Our next Tuesday adventure was a drive through the Badlands National Park. If you’re planning a trip, entrance to the park is $15 (cash or credit) and your receipt (your only proof of payment so don’t toss it out!) allows you to enter the park for 7 days from the date of purchase. This works out great if you’re driving through the state and want to pass through the park on your way back to wherever you came from.
The landscape is pretty amazing, but saying so seems almost pointless so I’ll let it go at this: If you love seeing beautiful things, different things, quiet things, windy things, wild things: Plan a trip through the Badlands, and get out of your car and walk around every time you see a trail marker. I found this so much more enjoyable a place to see than the Grand Canyon. It’s worth a visit.
During our drive we stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to watch a documentary on the Badlands and to buy black-footed ferret related items from the gift shop. Or at least– that’s why I went there. I left with a 12″ x 24″ print of a Badlands wilderness scene with a black-footed ferret in the foreground. Best purchase of the trip! They also had some black-footed ferret postcards and a few children’s books about ferrets, but like an idiot I didn’t buy any of them. I will never know how or why I reasoned myself out of those purchases. I may be a bigger idiot than previously believed.
Our drive through the Badlands National Park completed, we hit the road for Wall, SD, home of the 76,000 square foot Wall Drug.
You have zero good reasons to skip Wall Drug. Anybody who tells you “it’s just a tourist trap” is out to rob you of an interesting time. Yeah there’s a lot of shopping there. Yeah a lot of it is kind of silly. But it’s got such an interesting history, and is chock full of neat things to see, read, enjoy– and eat!– that you simply can’t afford to miss out on this classic family vacation spot.
Our first stop once inside Wall Drug was the Western Art Gallery Restaurant for lunch. After taking a picture of my mom beneath some paintings, and then shooting video of the room’s walls to show just how much they have on display there, I realized the walls were covered in signs telling people not to take pictures or video of the artwork. Not quite sure how I missed those… So in the interest of not being a jerk I will not post any of those images here. Quite a collection there, though. Take a peek if you ever stop out.
After lunch we toured the various shops inside the complex, picking up a t-shirt or two, as well as our complimentary Wall Drug bumper sticker. (They’re free (one per family) and additional stickers set you back $0.10 a pop.) Amidst the shelves of Badlands mugs and Mount Rushmore key chains there’s also a sizable collection of gorgeous wall art and home goods fashioned by local artists. And any place that sells $10 Harvey Dunn poster prints is worth a stop in my book.
Hitting it off-season as we did I’m sure we missed out on a lot of the hustle-and-bustle charm of the place. I have to say, though, that it sure was nice not having to wait in line behind a bunch of seven year olds to have one’s picture taken atop jackalopes, or talking with stuffed buffalo.
Back on the road after a pick me up of $0.05 coffee and a slice of blackberry pie at Wall Drug, mom and I decided there was no good reason not to make it all the way through Rapid City, SD that night and on up to Mount Rushmore. If it was light enough, we reasoned, we could see it well enough to not have to make it part of our Wednesday “To-See” schedule.
Not only did we get there when it was still plenty light outside, but apparently after 5 pm (or was it 6pm?) there’s no one at the front gate so you don’t have to pay to get in, and parking is free.
Mom and I walked about a mile’s worth of trails around the base of the mountain, snapping some pretty sweet pics of The Fellas, and exercising our car-cramped leg muscles. I did wish we’d been able to get into the visitor center and artist’s studio there to read more about the history and construction of the monument, but I’m over it. I mean– there’s always Wikipedia…