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Buckle up and get ready for a truly unforgettable adventure through South Dakota's Black Hills! This 4-day action-packed journey will show your group the biggest, most popular, and most educational spots in the area, in the most fun way possible!
The Black Hills
The piece de resistance of the area is the Black Hills National Forest, the southwestern South Dakota spot that spans over 5 million acres. Timeless forest land and mountain ranges spread in every direction, the entire region known as an 'oasis in a sea of the prairie'. The history here, though short and turbulent, is interesting for any group, covering Sioux and Lakota tribal traditions, the fur trade era, and the homesteading gold rush. From Mt. Rushmore to Custer State Park, wild west encounters to soaring adventures, the Black Hills will entertain and educate your group through and through
Black Hills Mining Museum
Welcome to the Black Hills Mining Museum, the fascinatingly educational and immersive gold mining museum located in Lead, South Dakota. This museum was built by miners from the nearby, now shut down Homestake Gold Mine, over 140 miners lending a hand by sharing their personal stories, professional know-how, and various artifacts with the museum. During your visit your group will be able to look around the museum, the main floor holding displays full of memorabilia and objects 'from a bygone era'. Then you will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of their simulated underground mine, this experience providing the 'only comprehensive look at both early-day and modern underground mining in the Black Hills'. Go gold panning next in a hands-on activity in which you will pan and keep real placer gold!
Adams Museum and House
See what life was like for one of the area’s first founders. In 1892 Horns and Anna Franklin decided to settle into Deadwood, making their home a Victorian, Queen Anne Style house. The historic preservation to this home is astounding, today the oak exterior and stain glass windows pristine, the inside sheet music, china, books, and medicines untouched. A museum was created in 1930 in downtown Deadwood to preserve and educate Black Hills History, as well as specific Deadwood History. Within the museum, you can learn all about Potato Creek Johnny’s Gold Nugget, the mysterious Thoen Stone disc, and so much more about frontier life, gold mining, and panning, and life in South Dakota.
Historic Deadwood is one of the most immersively educational cities to stop in during your Black Hills visit, the entire area a step back in time to the Wild Wild West. Experience the legends of Lakota tribes, gold mines, and serious saloons while here, several attractions within built to both entertain and educate. Learn about the dead tree namesakes in the gulches, the American Indian roots of the city, and about Wild Bill Hickock and his incident while here, we guarantee you will want to come back again!
Museum of Geology
While here your group will see various exhibits containing things such as rare fossils from the White River Badlands, mounted skeletons from mammals and dinosaurs, and mineral displays including meteorites, crystals, and gems. The exhibits focus on paleontology, the study of ancient life, and mineralogy, the study of minerals. If you have any young ones in your group visit the Kid's Zone, full of hands-on activities and exhibits. There are guided tours for groups, as well as special events like Night at the Museum and summer field camps.
Dahl Arts Center
The Dahl is a public facility gifted by Mr. and Mrs. A.E Dahl that holds a multi-purpose event center, 5 visual art galleries, an interactive children's gallery, an onsite gift shop, classrooms, and the Emerging Artist Performance Space. One of it's most popular features is the Cyclorama Mural of American History, a 180-foot oil on canvas panorama depicting 200 years of United States economic history. While here your group should opt-in for a guided tour, an opportunity to allow a professional docent lead you through the 'innovative, inspiring, thought-provoking contemporary exhibits' that are on display at the time.
The Journey Museum and Learning Center
Welcome to the Journey Museum and Learning Center, the unique museum in Rapid City South Dakota that holds exhibits on geology, archaeology, Sioux Indian culture, and early Black Hills history. This center is home to a vast collection of items and information that shows humanity's journey through time in the area, and in the world in general. Featuring displays on dinosaurs, early settlers, and past living conditions within the 1.2 million-acre forest of Black Hills, what the Sioux name Paha Sapa, or Sacred Area, this museum is the perfect spot to learn all you can about the area.
Main Street Square
Rapid City's Main Street Square is the place to be for family fun while visiting the city, this public space in the heart of downtown holding regular special events, seasonal activities, and plenty of opportunity for more city exploration! You can enjoy playing in the dancing fountain, watching movies in the park, and regular festivals/live events! Outside of the square, you will find a downtown area filled with great places to shop, eat, and have fun. Food-wise, you will have several different options as well, with a few favorites including Botticelli, Great Harvest Bread Co., Philly Teds, and Murphey's Pub. Spend your evening catching a flick at Elks Theater, wandering around Art Alley, or finding your way out of the Black Hills Escape Room!
Mt. Rushmore is a true American classic site to see, a National Monument featuring a massive sculpture within the Black Hills region. The granite faces of some of our most recognizable and respected presidents will be an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience, the sheer height of each face quite frankly astounding. Construction on the 60-foot high masterpiece was first started in 1927 by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, finally completed in 1941. There is an onsite museum with interactive exhibits to explain the ‘birth, growth, duty, and presentation of the president’s of the country’, the rich heritage here attracting over 3 million guests annually.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is one of the most visited sites within the Black Hills/ Badlands area, a wildlife reserve that is both the largest and the first state park in South Dakota. Sitting on a whopping 71,000 acres, or 110 square miles, Custer State Park provides guests with ‘clear mountain waters and open ranges’, a truly breathtaking site full of wildlife and educational opportunities galore. The park was named after Lt. Colonel George Custer, the man who discovered gold in 1872 on the onsite French Creek. Your student group can walk the same creek as you learn all about the history of this spot, several additional educational programs available. You can also head to the outdoor education center on-site, the perfect place to get more insight on the buffalo, bison, antelopes, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and friendly burros roaming the park.
Wind Cave National Park
This 28,000-acre park sits in the southwest corner of South Dakota and is well-known for it's unique 'boxwork' formations within the cave, as well as diverse wildlife above ground within its tall and short grass prairie 'ecotone' (2 ecosystems meeting together). During your visit, we suggest you start by walking around the Visitor Center, which will teach you all about the park, the cave, and the history of the land through various exhibits and films, then take a tour of the cave and hike on any of the 12 trails above. The cave is named such due to the barometric winds experienced at the entrance. There are vast chambers within like the Post Office and Elks Room, and several different 'speleothems', or cave formations, to see throughout!
Welcome to South Dakota's Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, an active museum and paleontological excavation site highly popular for its research work and educational opportunities. Here you will find mammoth remains preserved in an old sinkhole, this area holding 'the largest concentration of mammoths in the world'. There are over 1,200 fossils here in the sinkhole total, including fragments and bones not fully excavated. Your group will learn all about this during any guided tour, Enhanced Educational Experience, or Summer Education Program you participate in!
Just a bit east of the Hills, the Badlands offer an 'otherworldly' geological variety, the landscape sprayed with cliffs, canyons, and buttes. The views here are absolutely one of a kind, so be sure to bring your camera! You will also want to bring your hiking boots, as this spot is chock-full of park trails, hiking paths, and backcountry fun. Take a scenic drive, explore the wilderness, or maybe even camp amongst the local wildlife while here! There are seven different towns within the area, one of our favorites to send student groups being Wall, home of the famous Wall Drug Store.