The Kid Tested, Mother Approved – What to See and Do with Kids in the Black Hills | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

The Kid Tested, Mother Approved – What to See and Do with Kids in the Black Hills

  • The Kid Tested, Mother Approved Itinerary – What to See and Do with Kids in the Black Hills

The Black Hills and Badlands Region has been a go-to vacation spot for families for generations, with its stunning landscapes and endless array of parks and attractions. If you're planning a family trip, here are some suggestions to build your itinerary with the best things to see and do with your kids.

*All experiences marked with an (F) symbol are free; experiences marked with an (LC) symbol are low-cost

Parks, Monuments, The Outdoors

Wildlife, cave systems, carved mountains, and cultural centers await you at these South Dakota wonders.

  • Custer State Park (Custer) - This scenic state park is a must-visit for families who love outdoor adventures. Take a hike, ride horses, or spot wildlife like buffalo and burros.
    • Buffalo Jeep Safari (Custer) - This tour company offers a unique experience to get up close with the wildlife at Custer State Park. Take your family on a jeep tour to see buffalo herds and other animals in their natural habitat.
  • (F) Chapel in the Hills (Rapid City) - A quiet retreat in the foothills, this structure is an exact reproduction of the Borgund Stavkirke in Norway and is enjoyable for all ages. 
  • Crazy Horse Memorial (Custer) - Visit this cultural center to learn about Native American history and see the impressive mountain carving of Crazy Horse. Don't miss the Laser Light Show at night, which combines music and animations for a memorable experience.
  • (F) D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives (Spearfish) - Come feed the fish at one of the oldest hatcheries in the United States! 
  • (F) Dinosaur Park & Skyline Drive Wilderness Area (Rapid City) - Enjoy a scenic drive to an overview of the city and pose for the perfect photo with concrete dinosaurs that date back to a time even before Mt. Rushmore. 
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (Custer) - Explore one of the world's longest caves with a tour that showcases its unique formations and natural wonders. This is a great way to get some underground adventure with your family.
  • (F) The Outdoor Campus - Learn outdoor skills in hunting and fishing or take a tour inside of an exhibit to learn about South Dakota's wildlife habitat. 
  • Sylvan Rocks Climbing School (Custer) - Get an adrenaline rush with your family by taking a rock climbing tour with Sylvan Rocks Climbing School. Enjoy guided tours in Custer State Park that offer a unique perspective on the area.
  • Wind Cave National Park (Custer) - This park features one of the world's longest caves with various tour options available. Your family will enjoy the opportunity to explore the underground world and see unique formations.
  • (LC) Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Keystone) - The faces of four U.S. presidents carved into a granite mountain is a sight that your family will never forget. Join the fun and educational Junior Ranger Activity to learn more about the history behind the monument.

Family Attractions

Indulge in cowboy entertainment, thrilling slides, zip-lining, and more at Keystone and Rapid City's various attractions.

  • Fort Hays (Rapid City) - Step back in time with cowboy entertainment, a Chuckwagon supper, and a western town.
  • Old MacDonald’s Farm (Rapid City) - A hands-on interactive farm experience for kids with various animals and activities.
  • Bear Country USA (Rapid City) - Get up close and personal with a variety of wildlife such as bears, elk, wolves and more.
  • (LC) Cosmos Mystery Area (Rapid City) - Explore a natural phenomenon where the laws of physics seem to be defied.
  • Black Hills Caverns (Rapid City) - Choose the shorter route, Crystal Tour with few stairs that show off beautiful crystal cave walls and provides a history of the cave. Or opt for the longer Adventure Tour which is refered to as a three-quarter mile underground hike covering all three levels of the caves showing off all the beutiful formations.
  • (LC) City View Trolley Tour (Rapid City) - Hop aboard a turn-of-the-century ride that includes stops at numerous free attractions like the City of Presidents, Main Street Square, Dinosaur Park and more. 
  • (F) City of Presidents (Rapid City) - As you traverse main street in downtown Rapid City, go on a scavenger hunt to find the statue of every president! 
  • (F) Dahl's Chainsaw Art (Hill City, Keystone)  - Home (s) of the world's biggest Smokey the Bear and world's biggest Bigfoot made by carvers using chainsaws. Take a stroll through the gallery or even take home a one-of-a-kind work! 
  • The Petrified Forest (Rapid City) - Step back in time with a One-of-a-kind tour and nature walk through live and petrified forest. Experience the best Black Hills geology. 
  • Alpine Slide (Keystone) - Experience the thrill of a sled ride down a concrete track with stunning views.
  • Holy Terror Mini Golf (Keystone) - Enjoy an outdoor mini-golf course with a Black Hills mining theme.
  • (LC) Sculptor's Studio (Keystone) - Visit the studio showcasing the work and tools of the sculptor who created Mount Rushmore.
  • Rushmore Tramway Adventures (Keystone) - Enjoy zip-lining, rock climbing, and an aerial ropes course at an adventure park.
  • Rush Mountain Adventure Park - Home of Rushmore Cave (Keystone) - An adventure park featuring a mountain coaster and cave exploration.
  • 1880 Train - Black Hills Central Railroad (Keystone, Hill City) - Take a scenic steam engine train ride through the historic tracks of Hill City and Keystone.
  • (F) Wall Drug Store (Wall) - Make a stop at one of the most iconic experiences in America (and enjoy the signs along the way_. 
  • Wonderland Cave (Nemo) - Take a guided tour of a cave system showcasing unique formations and crystals.
  • Evans Plunge Mineral Springs (Hot Springs) - Relax in indoor and outdoor pools and various spa services at a hot springs facility.
  • Reptile Gardens (Rapid City) - Visit a botanical garden and zoo home to various reptiles and exotic birds.


Explore museums with life-size dinosaur exhibits, life-like wax figures of all the US presidents, and active mammoth dig site tours with hands-on activities for kids.

  • Dinosaur Museum (Rapid City) - Kids will love seeing life-size dinosaur exhibits and interactive displays.
  • (LC) Four Mile Old West Town (Custer) -  Explore a ghost town with the family! 
  • (F) Keystone Historical Museum (Keystone) - Learn about the history of Keystone and the surrounding Black Hills region.
  • (LC) Museum at Black Hills Institute (Hill City) - A fun opportunity for the whole family to learn about dinosaurs and geology. 
  • (F) Museum of Geology (Rapid City) - Explore dinosaur fossils, a Columbian mammoth fossil, rock samples and more at this museum located on the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus. 
  • National Presidential Wax Museum (Keystone) - See life-like wax figures of all the U.S. presidents and learn about their legacies.
  • The Mammoth Site (Hot Springs) - Explore an active dig site where Ice Age mammoths were found and visit the museum to learn about them.
    • Junior Paleontology Dig (The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs) - Kids can participate in a hands-on activity where they can dig for fossils and learn about paleontology.
  • (LC) Prairie Homestead Historical Site - Learn about life on the prairie by visiting one of the last original sod homes still standing today.
  • (F) Sanford Lab Homestake Mine Visitor Center (Lead) - learn about mining history and hit a golf ball into the Open Cut! 
  • (F) South Dakota Air & Space Museum  (Ellsworth AFB) - Fly back in time to see vintage military planes alongside the modern B-1 and more.
  • (LC) 1881 Museum (Custer) -  Tour through its exhibits of wildlife, Native American culture, ranching & mining history and more. 

A family vacation to the Black Hills and Badlands Region promises to be a fun and unforgettable experience. With its natural beauty, unique attractions, and exciting adventures, there's something for everyone to enjoy and create lifelong memories together.

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