July 27, 2015

Visiting Mammoth Site With Kids

I’ve never had more than a passing interest in dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. But ever since I read about Hudson-Meng Bison Kill site in Nebraska, my interest was piqued on major archeological digs in the Midwest. What would it be like to see a massive dig site in person?

The question leads to why I wanted to include a stop at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs during our South Dakota road trip. The answer: You’ll be impressed by the experience.

The number of bones uncovered at Mammoth Site is impressive.

The number of bones uncovered at Mammoth Site is impressive.

More than 60 Columbian and woolly mammoths have been identified there, as well as a number surprising (to me) fossils of camels, llamas and giant short-faced bears, to name just a couple here.

 

What to expect

Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief: It’s in a climate-controlled building (AKA air-conditioned).

A partial view of the excavation area at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

A partial view of the excavation area at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

You’ll want to take a tour, which includes a short film in the beginning and a guided walk around the “in-situ” exhibit (fancy talk for bones being on display as they were discovered).

You get headphones to wear so you can hear your guide. My 3-year-old hated them with a passion.

Photography is allowed, but you’re encouraged to wait until after the tour so that you don’t miss whatever the guide is showing next. It’s so tempting, though, to want to snap photos in the moment.

Tools used at Mammoth Site to uncover bones.

Tools used at Mammoth Site to uncover bones.

After the tour, you’re free to roam, then proceed to the next door. It’s full of interesting replicas, including a mammoth model and a walk-in mammoth bone hut. There’s a gift shop full of books, stuffed animals and apparel.

A replica of a hut made out of mammoth bones in Muller Exhibit Hall.

A replica of a hut made out of mammoth bones in Muller Exhibit Hall.

 

Tips

We lucked out and saw Mammoth Site Excavation Committee members at work during our visit. However, the people who timed their visit about 30 minutes after us missed them during their lunch break. Time your visit around the noon hour.

It's pretty fascinating to watch the work being done at Mammoth Site.

It’s pretty fascinating to watch the work being done at Mammoth Site.

There picnic tables for lunch time, if you packed accordingly. The tables aren’t far from an outdoor work site.

Near the picnic tables is a work space for the volunteers to sift through dirt to find tiny fossils.

Near the picnic tables is a work space for the volunteers to sift through dirt to find tiny fossils. You might luck out and catch someone at work.

Near Mammoth Site is the restaurant Woolly’s Western Grill. It’s a kid-friendly place to get a bite to eat.

 

Bringing little ones here

How did these two do at an active dig site?

How did these two do at an active dig site?

My kids are 3 and 5, so not exactly at the grade levels that have been studying any of this in school. That said, they’ve at least read “Magic Treehouse” books and know a thing or two about woolly Mammoths and other prehistoric creatures, so they’ve got that going.

There are items on display at Mammoth Site that encourage visitors to touch, which appeals to kids.

There are items on display at Mammoth Site that encourage visitors to touch, which appeals to kids.

My 3-year-old daughter, Mooch, lost interest early on in the tour; our 5-year-old fared better. The tour guide provides a lot of facts, but there’s very little hands-on things to keep the truly young interested.

I think one of the best options for families with little kids is to register them in one of the kids activities offered there – in the summer, there are two types of  junior paleontologist classes, which sound like the perfect hands-on learning my kids would like; unfortunately, it didn’t fit with our travel schedule. There’s also an Atlatl Throwing Experience that sounded intriguing.

 

If you go

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs

Where: 1800 US 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hours: Open year-round, hours vary depending on the time of year. Details

Cost: Adults (13+), $10; seniors (60+), $9; kids (4-12), $8; kids 3 and younger, FREE. Summer classes are $10-$20.

Website

Disclaimer: The Hot Springs tourism office provided complimentary admission to Mammoth Site of Hot Springs for me and my family. All opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.

 

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

July 22, 2015

Hot Springs Hills Inn In The Southern Black Hills

Hot Springs, South Dakota, is one of the southernmost cities of the Black Hills, and one that attracts tourists for a couple reasons. The big draws are Mammoth Site and Evans Plunge.

It’s a small town that feels less touristy than many others in the region. Mr. Wonderful and I marveled at the castle-like appearance of some buildings, thanks to the interesting sandstone architecture throughout the town.

