Old-Fashioned Western Fun: Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show

Old-Fashioned Western Fun: Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show

When I’m in a tourist area, I tend to stay away from souvenir shops, buffets and most things that cater strictly to tourists. But once in a while a little lighthearted entertainment geared to tourists is a fun way to spend an evening. That was the case with the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show near Rapid City in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Read more

A Day in Downtown Rapid City

A Day in Downtown Rapid City

Traveling to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and all the natural beauty in the Black Hills and Badlands, you’ll most likely fly into or drive through Rapid City. The walkable downtown area of Rapid City itself is worth a visit, whether you spend a day at the beginning of your trip or take a break from Mother Nature mid-trip. Read more

6 Reasons to Visit Rapid City’s Kitschy Dinosaur Park

6 Reasons to Visit Rapid City’s Kitschy Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur Park. The name says it all. It’s a park with dinosaurs—seven dinosaurs, to be exact. Seven life-size cement dinosaurs. Is it worth stopping at this kitschy Rapid City, South Dakota, roadside attraction? Absolutely. Here are six reasons why: Read more

How Reptile Gardens Blends Beauty and Beast

How Reptile Gardens Blends Beauty and Beast

Reptile Gardens seems an oxymoron to me. I think of gardens as plant life, beautiful colorful flowers. The word “reptiles” brings to mind exactly that: snakes, lizards and alligators. How can the two possibly coexist in one attraction? The Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota, does it well, combining a botanic garden with the largest collection of reptiles on the planet, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, with 225 species and subspecies, over 1,000 animals altogether. Read more

Dine in Bette’s Kitchen—Literally

Dine in Bette’s Kitchen—Literally

If not for the sign out front, you might think you were pulling up to someone’s home. Actually, you are. The family dog may greet you and escort you to the door of the manufactured home set on a hill overlooking a lush pine valley.

Bettes exteriorInside, you may be seated next to the fireplace in the dining room. Family photos fill the walls, including photos of Nicolas Black Elk, medicine man and warrior of the Native American Oglala Lakota tribe, who was restaurant owner Betty O’Rourke’s great-grandfather.

Bettes Kitchen fireplaceFamily photosBette’s Kitchen’s menu includes fare like fried chicken, burgers, BLTs, chef’s salad and soup. However, for our group that Betty hosted, she put out a huge spread of chicken, beef, chicken noodle soup, salads, baked beans, fresh watermelon and cupcakes frosted in vivid colors, punctuated with colorful sprinkles. The meal was served buffet style with paper plates from a folding table in Betty’s kitchen, an experience much like a family picnic.

Bettes Kithen saladsBettes Kitchen Cupcakes

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In fact, you can savor your meal picnic-style while enjoying the beauty of the South Dakota scenery in the tented outdoor seating area if you prefer.

Bettes outdoor seatingView from BettesBetty’s cooking is like that of your aunt or grandmother, down-home deliciousness. The soup was chock full of thick noodles, the chicken crispy and juicy, the beef tender and flavorful. It’s no wonder that Betty served over 2,000 people last summer. Besides local regulars, it isn’t uncommon for Betty to serve busloads that stop in for lunch in the remote location.

BetteChicken Noodle SoupBette’s Kitchen is located at 111 Black Elk Road, one mile north of Manderson in western South Dakota. Phone (605) 867-1739.

Disclosure: My visit to Bette’s Kitchen was hosted by the South Dakota Department of Tourism and Bette’s Kitchen. However, all opinions in this article are my own.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie

Mount Rushmore at Sunrise: A Spectacular Show

I finally made it to Mount Rushmore. For 40 years I’d wanted to see the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt carved into the mountain’s granite, or “the heads,” as my daughter referred to them. For one reason and then another, I never made it there until last fall. It was well worth the wait, and getting up before dawn to see the sunrise was a small price to pay for the spectacular show our presidents put on for us.

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Our group arrived at dawn, just as the skies were beginning to lighten from black to gray, a late September chill in the air. Only a few others besides our group were there that early, before the rush of tourists, allowing us to position ourselves for the best photo shots of the monument.

Mt Rushmore 2

As the sun began to come up, the stone took on a peach cast against the powder blue sky.

Mt Rushmore 3

The coloring became more vibrant as the sun peeked higher above the horizon …

Mt Rushmore 4

… until the mountain was seemingly on fire and the sky a bright azure.

Mt Rushmore 5

As the sun rose higher, the faces softened.

Mt Rushmore 6

Mt Rushmore 7

With the breathtaking sunrise over, it was time to explore a little more. The Presidential Trail allows you to get up closer to the monument and presents some great angles, including from between trees and rocks.

Mt Rushmore 11

Mt Rushmore 8

Mt Rushmore 10

Later I noticed another great view from the windows in the café.

Mt Rushmore 12

I know it isn’t every day that the sky is as blue as it was on that September morning, not a cloud in the sky. I’m just glad that after waiting over 40 years to see “the heads,” we were blessed with perfect weather and a perfect sunrise.

Mount Rushmore is located in Keystone, South Dakota, about a half hour southwest of Rapid City. Check the web site for directions, operating hours and other details.

Disclosure: My visit to Mount Rushmore was hosted by the South Dakota Department of Tourism. However, all opinions in this article are my own.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Prehistoric History Uncovered at Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota

Exploring Native American Heritage in South Dakota

The Journey Museum, Rapid City: Black Hills History and Culture

Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City: Norwegian Serenity

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie