Updated: Jun 22
In summer of 2018, I went on a roadtrip with my family from Houston to South Dakota and back to Houston (with many stops along the way). Here was our itinerary:
Day 1: Houston, TX - Lawton, OK
On the way to Lawton, we stopped in Waco (attempted to eat at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ restaurant Magnolia Table, but the line was extremely long. We ended up just eating at Rudy’s. We also also stopped in West, TX to get some kolaches, which I highly recommend. West seemed like a quaint Czech town and is popular for its kolaches. Our last stop on the way to Lawton was Wichita Falls. In all honesty, I didn't care for Wichita Falls. We saw the world's littlest skyscraper and attempted to find the Falls, but had no luck. There isn't much in Lawton, but it is right on the highway and it's one of the larger towns we came up to after Wichita Falls.
Day 2: Lawton, OK - Dodge City, KS
On day 2, we woke up and drove through Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. It was beautiful! We saw buffalo and prairie dogs and drove up Mount Scott. We then drove to Dodge City. Honestly, I was not impressed with Dodge City. We went to the Boot Hill Museum and watched the re-enactment of the gun fight, but everything about it seemed like a "money grab". Other visitors seemed to enjoy the gun fight, but in my opinion the World War II re-enactment at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX was a thousand times better.
Day 3: Dodge City, KS - Chadron, NE
Day 3. We woke up, got the heck out of dodge (I had to say it, sorry :) ), and drove all the way to Scottsbluff. We went to three different hotels looking for a room, but all were full. We drove out to Chadron, Nebraska, which is in the middle of nowhere, and stayed in a Holiday Inn. The view from our hotel was beautiful (basically just a field of green grass, but so peaceful).
Day 4: Chadron, NE - Lead, SD
Since we didn't do as much as we expected in Kansas and Nebraska, we decided to drive to our vacation rental in Lead a day early. On the way there, we stopped at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD. If you're traveling to or even near southwestern South Dakota, you must go here! It is amazing and you will learn so much! Did you know camels and llamas originated from North America?! After the Mammoth Site, we drove through Custer State Park, another awesome place! We saw so much wildlife!! After that, we got groceries and drove to our vacation rental. The house was amazing! It was a "barndominium" with one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen/living area (with a pull-out couch), which is perfect for a family of four! The only bad thing about this day was it hailed (lol).
Day 5: Southwestern South Dakota
This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip! We woke up early and drove out to see Mount Rushmore! #amazing
Did you know there's a room behind Lincoln's head?? I highly recommend visiting Mount Rushmore early because it can get really crowded during the day. After Rushmore, we drove through Black Hills National Forest and then went zip lining at Rushmore Tramway Adventures! All of that is near Keystone, SD, so we stopped for lunch and a walk around town. There are some neat restaurants, shops, and places to take old, western family photos. From there, we went to Bear Country USA, which is also awesome!! It's a drive-through park with bears, wolves, mountain goats, reindeer, and so much more (there are 20 species in all). (p.s. It hailed on us again while we were looking at the bears ): )
Day 6: Southwestern South Dakota
After exploring the forest on day 5, we decided to explore rocks. We drove out to Badlands National Park, hiked, and had a picnic. Badlands is beautiful and can easily take an entire day to explore. After the Badlands, we drove out to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. If you'd like to explore the control room and see the decommissioned missiles, reserve a spot far in advance. On the way back to the Black Hills, we stopped at Wall Drug for donuts, 5¢ coffee, free ice water, and photos. Wall Drug is a neat place to stop and has a unique background!
Day 7: Southwestern South Dakota & Devil's Tower, WY
This was our last full day in South Dakota! We started our day with a hike to Roughlock Falls, which was beautiful! Then, we stopped in Spearfish to feed the fish at Spearfish Fisheries. After the entertaining fish feeding frenzy, we drove to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Devil's Tower is amazing and beautiful! Visitors are able to hike on different paths around Devil's Tower and if they're feeling really adventurous (and are experienced climbers), they can even climb to the top of the Tower! On our way back to Lead, we checked out Sturgis. Sturgis is a nice, little town known for its yearly motorcycle rally and we learned pretty quickly that quite a few of the businesses in town are only open during the rally.
Day 8: Southwestern South Dakota to Colorado Springs, CO
On day 8, we spent almost the entire day driving. We sang "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" (any George Strait fans out there??) as we drove through Cheyenne, we saw the Rocky Mountains, and sat in Denver traffic. Once we got to Colorado Springs, we checked into our hotel, ate dinner, and walked around Garden of the Gods (highly recommend).
Day 9: Colorado Springs, CO
Day 9... The first thing we did on day 9 was drive up Pike's Peak. It does cost money to drive up Pike's Peak, but the experience is worth the money. You can only drive up half the mountain on your own, then you park and take a bus the rest of the way. The bus ride was slightly scary, but so worth it!! After Pike's Peak we ate in Manitou Springs, walked in the creek, and strolled around town. Another attraction in Manitou Springs is the Cliff Dwellings, which we visited several years ago. We went again because I didn't remember much of the dwellings, but it has changed since the last time I was there. Now, you must pay to see the Cliff Dwellings, which we didn't have to do when we visited several years ago. In my opinion, the dwellings are not worth the cost (we payed $48 for 4 people). I think the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde are a better experience than the dwellings in Manitou Springs.
Day 10: Colorado Springs, CO to Fredericksburg, TX
We made another longggg drive (12 hrs to be exact) on day 10 from Colorado to Fredericksburg, Texas. We go to Fredericksburg regularly and decided to stay in Fredericksburg for a few days rather than spend a few days here and there in Colorado and/or New Mexico.
Day 11, 12, 13: Fredericksburg, TX
There are plenty of things to do in FBG, from walking/shopping on Main Street to learning about the Pacific War at the National Museum of the Pacific War. You can climb Enchanted Rock, visit the Pioneer Museum, go on a wine tour, and so much more! Check out my post about Fredericksburg: Fun Fun Fun in Fredericksburg, TX.
Day 14: Fredericksburg to Houston, TX
Day 14-- we made the 4 to 5 hour drive back to Houston! If you don't know what to do in Houston, check out my post: 10 Things To Do in Houston, Texas.
South Dakota was our main destination for this road trip so we sort of made last minute decisions on stops and activities before and after SD. I've had so many people ask what my favorite part of the trip was and I always say South Dakota. Everything we did in South Dakota was fun and we didn't even get to do everything on our list. Many people don't realize how amazing and fun SD really is!!