MY KIND OF VACATION
When most people think about vacation and traveling, they think about a warm, sandy beach in a remote location, lying in the sun with a fruity umbrella drink. Not me. While I have been to the sunny beaches of Florida a handful of times, I would rather explore the USA. We have so many beautiful destinations here that I would like to see. My kind of vacation involves nature sightseeing.
When my kids were younger, we didn’t have a lot of money to travel or much vacation time to use. So, we mostly took short camping trips in the summer or a long weekend stay in Duluth or Two Harbors, Minnesota.
One of the best vacations we ever took was a road trip from Minnesota to Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota in June 2014.
We were in complete amazement of our first wondrous view of snow-capped mountains in Montana. Just seeing pictures doesn’t compare to the awesomeness of witnessing them in person. While staying in Montana, we had a suite with a beautiful mountainside view. We ventured through Yellowstone National Park and had our first live encounter with bears without being in a controlled setting. I was able to snap a few pictures as the mama grizzly bear and her cub crossed the road walking right in front of our car. That is an experience we will never forget. Driving in a state where so much wildlife roams around freely was an amazing experience. We had so many close encounters with bison and elk that it quickly became a normal occurrence.
My favorite parts of Montana were the scenic nature views. Observing the steaming hot springs and active geysers gushing, especially Old Faithful, was awesome. The best part for me though was the breathtaking canyons and waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. There are so many other parts of Montana we did not get to see, so we will definitely be back.
We were only in Wyoming for one night, but I enjoyed the views while driving through the state. Much like Montana, it was rich with roaming wildlife and scenic mountain views. Our main purpose in Wyoming was the kids’ request to see Devil’s Tower.
We took a hike around Devil’s Tower National Monument on a warm, sunny day. I was in awe by the number of people who were climbing it! We would stop along the way and watch the climbers for a bit. In the visitor center, there were souvenir maps with the Native American folklore story of how the structure came to be. It was a fun family outing day and one I would recommend even for families with young children, as they also have a shorter paved hiking trail.
Our next stop was South Dakota. It was our second road trip to South Dakota. Our first was in 2012. There is so much to do in South Dakota and we enjoyed it so much the first time that we decided to go back for a few nights. During our first trip, we did most of the touristy things and stayed in the Black Hills. So this time we were able to narrow down what we wanted to do. We all agreed that Deadwood was our favorite, so we splurged for a hotel suite downtown. It was convenient to have most of the things we wanted to do within walking distance.
We did venture out to Mount Rushmore for the second time. It’s such a sight to see in person. I admire all the hard work it took to sculpt figures into the side of a mountain long before technology was around. You can hear all about it by taking a guided tour around the area, which we did the first time. There are also many more details to read about constructing it in the visitor centers.
We went to Bear Country USA for the second time, which is a drive-through park that is full of bears and other wildlife. It’s like driving through a zoo with no visible fences. At the end, we walked around the park, which is more of a regular zoo area. Our favorite part was watching the baby cubs running around, playing and wrestling with each other.
Historic Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota
Historic Downtown Deadwood is such a fun place to visit. It’s a preserved old wild west town. There are guided bus tours to hear about all the old wild west stories of Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane and others. The whole family enjoyed the live interactive reenactment shows that take place multiple times each day, including a shootout and ending with the Trial of Jack McCall.
The streets are lined with many shops, mini museums with well-preserved historical artifacts, and restaurants. Our favorite restaurant was the Deadwood Social Club, which is located on the second floor of the historic Saloon No. 10. The food is amazing and since it was nice out, we sat out on the rooftop patio with a view of the town.
Downtown Deadwood also has an active night life. There are multiple casinos as well as slot machines in most bars. We walked down the line and checked out most of them. One night we were able to catch the Deadwood Trolley back towards our hotel.
I highly recommend using that vacation time and planning out a fun road trip in the good old USA!