Road Trippin Out West {Our 2017 Summer Vacation to Mount Rushmore}

In less than two weeks we are headed out for our 2nd annual family road trip. I thought maybe I should blog our trip that started all the fun. Last year we decided we really wanted to take the kids to see Mount Rushmore and ended up planning a 2 week road trip out west. We loved it so much, we decided we might just make road tripping a yearly thing.

Here is a recap of our trip that took place last summer from May 28th to June 9th, 2017.

We headed out with the longest stretch of our trip from Springfield, IL to Omaha, NE. Downtown Omaha was adorable and we enjoyed the big metal slides and exploring down by the riverfront the first night we got into town. The next day we were up early to beat the crowd at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.  After a long day at the zoo, we enjoyed dinner in an old train car at the Old Market Spaghetti Works. The place was fun for the kids and they ate free because it was a Monday. Score! This fun telephone booth was outside so of course we had to take pictures. Untitled

We continued walking around downtown and tried out Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream. The line for ice cream was quite long, but there were so many fun origami cranes in celebration of the Peace Crane Project to enjoy as we passed the time.

vaca2017-007vaca2017-008After ice cream we spent a good amount of time exploring Hollywood Candy. The trinkets and areas to explore are endless.vaca2017-027hcvaca2017-013

The next morning we headed off to Sioux Falls, SD. Our first adventure was to find the re-creations of Michelangelo’s David and Moses around town. We then headed to Falls Park where we spent most of our time. We got to catch tadpoles, climb, and enjoy the waterfalls.

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Before heading out of town we stopped and did a self-guided tour of St. Joseph Cathedral It was beautiful.vaca2017-083stjoe

Our next destination was a hotel halfway between Sioux Falls and The Badlands. We made a quick stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. It was a fun little stop, but certainly don’t go out of your way to visit. 😉

One of the highlights of our trip was our adventure at Badlands National Park. The Badlands are breathtaking and you can hike the easiest to most challenging of trails. I also had one of my first panic attacks as I watched my husband and children walk to the edge of a cliff while I stayed back to photograph. I had a hard time letting them out of my reach for the rest of the day.

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And no adventure to the Badlands is complete without a pit stop at Wall Drugwalldrug

We rented an Airbnb for the next few days in Keystone, SD. We loved the location as well as having a washer/dryer and kitchen in the middle of our trip. The Wild Wild West Experience was a the perfect place for us to settle in for a bit and get a good view of the nighttime stars.

While we were in the area we visited Mount Rushmore National Park. I highly recommend going to during the day to hike around, trying some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream and going back at night for the light show. vaca2017-230-lowresvaca2017-238-lowresvaca2017-239-lowresvaca2017-243-lowresvaca2017-249-lowres

Custer State Park was probably my favorite experience while staying in Keystone because I loved all the wildlife. The kids loved all the prairie dogs! Also, we highly recommend Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. for delicious burgers in Custer, S.D. Order the Hot Granny–you will not be disappointed.

vaca2017-251-lowresvaca2017-259-lowresvaca2017-264-lowresvaca2017-268-lowresvaca2017-271-lowresvaca2017-280-lowresvaca2017-285-lowresvaca2017-288-lowresvaca2017-292-lowresvaca2017-294-lowresvaca2017-297-lowresvaca2017-335-lowresvaca2017-345-lowresvaca2017-353-lowresvaca2017-356-lowresvaca2017-357-lowresvaca2017-364-lowresvaca2017-369-lowresWe went at sunset on two different occasions and the scenic drive was so peaceful. The only thing we regret is not planning for more time to swim and explore the area more. Sylvan Lake is a beautiful swimming, kayaking and picnicking spot.

Because we were so close to Wyoming, we decided to take a day to drive over to Devil’s Tower. We loved watching the landscape change as we drove into Wyoming. I don’t have a lot of pictures from Devil’s Tower because it was hot and I did not want to lug a bunch of stuff while we were hiking. On our way home we stopped to see the falls at Spearfish Canyon and ate gourmet liquid nitrogen ice cream from Get the Scoop food truck in Deadwood.devilstvaca2017-329-lowres

Wind Cave National Park and Reptile Gardens were two other fun stops the kids really enjoyed. The crocodile show at the Reptile Gardens was our favorite show from our visit.

vaca2017-309-lowresvaca2017-310-lowres*Tip: If you have a 4th grader, you should definitely check out the jr. ranger program, which helps get you into almost any national park for free.

Also, it might not look like much, but we absolutely loved stopping at dusk for the bison crossing.

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Some other highlights from our 4 days in the Keystone area: Downton Rapid City Splash Pad, Dinosaur Park, Rushmore Tramway Adventures Alpine Slides, Storybook Island, and Indian Tacos (they are made on fry bread and it’s a lot of food so we recommend sharing).

On our way home we stopped at Chadron State Park and went horseback riding and took a dip in the pool. We then headed on toward North Platte, NE with a stop at Carhenge in Alliance, and then enjoyed dinner at Penny’s Diner before tucking in for the night.

The next morning we headed to Lincoln, NE and enjoyed a picnic lunch at Pioneer Park Nature Center, viewing the exhibits, as well as some bison and an elk. We also managed to get a tick crawling on Nolan’s leg before it decided to dig in. In the evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Honest Abe’s Burgers & Freedom and then headed to the Sunken Gardens...where Jonathan found a tick on himself. Yes, I was paranoid after two ticks in one day. We closed out our day and the trip with a dip in the hotel pool before heading back to Springfield. This trip taught us that:

  1. Two weeks is a great amount of time for vacation.
  2. Our kids are great car riders.
  3. There are so many beautiful places to explore in the U.S.
  4. We can’t wait for another Road Trip!

What are your favorite Road Trips or family destinations within the United States? Stay tuned for our Road Trip South East coming in the next couple of weeks. If you made it this far in the blog post, thanks for reading and to see our daily adventures follow along on Instagram.

Happy Adventuring!

Jen