’s center to the base of the monument is paved and a very easy walk.  We took the stroller on it with no problems.  You really get an idea of how big the carvings really are once you are right under them.  Make sure that you take the small dead-end spur trail just off of the President’s Trail.  It gives a really cool framing of Washington through the rocks.  At this point the President’s Trail continues on and loops back to the visitor’s center after passing Sculptor’s Studio.  Most of our group decided to continue on.  Because there are over 400 stairs on that part of the path, I turned around with the stroller.

The site has a restaurant on site called Carvers’ Marketplace.  Our group wasn’t really hungry for a full meal after our amazing Sioux Tacos in the Badlands so we opted to get ice cream as a treat.  The ice cream parlor sales a vanilla ice cream using Thomas Jefferson’s recipe.  I’m normally not a plain vanilla ice cream person but this was really good.  I highly recommend it.  It was also neat to sit on the patio and take in the monument.

The best part about being at Mount Rushmore a little later in the day was after we finished our ice cream the crowds had basically disappeared.  So we took all of the pictures again, this time with a lot fewer people in the background.

Overall impression: Mount Rushmore is a must do if you are in the area.  Depending on if you want to watch the film or take a small hike, an hour or two should be plenty of time to really enjoy the monument.

Miss L enjoying the ice cream
Miss A on the Avenue of Flags

Badlands National Park

Location: Wall, SD
Price: $15/car
Smashed Penny Machine: We have one that says Badlands National Park but I can’t remember if we got it in the park or in Wall

We arrived at Badlands National Park about 9:00 in the morning.  This was a mid-July trip and the weather was warm but enjoyable when we first got into the park.  Because of the diverse ages we had in our group we didn’t do much hiking.  I would love to come back and hike more of the trails.  We entered the park at the entrance closest Wall, SD.  From what I could tell from the map most the trails were on the other end of the park.

We chose to drive the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway to see as much of the park as we could with limited time.  The loop has several overlooks and many trailheads start directly off the loop parking lots.  I would highly suggest arriving at the park early.  When we first got there finding parking spots at overlooks was fairly easy.  With later stops that was much more difficult.  How long the drive will take you depends on how many overlooks you stop at and how long you look.  The Badlands look like a completely different planet so give yourself time to truly take in the views.  With 6 young kids in the group, they had taken in all they wanted of the views after overlook #2.  This is where the JR Ranger program is now your best friend.  You can keep them interested in the park by having them work on their booklets.

The one hike we did do was the Fossil Exhibit Trail.  This was a very easy trail.  It is on a raised walkway and it guides you through how an animal becomes a fossil.  The trail was easily accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.

To see wildlife I would suggest getting to the park very early or plan on being there later in the day.  We did see lots and lots of prairie dogs.  Prairie dogs are a lot of fun to watch from a distance so the kids really enjoyed that.  We did see some big idiots (aka tourons: tourist + moron) trying to pet/feed prairie dogs.  I’m going to take a moment to remind you that this is a VERY BAD idea.  First it’s bad for animals.  Human food isn’t good for them and it makes them dependent on handouts (which means when winter comes and the tourist go home, they have a very hard time).  Second although prairie dogs look really cute, they are still wild animals.  They could bite you. Plus they have parasites that are very happy to hang out on humans too.  Prairie dogs carry some really fun diseases that are transferable to humans like the bubonic plague so do everyone a favor and enjoy all wildlife from a distance.

We reached the visitor’s center about 12:00.  We explored the museum which also had a paleontologist there talking about fossil preservation.   After that the kids turned in their booklets and got their first Jr Ranger badge.  There is a small gift shop/bookstore in the visitor’s center that is run by the National Parks Department.

Our original plan had been to have a picnic here; however by this point in the day it was HOT (water and sunscreen; don’t forget them).  Everyone agreed it was too hot to eat outside on a picnic table.  Next to the visitor’s center there is another gift shop and restaurant.  We opted to eat at the restaurant.  The restaurant is not very large but they were able to seat us very quickly.  The price was moderate which wasn’t surprising given that it is inside the park.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  Our server suggested the Sioux Taco and suggested we split it.  The taco is a fried bread topped with refried beans, buffalo meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese and black olives.  We ordered a side of fries to split with it.  This was more than enough food for the two of us and it was probably the best thing I ate all trip.

We left Badlands National Park around 2:00 and drove to Mount Rushmore (about an hour and half drive).  The park ranger suggested that we take the state highway instead of the interstates to save time.  It was a faster route but there were no services on this route so just a warning.

One thing that is not to be missed is nighttime in Badlands.    That evening after Mount Rushmore and dinner, we loaded the kids back in the cars and drove the hour back to the Badlands (Tip: dress the kids in their PJs that way when you get back to the hotel you can just put them to bed).  Your admission fee is good for several days and the park is open 24 hours (although rangers are not at entrance points at this time).  We arrived back at the park about 7:30 and drove back to one of the overlooks we had decided on early in the day.

We arrived to the parking lot just in time to see the end of the sunset.  The park was empty at this time.  We literally only saw one other car at the overlook and they never left their vehicle.  I grew up in the country and thought I knew what stars look like on a dark night.  I was wrong.  With almost zero light pollution the views of the stars were amazing.  We were able to clearly see the Milky Way, several planets (thanks to an app that helped us identify where to look for them) and several shooting stars.  Unfortunately taking good pictures of the night sky is really difficult so I didn’t get any worthwhile pictures.  We stayed out till about an hour and half after dark (at which point the kids had seen plenty of stars) and then drove back to Rapid City.  On the way back out of the park we did see a few big horn sheep and what might have been the back-end of a badger but he was moving too fast to get a good look.  If you do go back out after dark bring a light jacket.  After about 20 minutes after sunset, the air got fairly chilly and I ended up sitting on the black top trying to stay warm.

Overall impression: Badlands National Park is a must do.  While the 4 or so hours we were in the park gave us a good overview of the park, you could spend much more time there.

Miss A getting her Jr Ranger badge
Miss A in the Badlands

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