Top Free (or Nearly Free) Things for a Budget-Friendly Black Hills and Badlands Vacation | Black Hills Travel Blog

Top Free (or Nearly Free) Things for a Budget-Friendly Black Hills and Badlands Vacation

  • Top Free (or Nearly Free) Things for a Budget-Friendly Black Hills and Badlands Vacation
    Top Free (or Nearly Free) Things for a Budget-Friendly Black Hills and Badlands Vacation
Updated: 
Thursday, May 20, 2021
By : 
Alyssa

It's no secret that vacationing can get spendy—gifts, entry fees, lodging and food costs can take a chunk out of your wallet as your trip goes on. Thankfully, it's easy to plan a budget-friendly trip to the Black Hills and Badlands. There are enough free (and nearly free) museums, galleries, roadside stops and attractions that can help you stretch your dollar and stay and play in the region longer. Here are the top free (or nearly free) things for a budget-friendly Black Hills and Badlands vacation.

Badlands Region

Free

Oglala Lakota College Historical Center, Kyle: This center and its powerful exhibits depict the tumultuous history of the Lakota from the early 1800s through the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. The college hopes that your visit to the Historical Center will result in a better understanding of Native American people. Call for hours and availability.

The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge: Located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, this site houses a large collection of award-winning paintings and sculptures, as well as historical and contemporary Lakota art. Open year-round, the historic campus is where Chief Red Cloud is laid to rest. If you are able, visit the center to see the world-renowned Red Cloud Indian Art Show—the largest and longest-running Native American art show in the country. Call for hours and availability.

Wall Drug Store, Wall: Recently featured in the award-winning "Nomadland," the Wall Drug Store is another quintessential Black Hills attraction that has spurred lively debate between roadside Americana attraction or tourist trap for years. With the traveler's chapel, giant jackrabbit, t-rex feedings, Western art gallery and more, there's no end of free things to see and do at this road trip classic. We say, don’t overthink it and enjoy all the quirky little things (and free ice water) that have made this such a popular free stop for generations.


Nearly Free

Prairie Homestead Historic Site, Badlands National Park: Tour one of the few original sod houses remaining in the U.S. and see the unique population of rare white prairie dogs. See what prairie life was really like for homesteaders and explore the genuine items the family used and kept as a part of their daily lives.

Rapid City Region

Free

Art Alley: Located between 6th and 7th street in Downtown Rapid City, right next door to Main Street Square, this unique alley is home to a dynamic display of ever-changing street art. As a project born of cooperation between the community and its artists, part of its appeal is that you can make your mark and add your art to the urban gallery. All you need is a permit from the Rapid City Arts Council. Or, simply admire the art and take a stand-out photo among the paintings to commemorate the experience.

Chapel in the Hills: Free to enter, this magnificent building is an exact reproduction of the famous Borgund Stavkirke located in Norway. The location offers a quiet retreat among the foothills in Rapid City and is open May 1st through September 30th, 8:00 a.m to dusk for all to visit and appreciate.

City of Presidents: All along downtown, life-sized bronze statues of former presidents have executive authority over the corners of several streets. Take a scavenger hunt to explore the historic area and snap a photo with all 43 (soon to be 44) statues. 

Dinosaur Park & Skyline Drive Wilderness Area: Overlooking the town is one of the Black Hills' oldest and most unique attractions—older even than Mount Rushmore, Dinosaur Park and its concrete dinosaurs have been standing along the Skyline Drive Wilderness area. Stop and take in the expansive view over the Hills, and then walk, bike or drive the rest of the ridgeline to enjoy the natural scenery. 

Hansen Larsen Memorial Park: Known to the locals as "M Hill," this park has over 20 miles of free trails to hike and bike. Just like Skyline Drive, it offers sweeping views of Rapid City and the surrounding landscape. The adventurous will love to catch the sunrise from the peaks of this great local park.

Main Street Square: The heart of downtown Rapid City is undeniably at Main Street Square. Located on the corner of 6th and Main, the square delights visitors year-round with an interactive fountain in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter. The square also hosts concerts, festivals and more all year long to create long-lasting memories for every family. 

Museum of Geology: This free attraction, located on the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus, houses an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils, including a colossal Columbian mammoth. It's also full of shiny baubles, gems, and stones that will blow the minds of all ages.

South Dakota Air & Space Museum: Just on the doorstep to Ellsworth Air Force Base rests treasured artifacts of aviation and aerospace history. Over 30 vintage military planes, the modern B-1 and memorabilia exhibits at this museum showcase America's journey and innovation through the skies all year long. It's one trip that's sure to dazzle the whole family.

Suzie Cappa Art Center: Just off of Mount Rushmore Road, the Suzie Cappa Art Center supports artists of all abilities and gives them a space to create, exhibit and showcase their work for all to enjoy. Take a free, self-guided walk through the gallery during your visit and explore the incredible displays of art made by Black Hills artists.

The Outdoor Campus: The outdoors are a big part of life in South Dakota and the amazing Outdoor Campus allows visitors of all ages the chance to experience it all for free.

Nearly Free

City View Trolley Tour: Hop aboard repurposed turn of the century cable cars for a fantastic, low-cost tour of Rapid City. The ride can encompass an entire day and includes stops at numerous free attractions like the City of Presidents, Main Street Square, Dinosaur Park and more. Unlimited on/off access is only $2 per adult and $1 for kids 12 and under. The season will run from June 1st through August 31st.

