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mountains in winter with snow and trees

5 Essential Winter Activities in the Black Hills

October 09, 2020

Winters in western South Dakota can’t be beat; the snowy, frigid days are perfect for viewing the softly falling snow while enjoying relaxing indoor activities, and outdoor enthusiasts will love being able to get out and take part in winter sports on mild Black Hills afternoons. Below are some popular activities among locals and visitors that you should add to your list of things to do during your winter Black Hills vacation.

Visit the Black Hills Stock Show

The 60th annual Black Hills Stock Show comes to Rapid City January 26th through February 4th, and is expected to bring over 330,000 people for entertaining agricultural-related events. The Stock Show contains events for all ages, ensuring a good time for the entire family. Kids will have a blast, as well as a hands-on educational experience, at the free petting zoo, where volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the featured animals and their offspring. Over 200 vendors are on hand at the Stock Show’s Cinch Trade Show, offering everything from handmade jewelry to saddles that make great souvenirs to take home. Kick back and have some brews at the 4th annual Boots and Beers Festival, featuring live music and beer from breweries right here in South Dakota. A trip to the Stock Show wouldn’t be complete without taking in some wild rodeo action, and the Ranch Rodeo, held on January 30th, offers the chance to see ordinary people performing extraordinary feats. Purchase tickets to the events at the Black Hills Stock Show’s website, as well as view more information about the events. Make sure to join in on this beloved Black Hills tradition during your stay!

Hit the Ski Trail

With average annual snowfall in the Black Hills reaching up to 200 inches, it’s no wonder that the area is a prime destination for skiers and snowboarders looking to take advantage of the steep slopes and fantastic scenery. Local ski resorts, such as Deer Mountain Ski Resort and Terry Peak Ski Area, contain diverse terrain, offering a variety of trails for skiers of all skill levels. Deer Mountain also features a tube park where riders three years of age and older can zip down hills in an inner tube, ensuring that all ages can have a fun-filled day gliding through the Black Hills.

Spend a Day Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling is another popular outdoor winter pastime in this area, and with the Black Hills National Forest containing 350 miles of marked, mapped and groomed snowmobiling trails, it is one of the nation’s top snowmobiling destinations. There are many places in the region where snowmobiles can be rented, such as Black Hills Off-Road Rentals, where you can rent the latest snowmobiles by the day or half-day. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks provide information on their website regarding current trail conditions, as well as maps of marked and maintained snowmobile trails. The region’s towering peaks and snow covered trees provide an amazing backdrop for a day of outdoor winter fun.

Attend a Rush Hockey Game

Witness the excitement as the Black Hills’ hockey team, the Rapid City Rush, boldly take on opponents from surrounding states on the indoor ice at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The fast-paced action and enthusiastic cheer from the Rush’s vast following will make for a wild night of entertainment. Visit the Rush’s website where you can view the schedule for the 2017-2018 season, as well as purchase tickets to games. Grab some ice-cold beer and cheesy nachos from the concession stand to complete your night of fun at the rink.

Indulge in Local Comfort Food

What better way to escape the harsh conditions of a cold, blustery day than by consuming some of the best food and drink that the area has to offer? If you’re in the mood to try unique craft beers, sip on full-bodied wines, and savor one-of-a-kind comfort food, then the Independent Ale House is the place for you. Their Mashed Potato Pizza is a hit among visitors and contains garlic red mashed potatoes, bacon, green onions and cheese that will warm your belly and delight your senses. Or if you’re in the mood for gourmet macaroni and cheese made with four different kinds of cheese and with optional add-ins like pulled pork, buffalo chicken and bacon, head over to Murphy’s Pub and Grill. Their menu includes a wide variety of traditional and modern pub food to enjoy along with their frosty beers and tasty signature cocktails. Colonial House Restaurant and Bar is a great choice for families and features a different scrumptious soup every day, such as their buffalo barley and white bean and ham soups, as well as an extensive menu that covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While you’re out on your winter adventure, make sure to check out these eclectic Black Hills restaurants for some great food and a warm atmosphere. So, whether you choose to stay snug and treat yourself to a rich, decadent meal, or head out and blaze a trail through the white, powdery snow, you’ll discover why many favor winter over other seasons in the Black Hills. Then, after your day of winter fun, come back to the warm comforts of Quality Inn & Suites in Rapid City.

