Is Wall Drug a Tourist Trap or a Fun Family Pit Stop?

    As part of a road trip loop from Rapid City that includes the Badlands and Minuteman Missle National Historic Site, Wall Drug is a fun stop to make. Now you’ve probably heard that Wall Drug is one of the biggest tourist traps in the world. But coming out of the Badlands, we were happy to see someplace to grab lunch and cool our heels.

    Wall Drug is also known as the Ice Water Store. In 1931, Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought a drug store in the small town of Wall, SD. The surrounding area had a small, poor population. Knowing they had to bring in more customers, Dorothy came up with the idea of offering travelers free ice water. Soon customers were pouring in wanting free ice water which leads to lunch and dinner purchases. Within a year of offering free ice water, the Husteads had eight ladies working for them. A great American pit stop was born.

    My kids loved the knick-knacks, trinkets, and gadgets in the stores. After seeing the same muted panorama views of the Badlands, I thought all the novelty bric-a-brac was sensory overload. But the kids loved it. The Boy liked it a lot, but then I was finally feeding him lunch and he would be happy any place where he was being fed.

    Lunch was on the spendy side- $50 for the six of us. We had 2 buffalo burgers, 2 hot dog platters, a chicken sandwich platter, and chicken nugget sandwiches along with 3 souvenir cups. But before I knew it, all the kids’ baskets were empty.

     We spent another hour walking around, taking in all the souvenirs, trinkets, mementos, and whatnot for sale in all the stores. The Back Yard Mall was a great place for the kids to stretch their legs. The area includes a train station, prairie wagon, jackalope, stagecoach, and teepee to climb on and explore.

    After walking around the main Wall Drug store, we went out to explore all the stores located on the block. There are plenty of places to purchase jewelry, souvenirs, or shirts. At the end of the block, we went into a store that sold cheap shirts. We were able to purchase 5 shirts that reflected the area for $22.

    Refreshed, entertained, and refueled; we hopped on I-90 to drive the 50 miles back to the Comfort Inn & Suites in Rapid City.

    If you are ever in the area, I recommend stopping. Although long thought of as a tourist trap, I think your crew will enjoy the stop. You’ll probably have to buy a few trinkets but then you and your kiddos can always say, “Yes, I’ve been there!”

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    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes Washington, DC (done!), Yellowstone (done!), London, and anywhere in the Caribbean.