Southern Hills Region

Free

Dahl’s Chainsaw Art, Hill City & Keystone: With two locations, one in Hill City and one in Keystone, Dahl's chainsaw art is an attraction in its own class. The skilled carvers create detailed sculptures with the flourish and spectacle of chainsaws as their primary tool. The incredible works of art will have you rubbernecking as you walk through these free to explore locations. Don't miss your chance to take your photo with the World's Largest wooden bigfoot in Keystone and the World's Largest Smokey Bear in Hill City. 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone: Technically, entry to the monument is free, however, be aware that there is a $10 parking fee. The bright side is that your parking is valid for a full year and will get you in absolutely free the next time you visit. But no doubt about it, to see this American landmark in person for only a few dollars is more than worth the fee.

Nearly Free

1881 Courthouse Museum, Custer: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the city, county, and surrounding area. Tour through its exhibits of wildlife, Native American culture, ranching and mining history and more at a low price. Admission prices are $6 for Adults, $12 per family and $2 for Students. Active Military enters free.

Cosmos Mystery Tour, Keystone: Known well for its reputation as the strangest location in the Black Hills, all laws of nature and physics appear to be suspended at this mysterious and fun location. Take the tour of the mystery house and then hunt for geodes to treasure and take home. Children under 5 enter for free, Children ages 5-11 are $6 and Adults ages 12 and up are $12. 

Four Mile Old West Town, Custer: The Old West is only a few steps away at Four Mile. Explore the ghost town for family fun and living history as you walk through the 50 open door buildings at the old historic site. Admission is only $6 per person.

Museum @ Black Hills Institute, Hill City: Travel back in time and discover the earth's past through geology, mineralogy and fossils. It's the perfect stop for dino enthusiasts, with an extensive research collection of T. rex skeleton fossils and some of the most remarkable exhibits and items in its field. Admission is only $7.50  for Adults ages 16 and older, $6 for seniors, Veterans & US Military and $4 for ages 6-15. Children under the age of 5 enter free and all paid admissions are valid for an entire year.

Northern Hills Region

Free

Adams Museum and Historic Adams House, Deadwood: Visit two distinctively different pieces of Deadwood history in one location. Explore the free Adams Museum where bits, pieces, and whole collections are preserved; afterward, travel just a few blocks away to step back in time and tour the beautifully restored Queen-Anne style mansion—The Historic Adams House. Note that, while the Museum is free, the tour of the Adams House will run $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children ages 5 and under enter free. 

DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery: The heart of Spearfish is very much evident to anyone who’s come across the park and D.C. Booth on a beautiful, sunny day. Kids and adults love skipping stones in the stream and feeding the fish in the Hatchery with a $1 or $2 bag of fish food from the gift store.

Daily Shootouts, Deadwood: During the summer months, the Deadwood Alive reenactors can be seen performing free daily shows and shootouts at various locations along main street in Historic Deadwood. See the Deadwood Alive site for a daily schedule to find where they will be next.

Outlaw Square, Deadwood: Built on the corner of Main and Deadwood streets, Outlaw Square hosts community events all year long, including some free concerts, movie nights, reenactments, ice skating and more. Be sure to stop by—there's always something great happening at this historic location.

Sanford Lab Homestake Mine Visitor Center, Lead: The mining history of the Hills is on display at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center. Visit for free and learn all about what was once the deepest and most productive gold mine in the Western Hemisphere. Now, the mine is the site of Nobel Prize-winning science. Tour the captivating exhibits and round off your exploration by hitting a golf ball into the Open Cut.

Spearfish Canyon Waterfalls: There are three major waterfalls that are free for all to enjoy in the remarkable setting of Spearfish Canyon. Bridal Veil Falls is the most easily accessible, as it is located along Highway 14, cascading down the limestone of the canyon. Next, at Spearfish Canyon Lodge and take the dirt road or walk the trail to see Roughlock Falls. Also nearby is the trail to Spearfish Falls, a 47 ft waterfall located below the Latchstring Restaurant.  

Termesphere Gallery & Museum, Spearfish: A trip to Spearfish isn't complete without seeing the one-of-a-kind Termesphere Gallery & Museum. Nestled in a valley just outside of town, the gallery promises plenty of oohs and ahhs as you marvel at the spherical works of art.

Tri-State Museum and Center of the Nation Monument, Belle Fourche: Find your center at the geographical center of the nation in Belle Fourche. Take your photo with the monument and then wander through the nearby Tri-State Museum to learn all about the hard life of the region's early settlers. 

Nearly Free

Deadwood Trolley: This tour stops at various locations around Deadwood including hotels and casinos, making it easy to see the entire town worry-free. The fee is only $1 per person, making it an easy, cost-effective way to see it all.

Mount Moriah Cemetery: The history and heritage of Deadwood is a colorful collection of western lore for sure—much of it now rests at Mount Moriah Cemetery, overlooking this legendary town. Cost only runs $2 apiece for entry and it's more than worth it. The location, and the chance to hear some good western stories about Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock and more, make it a must-see.

Black Hills of Wyoming

Free

Hulett Museum, Hulett, WY: A visit to this Old West museum will take you through the history and culture of northeastern Wyoming. Learn the stories behind the collection of prehistoric and historic artifacts that showcase the heritage of Hulett and the surrounding area.

West Texas Trail Museum, Moorcroft, WY: Discover more than just trail dust when you stroll through this unique museum. Its collection is one of the largest and most authentic artifacts from the West Texas Trail cattle drive & the Old West. See saddles, weapons, gear and items of everyday life from the cattle drovers and those who settled in the Great Basin.

Nearly Free

Crook County Museum & Art Gallery, Sundance, WY: Explore the history of the Sundance Kid and others in this museum located in a restored sandstone schoolhouse, fondly referred to as "Old Stoney." With over 7000 genuine artifacts on display for you to enjoy, the $6 admission fee is well worth it.

With so much to see and do at these price points, one could easily fill a whole week with amazing experiences in every town in the Black Hills and Badlands while still holding to a budget! For more savings and inspiration, take a look at the offers on our coupons page. 

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