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The City of Presidents: Rapid City, South Dakota with Kids

By October 25, 2015October 18th, 2017No Comments

Rapid City Presidential WalkLocated just east of the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota, Rapid City is a wonderful blend of big city and small town vibes. The streets are bigger (and more extensive) than other Midwest towns, but it they are still lined with cute boutique shops and restaurants.

In the Middle of It All

There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in Rapid City—and plenty of excitement for families that travel with kids. Downtown, visit Main Street Square, a gathering point for locals and tourists alike. When we visited, the children were involved in a game of soccer on the square’s field and running in and out of the interactive water fountain (which lit up with all sorts of colors at night!). During the winter, they have an ice skating rink for families to enjoy and throughout the year, the square serves as a space for events, like a summer concert series, art fairs and trick-or-treating at Halloween time.

The buildings that sit just behind it, known as the Shops at Main Street Square, are filled with some fun places. We stopped by Ciao!, an Italian restaurant, for lunch. Their menu gives a plethora of options—delicious pastas, savory sauces and additions like shrimp or chicken. After lunch, we went to Silver Lining Creamery, a gourmet ice cream shop that was also filled with options. While we waited in line, we eyed the cute ceramic ice cream bowls for sale. Shaped like bowls and cones, they were an adorable option for gifts or to take home for kids to enjoy. The ice cream is made on-site so take the time to watch the process behind a glass window in the back of the shop.

Ciao in Rapid City

Outside of the square, we spotted an art project: one of those painted pianos that encourage visitors to experiment with their inner creativity. This was a high point for kids in the area; they couldn’t help but try their hand at creating some music.

A Presidential Walk

Another interesting thing about Rapid City is the Presidential Walking Tour. On each street corner in the central downtown area, there is a life-size presidential statue. Some local shops have maps of the city that show you where each president is, but it’s especially exciting to do the entire tour. While some statues are pretty basic, others are more involved, depicting something that happened during the man’s presidency that made him stand out. Others are dressed in signature outfits or holding items that represented something in their history.

This can be a great way to teach the kids about the presidents, or to reinforce things they may have recently learned in school. All of the children we saw doing the tour seemed more enthralled than I would’ve imagined, but there is definitely something special about experiencing each and every president in life-size form up close. They don’t yet have an Obama statue, but each of the prior presidents is embodied somewhere in town.

A few additional sculptures feature Native American icons that were prominent figures in the area’s past.

To get a different view of the city, take a ride on the City View Trolley. It will take you on an hour-long tour of the city, complete with historical facts and useful tidbits. While you probably won’t spot every statue, and you won’t get to see them up close, you’ll still be teaching little ones about the history of Rapid City (aboard an adorable trolley!). They also have a hop on-hop off system where they stop at local sites like museums and the hilltop Dinosaur Park so that visitors can get a full picture of the town and visit the places they want to see.

Out in the Country

Outside of Rapid City, head to the country—Bear Country U.S.A, that is! The drive-through wildlife park is sure to excite kids of all ages. It’s filled with animals from all over North America, roaming about in their own sections of the park. Rather than a typical zoo, this allows the animals more freedom and is especially fun for kids because they have to search for the animals out the window!

Of course they have bears (mostly black bears, but also a Grizzly!) but they also have some more unique animals like arctic wolves, mountain lions and bighorn sheep. Once you drive through the majority of the park, you’ll find yourself in Babyland, a walk-through area filled with even more animals. They have tons of babies (my personal favorites were the river otters, bear cubs and foxes) but they also have some smaller animals like porcupines, raccoons and bobcats. The cages are still pretty spacious but give little ones a chance to see the animals up close.

Bear Country USA in Rapid City

Back in Rapid City, you should also pay a quick stop to the aforementioned Dinosaur Park. Set on the very top of the town’s highest hill, it has some gorgeous views. It’s nothing too special, just a standard park, but the life-size dinosaur statues are still fun for little ones to look at and it will give you a chance to get some fresh air and exercise before winding down for the day.


Ashley Ryan

Author Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan is a southern California native with a background in journalism and anthropology. She loves learning about other cultures and combines her passions for traveling, writing and photography in her professional work. To learn more or get in touch, visit

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