We finally did it!!! The "Great American Road Trip" and #1 on my travel bucket list!!! Here's our experience:
We live in Michigan so that was our starting point. We decided to see all of the sites on the way there and then just power drive to get home once we were done. It's really hard to get a room in Yellowstone. We booked a room one year prior to our trip and our options were limited! Once I had that night booked - the rest of the trip was planned.
Day 1: Our first nights stay was in Chicago. Why stop so close to home? It was my sons birthday. So, we spent the day shopping at the Lego store and celebrating at Rainforest Cafe. Unfortunately it rained for the majority of the day so we didn't get to enjoy a stroll through Millennium Park.
Day 2: We drove a lot! There was a lot of construction so it was a very long day. We finally made it to Sioux Falls, SD for a nights sleep.
|Almost missed this stop! |
Although - there was a small one at the visitors center just a couple of miles ahead.
Day 3: Finally some fun!
|South Dakota Stops|
The billboard ads for the Pioneer Auto Show (South Dakota Auto Museum) in Murdo, SD caught my husbands attention. It was a nice first stop for the day. There was a fee to get in. We almost passed but they offered to let the kids in for free so we decided to check it out. The kiddos were given a scavenger hunt to do while exploring. They turned it in at the end for a prize (a Frisbee). It was fun for the kiddos but got a little annoying as they were constantly looking for the next spot - instead of taking some time to look around at all the museum had to offer.
|It looks small from the outside but it's actually pretty large.|
|And the horn works (the employee pushed it for us to hear)!|
|Some extra things to keep the kiddos happy.|
Next - a planned stop at 1880 Town. This was a fun first exposure to the old west. There is a fee to enter but it was worth it - especially to get a break from the car! Are you a fan of the movie Dances with Wolves? They have a lot of movie memorabilia!
Some pics of this fun town!
|Train Diner! Great food! It doesn't stay open late so keep track of the time if you want to eat here.|
|Time for a show!|
|"Tipping prevents bullet holes" - LOL!|
My son made sure he saw that we left a tip ;-)
|We enjoyed some soda pop and popcorn while listening to live country music. |
They offer a variety of drinks and snack in the Saloon (for a cost).
You can also rent costumes from here to wear around the town for pictures (you can take your own pics).
|I loved towns like this when I was little!|
|My son was obsessed with taking pictures of the rocks ;-)|
The roads are plastered with Wall Drug advertisements for MILES!!! You can't see all of that and not stop! Some travelers are disappointed once they get there but just keep in mind that it is a huge tourist trap! There is free water, I never found the 5 cent coffee, and the water park is more like a small splash pad. We were disappointed in the homemade ice cream. They all tasted and looked like vanilla (not raspberry, strawberry cheesecake, ...). We didn't try the chocolate so maybe that was good... All that aside, it's a nice opportunity to get out of the car!
|From our house :-)|
The front section of the building is full of fun decor and stores.
|This guy is located in the "back yard mall". |
Every 12 minutes he "looks for food".
It's worth checking out if you are around close to the start time.
|There are a lot of activities to explore in the lot between the two buildings. |
It can't be seen from the street so you have to walk through the front building to access this.
There are plenty of places to eat within Wall Drug. Some close early in the day. We ate dinner at this one. It was full of native American art.
A place to tie up your horse :-)
We ran out of time on day 3 but Rapid City, SD offers a free Dinosaur Park with huge cement dinosaur statues. Our day 3 ended with a nights stay in Keystone, SD.
Next we stopped at Deadwood, SD. This is a famous and popular town that has a lot of history. I had heard this place was interesting and worth a visit. I had also heard that it was disappointing because it's not really an "old" town anymore. I have been to Virginia City, Nevada and I have to say that I really didn't like Deadwood.... However, if you like to drink and/or ride motorcycle it looks like a fun place to spend a couple of days. Deadwood is very close to Sturgis, SD which draws "bikers" from all over the country. One bit of caution - once a friend of mine visited Deadwood on what turned out to be a big "biker" week. It was insanely busy for someone who was just passing through. Pass through is exactly what we did. We had a busy schedule so there wasn't time to explore much.
|If you have the time - there are a lot of fun "shows" that take place around the town.|
Time to explore Wyoming!!!
|Map of our Wyoming travels.|
The Wyoming visitors centers are pretty cool! This one was right on the North East corner of the state - near Devils Tower.
|My dads favorite saying!|
|Great reading material!|
|Sticker collecting! |
Each visitors center had some stickers but not all.
We collected these through out our visit.
|Yep - Yellowstone is going to be COLD!|
Thankfully I had a friend that was there a couple of days before us - she warned me to bring some warm clothing.
Devils Tower National Monument was a must see for us. Here is my blog post telling you all about it.
The weather wasn't always great!
Day 4 ended with a nights stay in Gillette, WY.
|We spotted this place on the way through Wyoming. |
There's a few sites and a nice visitors center with restroom.
|A solar compactor trash can!|
|We saw this on the way out.|
I couldn't resist taking a picture!
We had just enough time left in Day 5 to visit the Buffalo Bill Dam. Cody, Wy is also a great place to catch a rodeo. We didn't have time to stop before they closed but I also recommend the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. We caught the very end of a pow wow and native american art sale. It made me wish I would have known about it early enough to make it in time for the show.
|The parking lot is a hike away from the dam and visitors center. |
There are a couple of handicap parking spots up close.
|The visitors center is pretty nice and there is a small museum section. |
Visiting the dam is free!
Day 5 came to an end in Wapiti, WY which is located just outside the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to stop there because it was toward the end of our driving day and I wanted all of the next day to explore the park. We stayed at the Wapiti Lodge. I thought this was going to be a little rustic but it was actually very nice!
|Our room that I selected when making my reservation.|
There are other types of rooms available.
They are very reasonably priced considering how much we paid for other nights of our trip!
Breakfast and game room area:
|Restrooms in the back corner.|
|A little dusty up there.|
|For your dirty dishes and trash.|
|Great spot outside to have a fire and visit.|
We had no clue where to get something to eat. The lodge recommended a couple of places. One was cheap (price) and the other wasn't cheap but tasted good. We opted for the better tasting food that was about 4 miles from the lodge.
|Kind of hard to spot but look for this sign and turn right onto the lower road.|
|Small place with fancy table settings. |
I think there were only two people working.
|Thankfully they had a vegetarian special for the day. |
It tasted GREAT!!!
|My husbands meal that he loved!|
My daughter had chicken strips. She thought they were really great!
Day 7 and 8: Grand Tetons National Park (my blog post)
Day 11 and 12: The LONG drive home!!! We had horrible weather the entire trip home! The rain and wind were very dangerous!
|We saw this one on day 11.|
|Day 12 - semi tipped that they are pulling all of the cargo out of.|
|Another one on day 12 that was tipped - they are trying to pull up.|