Are you looking for the best things to do in Rapid City SD? If yes, then look no more! In this article, we list down some of the best attractions in Rapid City that you cannot miss out on.
Located on the edge of the Black Hills, Rapid City is a popular destination in Midwest for visitors. The city is one of the top attractions in South Dakota due to its proximity to Mount Rushmore.
There are lots of fun things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota such as exploring the national forest, hiking, visiting historic attractions, and so on.
Apart from the rich culture and touristic attractions, there are also a good number of hotel and restaurant options here.
So, whether you are planning a trip with your family, friends, or solo, you will easily find some fun activities in Rapid City to interest you.
So, if you are wondering about what to do in Rapid City SD, check out our list of the 15 best things to do in Rapid City SD that you shouldn’t miss.
15 Best Things To Do in Rapid City SD You Shouldn’t Miss
Canyon Lake Park
Are you looking for free things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota? If yes, then one of the top Rapid City attractions to visit is Canyon Lake Park.
With an area of 29 acres, Canyon Lake Park is one of the oldest city parks and offers lots of fun activities in Rapid City for visitors.
There are several picnic areas, playgrounds, etc. where people can enjoy themselves with their family and friends.
The park also features a fishing bridge and offers rental paddle boats to anyone interested in paddling on the lake.
There is also a gorgeous gazebo located in the middle of the lake that makes for a good photography and viewing spot.
That’s not all, you will also find several walking trails throughout the park, making it a paradise for nature lovers.
So, if you wish to spend some time outdoors, then one of the best places to visit is Canyon Lake Park.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Located 30 minutes from the city, visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of the best things to do in South Dakota.
It took several years for Mount Rushmore to be completed and it was finally opened to visitors in 1941.
Since then, the memorial receives 2 million tourists every year and has become one of the top things to do in the Black Hills.
How about a full-day tour of Mount Rushmore and the Badlands?
The carved rock features the faces of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Moreover, it is completely free to visit Mount Rushmore but you do need to pay a parking fee here.
If you are wondering about things to do in Mount Rushmore, we have you covered. You can choose to take a photo with the presidents or learn about this carved rock by joining the ranger-guide program.
You can also walk the Presidential Trail, or enjoy the surrounding views.
Trust me, this is one of the top attractions in South Dakota that you cannot miss out on when exploring Rapid City.
Tickets Here: Full Day Tour Of Mount Rushmore and the Badlands!
Tickets Here: Tour of Mount Rushmore and Flume trail Hike
Rapid City, a beautiful town in South Dakota, is a paradise for art lovers and the best thing to see in Rapid City is Art Alley.
This free attraction in Rapid City is a part of the downtown area where the entire alley is covered with murals and graffiti.
In recent years, graffiti art has become quite popular in the area as it is a beautiful way to allow the locals to express themselves.
Such colorful works not only refer to pop culture but also share social messages and can vary in genres.
So, if you are a big fan of such artworks too, then head to the alley between the 6th and 7th street in the downtown area. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
For art lovers, visiting Art Alley is one of the best things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Rapid City is home to many public parks and playgrounds and one of the most unique attractions in Rapid City is the Dinosaur Park.
Established in the 1930s, this Rapid City attraction offers an amazing view from Skyline Drive and features several statues of dinosaurs throughout the park.
Here, you will find seven statues of different dinosaurs that were designed by Emmet Sullivan.
The best thing to see in Rapid City is clicking your photos at this park. Both kids and adults would love photos with a T-rex, triceratops, Apatosaurus, and more.
Apart from the photos, you also learn about each of these dinosaurs through the information board placed beside them which records their weight, habitat, and their past existence in South Dakota.
If you are traveling with kids, then one of the top things to do in Rapid City SD is to visit Dinosaur Park which is a hidden gem of the Midwest.
South Dakota Air and Space Museum
Located in Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota Air and Space Museum is the most interesting thing to do in South Dakota. It is located just a 16-minute drive from Rapid City and is perfect for flying enthusiasts.
This attraction in Rapid City features several aviation exhibits, galleries, and aircraft that will give you a glimpse into South Dakota’s and the country’s aviation history.
From iconic fighter jets to planes, you will find all kinds of aviation artifacts of the 20th century at this museum.
