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Rapid City, South Dakota
For Familes
Rated By a Family with Six Children!

Rapid City, South Dakota

Visiting Rapid City is a part of the American journey! Black Hills, Bad Lands, National Parks, monuments, and memorials! Why are the Black Hills so named? (Because the hills appeared dark from a distance, they were nick-named "The Black Hills." Our family laughed together as we contemplated whether we would all turn bad while traveling through the Bad Lands. Exploring this piece of Americana served as a great back drop for many laughs and hands-on learning.

Mount Rushmore records Mount Rushmore as the first of 7 Man-Made wonders of the United States. Mount Rushmore welcomes more than 3 million visitors a year.

Nestled in the breath-taking Black Hills of South Dakota stands the spectacular Mount Rushmore National Memorial: the magnificent rock carved with the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt (Theodore), and Lincoln.

We were delighted to take the walking tour with audio wands (for rental), which follows a scenic path with numerous views of the monument. We encourage you to go on the walking tour. But a few tips before you go: there are no restrooms along the path so plan ahead. Don't take strollers as you go down a lot of steps with no handicap or stroller ramps. Unfortunately, we took the stroller rather than the baby backpack so Daddy had to carry the littlest one down all the steps in her stroller.

The O'Brien Crew encourages you to visit Xanterra café in the Park. Limitless options from ice cream treats, to cool you down, to buffalo hotdogs, to fill you up the Wild West way. We were all impressed with the selection of the dining and the beautiful setting to enjoy your lunch: overlooking the Presidents! The best dining view we have ever experienced. And, we appreciated their friendly staff, selection, and tasty food options.

One more thing, don't forget to try President Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream recipe, Superb!

Sean: My first time at Rushmore, worth the drive to experience and see.

Bre: I really enjoyed seeing the Presidents that we study about in school.

Liam: My favorite part was the President's ice cream.

Logan: LOVED eating a buffalo hot dog!

Callie: It was fun eating lunch as a family looking at Mount Rushmore.

President's Slide at Rushmore Tramway

Have a sense of adventure? Ride the President's Slide and Rushmore Tramway. We rode 2000 feet up a neighboring hill of Rushmore's on a scenic chairlift. (Hold younger children snug on your lap as there are no safety belts, just an over-the-lap bar.) Once we reached the summit we walked along flower lined pathways, with views of Mount Rushmore, the city of Keystone, and the beautiful Black Hills. You could also cool off with a beverage or order a burger at the Outdoor Grill. We were excited to experience the President's Slide, so we grabbed our slide cars and started down the winding track. Breanna, our responsible firstborn, was terrified and not looking forward to her ride down the slide. As it turned out, she as well as the rest of us, had a blast zooming down the mountain. If you happen to be that responsible firstborn type, never fear; it was safe and a lot of fun. (But if you can't muster up the courage, you can ride the scenic chairlift back down.) Children six and under ride comfortably in front of parents on the slide car. The car has a break that is easy to use so you can take the corners as slow (or fast!!) as you like. Once down we all wanted to do it again.

The day we were there they were opening a Zipline and Ariel Adventure Park. Guaranteed tons of fun!

Krysta: I loved that we were able to participate as a whole family. The littlest two children (2 & 4) rode in front of Sean and me.

Breanna (13): I was scared going up the tram but we sang silly songs and then the slide down was so worth it!

Logan (8): It was the funniest ride ever!

Little Ginny (2) squealed "FASTER, FASTER" the entire way down!

Big Thunder Gold Mine

Big Thunder Gold Mine tells the true story of the history of mining in South Dakota's Black Hills. At Big Thunder you get to see the Tykoon Gold Mill Museum with authentic mining equipment and tools; take a tour of an authentic mine from the 1890's; and shop in a gift store filled with beautiful rocks, gems, traditional Black Hills Gold, and much more.

Our family loved Big Thunder; it provided great hands-on education. After your tour you are given instructions on how to pan for gold, then their staff hands the equipment over to you and you get to search for gold. And what do you know? Each panner will find their own nugget of gold to take home as a souvenir!

Krysta: Big Thunder Gold Mine had one of the best gift shops in Keystone, SD.

Liam (4): I loved wearing my mining helmet during the tour.

Callie (10): It felt like we stepped back into history and we were the ones searching for gold!

Caitlin (6): I liked it when our tour guide had me hold the flashlight for everyone to see the dynamite holes.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

A horse lovers dream come true! Offered are your choice of a two hour bus tour, three hour cross country tour on all-terrain vehicles, or a three hour Photography Tour. Our family went on the three hour tour. We recommend it for children 8 and older.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is home to over 600 wild horses. On our tour we viewed many horses up close as well as herds off in the distance. It was amazing to see these beautiful animals on of open land with the backdrop of the beautiful Black Hills.

Movies including PBS' "Wild Horses: an American Romance," "Walt Disney's "Hidalgo," Paramount Pictures' "Into The Wild," History Channel's "Comanche Warrior," "Who Killed Crazy Horse?" and many more were filmed at the BHWH Sanctuary.

The BHWH Sanctuary is located in the city of Hot Springs which is 1 and ½ hours from Keystone (Mount Rushmore). It is worth the drive and is well signed so it is easy to find. There are other fun tourist attractions in Hot Springs, such as The Mammoth Site. You must experience this if you or your family have any interest in horses!

Horse lover Breanna (13): It made my heart glad to see horses free.

New Horse Lover Caitlin (6): My favorite horse was the special breed with curly hair!

Cowboy Logan (8) "I could imagine the indians and cowboys riding on this land from history."

1880 Train Black Hills Central Railroad

This is the perfect way to take in the natural environment of the Black Hills, especially if your family is exhausted from site seeing. You'll enjoy a two hour and twenty minute round trip ride on a vintage steam train. Hearing the steam engine whistle blow and the engine chug up and down the terrain was very memorable for the kids as well as mom and dad.

In addition to the regular scenic rides, they offer special rides four times a year including Mother's Day, Oktoberfest Express, Holiday Express (Christmas), and a Wine Express. Departures run from Hill City and Keystone.

Logan (8): I counted 21 white-tailed deer, 4 rabbits, and 2 badgers. It was so cool!

Liam (4): That was the biggest train I had ever been on.

Sean (Daddy): Unique and memorable family fun.

Breanna (13): I enjoyed meeting the conductor.

Cambria Suites, Rapid City

Some of the area "must-sees" are spread out, so we chose Rapid City as our headquarters. Cambria Suites is a beautiful brand new hotel in a rapidly growing area. Close to lots of area restaurants, Target and Walmart (so you can pick up all those items you forgot to pack). And, Cambria Suites is right off Interstate 90 for easy access to all your attractions.

Cambria Suites' two queen standard room has an extra room area with a pull-out sofa, chair, desk, fridge, microwave, and a second television. The second television was a highlight for the Crew as the kids could choose their television programming and the adults could choose their own; equals no fighting!

Beautiful swimming pool and hot tub! Great fitness room, felt like a full gym. Full restaurant on the main level that serves a deluxe breakfast buffet (extra charge).

O'Brien Crew

Meet Your Guides

The O'Brien Family (nicknamed "The Crew") are seasoned travelers, but that doesn't mean they don't face the same challenges every family does when crisscrossing our country! With children ranging in age from two to thirteen, they know our viewers appreciate the little tips like "leave the stroller in the car for this hike" or "make a potty stop before entering because there are not any options once you begin." The kids have their own comments, too, to provide you with insight into what your kids may like (or not).

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