Black Hills Holiday Traditions

Join in on the holiday festivities while on your visit to Rapid City! Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly celebration where the kids can meet Santa or a place to have a merry time with friends over a glass of wine, rest assured that you won’t have to travel far to find a festive gathering that suits your needs . So, bundle up, grab a thermos of hot cocoa, and head out to one of these events to get a taste of the Yuletide season here in the Black Hills.

Storybook Island Christmas Nights of Light

Storybook Island, a children’s storybook character-themed park in western Rapid City, gets transformed into a twinkling Christmas paradise every year during the holiday season to captivate people of all ages. Admission into the park for the event is $3 a person and the proceeds allow the park to remain admission-free during the summer months. A concession stand is available where cookies, hot chocolate and cider can be purchased to enjoy during your stroll. In addition to checking out Cat in the Hat, Peter Pan and the many other character statues adorned with lights, there are also train rides, live reindeer, and visits with Santa available to get you in the spirit of the season. Check out Storybook Island’s website for a list of dates that the event will be held, and see for yourself why this attraction has become a beloved local holiday tradition.

Ice-Skating at Main Street Square

Indulge your inner child by lacing up some ice-skates and gliding around an outdoor rink that’s larger than the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. The rink is conveniently located in Main Street Square, which also offers an eclectic variety of shopping, entertainment, and dining destinations. If you’re looking for exciting New Year’s Eve plans, the rink hosts a spectacular event where you can twirl around on colorfully illuminated ice and play interactive games. Check out the ice rink’s schedule for up-to-date information on their events and hours, including information on closings due to inclement weather.

Limo Christmas Light Tours

Live in the lap of luxury this holiday season by taking a limousine tour to view some of the most extravagant Christmas displays that the Black Hills has to offer. Legendary Limousine and Presidential Limousine in Rapid City both offer many options to suit your group, including a variety of premier vehicles to choose from and your choice of wine and other refreshments to savor while you delight in the sparkling lights and festive cheer. Book your Christmas light limousine tour today!

1880 Train’s Holiday Express

All aboard! Take a trip on the historic 1880 Train for a magical journey through a winter wonderland. The ride begins in Hill City, a short thirty minute drive from Rapid City, where hot chocolate and cookies are served to enjoy during your jaunt to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus. Little ones will be thrilled with the trek back to Hill City, where Santa will hand out a gift to each child. For the adults, there’s the Holiday Express Spiked tour, where you’ll be seated in a 21 and over section and served spiked hot chocolate in a keepsake mug. Make sure to reserve your tickets here for this popular holiday event that runs between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Black Hills Symphony New Year’s Eve Concert

Ring in the New Year by taking in the enchanting classical melodies of the Black Hills Symphony, with bass-baritone singer Paul Robinson joining in to make this a musical night to remember. The program begins at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and is held at the Rapid City Performing Arts Center, with tickets being available for purchase at the Arts Center’s website. Sip on a glass of champagne and let the melodies ease you into the beginning of a new year.

From spending your day walking among cartoon characters wrapped in bright lights to taking a ritzy limo ride to spectacular scenic points, your stay in Rapid City is sure to be bright this holiday season.

Brews in the Black Hills

Are you looking to unwind and wouldn’t mind enjoying a few cold ones? Look no further than Rapid City, SD. This beautiful city nestled in the rolling Black Hills boasts an assortment of craft beer breweries and one of the largest American Craft Beers festivals in this part of the United States! There are different options for any beer lover and something for everyone to enjoy at many of the local hangout spots or at the Mountain West Beer Fest.

