Free Ice Water, Please | Black Hills Travel Blog

Free Ice Water, Please

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Wall Drug

In a recent blog entry you may have read, I briefly mentioned Wall Drug. Anyone who has travelled down I-90 in South Dakota has more than likely seen one of the many billboards advertising the site or maybe one of the infamous bumper stickers with the slogan “Where the heck is Wall Drug?”

Well, in case you’re wondering, Wall Drug is located in Wall, South Dakota, a small town on the prairie just outside of the Black Hills and the Badlands.  But what you might still be wondering is “What the heck is Wall Drug?” The story is pretty interesting.

As of now, Wall Drug is one of the top roadside attractions in the United States. During its peak season, the site brings in over 30,000 guests daily and spans an area of 76,000 square feet (Now that’s a BIG drugstore!).

Inside are various shops selling everything from books, Black Hills gold, Native American artwork, clothes and bobble heads. Also, the store has collected an enormous amount of pictorial history along with over 3 million pieces of artwork on display. Let’s, of course, not forget the restaurant, arcade, gourmet coffee shop, mining experience for kids, etc, etc. etc.

How did this place go from filling prescriptions to entertaining families across the country?

This is quite simple… Free ice water!

Ted and Dorothy Hustead, the original owners of the once small and struggling store had moved to Wall in 1931 during the era of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. The couple decided to give the city and the store 5 years before giving up and relocating from the area often referred to as Godforsaken. Just a few months before they had reached the limit, they decided to use a couple of simple signs on the highway to advertise free ice water, in hopes of attracting travelers passing through the area.

Obviously, this simple hospitality did more than attract just a few passersby. Ice water and hand-made signs created the tourism giant we have today! The store is still family owned and operated and now advertised with signs and billboards throughout the world.

Wall Drug billboards and signs, often placed by South Dakota servicemen during the war, can be found throughout the world: London, France, Vietnam, a site in the ocean popular for deep sea divers, etc. etc.  If you want to see some of the places Wall Drug is advertised, click here.

Will you be travelling through South Dakota on I-90 anytime soon? Keep your eyes open for the billboards, and remember, Wall might just be a good place to take a pit stop.

About the Author

Heather is originally from De Smet, South Dakota, where she spent her time giving Laura Ingalls Wilder tours until she moved across the state to the Black Hills area to attend college. She is a recent graduate of Black Hills University, where she received a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in Public Relations and Spanish. On two different occasions Heather has fed her love of travel as an exchange student: a summer in Japan at age 17, and semester in Mexico in spring of 2008. Traveling and sightseeing are things she plans to keep on her agenda, and she's currently working on applying to graduate school. Heather has loved living in the area the past five years. When not working, she is usually spending time with her friends or reading.

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