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The Ryan Family Road Trip

things to do in south dakota with kids

The Ryan Family received a Travelnitch grant in early 2022—this is their story.

Thank you for your gift that helped our family dream trip come true. I can’t tell you how much we needed this, it meant so much to all of us.  Because of Travelnitch, we were able to do so many things we could not have done otherwise. For that, we are so thankful!

Gabe, Sarah, Lilly, Emma, and Samuel
Emma, Samuel and Lilly

Our trip started a day earlier than we expected because we had an ice storm and we wanted to beat the weather.  We spent the night in Wisconsin before traveling on to Minnesota.  Then the real fun began!

We made it to Sioux Falls where we saw the SculptureWalk downtown!  We traveled on to the Badlands—I wish I could tell you how amazing it was, but there truly are no words.  Lilly, Emma, and Samuel had the best time.  We hiked all of the trails and [they] were just in awe.  At one point Samuel stopped and said thank you to Gabe and I. 

“For what?” I asked, to which Sam replied, “For all of this!”

After the Badlands we went to Wall Drug.  The kids had their picture taken with every statue, and Sam even bought a pair of real cowboy boots and a cowboy hat!  We spent the night in Rapid City that night where we would hunker down for 4 days.

Our first day trip took us to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Iron Mountain Road, and Needles Highway.  Mount Rushmore was amazing.  The weather was perfect for viewing. Emma and Sam both earned their Junior Park Ranger badges and Emma was so excited to be there—this was HER day!  She loves history and the visitor’s center was full of it. Each kid took turns “blowing up” a part of the mountain to carve the faces of our presidents.

things to do in south dakota with kids
things to do in south dakota with kids

At Custer State Park we did the Wildlife Loop Road where we saw buffalo, elk, mountain goats, rams, and burros. The “Begging Burros” walked right up to our car. Lilly was a little nervous, but the pictures say it all! 

things to do in south dakota with kids

Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road were beautiful.  The kids never once looked at their tablets.  Sam said there was so much to see he forgot to blink.  

On the way back we stopped at Reptile Gardens.  Lilly and I spent most of the time pacing back and forth outside the reptile dome—we are both terrified of snakes—but Gabe, Sam and Emma spent over an hour getting to know every snake, turtle and alligator.  Sam even touched a snake!  Emma was in her glory, as she is our animal lover.  Both Emma and Sam earned their Reptile Adventure badges.  Lilly and I most enjoyed the Prairie Dog Homestead.

things to do in south dakota with kids
things to do in south dakota with kids

The next day found us in Deadwood, Devil’s Tower, and Montana.  Deadwood was super cool. The kids stood in front of the saloon where Wild Bill was killed. Then we took them into “Saloon #10” where they drank Sasparilla at the bar.  We visited Mount Moriah Cemetery where both Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried.  During quarantine, I had the kids do reports on both of them, so they were super excited to see it in person.

At Devil’s Tower we hiked the 1.8 mile loop—Sam was so proud to hike in his new cowboy boots.  Emma and Lilly climbed the rocks, reading every sign along the way. 

things to do in south dakota with kids

Montana was just beautiful.  Where we live, there are so many trees, you don’t realize how big the sky can be.  We all just stood in a parking lot looking up. Lilly said you couldn’t tell where Earth ended because it seemed to go on forever.

Our family did so many amazing things on this trip. We visited Mount Rushmore Candy Company, walked through an old ghost mining town, conquered several hiking trails. The kids learned so much about our presidents, and saw so many animals we would have never seen at home—and we loved doing it all together.

So much thanks and love,

The Ryan Family—Gabe, Sarah, Lilly, Emma, and Samuel

things to do in south dakota with kids

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