Mountain West Beer Fest

Don’t miss the Mountain West Beer Fest happening Saturday, November 11th in Rushmore Hall from 1-5pm at the Rushmore Civic Center. This beer festival will offer over 200 different craft beers from over 50 different breweries found locally and nationally. Not only will the 1st ever Mountain West Beer Fest offer beer, but there will be food, music, and, of course, the largest collection of American Craft Beers you can find within these parts! General Admission tickets are $50, Early Bird tickets are $25, and VIP tickets, which include lunch and one hour early entry, are $75.

Hay Camp Brewing Company

At Hay Camp Brewing Company, the brewery can be found in a large multi-use building commonly known as The Mothership. Starting from humble beginnings in a garage, this downtown brewery boasts over 3,200 square feet of serving space with 10 taps. Hay Camp Brewing Company is best known for their small batch ales and even offer event-filled activities for any season. Hay Camp Brewing Company strives to create only the best flavor experiences for everyone who walks through their doors.

Firehouse Brewing Company

Take a load off at South Dakota’s oldest operating brewery, Firehouse Brewing Company, which has been in operation for 25 years. Located downtown in a former firehouse, this brew-pub makes 40 beers a year and boasts 9 brews on tap for customers to experience every day. Firehouse Brewing even offers a fun Mug Club, for the patron who wants to try all the brews. Members can receive discounts and the ability to participate in special member only events. Not only does Firehouse boast brews, but they also feature a full restaurant and wine tasting room. There is something for everyone at Firehouse Brewing!

Lost Cabin Beer Company

A local favorite, Lost Cabin Beer Company prides itself on making exceptional lagers and small batch ales. This brewery boasts unique flavors and high quality craft beers. Not only is their passion for stellar craft beer showcased in each of their beers, but so is their love for the community. Lost Cabin Beer Company uses top ingredients and many of their ingredients are sourced locally. In addition to sourcing ingredients locally, Lost Cabin Beer Company’s tasting room reflects the beauty of the Black Hills and the great outdoors. This brewery is situated across from Founder’s Park, which is home to stunning hiking trails and fishing spots. Stop by Lost Cabin Beer Company and enjoy this gem of a brewery.

The Black Hills is not only filled with top notch adventure and outdoor activities, but perfect breweries to relax, catch up with friends, and enjoy a nice cold one. Whether you want to try your way through different brews at the Mountain West Beer Fest or to experience a brew-pub like Firehouse Brewing, take a sip from The Mothership at Hay Camp Brewing, or dive into a specialty lager from Lost Cabin Company, the Black Hills offers a variety of brewing experiences. So, come fill up your cup and take a taste of what the Black Hills has to offer in local beer and breweries.

Autumn Hiking in the Black Hills

Fall has arrived and with it has come cooler temperatures, leaves changing into an assortment of colors, and the perfect time to explore the boundless Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills are known for its natural beauty, unique landscapes, and hidden gems to explore and hike through. The area offers a wide variety of hiking adventures for all ages and experiences of hikers. Whether you want to stay in Rapid City or venture into the surrounding areas, the Black Hills offer the perfect fall hiking experiences that you are sure to remember.

M Hill

Are you looking to stay within Rapid City but experience the great outdoors? Look no further than M Hill, also known as Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park. M Hill is situated in the heart of Rapid City, but will please any hiker with over 20 miles of hiking trails on the mountain that covers nearly 300 acres of terrain. The trails were developed by Edna Marie “Eddie” Larson who created them as a memorial to her late parents. With so many trails and options, you can hike M Hill within an hour or for those seasoned hikers you can experience the area all day long. There are two trailheads to the mountain: South Trailhead located at Founder’s Park and the North Trailhead located on Thrush Dr. off of West Boulevard. Both trailheads can lead you to a beautiful lookout over all of Rapid City. Thinking about bringing your children or your furry babies? M Hill is a great pick for children and for pets who enjoy the great outdoors!