There’s also a neat waterfall along a trail that passes through town.

Hot Springs has a waterfall in the middle of town.

Hot Springs has a waterfall in the middle of town.

So if you have a budding paleontologist in the family or just want to cool off in a big pool, you may find yourself in Hot Springs.

Where to stay

Hot Springs Hills Inn invited my family to stay two nights while we explored the area. Hot Springs was a town I had on my itinerary on because I wanted to take the kids to Mammoth Site, and because it was close enough to Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. It was a nice homebase for exploring the southern region of the Black Hills.

About Hills Inn

The Hills Inn in Hot Springs, South Dakota

The Hills Inn in Hot Springs, South Dakota

If you search customer-rated sites on attractions or lodging, you’ll find The Hills Inn as one of the top ranked options in Hot Springs, if not the top one. The Hills Inn is a family-run motel with a small outdoor pool and a putt putt golf course connected on site (which is FREE to motel guests). Wally greets the guests at the front desk, he’s a friendly guy.

A view of the putt-putt golf course next to Hills Inn. Guests at the motel can play for free.

A view of the putt-putt golf course next to Hills Inn. Guests at the motel can play for free.

As far as motels go, this is as clean as I’ve ever seen them, with a few extra amenities I don’t expect from a motel, like the FREE breakfast. Running from 6:30 to 9 a.m., there is a small assortment of items from fresh fruit and cereal, to bagels and toast…and my kids’ favorite, chocolate donuts.

We took advantage of the breakfast during our stay, bringing our plates, orange juice and coffee to a table poolside. There’s a small dining room off the lobby, as well.

Breakfast poolside at The Hills Inn, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Breakfast poolside at The Hills Inn, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The other amenities I thought were nice touches: A 40-inch TV, a refrigerator and microwave. Plus FREE putt-putt which I mentioned earlier. Nice, huh?

The location

It’s super near Mammoth Site and Evans Plunge. Further afield is Wind Cave National Park (I’d guess about 10 minutes away) and Custer State Park (30 minutes).

Hot Springs’ Freedom Trail is near the motel, and if you walk it, you’re about a mile or so from that waterfall I mentioned earlier.

 

If you go

Hot Springs Hills Inn

Where: 640 S. Sixth St., Hot Springs, South Dakota

Website

 

More about Hot Springs

There is a coffee maker in the room at The Hills Inn and there’s some included with breakfast, but you may want to venture out for a cup of joe. Hot Springs Coffee Kiosk was a pleasant surprise for me – good stuff.

As far as dining goes in town, you don’t have a lot of choices, but we were happy with what we did pick. All places were pretty close to The Hills Inn. We grabbed tasty dinner to-go one night from T/D Smokin BBQ. We also had dinner at Woolly’s Western Grill (located near Mammoth Site) and a post-Evans Plunge breakfast at Dale’s Family Restaurant (right across the street from it).

 

Disclaimer: My family was provided a complimentary stay at Hills Inn in order for me to write this review. All opinions are my own.

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

 

 

 

 

July 21, 2015

Evans Plunge In Hot Springs, South Dakota

Evans Plunge is one of those attractions in the Black Hills that everyone seems to have been to as a kid. I mention it to several friends, and they each recalled a story from their childhood. Some remember the rocky bottom (the rocks are still there). Some mention how cool the waterslides were.

My first visit was as a mom, so I don’t have that nostalgic recollection. My kids will someday.

I was invited to visit Evans Plunge on my recent family road trip through the Badlands and Black Hills. It’s located in Hot Springs, a small town in southern South Dakota known for nearby hot springs.

This location isn’t in a natural setting of a hot spring, just so you know.

The waterpark in Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The water park in Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

We went early one weekday morning, so we didn’t contend with other tourists save for one other family. Everyone at the pool at that time was local – kids in swim lessons or adults in exercise classes. It meant no lines for the slides.

Evans Plunge is a spring-fed water park of sorts – it’s mostly a large swimming pool with some fun features like kid-friendly water slide, three larger slides and Tarzan swings. The water is warmer than most pools because of the spring water – 87 degrees.

