The Corn Palace of South Dakota

Mitchell, South Dakota is home to a quirky and one of a kind attraction –  The Corn Palace. I’ll admit when I first heard about The Corn Palace, I was somewhat skeptical. However, a trusted source from South Dakota insisted it was worth a stop.  She was right. I’m glad we made time for a visit!

South Dakota Corn Palace-2 trip

The Corn Palace has a great backstory. In the late 1800’s, the citizens of Mitchell decided to build a corn palace to showcase its rich farmland to attract settlers. Oddly enough, this was not a novel idea at the time.  In fact, corn and grain palaces were cropping up throughout the plains.  Fortunately, Mitchell’s Corn Palace has stood the test of time thanks to the support of the community.

Corn Palace of South Dakota

Mitchell’s original corn palace was built in 1892 and was the centerpiece of the Corn Belt Expo. It has been rebuilt several times over the years.  Today’s Corn Palace was constructed in 1921 and serves as an entertainment venue as well as a home for community events.

Corn Palace of South Dakota

Surprisingly, there is no charge to visit the Corn Palace!  Several exhibits highlight the importance of corn on the economy as well as the painstaking work that goes into decorating the palace each year. Many of these exhibits are interactive and great for kids! A gift shop on the arena floor sells more corn related merchandise than you can imagine. There is a Corn Palace movie as well as a tour available. I suggest allowing at least an hour for your visit.

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The Worlds Only Corn Palace is a distinctive destination that you’ll not soon forget.  Corn designs and murals are both inside and outside of the facility.  Only natural corn colors are used, and the cobs are split in half to create these designs. These murals are quite intricate.  Each year, the corn decorations are removed and replaced at a cost of over $130,000.  This is truly a labor of love.

South Dakota Corn Palace-10 tripCorn Palace of South Dakota

The Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota is a unique budget friendly destination.  It is awesome to see a community embrace their past and present. They have successfully used a commodity which may seem ordinary and created something quite extraordinary!

Fun Fact: Badlands National Park Fossil Finds

Badlands National Park boasts one of the largest mammal fossil deposits in the world! Park visitors can even join in the fossil hunting fun. Badlands has an open hike policy, so you are not required to stay on designated trails! This policy, rare in a national park, actually encourages visitors to go off trail to search for fossils. As a result, every year photos of park visitors and their fossil finds are added to the wall of fame in the Badlands National Park visitor center.

Badlands National Park Fossils Trip

The Badlands Notch Trail

The Notch Trail in Badlands National Park is one of the park’s most popular trails. If you do much research on the Badlands, you’ll likely come across photos of a long wooden ladder on a rock face. This is the Notch Trail. It is a 1.5 mile round trip hike which is rated moderate to strenuous by the park service.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail SignBadlands National Park Notch Trail-3 Trips

I’ll admit to feeling a little nervous about the Notch Trail. In my pre-trip research, I found some sites suggesting that people with a fear of heights (me) might want to sit this one out. However, I was afraid I’d regret it later if we didn’t give it a try.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The first portion of the Notch Trail is really easy and mostly flat.  Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the trail markers. In some spots, the trail appears to go in multiple directions.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After enjoying this leisurely section, we came to the most challenging part of the trail – the long wooden ladder.  If you take your time, it really isn’t too bad.  The ladder is stable, so falling off was not a concern.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After ascending the ladder, there are some rocks to scramble up, over, and around. However, as a whole, it was pretty tame. Once you reach the end of the trail, or the Notch, you are rewarded with a panoramic view.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

Badlands National Park Notch View

Excluding the ladder, I would rate this trail as easy. The most challenging part of this hike is the ladder descent. It is a bit nerve wracking but not terrifying. Again, just take your time.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The Notch Trail offers sweeping views of the White River Valley. It is well worth the time and effort! I was glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone to experience this fun and unique hike!

 

 

 

Tip & Tee: Driving to Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is arguably one of the most recognizable icons in the National Park System. The massive scale and realism of this sculpture completed in 1941 is mind boggling! It is no surprise that over 3 million people visit this symbol of America each year.

Mount Rushmore Doane Mountain Tunnel

Trip Tip:  Mount Rushmore

For an extra special treat, approach Mount Rushmore from Custer State Park by driving north on Iron Mountain Road (16A). This Scenic Byway is also an engineering feat with its remarkable bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks.  A highlight of this journey is the Doane Robinson Tunnel which perfectly frames Mount Rushmore!

Mount Rushmore Trip TeeWhen it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!

Tip & Tee: Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is known for its unusual and colorful rock formations. It is also teeming with wildlife including bison and big horn sheep. With miles of hiking trails and scenic drives to explore, you can spend countless hours roaming this rugged landscape.

Badlands Rattlesnake

Badlands National Park Trip Tip

Throughout the park, you will see signs warning of rattlesnakes. This is no joke! As you hike in the Badlands, keep a sharp eye out for these venomous creatures! While hiking the Notch Trail, I inadvertently stepped over rattlesnake resting in the middle of the trail!

Badlands National Park Trip Tee

When it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!