Buzzard’s Roost

One of the favorite places of tourists and locals alike during autumn in the Black Hills is Spearfish Canyon. This breathtaking canyon comes alive during autumn when bright green leaves shift their shades into warm toasted colors of yellows, reds, and oranges. Buzzard’s Roost is a top pick for anyone who wants to experience Spearfish Canyon from a different view point: overlooking into the canyon from the top of the mountain. Buzzard’s Roost resides at the end of a 1.2 hike up the ’76 Trail, which is part of a 16 mile trek that was formerly used by gold miners starting in 1876. Don’t let Buzzard’s Roost fool you though, you will need proper hiking shoes or boots as the trail becomes very steep quickly. If you are not a seasoned hiker, you may need to take frequent stops so be sure to bring water to stay hydrated as you make your trek to see a panoramic view of the Spearfish Canyon.

Sunday Gulch

For those avid hikers who enjoy hiking in quieter spots, Sunday Gulch near Sylvan Lake is perfect for you. The trailhead is located behind the dam at Sylvan Lake. This strenuous trail is almost a 3 mile loop and begins very demanding due to the terrain going down into the gulch. You will hike over wet and slippery rocks when crossing into the stream with this trail, so proper footwear is needed and hiking poles are also a good idea. Also, due to the changing of the temperatures you may even experience ice in the water. While the hike may be difficult in parts, the end is very much worth it and is a favorite among locals. You will walk through beautiful natural granite walls covered with plush moss and experience the natural beauty of the gulch with this hike.

Mt. Roosevelt

One hotspot for families who love to hike, is Mt. Roosevelt, also known as Friendship Tower. This hidden gem is located near Deadwood. This area even offers several picnic tables, which make it a stunning spot to rest with your family and experience the beautiful fall weather of the Black Hills. Not only does Mt. Roosevelt offer a stunning view but it also features a castle! That’s right! A castle tower was built in 1919 as a dedication to President Theodore Roosevelt by Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, who was a personal friend of President Roosevelt. President Roosevelt loved the Black Hills and this tower was created for everyone to be able to view the spectacular sights the Black Hills has to offer. The hike to the tower is less than 1 mile from the trailhead, but is mostly uphill, so hikers can experience one of the best views that the Black Hills has to offer.

The Black Hills is rich in sightseeing and hiking experiences. Whether you are looking for an easy trail to experience the outdoors with your children or pets or if you are looking to immerse yourself in an all day excursion as a seasoned hiker; the Black Hills during autumn is not something to miss. Lookout over the glimmering lights of Rapid City, get your hiking boots muddy in a local stream, or even view one of the most beautiful sights of fall: the changing of the leaves in Spearfish Canyon. Hiking during fall in the Black Hills is not to be missed.

Food Trucks

The food truck industry has seen an increase in revenue over the past five years, and the total number of food trucks in the United States has grown. Rapid City has recently picked up on the food truck trend. At specific spots in town, multiple food trucks get together, and both residents and visitors gather around to indulge in a culinary experience. Here a just a few of the many food trucks in Rapid City.

To satisfy your taco craving check out Nosh Mobile Eatery. Nosh is a verb meaning “to eat food.” As the perfect name for a food truck, Nosh serves a variety of tacos, braised pork, shredded beef brisket, and loaded tater tots. Additionally, Eddies Tacos RC and Green Chili Shack serve up authentic Mexican food including tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and taco salads.

If you’re not in the mood for Mexican food, some home-style BBQ may hit the spot. Smokin’ Hot Catering LLC specializes in smoked BBQ and serves brisket, pulled pork, and nachos. KZs Backyard BBQ is home of the tender ribs. To complement their BBQ combo baskets and plates they have hushpuppies, coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans.

Instead of brisket and ribs, check out some of these mouthwatering burger trucks. Burgers in Paradise is family owned and operated, serving up burgers brats, and pork loin. The Good Stuffed is all about serving up handcrafted stuffed burgers. Not only do they serve burgers, but also wings, fries, and grilled cheeses. Whichever burger truck you decide on, you won’t be disappointed.

