Are you looking for the best things to do in Rapid City with kids? Well, look no further. In this guide we round up all the kid friendly things to do in Rapid City for families to help you have an amazing vacation.
Why Visit Rapid City SD with Kids
But before we get onto the best things to do in Rapid City with kids, we thought it would be worth talking about why you should visit Rapid City with kids.
For us the reason we decided to visit Rapid City was because of its proximity to some of the biggest South Dakota attractions and as great place to base your self for a South Dakota road trip.
However, Rapid City should be on your radar as a destination on its own because of its kid friendly attraction and because of the other South Dakota attractions it is close it.
Therefore in this guide we will round up the best things to do in Rapid city with kids as well as the best things near Rapid City to do for families.
Where to Stay in Rapid City With Kids
There are plenty of great places to base yourself out of to visit South Dakota. However we recommend Rapid City because of its proximity to many of the best SD tourist attractions. When we stay in Rapid city with kids we like to stay on the hotel complex attached to the Watiki Water Park. These include:
These hotels offer great sized rooms for even larger families visiting Rapid City as well as having easy access to the main roads you need to get out to the best tourist attractions near Rapid City.
Best Things to Do in Rapid City with Kids
Best Free things to do in Rapid City with Kids
Anyone who has done a road trip with kids will tell you that the costs can soon add up. Therefore when we road trip with kids we always make sure that we try and find some free things to do.
In this section of the guide we round up the best things to do in Rapid City with kids that are absolutely free.
One of little one’s favourite things to do in Rapid city that was free was Dinosaur Park.
Dinosaur Park dates back to the 1930s and was created to capitalize on the tourists that were in the vicinity to visit Mount Rushmore (more on this later).
Dinosaur park contains seven dinosaur statues on a hill overlooking the city and is now on the National Historic Register of Places.
Admission to see the dinosaur park is completely free. And as well as the statues, there are plenty of free things to do nearby such as some fantastic nature trails that you can do with kids as well as some real life nearby dinosaur footprints.
There is also the famous Skyline Drive which offers unrivalled views of the city.
Note: if you are visiting Rapid City with toddlers and want to do the dinosaur park we recommend leaving the stroller in favour of a carrier. That is because there are lots of steps to get from the parking lot to the dinosaur sculptures as you can see in the image above.
Storybook Island is a bit of an institution in Rapid City and is one of the most kid friendly attractions in the area.
Storybook Island is run by the Rotary Club of Rapid City, and has been open since 1959 and is a completely free amusement park in the city.
This amusement park features sculptures and tableaus from all your children’s favorite storybooks. My little one really enjoyed posing with these and there are lots of great photo opportunities in the amusement park.
But as well as the sculptures there are plenty of other kid friendly things to do such as plenty of playgrounds, a train that runs through the park (though please note tickets for the train are an additional ticketed cost) and even a small carousel (again an extra cost).
I think Storybook Island is a perfect thing to do in Rapid City SD with toddlers but it is worth noting that there are height limits on the carousel.
If you are visiting Storybook Island, we think the perfect age for visiting this are under 9. I also think toddlers are most likely to get enjoyment out of this attraction.
Please note: that the park is shut from Labour Day to Memorial Day for the Winter Season!
Art Alley is an area of downtown Rapid City that has some amazing graffiti art that provides a great backdrop for family photoshoots in Rapid City.
Fountains in Plaza Square
The Fountains in Plaza Square are a great thing to do with kids in summer in Rapid City. I meant what child doesn’t love a water fountain and splash pad!
The fountains in Plaza Square, situated right on Main Street which makes it very convenient to visit and is a great way to let your kids blow off some steam after a day exploring the city centre. Just don’t forget to pack an extra set of clothes as they will get very wet.
Also, if you are visiting Rapid City with toddlers or babies please note that diapers are not allowed in the fountains however swim diapers are fine!
And if you are in the area we also recommend getting an ice cream in the Silver Lining Creamery to end the day.
If you visit in Winter then you will find the plaza turns into an ice rink to so there is plenty of year round entertainment.
One of my favorite free and quirky things to do in Rapid City with kids is to visit the President’s Walk.
Rapid City, along with being called “the Gateway to the Black Hills” is also know as “The City of Presidents”. The reason for this is because there are a series of life sized bronze statues of each president scattered throughout the downtown area.
So far there are bronze statues of 44 Presidents in downtown Rapid City.
And once you finish the President Walk we recommend that you eat in one of the quickest restaurants in RApid City – the head to Firehouse Brewing Company on Main Street!
Yes it is a bit touristy but the firehouse serves good food and an amazing selection of beers! Kids will love it for the free fire hats that are given out. For more information on the best places to eat in rapid city with kids check out this post.
Indoor Things to Do In Rapid City with kids
One of the things you will find when visiting Rapid City with kids is that depending on the time of year you visit you may need to find some indoor things to do especially if you are visiting Rapid City in Winter. Here are our favorite things to do inside in Rapid city.
If the weather is bad why not head to the Watiki Water Park on the edge of town.
The WAtiki Water park is full of wave machines and amazing slides that kids will love. Also if you are looking for the best place to stay in Rapid City we recommend staying one of the hotels adjacent to the water park such as La Quinta & Fairfield Inn & Suites ) as you will get discounts on tickets.
This is where we stayed and it was absolutely perfect with kids.
South Dakota Air and Space Museum
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum its a museum that is dedicated to aviation and is a great place to visit with kids who love planes and rockets.
Directions: 15 minutes from Rapid City
Things to do near Rapid City SD with kids
So now we have talked about the best things to do in Rapid City with kids, we are going to look at the things near Rapid City to do with kids. All of these places are a short drive outside of the city so you will need to have a car with you to do these.
