By Danielle Prostrollo
This autumn I am taking a few weeks off from writing, reading, and studying to be with family and introduce my other half, Dan, to the beauty of South Dakota. Having grown up there its easy to go back and entertain myself – its home. But this will be Dan’s first trip to America, so I feel the pressure to make sure he gets to experience everything.
So I’m going to do what no born-and-bred South Dakotan has ever done (I’m guessing?)… consult a tourist guidebook. The library has an heroic collection of travel guides for all corners of the United States so I was lucky enough to find two different books to use: Mount Rushmore & The Black Hills by Laural A. Bidwell (a Moon guide) and Off the Beaten Path: The Dakotas by Lisa Meyers McClintick.
The obvious ‘Must-See’ attractions are there – Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands. Those aren’t in question, we’ll certainly put those on the list. Other options that would normally be a given include Hill City/Keystone salt water taffy but sadly we’ll have missed out on taffy season.
From the guidebooks I realised I had forgotten about the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and Launch Center Delta-01 – a site we will definitely visit, weather permitting. The old Cold War missile silo and launch center are something a little bit different in a state that is best known for its Wild West history.
While reading I stumbled into the history of Mount Rushmore, something we all learn as kids but hadn’t thought about in a long time and resonated much more now that I have been living abroad for a few years. Specifically, what I found interesting is that Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum was friends with famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin and had exhibited for Queen Victoria before returning to America and taking on large scale projects such as the Stone Mountain project (which his temper eventually saw him relieved from) and Mount Rushmore.
And in a bit of reminiscence, the entry on the Black Hills Institute brightened my day. The Institute was a stalwart of my childhood summers. Sue the T. rex was my favorite. I was of the perfect age to be devastated when she left the Black Hills for good but on this visit I hope to see Stan, the most complete T. rex, to date.
There’s so much to see, hopefully we can tick off as many as possible.
Wall Drug – the greatest emporium/roadside attraction around
Alpine Inn in Hill City – ultimate restaurant for the indecisive (you get a steak, either a big one or a smaller one)
A beer in Deadwood – toast one to ol’ Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (for more info on Wild Bill in South Dakota, we have some great books on the man in the library)
Mount Moriah – a similar but more solemn remembrance of Bill and Jane at their resting place
Nick’s Hamburgers – on the other side of the state these famous burgers are tiny but delicious
Corn Palace – who wouldn’t love a building covered in corn murals?
Falls Park – the namesake of Sioux Falls, the Falls are a great attraction for anyone who enjoys a walk in the park
Al’s Oasis – to get between East and West River you have to stop at Al’s Oasis to recover and recuperate in their cafeteria.
And the list goes on. Undoubtedly, this trip will spark a ton of lists for future visits as the Black Hills and the Great Plains offer such beautiful landscapes and rich culture.