Hotels in the Rapid City area are clustered around exits off of I-90 on the north side of town, and along Mount Rushmore Road near downtown. In both locations, chain hotels dominate. The western edge of the city, off of Highway 44, is closest to the wooded Black Hills, and cabins and campgrounds are available here.
For access to the best attractions in the Central and Southern Hills, the best places to stay are near the downtown area or just south of downtown off of U.S. 16. Downtown locations provide easy access to boutique shopping, galleries, restaurants, and pubs. Hotels located near the I-90 corridor provide easy access to the Northern Hills and the Badlands.
The Big Sky Lodge (4080 Tower Rd., 605/348-3200, www.bigskylodge.com, $79–95) is one of the few small family-owned and -operated motels off of U.S. 16A. A one-story, well-maintained building located close to Sky Ridge Drive (and Dinosaur Park), the 31-room motel rests on the edge of a ridge overlooking the city. There is parking in front of each of the rooms for easy access and unloading. In the evening, you can sit in the hot tub and watch the city lights and the stars. It’s an absolutely beautiful view. There are also plenty of benches arranged on the outdoor deck for taking in the views. The rooms are simple but attractive, with nice quilts. Amenities include free wireless Internet access, a playground, and a picnic area. The owners, Jay and Alicia Culbertson, love the hospitality business, their lodge, and meeting people from around the country.
On the western side of town, Canyon Lake Resort (2720 Chapel Lane, 605/343-0234 or 800/646-5603, www.canyonlakeresorts.com, $91) is located next to one of Rapid City’s prettiest parks. The main lodge is used primarily for special events, like weddings and family reunions, and is a very attractive frame building with five bedrooms and a large dining area. The motel rooms are not attached to this facility and are very plain. Each has two queen-sized beds and a kitchenette. Cabins are also available. There is a fire pit located outside the rooms and guests can paddleboat on the lake for free. Located on two acres, it is a quiet spot, close to the Meadowbrook Golf Course and Canyon Lake City Park.
Most of the hotels in this price range are chains, but the Grand Gateway Hotel (1721 N. LaCrosse St., 605/342-8853 or 866/742-1300, www.grandgatewayhotel.com, $99–150) is a family-owned and -operated property right off of I-90 on the north end of town. It is an older hotel, built in the early 1980s, but the rooms are clean and elegant and the staff is comprised of five of the founder’s grandsons and one granddaughter. The property features an indoor pool and water slide, and 24-hour access to an attached Perkins Restaurant. It makes a good base camp for day trips to the Badlands or to the Northern Hills.
In the downtown area, the 99-room Howard Johnsons (950 North St., 605/737-4656, www.hojorapidcity.com, $129) is a newer facility with a nice marble and wood lobby. Built in 2002, the hotel features an indoor pool and hot tubs, free Wi-Fi, and fitness center. Complimentary continental breakfast is included. The standard rooms are spacious and nicely decorated with plenty of lighting. A small desk and work area is incorporated into each room. The hotel is just on the other side of Rapid Creek near Mount Rushmore Road and is within walking distance to downtown.
The Hisega Lodge B & B (23101 Triangle Trail, 605/342-8444, www.hisegalodge.net, open year-round, $99–129) is located just seven miles west of Rapid City on Highway 44. A historic property that has served tourists since 1908, the lodge has a gorgeous wrap-around deck and a fireplace in the common area. There are eight rooms, all with private baths. The rooms are meant to be soothing and are light and airy in style. There are wood floors and warm quilts on the beds. Some of the rooms have light wood paneling, some are painted; each is rustic and different from its neighbors. Every room opens directly onto the wrap-around porch or to Rapid Creek, which runs through the property. Amenities include free Wi-Fi.