Badlands national park with kids
The main reason we decided to visit Rapid City was due to its proximity to the Badlands National Park. We love visiting National Parks with kids as we find they are great vacations for all the family.
I think the Badlands might be one of our favorite national parks in the US because of all there is to do in the park with kids.
There are plenty of opportunities to wildlife spot, our little one particularly loved seeing Bison and the Prairie Dogs at Roberts Town – but just don’t let them get close! On top of that there are some great family friendly hikes in Badlands National Park.
If you are visiting Badlands National Park with toddlers, then we recommend leaving the stroller at home as there are not many boardwalk trails that are stroller friendly. Therefore we recommend adding carriers or toddler backpack reins to your national park packing list.
Distance from Rapid City: 50 minutes drive from Rapid City
No visit to the Badlands is complete without a visit to Wall Drug. As you drive between Rapid City and Sioux Falls there aren’t many noteworthy markings except for the constant advertising billboards for Wall Drug in either direction.
Wall Drug often features in lists of the world’s best Roadside Attractions and is a great spot to buy souvenirs, grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere. While there is nothing particularly aimed at children at Wall Drug they will undoubtedly walking around.
Distance from Rapid City: 50 minutes drive from Rapid City
Mount Rushmore is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of South Dakota. But is Mount Rushmore kid friendly? We think so!
We arrived at Mount Rushmore at 5am and pretty much had the whole site to ourselves.
Kids will enjoy the spectacle and there are some family friendly walks on site! There is also some great ice cream on site if you kids are in need of any additional bribery!
Make sure you take your time wandering the Walk of Flags to make the most of the spectacular walk to the viewing platform. For those traveling with older kids it is worth visiting the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Centre to learn more about the construction of the carving through exhibits and film!
Distance from Rapid City: 30 minutes drive from Rapid City
Rushmore Tramway Adventures
Also for those who are visiting with older children and looking to pair a visit to Mount Rushmore with some physical adventures this could be the perfect pick.
1880 Train – Black Hills Central Railroad
The1880 Train – Black Hills Central Railroad is a must do with kids in Rapid City located a short 30 minutes away from Rapid City. The train takes in some of the best scenery in the Black Hills while providing some live entertainment.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Another great attraction near Rapid City is the Crazy Horse Memorial and a must for this who want to learn more about Native American history in their trip to South Dakota.
This is a privately funded venture in the making. It is inspired by Mount Rushmore this statue is to commemorate the local Native American chief Crazy Horse. It is a nice comparison to visit this at the same time as Mount Rushmore however is yet to be completed.
Distance from Rapid City: 45 minutes drive from Rapid City
Custer state park
Of all the places that we visited in South Dakota, perhaps our favorite place was Custer State Park. In my opinion if this park was anywhere else in the US it would be a National Park.
There are plenty of things to do in Custer State Park with kids include an amazing scenic drive – of particular o note is the Needles Highway – one of the world’s most scenic drives. This is not a drive for bad drivers however who may scrap the sides of the car as they go through the tight tunnels!
On top of that there is eter Norbeck Scenic Byway and Wildlife Loop which are perfect to explore with kids.
But if you want to get your kids out of the car we recommend exploring some of the stops in the park. We loved getting out of the car and seeing the burros.
There are also lots of excursions you can do in Custer State Park with kids kids such as taking part in safari jeep tours and cookouts
Top Tip: Go Early as much of the drive is wide enough for one car so it can get congested and again it is better to view wildlife early in the day so why not consider booking in at the on-site lodge!
Distance from Rapid City: 40 minutes drive from Rapid City
My daughter absoultely loved visiting Reptile Gardens just outside of Rapid City.
Reptile World is in the Guiness Book of Records for being the World’s Largest Reptile Zoo. My daughter loved all of the hands on exhibits at Reptile Gardens as well as all of the shows including the very popular Snake show.
My daughter loved the hands on experiences as well as the live animal “shows” (more educational than a show).
Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA is a drive through wildlife park dedicated to bears. However there are some walking trails for some smaller mammal exhibits.
This attraction will please those who wanted to see bears on their trip to South Dakota, but to have a better chance of seeing bears here we recommend getting their early in the morning when bears are more active.
If you are driving through this attraction be sure your little one has a good view out of your car.
Old MacDonald’s petting zoo
Oold MacDonald’s petting Zoo is a great thing to do near Rapid City with toddlers rather than older children. This is a traditional petting zoo in a convenient location between Rapid City and big SD attractions!
Hill County Wineries – Prairie Berry
A family friendly winery with decent wines all named after characters from Black Hills History! The wineries in SD are family friendly so you can go on a tasting without concern!
30 minutes from Rapid City
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is another great place to visit with kids who love the fact that at this national park you can explore an underground cave system.
This is a longer drive away and is a good day trip from Rapid City
75 minutes from Rapid City
Devils Tower Wyoming
This iconic landmark is actually not in South Dakota, however it is just over the border in Wyoming. The Devils Tower is an important site to the local Lakota tribe and is a fantastic day trip from Rapid City.
This is a bit further out of the city (1.5 hours) but sure worth the drive.
FAQs About kid friendly Rapid City things to do
What is there to do in Rapid City SD for toddlers?
I would say that you can do any of the above things with toddlers. However if you want to know our favorite things to do in Rapid City for toddlers you should check out
- Badlands National Park
- Storybook Island
- Custer state Park
- Reptile Gardens and
- Old MacDonalds farm
Can kids go to Deadwood?
You can absolutely take kids to Deadwood however as Deadwood is known for its casinos I would not recommend this as the best place to base yourself out of in South Dakota.
Have you been to rapid city? What are your favourite things to do with kids?
Further Reading: South Dakota Road Trip Planner !