So you’re going to see Mount Rushmore. Are you wondering what else there is to see? I didn’t realize until I began researching, but South Dakota has plenty of options, and we spent five days in Rapid City and the surrounding area. Here are three cool places my parents and I visited in addition to Mount Rushmore.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
During the Cold War, the South Dakota prairie was home to intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, which were housed in underground groups of silos controlled by a launch facility. Because of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, many missiles were removed, and the silos were imploded. The U.S. has plenty of other nuclear missiles in other states, and this site was preserved for historical purposes.
My parents and I tend to plan trips at the last minute, and we found ourselves at a disadvantage. Planning ahead would’ve allowed us to book a tour to see the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility. However, the tours fill far in advance, so we were only able to see the visitor’s center and the Delta-09 missile silo.
The movie and display at the visitor’s center was sobering—and completely fascinating. I was particularly amused by the Bert the Turtle Public Service Announcement that taught kids to duck and cover during a nuclear attack—because that would help. The Delta-09 missile silo is at a different site several miles away, and we drove there and listened to the cell phone audio tour.
South Dakota Air and Space Museum
This museum is located outside the gate of Ellsworth Air Force Base, and my favorite part was the bus tour, where we saw the inside of a missile silo. (I hope I’m not scaring anyone with my fascination of nuclear weapons.) The silo tour is the highlight, and you don’t get to see much of the base for security reasons. You have to submit your driver’s license and pass a background check to take the tour. According to our guide, the background checks sometimes uncover warrants people don’t know about, and the police arrive. Thankfully, this didn’t happen on our tour!
Custer State Park
This park offers scenic drives that are well worth taking. The wildlife loop gives you a chance to see buffalo. At one point, the buffalo blocked the road, and I got some great pictures from the safety of the car. The Needles Highway boasts some beautiful rock formations. During one of our drives, we stopped at Legion Lake Lodge and had a relaxing lunch outside by the lake.
If you’re looking for a great family trip, I recommend visiting South Dakota because of the fascinating historical sites and natural beauty.