10 Unexpected Adventures You Need to See in Rapid City | Black Hills Travel Blog

10 Unexpected Adventures You Need to See in Rapid City

  • 10 Unexpected Adventures You Need to See in Rapid City
    10 Unexpected Adventures You Need to See in Rapid City
Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
By : 
Morgan

Rapid City shines as the epicenter of the Black Hills and Badlands’ legendary vacation activities. This bustling city is nestled among the ponderosa pine of the Black Hills National Forest and is surrounded by six outstanding national parks and monuments.

As you prepare to experience all that the region has to offer, be sure that you have ample time to uncover Rapid City’s eclectic mix of contemporary city vibe and historic small town charm.

Here, you can meet American heroes on every street corner, gain a deeper sense of your surroundings at museums and art galleries and indulge in local flavor through carefully-crafted dishes and drinks.

Be inspired to do it all with these 10 unexpected adventures waiting for you in Rapid City.

1. Blind Lion Speakeasy
Rapid City’s best-kept secret, the Blind Lion Speakeasy, pays homage to America's prohibition era. This intimate space is infused with live music, handcrafted cocktails and a cutting edge culinary program.

The tink-tink of bartenders gently tapping blocks of ice into custom sizes signals the creation of your cocktail, bearing names such as the Lavender Star, the Brazilian Monk and the Burnt Apple. Be patient as the liquor is carefully blended with fresh-squeezed fruit juices, housemade syrups and variously flavored bitters.

The Blind Lion is the only password-protected speakeasy in the state of South Dakota and finding it is half of the fun. To enter the passcode-encrypted door, you must have a prearranged safe code. The code changes daily and is issued to customers once your reservation has been confirmed.

2. Dinosaur Park
High above Rapid City on Skyline Drive, seven dinosaurs rule over a sandstone ridge that encircles that Black Hills. The park pays tribute to the five dinosaur fossils from the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous that were found along the ridge.

This free public park has been a part of cherished family vacation memories since 1936. The giant, bright green concrete sculptures even look the same as they did when the park first opened over 80 years ago.

As you stand atop of Dinosaur Park, take a moment to appreciate the spectacular 100-mile views. To the east, the sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires of Badlands National Park are visible. Look to the west and see the granite peaks and ponderosa pine-clad mountains that make up the Black Hills National Forest.

3. City of Presidents
Life-sized bronze statues of former commanders-in-chief have executive authority over every corner in downtown Rapid City – the City of Presidents.

The presidents sit, stand and stroll in candid poses that humanize the individuals in the office. The artists have carefully crafted each sculpture to represent the presidents’ characteristics and interests.

Nowhere else in the world will you be greeted by 43 United States presidents. The patriotic installation is a tribute to America's heritage. It’s a reminder of the legacy our nation's presidents have created. A statue of former President Obama will be installed in the summer of 2019.

Go on a scavenger hunt and snap a picture with your favorite on a free self-guided tour. Pick up a "City of Presidents" book at visitor information centers downtown.

4. Reptile Gardens
Step into the jungle at Reptile Gardens. This unique animal park is set in stunning botanical gardens planted each season with thousands of flowers. Reptile Gardens is home to the Guinness World Record for Largest Reptile Collection. Watch for free-roaming birds and reptile friends.

While there, catch one of the exciting wild animal shows. These fun and interactive presentations featuring snakes, gators and crocodiles, and birds will have you on the edge of your seat. Slow down and mingle with the Aldabra Tortoises – Reptile Gardens’ most popular residents. Pet a 100-year old tortoise named Orville, interact with Fluffy the baby alligator and even hold Marilyn, the park’s 12-foot python.

5. Vertex Sky Bar
Experience the pinnacle of luxury at the Vertex Sky Bar. This bar and restaurant is located on the top two floors of the Hotel Alex Johnson, the tallest building in downtown Rapid City. Take the elevator to the 10th floor, where modern features compliment the traditional architecture.

Grab a seat indoors or on the outdoor deck next to a gas-heated fire pit. Delight your senses with stunning panoramic views of the Black Hills while indulging in expertly mixed cocktails, delectable appetizers, savory entrées or exquisite desserts. Vertex Sky Bar takes service and splendor to new heights.

6. Press Start
Bring back old memories and make new ones at Press Start, a retro arcade bar. Throw some quarters in one of the nearly 100 vintage arcades games you can play while enjoying a beer or cocktail. Take your pick, from pinball and Skee-Ball to classic video games like Joust, Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat. Kids can get in on the fun during Press Start’s Family Day, Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.

7. Bear Country U.S.A.
Get up-close to wildlife in their natural environment from the comfort of your own vehicle at Bear Country U.S.A. With over 200 acres amid towering pines and rolling meadows, the wildlife park is home to the world’s largest collection of privately owned black bears — currently over 200.

Take a leisurely three-mile drive through several enclosures and encounter black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and bison. After your drive, stroll along the Wildlife Walk to view the antics of baby bears and smaller animals as they frolic outdoors. Along the way, be sure to say hello to the grizzly bear.

8. Chapel in the Hills
Tucked away in a lush forest sits the Chapel in the Hills, an ornate wooden church based on an old Norwegian holy house. The chapel itself is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. It looks like a piece of Norway was plopped down in Rapid City.

The Chapel in the Hills is a quiet retreat open to all visitors. Upon arriving, you’ll be greeted at the Stabbur. This authentic grass-roofed storehouse was built in Norway and assembled on site. It is a gift shop of Scandinavian merchandise, books, chapel souvenirs and locally handmade Scandinavian craft items. An authentic log cabin museum houses Norwegian and Scandinavian antiques.

Wander around the exterior of the chapel and admire the intricate details and craftsmanship of the wood carvings. Inside, you can listen to a narration telling you the story of the chapel.

9. Summer Nights
Meet in the heart of Rapid City on Thursdays for Summer Nights. Free music fills the air during this buzzing weekly block party, May 30 to Aug. 29. Check out the robust lineup or, simply show up. As the band plays on, check out the family-friendly activities, grab a bite to eat from a delicious food vendor and cool off with an ice-cold refreshment.

10. Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park
Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park, better known to locals as M-Hill, has over 18 miles of trails flowing through 300 acres of impeccable terrain just minutes from downtown. Mountain bikers, hikers and runners of all skill levels access this natural gem year-round. Its gently-graded, wide singletrack trails are perfect for beginners and families, and the more technically-advanced, rock-strewn terrain is ideal for more challenging adventures. Cliffs of Dover is one of the original legacy singletracks in the park that offers a technical climb or descent. Dirks Draw is one of the most challenging trails in the park. It's fast and fun with lots of quick ups and downs.

The sandstone situated on M-Hill makes for great bouldering. Vegan Rock is the most popular destination, but other rocks are found by following the trail at its base up to the hillside towards the M.

About the Author

Morgan is the Communications Director at Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association. She grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where she developed a deep love for the outdoors and adventure. She followed her heart to the mountains and received a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from the University of Colorado - Boulder. Her inquisitive nature led her to uncover the many treasures the Black Hills have to offer. She has called them home since 2014.

You May Also Be interested In