I love road trips. Planes may get you there faster, but then you miss out on all that is cool, beautiful, weird and unique about this country.
Take for instance South Dakota. If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t think about it very much except to wonder why your Citibank statements come from there. Oh, and that mountain, with the faces. That’s in South Dakota, right?
Erm, yes. And so much more. In fact, take a drive along I-90 and it’s like a treasure trove of roadside attractions. In addition to all the truck stops, restaurants, hotels, and wineries vying for your attention, you’ve got places like the Corn Palace, Reptile Gardens, 1880 Town, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead throwing up billboards, begging you to stop. You could literally spend weeks visiting every tourist trap on this highway.
One of the most popular and well-known stops along the way – if only because they’ve purchased more than half the billboards within a 200-mile radius – is Wall Drug.
Believe it or not, the business thrived and grew because of free ice water. The Wall story is actually kind of cool; it’s the whole American Dream, rags to riches type of saga that they like to make movies about for the Hallmark Channel. It may have started out as just a drug store, but today it has grown into a mini-mall, complete with a bookstore, fudge shop, western art gallery, café, gold panning, arcade, souvenir shops, splash park, a jackalope, and an animatronic T-rex. Seriously. You almost need to see it to believe it.
Located just seven miles from the entrance to Badlands National Park, (76 miles to that monument with the faces, otherwise known as Mount Rushmore), Wall Drug sees millions of visitors pass through its walls (sorry!) every year.
Accessibility: Completely wheelchair accessible, with nice big bathrooms, too.
And since I know you were waiting for it, here are 45+ attractions found only in South Dakota, close to I-90:
- 1880 Town
- Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
- Al’s Oasis – A South Dakota Tradition
- America’s Founding Fathers Exhibit
- Armed Forces Military Display
- Badlands Helicopter Tours (multiple operators)
- Badlands Petrified Gardens
- Badlands Prairie Homestead
- Badlands Ranch Store (feed the prairie dogs and free picnic area)
- Bear Country Wildlife Park
- Black Hills Caverns
- Buffalo Ridge
- Call of the Wild Wildlife Exhibit
- Capitol Lake War Memorial
- City of Presidents
- Crazy Horse Memorial
- Dances with Wolves filming sites
- Deadwood, South Dakota
- Fatima’s Family Shrine
- Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- High Plains Western Heritage Museum
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead
- Minuteman Missle National Historic Site
- Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
- Mount Rushmore
- National Museum of Woodcarving
- Old Fort Meade Cavalry Museum
- Old McDonald’s Petting Farm
- Old West Trading Post & Antique Mall
- Petrified Forest of the Black Hills
- Pioneer Auto Show
- Prehistoric Indian Village
- The Quilt Shop
- Reptile Gardens
- Rush Mountain Adventure Park
- Rushmore Borglum Museum
- Rushmore Cave
- Rushmore Tramway Adventures
- South Dakota Air and Space Museum
- South Dakota Hall of Fame
- South Dakota Tractor Museum
- Storybook Island
- The Corn Palace
- The Porter Sculpture Park
- Wall Drug
- Wonderland Cave