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Ultimate Road Trip With Kids – South Dakota Stops: Badlands National Park, Mt Rushmore, and Wind Cave National Park

    Mount Rushmore

    We planned to visit Mount Rushmore on our only full day in South Dakota and that was all that was on the itinerary. However, we woke up and it was 43 degrees and raining which made walking around outside a lot less appealingWind Ca. Seriously, 43 degrees!! Winter gear AND rain gear; this was JUNE.


    Wind Cave National Park

    We decided to hope for a clearing in the weather later that afternoon and to find something to do in the meantime. Wind Cave National Park is also close to where we were and we decided that was the place to take our crew. It was double fun for the money as it has a prairie with buffalo roaming and prairie dogs playing on the surface and something like 100 miles of the cave underneath. We took a tour of the cave and learned about frosty, popcorn, and box formations. Kids were entertained AND they learned some things. Three of them even completed their first junior ranger programs and earned their badges. They were so proud.


    As a side note, we found out about the Junior Ranger Program as we were researching for the trip. Most of the National Parks (monuments, memorials, etc.) offer these programs for kids (and some for teens and adults too!). A booklet is available to pick up at the ranger stations (or welcome centers) and most of them are free. Each booklet has information about the park as well as a list of activities that the children can complete to earn their status as a junior ranger and also earn a patch or badge. As this was our first experience with the program, we were all unsure what to expect. The older two opted out but the younger three completed the program easily in our time here. The Rangers took time to go over the information with the kiddos, check their work, and make a special presentation of their badges. It is a fantastic learning opportunity and coupled with the badge made for some pretty cool memories.



    When we ascended 200 feet out of the cave – we saw SUNSHINE! It was still cool but the rain had stopped so we headed over to Mount Rushmore. We ate dinner there at the visitor center. The view was amazing!! We tried buffalo burgers and to tell the truth they were pretty delicious. I wasn’t sure who was going to be the adventurous eaters on this trip – it could be fun trying all the local cuisine. Four out of seven of us tried the buffalo and all 4 of us liked it.


    Junior Ranger Program

    We spent the rest of the night completing the Junior Ranger program at this park – 4/5 kiddos earned it this time. The older boys thought it would be a fun way to spend the time and I think the idea of earning badges sort of appealed to even the older ones as we were going to have many opportunities over the summer! Grace was overtired and so she opted out. The park actually had a program for older kids here, Joe had to complete quite the workbook. We stayed for the lighting which was worth it. Such a beautiful tribute.


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    Terri L

    Terri has been married to her best friend, Scott, for 20 years and together they have 5 children. She has been blessed to be able to be a SAHM since her first was born over 14 years ago. In addition to finding new and creative ways to entertain 5 children, she enjoys date nights with her husband, photography, reading, and traveling with her crew.