Another great choice for location and value is the Sweetgrass Inn Bed & Breakfast (9356 Neck Yoke Rd., 605/343-5351, www.sweetgrassinn.com, $105–125). It’s located about six miles south of central Rapid City off of Mount Rushmore Road (U.S. 16), the main route to the best Black Hills attractions and Mount Rushmore—and is almost directly across the street from Reptile Gardens. The eight rooms feature private entrances and private baths. The rooms are romantic and a bit on the feminine side—with light, floral decor—though the Prairie Star Room would be a pleasant place of rest for just about any taste.
Construction of the 143-room Hotel Alex Johnson (523 Sixth St., 605/342-1210 or 800/888-2539, www.alexjohnson.com, double queen or king $185) began one day before work began on Mount Rushmore. One year later, in 1928, the hotel opened. Over the course of its history, the hotel has hosted six United States presidents. The building exterior is primarily brick, but the upper floors and roof are in Tudor style, painted white and crossed with dark wood framing. The lobby of the hotel is truly striking, with an interesting mix of Native American decor and German Tudor architecture. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Alex Johnson is undergoing a major restoration.
A complete facelift is planned to restore the hotel to its original splendor. Based on old photographs and hotel plans, the hotel is being returned to 1920s-era decor. All of the furnishings are being replaced and fixtures will include marble countertops and foyers, luxury bedding, in-room espresso makers, and large flat-screen televisions (a modern addition to the 1920s theme). The restaurant has also undergone renovation; at the time of writing, its grand opening is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in 2010, when the hotel renovations are due to be completed. There is lobby access to the Mercantile Gift Shop and to Paddy O’Neill’s Pub, considered one of the best nightspots in town.
The 177-room Radisson Hotel (445 Mt. Rushmore Rd., 605/348-8300 or 800/395-7046, www.radisson.com/hotels/sdrapid, $159) is another hotel within walking distance of downtown Rapid City. It is an older, smoke-free, three-star hotel with free Wi-Fi, indoor pool and whirlpool, airport shuttle, car rental service, and restaurant. The rooms are spacious and feature Sleep Number beds, where you can dial in the mattress firmness that you prefer. Otherwise, the rooms are pretty standard hotel fare with one truly unusual feature—the windows open for fresh air. And, on the list of hotel amenities is a “Short Stature Accessibility Kit,” which aids smaller people in reaching the vanity counters and getting into the beds (Sleep Number beds are fairly high).
On the northern side of town, the 93-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott (1314 N. Elk Vale Rd., 605/718-9600 or 888/236-2427, www.marriott.com, $169) is located off of I-90 at exit 61. Amenities include in-room coffee, microwave, wireless Internet, free continental breakfast, a fitness center, and direct access to the Watiki Indoor Water Park, making this a good choice for families. The rooms are modern and the beds are luxurious with firm mattresses and very soft pillows.
Also located on the northern end of town is the Best Western Ramkota Hotel (2111 N. LaCrosse St., 605/343-8550, www.rapidcity.ramkota.com, 267 rooms $160), at exit 59 off of I-90. The rooms are decorated with a Western theme and amenities include an indoor heated pool and whirlpool, fitness room, free high-speed and wireless Internet access, and complimentary airport shuttle. The hotel also has an award-winning restaurant, Minervas, and a cocktail lounge.
For a real Western experience, try Flying B Ranch Bed and Breakfast (6539 N. Haines Ave., 605/342-5324, www.flyingb.com, $190). Just five miles north of Rapid City, this bed-and-breakfast is located on a 3,500-acre working cattle ranch in the middle of a rolling northern prairie. Though the ranch is located just minutes north of Rapid, once you leave the city border you’ll quickly find yourself in a remote and quiet setting. It’s a great choice for families since there are plenty of animals for kids to meet and feed, and hosts Bonnie and Larry Henderson are happy to provide tours of the ranch. They’ll even let guests help with the fencing—at no extra charge. The three large suites are simply and tastefully decorated. Each room is different, but all have private baths and hot tubs. There is a heated swimming pool and free Wi-Fi.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition