My family does not take yearly vacations. We are on the every other year plan so we like to make the ones we do take extra special! This vacation was different than anything I have ever done, and different than the family vacations we have taken in the past. I wondered how it would stack up to say…Disney World? I didn’t know what to expect, and although you will read the thoughts my kids had at the very end of the series, I can tell you, this trip did not disappoint! In my last post, Part One of the series, I talked to you about the beginning of our trip, where we visited the Badlands. That is a place I will not soon forget. It’s natural beauty, peace and tranquility and sense of calm makes it easy to take a deep breath, and enjoy the people you are with. After we left the Badlands, we continued our adventures!
Day Three: Badlands, South Dakota-Mount Rushmore-Cody, Wyoming
We were extremely sad to leave the Badlands, but knew we had some excitement on the agenda for the day. We packed up and said goodbye to our cozy cabin and headed off to see Mount Rushmore! We were super excited to see this, as it was only something we had ever seen in pictures and in film. We had a choice to drive there the regular way, or take Iron Mountain Highway to do the scenic route. We chose Iron Mountain Highway even though it added about 20-30 minutes onto the hour and a half trip. The views were breathtaking, and as you got closer to Mount Rushmore you were able to see views of the monument from different angles. There are also a couple of tunnels that are fun to drive through too. If you have a chance before you get to Mount Rushmore, stop at the Norbeck Overlook. It will take your breath away! (I will say that a lot in these posts, and believe me, it is entirely true!) The kids loved it!
TIP: If you get motion sickness, like me unfortunately, this may not be the road for you. It is extremely winding and has many hills and stomach lurching drops. While the views are absolutely gorgeous, your head and stomach might wish you skipped it by the time you arrive at Mount Rushmore.
Mount Rushmore costs only $10 to park and the National Parks Pass that you may have purchased ahead of time DOES NOT cover this fee. Once you park, it is not a far walk to the entrance and you can immediately see the monument. Be prepared, it will literally take your breath away. It just doesn’t seem real. My kids were just entranced as we walked in and we could not stop looking. Although…once we read the sign about Thomas Jefferson writing one of the first ice cream recipes, our attention was immediately diverted to get some delicious ice cream. I am not normally a vanilla ice cream person, I tend to go for the more exciting flavors, but since they sold me on “Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe” I fell hook line and sinker and we all chose the vanilla ice cream cones. Eating ice cream on vacation is one of my family’s favorites, but even if you don’t eat as much ice cream as we do, make this stop. It is really good, and we were able to take our ice cream to the outdoor amphitheater, sit down, gaze at the monument and enjoy a deliciously cool treat.
After that, we decided to go watch an informative short film on how they created the fantastic monument. All of my kids found it very interesting. We walked around some trails and took some good pictures, but after a short time, we were ready to be on our way. We probably spent a total of two hours there. I would have loved to spend more time, but we were really excited about Cody, Wyoming and had a long drive ahead.
TIP: What I didn’t realize until the way home is that there is a whole little town to explore right near Mount Rushmore. We had no idea since we were in and out of there so quickly, but Keystone, SD is a little touristy town with lots of shops, restaurants, activities and places to stay. We wished we would have had some time to explore, but only found this on our way home from the trip. Also-ahead of time, if you are traveling with kids, purchase the National Parks Passport for them. This is an awesome tool for the kids to have showing all of the National Parks. At each park, they get a stamp at the visitors center. My kids loved collecting their stamps and it made it so fun and educational all at the same time. Click on the picture below to check out more on the National Parks Passport!
Keystone, SD 57751
After what seemed like a quick visit to Mount Rushmore, we headed towards our next destination: Cody, Wyoming. This was going to be about a seven hour drive so we settled in for more road trip activities, and just enjoying the scenery passing us by outside our window. Once we arrived in Cody, the downtown was already hopping! We noticed a street blocked off as we drove past, so we quickly parked and jumped out to see what the fuss was about. We were excited that we did because we were able to see the nightly Wild West shoot out! They do it every night at 6pm and there were a ton of people gathered there to check it out! We only were able to see the last half of it, but it was very entertaining and definitely worth the trip out. It is free as well, so that makes it even better!