For a little twist, Beaus Kickstand is one of the food trucks that can brighten your taste buds with anything but ordinary combinations. This is a newer food truck in Rapid City that serves unique dishes such as Asian pork sliders and spinach and mushroom quesadillas. Bohunk Enterprice LLC and Basta Wagon is another food truck that will effortlessly spice up your meal. Treat yourself to shrimp kabobs, burgers, and sandwiches, all slathered with their secret sauce.

Last but not least, if you’re in the mood for some fair food, Gilligans Shave Ice is the place to go. This food truck is known for serving shaved ice, cotton candy, frozen lemonade, funnel cakes, and kettle korn. You’ll definitely get your sweet tooth fix here!

When you stay with us at Quality Inn, bring your appetite and try all the local food the Black Hills area has to offer!

Shopping in Rapid City

When the weather is gloomy, or you seem to have forgotten something, the Rushmore Mall and Rushmore Crossing Shopping Center are in close vicinity to Quality Inn. These two shopping centers have everything you are looking for.

Located less than a five minute drive away, The Rushmore Mall offers a wide range of items such as clothes, shoes, books, makeup, and more. Department stores like JCPenney, Sears, and Herberger’s outline the mall. However, while inside the mall, you will find a wide variety of stores that can suit all your needs. The most visited stores in the mall are Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Eddie Bauer. If you’re interested in trendy items check out Bohme, Francesca’s, and Buckle. To add a little pep into your step, stop into one of the many shoe stores Rushmore Mall has to offer, such as Journeys, Famous Footwear, Foot Locker, and Payless. For more niche stores, the Rushmore Mall has Pro Image and Champs Sports, for athletic wear and sports attire, as well as Gymboree and Crazy 8 clothing for children. To top it all off, there are multiple hair and nail salons to treat yourself to a relaxing beauty service.

Once you’ve shopped till you’re about to drop, head towards the food court to satisfy your taste buds. Chinese, sushi, pizza, and burgers are just some of the many options to choose from. If you’re ready to get away from the mall crowds head across the street for Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, or Olive Garden and indulge in a delicious meal.

In addition to the Rushmore Mall, we recommend checking out Rushmore Crossing Shopping Center. As the newest shopping center, Rushmore Crossing is still continuing to expand each year. Some of the larger stores you’ll notice from the Interstate are Scheels, Target, and TJ Maxx. As you get closer, you’ll see there are not only more stores, but also restaurants, salons, and other shops and services. If you’re a sucker for good deals, check out The Gap, Shoe Carnival, and Ross, as each store consistently hosts sales all throughout the year. If you need to take a break from shopping, stop by Classic Nails or Perfect 10 Mani and Massage Bar for a relaxing treatment or service. A treatment popular among men is a haircut at The Man Salon. After a professional wash and cut they are known to give amazing shoulder massages so clients leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. To finish out the day, enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants the area has to offer. Rushmore Crossing offers sit down restaurants, such as Longhorn Steakhouse, Fuji Steakhouse, or MacKenzie River Pizza. For a dining experience that’s a little quicker, try Panera Bread, QDOBA Mexican Eats, or Noodles and Company.

Whether you visit the Rushmore Mall, Rushmore Crossing, or even both shopping centers, you should be able to unwind and finish your day in a satisfying way. Head back to Quality Inn and Suites and take a dip in the pool and hot tub or enjoy a nice private bath in one of the whirlpool suites!

As Recommended by Barb!

It was nearly 15 years ago when I started part time, along with my teaching job, at the Quality Inn & Suites. I have stayed on after retirement, not only because of the great people I work for and with, but also because of the wonderful people we have stay with us.

I have been in the Black Hills for over 35 years and absolutely love the area. I so enjoy sharing my passion for the Black Hills area with our guests and helping them to get the most from their stay here. Rapid City is the hub of an incredibly rich in a variety of natural beauty, amazing historic sites and unique attractions. A must, as far as I am concerned, is to spend a full day touring Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, taking the Needles Highway into Custer State Park, doing the Wildlife Loop through the park and then returning to the Keystone via Iron Mountain Road (my favorite road in the Hills).

When you stay at the Quality Inn & Suites, just ask us, we will be happy to help you map out each day of your stay with us!

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