The city of Rapid City is located in the Black Hills of western South Dakota.
This picturesque area is close to some of America’s most stunning natural scenery, as well as a host of fun and exciting attractions including the famous Mount Rushmore.
From incredible outdoor adventures in the Black Hills to fascinating museums right within the city, visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in Rapid City.
Here is a detailed guide to best things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota on your next trip.
Why visit Rapid City
When most people think of South Dakota, they probably think of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.
However, there’s much more to see in The Mount Rushmore State than just those two tourist hotspots.
Rapid City, located in the southwest corner of the state, is one of the larger cities in South Dakota and makes a great base for exploring some of the other amazing attractions that this corner of the country has to offer.
From dinosaur fossils to Native American history to world-class mountain biking and fishing, there’s something for everyone in Rapid City and the surrounding area.
So if you’re looking for an offbeat vacation destination that’s full of surprises, put Rapid City on your list!
Also Read: Denver to Mount Rushmore Road Trip
Best Things to do in Rapid City, South Dakota
Visitors can find plenty of vibrant cultural attractions, including art galleries, museums, and theaters here.
And when it comes to dining and shopping, Rapid City doesn’t disappoint either.
Explore downtown Rapid City
Downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, with its art galleries, museums, theaters, and historic sites, is a beautiful spot to explore.
Whether you’re looking for a culture fix or a place to grab some food or to shop for souvenirs, it’s easy to find a place that you like.
It is also very walkable – especially the area around the Main Street Square and the Dahl Arts Center.
Meet the Triceratops at Dinosaur Park
Overlooking downtown Rapid City, you will find a favorite city attraction – the Dinosaur Park!
The Dinosaur Park is home to seven life-sized, realistic dinosaur sculptures.
Kids love seeing the gigantic sculptures and playing near them.
Enjoy live music in Main Street Square
Looking for a spot to enjoy a summer concert or festive holiday celebration?
Main Street Square in Rapid City is the perfect place!
This charming public square features a variety of activities, events, outdoor entertainment throughout the year, from movie nights to farmers markets.
It is home to an ice skating rink in the winter and a great place to people watch year round!
Take photos in Art Alley
Looking for a unique art experience? Head to Rapid City’s Art Alley!
This hidden gem is home to vibrant street art and graffiti, making for a colorful and creative stroll.
It’s the perfect spot for an Instagram photo op or simply to take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown Rapid City.
Explore the Wild West at the Journey Museum
The Journey Museum and Learning Center is a great place to visit for families and history buffs alike.
The museum tells the story of the American West through its collections, indoor and outdoor exhibits, and programs.
It has exhibits ranging from the Fur Trade and pioneers to the region to the life of the Plains Indians and the Art of the Lakota Gallery.
Visitors can explore the region’s natural history, culture, art, and archaeology on a visit to the museum.
Spot the Komodo Dragons at the Reptile Gardens
The Reptile Gardens is amongst the largest reptile zoos in the world!
This attraction is home to many different kinds of snakes, crocodiles, lizards, tortoises, frogs, and other reptiles – including the famous Komodo dragons!
You’ll also find insects in addition to the birds like macaws and parrots in the Reptile Gardens.
The on site garden has a variety of lush plants, tropical flowers, and ornamental displays – it offers unparalleled beauty and variety to visitors.
Meet Winnie the Pooh at Storybook Island
If you’re looking for fun things to do with kids in Rapid City, look no further than Storybook Island.
This enchanting and magical park is home to a variety of storybook-themed attractions, including characters from fairytales, Disney stories, nursery rhymes, and more.
Kids of all ages have fun exploring the many play areas and seeing scenes from Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Wizard of Oz, Cat in the Hat, and more come to life.
Storybook Island is free to visit.
Marvel at military aircrafts at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum
The South Dakota Air & Space Museum is a haven for those interested in aircraft and space exploration.
The museum is located just outside the Ellsworth Air Force Base.
It has a large outdoor exhibits where visitors can get up close to military planes including B-1, B-52, B-29, and even a F-111.
The museum also offers interactive exhibits on the history of aviation and space travel.
Admission is free, making it a great option for a fun day out with the family in Rapid City.
See dinosaur fossils at the Museum of Geology
The Museum of Geology in Rapid City is home to an impressive collection of geological specimens from around the Black Hills region.
It is located on the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology campus.
The museum also has exhibits on paleontology, mineralogy, history of the earth, and more.
On a visit, you can see several dinosaur fossils as well as other rare fossils excavated in the White River Badlands area.
The exhibits are well-organized and informative and the plenty of interactive displays keep kids entertained.
Best Things to do near Rapid City, South Dakota
With its close proximity to Mount Rushmore and other tourist destinations, Rapid City makes the perfect base camp for exploring the Black Hills area.
The landscape near Rapid City is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
From miles of hiking and biking trails to world-renowned rock climbing and scenic drive, Rapid City outdoor attractions make this perfect destination for everyone.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Black Hills and for good reason.
The carved sculptures of four United States presidents on Mount Rushmore – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln – make this attraction a must-see.
There are guided tours available from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore National Monument.
On your visit, be sure to stop at the visitor center and the museum for an introduction to the history of Mount Rushmore.
Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA is a drive through wildlife park near Rapid City, SD.
It is home to many North American animals including grizzly and black bears, wolves, bison, elk, deer, and more.
There are also picnic areas with playgrounds for kids and other attractions.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park has a lot to offer visitors, from wildlife watching and scenic drives to other outdoor activities.
Of course, you should also visit the famous granite “Needles” formation that is part of this national park.
Apart from hiking trails, Custer State Park is also home to amazing scenic drives, mountain lakes, and historic sites.
Badlands National Park
Badlands is one of the most unique national parks in America.
It is famous for its sharply eroded rock formations that enchant visitors.
There are many picturesque hiking trails within the park that offer lovely vistas of the badlands.
Visitors can explore this national park on a scenic drive or even by bike.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse Memorial is a massive tribute to the Native American people and culture.
The iconic sculpture features the Lakota warrior on horseback and, once complete, it will be the world’s largest mountain carving.
Visitors can see the model of the monument and learn about the history of the Lakota.
Although this huge project is still a long way from completion, it remains to be one of the top attractions near Rapid City.
Black Hills National Forest
The Black Hills National Forest is a great place to spend the day hiking and biking through the forest trails.
You can also picnic, go fishing, or take in spectacular views of the surrounding area from one of the scenic vistas along the roadside.
Plan a South Dakota road trip from Rapid City
Rapid City, SD is well connected by air to most major cities in America. It is an excellent place to begin your South Dakota road trip.
Besides the Black Hills attractions mentioned above, there are many beautiful national parks, wildlife refuges, and state parks to explore in South Dakota.
From Rapid City, you can easily reach Mount Rushmore National Memorial via the scenic Needles Highway or Badlands National Park via Interstate 90.
Read our South Dakota road trip planner for more attractions including Mitchell Corn Palace, Deadwood, and Sioux Falls.