One of the main highlights of this museum is the 30 military planes of the Second World War.
Along with the planes, you will also find the missiles and the weapons that were a key part of the Allies’ success in the war.
If you are fascinated with the history of aviation and the technology used or are simply interested in learning about the types of planes, fighter jets, etc. used in the 20th century, then this is the perfect place for you to visit.
Storybook Island Is One Of The Cool Things To Do In Rapid City
One of the top things to see in Rapid City, Storybook Island is one of the best things to do in South Dakota with family.
This Rapid City attraction is a perfect place to spend your day with family, especially young kids as the park offers an immersive experience to the guests through fairytales and nursery rhymes.
The park is open every year from Memorial Day to Labor Day and doesn’t charge any entry fees.
You can enjoy a train ride or a carousel here for $3 and explore around 100 fairytale settings available here.
If you are looking for fun Rapid City activities to enjoy, then there is nothing better than spending a day at the Storybook Island park with your family and friends.
Watiki Water Park
Are you still confused about what to do in Rapid City SD? Well, the most fun thing to do in Rapid City, especially in summers, has to be chilling at the Watiki Water Park.
With a wonderful mixture of thrilling water rides and swimming pools, this waterpark is the best place to cool off in the South Dakota summer.
However, you can visit this park year-round and enjoy the slides in the winters as well.
It is one of the best Rapid City attractions for families with kids.
Moreover, you will find several hotels, restaurants, and bars around the park, making it a great place to hang out with your family and friends.
From a lazy river to water basketball, you will find all sorts of fun activities to indulge in here.
Chapel in the Hills
If you are an architecture lover, then one of the best things to see in Rapid City is the Chapel in the Hills.
Completed in 1969 under the guidance of Reverend Harry Gregerson, this chapel was inspired by the Borgund Stave Church of Norway.
Due to the city’s Norwegian heritage, the chapel was built here and was home to a Lutheran radio network for six years.
Later, it was relocated to its present location, amidst the lush green forests, for a magical experience.
Admire the intricate woodwork of the chapel including the Norse dragonheads, gilded designs, and more.
There is also an onsite museum and visitor center where visitors can learn more about this chapel and the original one that inspired it.
So, if Nordic structures interest you, then one of the best things to do in Rapid City SD is to visit this beautiful chapel.
Downtown Rapid City – The City of Presidents Walk
Are you looking for fun free things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota? If yes, then visit Main Street Square in downtown Rapid City.
This attraction in Rapid City is a communal space where you will find many playgrounds and open spaces for kids to play at.
Plus, you can enjoy summer music concerts here after shopping and eating at one of the several options available here.
One of the most unique things about downtown is its art display that consists of life-sized replicas of the 43 presidents.
From Barack Obama to James Monroe, you will find statues of all the past leaders in this town.
Museum of Geology Is One Of The Interesting Things To Do In Rapid City
There are several free activities in Rapid City that are ideal for budget travelers and families to enjoy.
One such place is the Museum of Geology where visitors can learn about regional geology through exhibits on paleontology and minerals.
Learn about life on the earth’s surface and join a guided tour to make the most of your visit.
One of the main highlights of this museum is its amazing collection of reptiles from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
That’s not all, you will also find marine life from prehistoric times displayed here.
For history buffs, one of the most fascinating things to do in Rapid City SD is the Museum of Geology.
Custer State Park
For nature lovers, one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore SD is to visit the Custer State Park, a popular state park in South Dakota.
It is a popular Rapid City attraction and is only a 37-minute drive from the city center. Here, you can encounter many animals such as deer, elk, and even bison.
The state park is home to several amazing hiking trails and scenic drives, making it one of the top attractions in South Dakota.
A popular thing to do is a hot air balloon ride at sunrise!
Visitors can drive through the Wildlife Loop Road to see the bison or go on hiking trails to enjoy the state park views.
In the summers, boating and swimming in the lakes inside this park is a great idea as well.
There is no shortage of things to do at this attraction near Custer SD, so you can easily spend a day or two in this park.
So, if you are looking for fun things to do in Rapid City South Dakota, then do plan a visit to Custer State Park.