OK, I did not capture this photo. I didn't dare bring my camera in with me to a pool. I know myself! Photo provided by South Dakota Tourism

OK, I did not capture this photo. I didn’t dare bring my camera in with me to a pool. I know myself! Photo provided by South Dakota Tourism

We got lifejackets at the check in for our beginner swimmers. They weren’t needed in the kid pool, which was 3 feet deep with a small frog slide. They were handy in the larger pool. There are also a couple tubes on deck to use.

The waterslides are definitely for big kids (and parents). I only went down one, and while it wasn’t scary fast or anything, I knew better than to ask my kids if they were interested in trying it out.

Since we were there early, I had to ask for the slides to be turned on. And because of the timing of our visit, the outdoor pool wasn’t open yet (it opens at 11 a.m.). But we enjoyed an uncrowded pool and no lines for anything.

You could easily spend an hour here, and likely more when you’re with kids. If you’re feeling the need for some strength training, there is a fitness center upstairs that’s included with admission. Need a snack or lunch? There is a small concession stand there, as well.

The great thing, I learned from one helpful lady at the pool, is that our wristbands are good for the whole day. You could leave to eat lunch, nap, whatever, and then return in the evening.

 

If you go

Evans Plunge

Where: 1145 N. River St., Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $12 (ages 13+), $10 (ages 3-12), FREE (ages 2 and under). For access to hot tubs, sauna and steam room, add $3.50.

Tip: You can get 25% off your admission if you bring a receipt showing that you’re staying at a hotel, motel or campground in Hot Springs

Website

Disclaimer: Evans Plunge provided a complimentary family pass for my family to visit. All opinions are my own.

 

* * * * *

 

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

July 20, 2015

Try The Buffalo At Dakotah Steakhouse in Rapid City

Dakotah Steakhouse is one of those restaurants that gets high ratings on travel and food sites and you wonder, is it really that good?

Yes, yes it is.

Dakotah Steakhouse is in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Dakotah Steakhouse is in Rapid City, South Dakota.

This Rapid City, South Dakota, restaurant was located across the parking lot from our hotel during our recent stay. The city’s tourism office said it was a place I ought to check out, so they gave me a gift card and off I went with the family.

What to expect

Coolest restaurant art I've seen in a long: The Dakotah buffalo. Side note, order a buffalo dish here.

Coolest restaurant art I’ve seen in a long: The Dakotah buffalo. Side note, order a buffalo dish here.

This was the nicest place we dined at during our Western Nebraska/South Dakota road trip. While you may want to pack something a little nice to wear for dinner, it’s also in a city that attracts tourists, so you won’t be turned away if all you have are shorts, a clean shirt and flip flops. But, I felt more comfortable having changed out of my sweaty, touristy day clothes.

The restaurant has a lodge feel, with a huge fireplace and wood throughout. It was cozy though it actually was quite a spacious restaurant.

The view inside Dakotah Steakhouse. Not super dressy, right?

The view inside Dakotah Steakhouse. Not super dressy, right?

It’s the kind of place that you want to sit back and take your time, perhaps order a bottle of red. Which we did… but we couldn’t sit back and relax because the kids were with us. And it was taking too long for their food to get to the table and they were a ticking time bomb of impatience. Kids…

It is fairly kid-friendly. There is a kids menu and with some activities on it (for kids older than my own). However, it’s like any other steakhouse I’ve been to, in that it takes time to prepare the food.

It’s a great place for a date night, but come prepared to entertain your kids if you’re bringing them along.

What to order

Obviously, the steak is a big draw; it is a steakhouse. But we’re in South Dakota so you kinda have to try the buffalo, right? The buffalo served here is provided by local ranchers.

I was given great advice to try the buffalo skewers, which my whole family scarfed down. Get yourself some of that when you visit!

Buffalo skewers are so good you won't want to share.

Buffalo skewers are so good you won’t want to share.

Entrees: I got a few recommendations of great dishes, from the walleye dinner to the buffalo ribeye, to the elk ravioli. I went for something I couldn’t find in Omaha, and got the ravioli – it was so good!

Mr. Wonderful ordered a KC strip, which the kids ate half of.

For sides, we both got the Three Sisters Soup, and I recommend that one. To come with my dish, I ordered asparagus wrapped in bacon, which is as good as it sounds, and Mr. Wonderful got mashed sweet potatoes. We ordered an additional side to share with the kids, fried macaroni and cheese, and it was hands down, the favorite.

