• Sery Kim

South Dakota: A Road trip idea during COVID-19

PHOTO: Badlands National Park courtesy of MMGY Global

If you have been waking up every day during quarantine like me, my head has been constantly filled with thoughts on where I can travel to RIGHT NOW. (I need to get out of the house, please!) I literally scour the news reports to ascertain which countries are open to U.S. travelers, as well as the requirements for traveling post COVID-19.

Honestly, it's so odd to read the news just to find this kind of information: particularly as someone who has been traveling the world incessantly since 2015. Literally, for two straight years between 2015 - 2017, I was in a different country nearly every week. Then, these past two years, I have taken high-quality trips every quarter: each trip more luxurious than the last.

The freedom in this travel (in ANY travel) -- where I was only limited by the hospitality of the airlines, hotels and resorts who sponsored me, as well as my own personal budget -- is something I think back on now as the truly golden age of travel. I don't know if we will ever get back to these purely simple, and affordable, times where borders were nearly porous to those whose only desire was "adventure."

PHOTO: Another view of the Badlands National Park courtesy of MMGY Global

But still, all hope is not lost. In fact, with summer coming, now is one of the best times to embark upon a road trip! Forget airline travel -- although I will say I really am enjoying flying right now (YES! I AM STILL FLYING!!) because it's like flying private without the private airfare fees -- the car is the securest method of travel: plus gas is seriously dirt-cheap!

Consider a historic Americana trip to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

South Dakota is one of the states with the lowest amount of coronavirus but irrespective of this fact, travelers can stay safe in their cars and drive along gorgeous rolling prairies, and twisting mountain roads. Specifically, Badlands National Park has iconic American monuments like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Mickelson Trail which is now open to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers.

Here are five easy suggestions on what to do if you decide to embark upon this road trip:

  • Stop 1: Explore Sioux Falls Park and Downtown Sioux Falls, and continue driving westwards, the same direction as the country’s expansion. Between stops, travelers can take the scenic route, driving past plenty of quirky roadside attractions like the Corn Palace and Giant Prairie Dog. Follow the Missouri River to Chamberlain, the town’s visitor and information center is home to an overlook of the massive river, as well as the Dignity of Earth and Sky, a statue dedicated to the Native American population of South Dakota, depicting a 50-ft Lakota woman with a traditional star quilt.

  • Stop 2: Continue west towards Badlands National Park and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. See here where the massive nuclear missiles were kept during the Cold War. Travelers can tour the silo and launch control facility and explore the visitors center to learn more about the Cold War and nuclear arms race.

  • Stop 3: No trip through South Dakota would be complete without a stop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. See the great faces of four founding fathers (Washington, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Jefferson) carved into the mountainside, and explore the educational centers to learn more about the carving project and how our nation came to be. Visit the rolling hills of Custer State Park, where roaming bison and towering granite spires line the route.

  • Stop 4: Honoring the first people to call the land home, Crazy Horse Memorial. This monument depicts Lakota warrior Crazy Horse charging forward on horseback. Visitors can learn more about the Native American tribes of the great plains, enjoy performances from Lakota dancers and musicians, and witness history being carved in real-time.

  • Stop 5: Drive to Spearfish and enjoy fishing along Spearfish Creek and viewing wildlife from a car at Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway. Explore the wild west town of Deadwood, where real-life (and HBO) legends Wild Bill Hickcock and Calamity Jane called home. Wander the old streets where actors perform famous shoot-outs, get a tour of the town in an old stagecoach and try your hand at panning for gold at the old Broken Boot mines. While in the area, be sure to fit in time to take a seat at Deadwood’s Saloon #10, where Wild Bill was famously shot during a game of cards. You can even pay your respects at his grave, found in the town’s Mount Moriah cemetery.

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