Tickets Here: Black Hills Hot Air Balloon At Sunrise
Wind Cave National Park
If you are looking for a fun thing to do near Rapid City, then plan a day at the Wind Cave National Park.
It features one of the longest caves in the world and although it is a 51-minute drive from Rapid City, it is a popular attraction in South Dakota that you cannot miss out on.
The national park in South Dakota is also home to a large mixed-grass prairie where you can find several animals including elk, bison, coyotes, dogs, etc., making it one of the top parks for wildlife viewing.
There are several hiking trails available for exploration here as well such as Ranking Ridge Trail, Centennial Trail Loop, and so on.
If you love hiking and wildlife viewing, then one of the best things to do in Rapid City SD is to plan a day trip to Wind Cave National Park.
Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper And Show
Of course, when we are listing the best things to do in Rapid City, we have to mention the amazing choices of restaurants available here. One such place that you must try in the city is Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper and Show.
This restaurant offers not only delicious food but a unique experience to its guests.
Before the food is served, guests are sent to explore the film set of Dances with Wolves. Later, the food is served along with a Wild West-themed show.
This is a great activity in Rapid City to enjoy with your family and friends.
This is one of the best restaurants in Rapid City that you must try. Make the most of the local food here which consists of baked chicken, potatoes, ranch biscuits, and more.
Pactola Reservoir is the largest reservoir in Black Hills National Forest and is the best thing to do in the Black Hills, when planning a visit to Rapid City.
The reservoir is located at a distance of 30 minutes from the city and makes a great day trip from Rapid City.
If you are looking for a fun thing to do in Rapid City, then you can definitely not go wrong with a visit to this reservoir.
There are lots of things to do at this reservoir such as boating, fishing, swimming, and so on.
The reservoir is equipped with many facilities to welcome visitors such as a full-service marina, food services, shower, and more.
For outdoor enthusiasts, this is one of the best places for camping in South Dakota as well.
Apart from camping, there is a swim beach and picnic areas in the forest near this reservoir, making it the perfect place to spend the weekend.
So, if you are looking for adventurous things to do in Rapid City, then camping at Pactola Lake is a great choice.
Badlands National Park Is One Of The Amazing Things To Do Near Rapid City
Are you looking for fun things to do in South Dakota while visiting Rapid City? If yes, then consider Badlands National Park which is a 55-minute drive from Rapid City SD.
The city acts as the perfect base for this highly underrated park which is undoubtedly one of the top things to do near Mount Rushmore and Rapid City SD.
The colorful and prismatic buttes, spires, and sandstone pinnacles make it one of the most photogenic spots in the country.
This national park also features a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem so you will find bison and bighorn sheep in abundance here.
Apart from its unique landscape, this place also offers some of the best hiking trails in South Dakota that offer you scenic views and magical sunsets/sunrises.
So, whether you are looking for a scenic drive or a hike, Badlands National Park is a great attraction in South Dakota that you cannot miss out on your Rapid City trip.
How about a private tour of the Badlands National Park?
Tickets Here: Badlands National Park Private Tour
Tickets Here: Mount Rushmore and Badlands Full Day Tour
Packing List For Visiting Rapid City SD
It is always a great idea to pack lightly using only a carry-on whether you are driving or flying to South Dakota.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring with you when visiting Rapid City SD. This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors.
It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can keep your most valuable documents safe and secure next to your body.
If you have a pouch already, you may not want to or need to invest in a new one, like me.
If it does not come with RFID protection, these RFID sleeves would be handy to prevent identity theft.
This configuration comes with enough passport and credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected.
They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your current pouch or wallet. These are the kind my family and I use not only when traveling but at home as well.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery.
This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips. It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek Selfie Stick and Tripod for my birthday. It has Bloothtooth connectivity so it is very easy to use.
I was never a fan of packing cubes until I tried them out! Now I am sold. These Bagail packing cubes are the exact ones I use whenever I travel.
I cannot believe how much more organized I am now! And I never leave without them anymore
Hydration is so important. You want to remain hydrated to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels. You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for travel and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack or your purse. Also when filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is at a premium. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space in your suitcase at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc. This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great.
Here you will find 15 of the best things to do in Rapid City SD.
There are so many interesting and historical things to do in South Dakota, and visiting the attractions in Rapid City is definitely one of the best.