Stuffed, we had no room for dessert.

Cost?

It’s going to be more than most stops for a traveling family, that’s for certain, but most stops aren’t going to be at a steakhouse, amiright? If you splurge on one meal on your South Dakota vacation, you can’t go wrong here.

And get the buffalo.

 

If you go

Dakotah Steakhouse

Where: 1325 N. Elk Vale Road, Rapid City, South Dakota

Website

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

 

 

 

July 15, 2015

Getting Up Close At Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens in Rapid City was on a USA Today list for Top 10 Roadside Attractions. Roadside attraction?

It may have once been a roadside attraction capitalizing in people’s interest in snakes in 1937, but it has grown into a family-run, kid-friendly destination that educates as well as entertains.

A girl from the audience meets a feathered friend during the bird show at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota.

A girl from the audience meets a feathered friend during the bird show at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The friendly owners of Reptile Gardens gave me a family pass to visit so I could tell you about the place. I’m glad we got to go and spend a few hours there – it was certainly one of my kids’ favorite stops.

Let’s talk animals

One of the dozens of resident alligators at Reptile Gardens. This guy is rather famous - he was in a James Bond movie.

One of the dozens of resident alligators at Reptile Gardens. This guy is rather famous – he was in a James Bond movie.

So, with the name Reptile Gardens, you know what to expect. You’ll get your snakes, alligators and lizards, as well as a menagerie of others.

Love the funny signs at Reptile Gardens.

Love the funny signs at Reptile Gardens.

The highlight for my kids (and me, I’ll be honest), were the tortoises. Park visitors are welcome to pet and touch the free roaming behemoths (and I use roaming loosely here, these guys are not speedy).

How to a huge a tortoise.

How to a hug a tortoise.

Hello, photo opportunities.

I could barely get Mooch away from them.

This big tortoise at Reptile Gardens is over a 100 years old.

This big tortoise at Reptile Gardens is over a 100 years old.

If you can get your kids away from the tortoises, head to the Sky Dome. The Sky Dome is home to a pretty tropical jungle with free-roaming parrots and other birds, hanging snakes and other creatures.

Birds, snacks and lizards roam the Sky Dome.

Birds, snacks and lizards roam the Sky Dome.

The dome building actually has three areas you’ll want to see.

The Sky Dome is the prettiest place in Reptile Gardens. I could share a ton of photos take in there...

The Sky Dome is the prettiest place in Reptile Gardens. I could share a ton of photos take in there…

Upstairs there are snakes – highly venomous ones if that interests your kids.

One of the dozens of snakes at Reptile Gardens.

One of the many snakes at Reptile Gardens.

Some display windows were too high for young kids to see without some help. Some of these snakes are pretty rare – the rough-scaled pythons are the only ones in the world outside Australia.

On the ground floor, you’ll find gators and other creepy crawly things.

I guess this little guy falls under "crawly," since he's not very creepy.

I guess this little guy falls under “crawly,” since he’s not very creepy.

This guy isn't creepy or crawly either. I guess I need better adjectives.

This guy isn’t creepy or crawly either. I suppose I need better adjectives.

You’ll find Maniac in that area, a 16-foot saltwater crocodile that you’ll just have to see to believe. I couldn’t fit him into one picture.

Animal shows

Reptile Gardens has three animal shows. You can fit them all in during a three-hour visit, but it’s tight. They’re timed so that you can make it to the next one about 10 minutes before it starts.

You know you want to see the alligator show. Heard of alligator wrestling?

You know you want to see the alligator show. Heard of alligator wrestling?

Word of advice: Show up early for a good view.

The bird show was the most interactive, with a couple kids getting to go “on stage” and help with demonstrations. More than 20 species were part of the show.

The birds like this parrot loved to show off during the bird show.

The birds like this parrot loved to show off during the bird show.

The snake show was packed. The biggies, like the python, excited the youngsters in the crowd the most.

