Hi friends! In my last blog post I gave you a teaser of the attractions we would be seeing in Hot Springs, SD. And today I’m going to do an entire recap of our vacation! We experienced some really cool stuff. Here we go!
Hot Springs, SD Vacation Recap:
The first thing we visited was Wind Cave National Park. On our itinerary, we had the cave tour planned at 1:00, but when we got there we found out it was actually at 3:00. So we got out tickets, and continued to explore the park for a few hours.
The views of the park are breath taking!
We took our time and drove through the park, taking in all the amazing sights. The hills, trees, rocks, and wildlife were so beautiful! We stopped at watched a herd of buffalo grazing and taking dirt baths. The girls loved seeing the little buffalo calves nursing.
The Rankin Ridge Trail was so much fun to hike! It was a nice trail and a good brisk hike. It was a pretty good incline all the way up to the Rankin Ridge Lookout Tower, where you can see for miles and miles. The tower is closed to the public, but we were up so high we could see everything perfectly. Then the trail winds back down the hill to where we started. The girls were pretty worn out at the end but they got a good rest before the Wind Cave.
The Wind Cave tour was fascinating! I had no idea it even existed, but we learned a lot on the tour. It is a huuuuge underground cave formed by wind! The box work and rock formations inside the cave were so fun to look at. It was a little chilly inside, so I’m glad we brought jackets. Most of the tour was going down stairs, and then at the end we went up 20 floors on an elevator. The history and stories of how this cave was explored was so cool!
You can visit my Facebook page for more photos and videos.
After Wind Cave National Park, we headed back to the hotel and rested for a few minutes. Then we got ready for supper! After all that walking/climbing, we were ready for a nice, big, delicious meal!
Wooly’s Grill and Cellar
Ohhh man, you guys! This is hands down one of the best steakhouses we’ve ever eaten at. If you’re remotely close to Hot Springs, you have to eat here!
When we arrived, I was blown away by their western/rustic decor. There are wagon wheels beautifully decorated and hanging from the ceiling, and the building is located in the perfect spot to look out over the trees and hills. We were seated in by a huge picture window and had an awesome view while we ate.
And the food. OH MY GOLLY. The food!
I’m a Prime Rib kinda girl. So of course that’s what I ordered. Sam got the Sirloin steak, and he’s picky when it comes to how his steak is cooked. It basically has to be moo’ing for him to enjoy it. And they were cooked perfectly! Soooo good. The salad bar came with our meal, and I loved their selection. The greens were nice and fresh, and the additional options were really tasty too.
For our sides we both got french fries. They came in the coolest little basket, separate from our steaks. I loved that because so many times the fries get soggy if they are in the steak juices. Not these! We also got green beans with our steak and they were delicious as well.
The girls got chicken tenders and apples for their sides. They came with caramel in the middle of the apple slices, it was so cute!
And THEN. Dessert! They make all of their own desserts. They had tons of choices! We split a slice of Snickers Cheesecake and it fed all of us. SO amazingly rich and delicious!
Our waitress was really good too. I’m kind of picky about service, but she checked on us just the right amounts and kept our drinks full. She was very friendly and happy to serve us, and interacted good with the girls too. We are definitely going back on our next trip to Hot Springs!
After supper, we visited the Mammoth Site, which was literally a walk up from Wooly’s. The tour starts with a movie about the history behind the dig site. This helped us a lot, because the girls (and us, honestly) had a lot of questions about how the mammoth’s got there.
Then we put on headsets to hear the tour guide better, and went into the actual dig site. It’s a huge open room where you can walk through the actual site where archaeologists are digging the fossils. Then, we went into the museum part and learned more about different fossils from animals ranging from mammoths to bears. It’s so eye opening to stand next to the exhibits and feel just how big they really were!
In the basement is the laboratory, and the girls wanted to go in but we were there too late in the day and the scientists had already gone for the day. So maybe next time. 🙂
On the main floor, there’s a fun little Kid’s Cave, where the girls were able to “dig” for fossils. There’s also a really neat gift shop full of really cool stuff at very decent prices.
The Lighted River Walk / America’s Best Value Inn
We then went back to our hotel (America’s Best Value Inn) and rested some more for a few minutes. We changed back into our comfy/walking clothes and got ready for the lighted river walk. Right when the sun was going behind the hills, we went for a walk along the river.
The entire pathway is nice sidewalk and stroller friendly, and lighted. We went by the really pretty waterfall and then further downstream. We didn’t measure it but we probably walked a mile or a little over. We didn’t go the entire way downstream, but it was still a really nice, quiet and relaxing walk.
The staff at the America’s Best Value Inn were great! They let us check in a few hours early, and helped us out with requests for more pillows. The beds were a little dated, but we still got a good night’s sleep.
The other thing we liked about Hot Springs was their police department. We were a little surprised about this, but once the sun went down, there were cops all over it seemed like. It scared us at first, but then it was a bit of a sigh of relief that they were patrolling so good. The side streets and bars were a little busy, so we stayed away from there, but it was nice knowing that the cops saw us and knew we were out walking with kids.
The next morning we got up, got ready, and headed to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. It was about 10 miles south of Hot Springs, SD and then a few miles on a dirt road down into the hills. We drove past a herd of wild horses and it was so neat to see all of them grazing. There was over 500 horses at the sanctuary!
It was fun learning about the history of the horses and how they have evolved. We saw a Choctaw Stallion and the girls loved feeding him dandelions. It was really peaceful and calm at the sanctuary. The location is nestled right up against the beautiful Cheyenne Canyon.
After the horse sanctuary, we headed back to town, changed into our bathing suits, and headed to Evan’s Plunge! The outside air temperature was around 70 degrees when we got there at 10:30 am. I’m very cold blooded, so I was expecting to freeze in the pool. But it was so warm! The water in the pool is fed by a mineral water spring, so it’s a constant 89 degrees and a new pool of water goes through every hour.
The bottom of the pool is rocks! I loved that. It felt like we were out in nature.
There were 2 big water slides. It took the girls some convincing, but they loved going down the slower curvy slide with us. We took turns taking them, and then they wanted to go again and again! Sam was the only brave enough one to go down the fast slide, but he said it was really fun.
There’s also tarzan rings across the pool at the opposite end of the slides. Sam made it all the way across! He made it look way too easy, because I tried and got to the 2nd ring, and then fell back into the wall. 😉
Outside is another pool and slide as well! Plus it also has a fun little splash pad for kids. Joey loved that.
The girls said Evan’s Plunge was their favorite thing on our trip, and I’m now realizing that they were so busy playing, I didn’t even get a picture of them together!
Our vacation to Hot Springs, SD was beyond our expectations! We will remember it forever and are already planning our next adventure back. Be sure to visit my Facebook page for the LIVE videos I took while we were there, as well as more photos and videos of the Wind Cave and Evan’s Plunge!
There is so much to see and do in South Dakota! Check out more by clicking here.