Right in Front of the Irma Hotel
1192 Sheridan Ave
Cody, WY 82414
We checked in to the very friendly, clean and comfy Americinn Hotel right in town and went for a swim to shake off the long car ride. We highly recommend this hotel. The service was great, the rooms were a nice size and the pool was very clean. They serve cookies from 4-9 every night which the kids loved! It was right near town, and super close to various stores in case you needed to stock up on any supplies. The room rate was very affordable, and I would definitely stay here again.
508 Yellowstone Avenue
Cody, Wyoming 82414
Day Four: Cody, Wyoming
The next day we got up bright and early to check out the town. The Americinn Hotel offers a hot, free breakfast, so after enjoying that, we headed out to explore. We started at Old Trail Town, a little reconstructed Wild West Town. The kids loved looking at all the old buildings and learning some history about people that lived during that time. We even got a chance to learn how to lasso! Disclaimer: If you have really young kids, I would skip this. I don’t think they would be that interested, and there are a lot of really bloody, scandalous stories written about all of the players in the Wild West, While our older two enjoyed and were intrigued by the history, we were definitely trying to shield our youngest from some of the gore.
1831 Demaris Drive
Cody, Wyoming 82414
We headed out and shopped in downtown Cody, enjoying their quaint little downtown. Besides it being an adorable little downtown area, what impressed us the most was the people that were there. I don’t think I have ever been around friendlier people! Everyone was so open and welcoming! I was just in awe the entire time we were there. We fell in love with this town and would love to have the chance to visit again. Besides the shops, we stopped in a little ice cream shop (of course!) called Annie’s Soda Shoppe. This is a must stop! They make their ice cream and sodas here and the options are endless. It is set up like an old fashioned saloon, and true to Cody, the service was warm and friendly. The kids had such a fun time picking out their ice cream and soda combinations and they loved what they chose. I had a hot fudge sundae and it was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. You could tell everything was made from scratch.
1202 Sheridan Avenue
Cody, Wyoming 82414
After an ice cream treat, we headed down to see the Buffalo Bill Center. It looked really great, but was a little pricey for our budget at that point. I would have loved to check it out, so if you get a chance, please do. We decided to head to the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center instead, which turned out to be some breathtaking, FREE entertainment!
4808 North Fork Highway
Cody, WY 82414
After a quick swim in the hotel pool and a quick trip to the store to stock up on some food for the cooler for our impending drive into Yellowstone, we got ready for something we had really been looking forward to! Our Chuckwagondinner, music show and RODEO! We made reservations ahead of time (months ahead, not sure if that was necessary, but I strongly recommend reservations if you are traveling in busy tourist season) but you do not actually pay until you arrive. The package we purchased was the Trifecta Ticket which included the dinner, show and Rodeo. It was a great value! The chuckwagon dinner was all you can eat brisket, barbecue chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, baked beans, caesar salad, lemonade and brownies. It was good food and very kid friendly! The show was really great! The music was awesome, and they added a lot of comedy to the routine which made it fun for both kids and adults. Of course the service was over the top warm, friendly and welcoming, just like every other experience in Cody! The rodeo was right next door so it was really easy to access once the dinner was over. The rodeo was an interesting experience! We had no idea what to expect, and it is certainly different than anything we had ever done. None of my explanations can cover it, I just suggest you experience it for yourself!
TIP: If you have little ones, the rodeo goes late! It doesn’t even start until 8pm and goes for about two hours. After a long day of activity in town, this can make for a long day for the young ones! Plan to either leave early, or skip the rodeo.
1910 Demaris Drive
Cody, Wyoming 82414
After a long night of fun and entertainment we were exhausted! We got to bed knowing we had more excitement on the way! Check out Part Three of my Travel Series where we head into Yellowstone! Fun times ahead!
Can’t wait to share more of my trip with you all!