Front row seats to the snake show. (Not actual seats - lots of kids sat on the ground to get a good view)

Front row seats to the snake show. (Not actual seats – lots of kids sat on the ground to get a good view)

The big show of the place is the alligator show. Gator Arena has the most seating, which was needed. There were 37 alligators, crocodiles and caimans in the arena, most laying still in the water (yes, they’re real, the handler confirmed).

The highlight was the alligator wrestling.

Most important survival tip learned during our trip: How to wrestle an alligator. I'm sure it'll be useful someday.

Most important survival tip learned during our trip: How to wrestle an alligator. I’m sure it’ll be useful someday.

The guy who did the alligator show also did the snake show and he was pretty funny. Hope you get him if you see a show here.

The show ends with kids being able to put a baby alligator.

Mooch loved petting the baby alligator.

Mooch loved petting the baby alligator.

Other features

Reptile Gardens has several photo opportunities, which you kinda expect from a tourist attraction, right?

Photo op #1

Photo op #1

They’re fun, though.

Photo op #2

Photo op #2

 

We can’t resist a good photo op.

Photo op #3

Photo op #3

There is also a playground, which isn’t too shaded so on a hot summer day, making it unbearable for parents. Kids love it, of course.

Which leads me to the next spot: A cool off room. It’s between the playground and the tortoises, so it was a nice stopping point for us to sit and, well, cool off.

After melting at the playground, Mr. Wonderful and I insisted the kids take a break in this cooling room.

After melting at the playground, Mr. Wonderful and I insisted the kids take a break in this cooling room.

Reptile Gardens also has a bald eagle exhibit, Prairie Dog Town, and Japanese Garden & Turtle Pond.

There are a couple places in Reptile Gardens to get a snack or full meal, or a drink, plus a massive gift shop.

Mooch would not leave without getting herself a tortoise, which she carried around with her the rest of the trip.

 

How does it compare to Omaha’s zoo?

Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota (OK, it's about 6 miles south of it).

Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota (OK, it’s about 6 miles south of it).

It has more species of reptiles than our zoo – in fact, no other zoo or park in the world has as many species.

It’s not nearly as big, and the jungle in the Sky Dome doesn’t compete with our indoor rain forest. But it’s still pretty cool and you get a lot closer to some of the animals at Reptile Gardens.

We don't get this close to giant tortoises in Omaha.

We don’t get this close to giant tortoises in Omaha.

During our visit, I learned Reptile Gardens has a working relationship with the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Keepers from our zoo come to Reptile Gardens to learn from the poisonous snakes expert – cool, huh?

 

If you go

Reptile Gardens

Where: 8955 S. Highway 16, Rapid City, South Dakota

Hours: April 1 to Dec. 31, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily in the summer (call for spring and fall hours)

Phone: 800-335-0275

Cost: Summer admission is $17, adults; $15, seniors; $11 ages 5-12; FREE ages 4 and under. Spring and fall admission is less (see here).

Website

Tip: Plan on at least two hours here if you rush things. Three hours will allow to see most exhibits and all three animal shows.

* * * * *

 

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

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July 14, 2015

Cheers To Firehouse Brewing Co. In Rapid City

To get a feel of the real Rapid City, you’ll want to head to the downtown area, particularly Main Street.

You’ll find antique stores, boutiques and plenty of dining options. There’s also a plaza that attracts kids like moths to a flame. Be sure to have a change of clothes on hand for the little ones.

Kids will love playing in the plaza's sprayground. There are shops around the plaza where you could grab a coffee, smoothie or ice cream to enjoy while you sit and watch the fun.

Kids will love playing in the plaza’s sprayground. There are shops around the plaza where you could grab a coffee, smoothie or ice cream to enjoy while you sit and watch the fun. The tents aren’t always there – we went on a Sunday night in the summer, there were some free activities during the event.

Our family was hungry when we rolled into town, so the fountains had to wait while we sought some good eats.

We were invited to have lunch at Firehouse Brewery Company Brew Pub, appropriately named since they brew their own beer and are housed in the former firehouse that dates back to 1915. It’s a cool looking place, and not surprisingly, the building is listed on the National Historic Register.

Firehouse Brewing Co. is located on Main Street of downtown Rapid City, South Dakota.

Firehouse Brewing Co. is located on Main Street of downtown Rapid City, South Dakota.

Plus, another historic note: It’s South Dakota’s first brew pub – how could I resist?

