This story was created in partnership with Hot Springs, South Dakota Area Chamber of Commerce.
It’s time for a road trip, don’t you think? You’re probably looking for destinations that are family-friendly, uncrowded, open, roomy, amazing, safe, and not too far away, right?
Just load up the family and set the GPS for Hot Springs, South Dakota. It’s 51 miles (82km) from Mt. Rushmore and although it may not be as famous, it is just as interesting. In addition to warm water fun, you’ll also want to visit other incredible attractions in town and in the area including an active paleontological dig site featuring mammoths and other Ice-Age animals, a World Fossil Finder Museum, an otherworldly cave, a state park, and historic downtown architecture.
Evan’s Plunge Mineral Springs has been around since 1890 and has evolved into a must-experience family water world with a wellness center, sauna, steam room, indoor & outdoor pools, water volleyball, multiple water slides, a workout room, swing rings, and on-site food service.
How cool would it be to have a warm river running right through your town? It would be almost as cool as Fall River in Hot Springs. Yup, the river runs through the length of the town and is fed by thermal springs. The best way to enjoy the river is on the Freedom Trail, which connects the two main city parks. Fall River is warm (about 87 Fahrenheit/30 Celsius year-round) and shallow, making it a kid’s fantasy land.
The Mammoth Site
Large Ice-Age mammals enjoyed the Hot Springs area as well. Who wouldn’t? Paleontologists and researchers have been finding their fossilized remains since the seventies. Where do the mammoth bones come from? The Mammoth Site! It is an ongoing paleontological dig site and accredited museum right here in Hot Springs! Your family can participate in the dig as well at certain times. This adventure will definitely make for a mammoth vacation.
World Fossil Finder Museum
The World Fossil Finder Museum is not your typical fossil museum but a museum with several worldwide first fossil discoveries. Home to a wide variety of fossils, including “Debby Sue” the largest Tylosaurus found in South Dakota to some of the largest marine predators to ever exist!
Wind Cave National Park & Custer State Park
Head north from Hot Springs and you can be amazed by two large and diverse parks – Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. If you are in this area, you must schedule a ranger-led Wind Cave tour. It is in one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world and a truly perspective-changing experience.
If you continue north from Wind Cave, you will discover Custer State Park with unbeatable natural beauty and wildlife. Experience granite cliffs at any of the five lakes in the park. Enjoy the park by swimming, boating, camping, fishing, biking, paddling, and taking a (much-needed) leisurely nap. The Custer State Park Resort also offers various accessible-friendly accommodations and amenities for your stay in Custer State Park.
While in Hot Springs, you can’t help but notice the architecture of many of the downtown buildings. In fact, the buildings were built in the 1890s from locally quarried sandstone. Hot Springs’s founders knew it would be a tourist destination, so they “built to suit.” Because of the distinctive architecture that has stood the test of time, Hot Springs was named a “Distinctive Destination” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa
Hey parents – maybe one or both of you will get to “sneak” away from the kids for a “me/us” break. For this, we recommend the 18+ Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa. Relax in subdued tranquility in multiple pools, both indoor and outdoor, that range from 88 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (31-39 Celsius). Yoga classes, a sauna, massages, and an on-site restaurant & bar are also available.
So, obviously, there is more to do in Hot Springs than enjoy the warm mineral springs. Take the whole family on a well-deserved road trip this summer. It’s time. For a complete itinerary, click here.