There have been a lot of posts here about how to plan a trip to a particular destination. You know what I mean – things to do in Glacier National Park (10,000 words!), where to soak in a Montana hot spring, and Lewis and Clark sites in Montana.
I’ve been trying to grow this blog as a business and Google likes those long posts that answer all your questions and hit on a lot of keywords. I like those posts because more than 80% of my readers come here from search engines (Google) and they are the ones who are going to make me my fortune!
Maybe not my fortune, but as we try very hard to make this travel lifestyle work, the blog brings in a money in a few ways.
- Every time you click on a link that takes you to Amazon, even if you buy something other than what the link leads to, I make a little commission (usually 4-8%) at no extra cost to you.
- If you book a hotel or tour through one of my links, I make a little commission.
- The website serves as a portfolio to show brands and destinations what they get when they partner with us. 4. It’s home to my freelance clips, which editors like to see when I pitch articles.
- By building up my readership, which those long planning posts about what to do with your kids in Aix-en-Provence do, I am building my page views. More page views mean I can eventually get on with Mediavine and place ads on my site. It’s not super glamorous, but it will bring in money.
I love being able to help people plan their trips. I love sharing what we learn while exploring the world. How else will you know which travel backpack is right for you? Sometimes though, I miss writing about our travels without researching keywords and figuring out what will make the post rank well with Google. I miss writing about my thoughts on getting kids outside, how we celebrate the winter solstice, and what finally got me to love spring.
See all those internal links? Google likes that, too.
This is a really long prelude to tell you that we are currently on route to a travel conference in New York’s Finger Lakes region and I am going to blog about it the way I used to. There will still be several “Things To Do in X” posts, but also a few that I throw up here with some photos and thoughts about what we are doing.
(It’s still a planning post, so keep reading to get all the details on planning your own trip in the last section.)
Deadwood, South Dakota
We started our 6-week road trip with a stop in Deadwood, South Dakota. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t love Deadwood. It feels like Universal Studios or something. It seems to be made exclusively for tourists and filled with casinos, Harley shops, and tourist junk stores. Not to mention the fact, that this was land “given” to the Sioux people. Then when gold was found in 1876, taken away from them. It just doesn’t feel right.
There were two things that we liked about our visit and maybe if we had more time to get outside and into the Black Hills, we would have found more. We went to a reenactment of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok in the Number 10 Saloon. It was cheesy, but not as cheesy as I expected, we learned a lot about his life and the history of Deadwood through the presentation.
The next morning, we stopped at Tatonka: The Story of the Bison. This is a visitor center, sculpture garden, and encampment that tell the story of the Lakota Sioux and their relationship to bison. Kevin Costner commissioned the sculptures and visitor center after filming Dances With Wolves. I am not sure how it all worked out, but it seems that the Lakota people now run the place and benefit from it. We went to a presentation by a Lakota man that was really good, and spent a bit of time chatting (asking questions) with him afterwards.
Clearly, we have an abominable past with Native Americans (and a not so great present) in this country. We don’t want our kids to feel guilty about it, but they need to be aware of their history. Going places and talking to people is a great way to better understand history, how we got here, and where we want to go.
Our next stop was Wall Drug. Wall Drug is famous for all its billboards along the highway. I knew it was a total tourist trap, but thought it would be a fun stop since I love roadside attractions. The giant jackalope was awesome, but otherwise the experience was a total waste of time. Don’t go. It’s terrible.
We were tempted to stop at the Corn Palace – I’m not kidding about my love of roadside attractions. We planned a whole day in Washington to see roadside attractions along Highway 2 and I wrote about some of my favorite Idaho attractions for Visit Idaho. But we were too soured after Wall Drug and were afraid we would be burned again, so we kept on trucking.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Our next overnight was Sioux Falls. We stopped here more because of timing than anything else, but booked a hotel on the bike path leading to Falls Park. We gave Finn a FitBit for his birthday a couple weeks ago and he is determined to get 10,000 steps, so he and I took a lovely walk along the river that night.
The next morning we all walked down the bike path to Falls Park to see the waterfalls on the Big Sioux River for which the town was named. It was hot and humid for these Montanans used to the arid west, but quite lovely. We wandered around the falls, took photos, climbed a tower, and let the mist cool us off. We read interpretive signs about how Native American cultures were drawn to the falls as early as 10,000 years ago. And how it was the falls that drew people of European descent who wanted to use the hydroelectric potential to power mills and industry.
Then it was back into the car to drive to my aunt and uncle’s house in Missouri.
Plan Your Own Trip To Deadwood and Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Once I did a little more research, I decided there are a lot of things in and around Deadwood that look pretty fun. We just didn’t have enough time. If we went back, I would avoid most of the down town stuff, look for lodging without a casino, and focus on other things to do in Deadwood.
- The shooting of Wild Bill happens four times a day except Sundays in the Number 10 Saloon. You can then watch the Coward Jack McCall get arrested in the street outside and follow them to the courthouse for his trial. Like I said, this is interesting history and worth checking out. Six nights a week (no show on Sundays). Memorial Day weekend through September 22, 2018. Here is the schedule.
- We took a lovely stroll along the town’s river side path. The path along Whitewood Creek goes past the huge visitor center. It happened to be between our hotel and main street, but I recommend this walk for anyone staying in town. You can find it on Google Maps.
- We also would have liked to visit the Days of 76 Museum for more information about the 1976 gold rush.
- I found some great hiking trails in: Hiking the Black Hills Country and Best Easy Day Hikes, Black Hills. This would be the top of my priority list next time.
- Tatonka: Story of the Bison was the highlight of our trip. Make sure you listen to one of the presentations–that’s what made the experience for us. Get the details here.
I am tempted to leave this out since we disliked it so much. However, if you need a photo of your kid or yourself on a jackalope (and who doesn’t?), it may be worth ducking in to Wall Drug. It gained popularity by offering free ice water to passersby (luring them in with those famous billboards) and grew into a huge gift shop/diner.
Maybe we would have been just as disappointed by the Corn Palace, but I know if I drove by again I would stop. The Corn Palace is an arena or multi-use facility. What makes it interesting is that the outside is decorated in corn and murals change every year. It’s free to visit.
Falls Park, Sioux Falls
Falls Park covers 123 acres and can be accessed via the river front bike path or a parking lot. An average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the Falls each second. There is a visitor center and gift shop with restrooms. We liked climbing up the tower in the visitor center to get a bird’s eye view of the park. There is also a cafe (closed while we were there) on the other side of the river and historical mill ruins.