Firehouse Brewery Co. turned out to be a win for both parents and kids. Food was terrific and arrived promptly – so no impatient kids.

The beer?

Saddle up to the bar and order one of the local brews.

Saddle up to the bar and order one of the local brews.

It’s a great selection of house-made beer. Order by the pint or try a flight.

Kid loved the firehouse memorabilia.

Firehouse memorabilia decorates the walls of Firehouse Brewing Co.

Firehouse memorabilia decorates the walls of Firehouse Brewing Co.

There’s a stage on the patio that also appealed to my daughter. If you time it right, you may catch an evening performance – musicians play Wednesdays through Saturday nights from May 20 to Sept. 5.

If it’s nice out, sit outdoors. Great, low-key atmosphere. Lots of families were seated there. I learned later that even if it isn’t nice out, the outdoor beer garden is heated.

I loved this outdoor space at Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City.

I loved this outdoor space at Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City.

What to order

Our waitress, Tracy, had some great recommendations and we tried most of them and weren’t disappointed.

Appetizers: The popular dish Tracy recommended was the artichoke dip. We had to buck that trend and try the Firehouse Caps, a baked dish of portabella caps topped with cheese and green onions. It had a kick to it, and being mushrooms, we couldn’t get the kids to even try a taste. Oh well, more for us to eat.

Beer: The beer list is long, and rather than guess what is the best of the best, we asked our waitress for the most popular brews and went with those.

The look of a man who just had his first sip of a beer after a long drive in a car.

The look of a man who just had his first sip of a beer after a long drive in a car.

Mr. Wonderful ordered the Firehouse Red, and I went with Honey Badger, a dark beer with a hint of sweetness.

If you like brown ales, that one is darn good. I recommend it.

Ah, Honey Badger. I <3 you.

Ah, Honey Badger. I <3 you.

Kids food: There is the standard hamburger, mac n cheese and chicken tender options (which Mooch tried and devoured). I liked that they had mini versions of some of their popular sandwiches – Farley ordered a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. All come with fries.

Try getting a 3-year-old to wait to grab her chicken tenders for a photo.

Try getting a 3-year-old to wait to grab her chicken tenders for a photo.

Entrees: As you can imagine, there’s the standard brew-pub fare of sandwiches, barbecue and some hearty burgers. Tracy said the burgers were all popular dishes, but had a few additional recommendations.

No burgers for me. I tried the Firehouse Gumbo.

No burgers for me. I tried the Firehouse Gumbo.

I tried the gumbo, which was a Rachel Ray-pick when she visited. It was a filling, spicy dish that went oh-so-well with my beer (Honey Badger).

Mr. Wonderful ordered the fish tacos. I tried a bite and had to hand it to him that he picked a winner.

One of the most satisfying entrees at Firehouse Brewing Co. were the fish tacos.

One of the most satisfying entrees at Firehouse Brewing Co. were the fish tacos.

Dessert: We were really tempted to get the cookie dessert, but who are we kidding, this family is a bunch of chocolate addicts. We took Tracy’s advice and got the Stop Drop and Roll.

Dessert was Stop Drop And Roll, and it was big enough to share. Think of it as a fancy Ho Ho.

Dessert was Stop Drop And Roll, and it was big enough to share. Think of it as a fancy Ho Ho.

It’s plenty large to share, even for a family of four. I’d liken it to the best homemade Ho Ho you’ve ever had.

So is it good for kids?

The outdoor seating area has tables large enough to fit a big group (or big family).

The outdoor seating area has tables large enough to fit a big group (or big family).

Definitely. There’s a kids menu, high chairs, and shareable dessert.

Cost: For a meal for four, including two beers, an appetizer and a dessert, expect to pay about $60-$65. It was a pretty fair price for all that you get.

 

If you go

Firehouse Brewing Co.

Where: 610 Main St., Rapid City, South Dakota

Phone: 605-348-1915

Website

Tip: If you’re not traveling with kids (and you’re 21+), you can take a FREE tour during the summer months. They are at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. daily leaving next door to the restaurant.

Disclaimer: Firehouse Brewing Co. provided a complimentary meal for my family so that I could write about the experience during my stay in Rapid City.

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Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)