- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

My family of three left Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on a full Northwest flight to Minneapolis.

From there, we flew into Rapid City Regional Airport, which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines also fly into Rapid City.

Car rentals from four major agencies are available at the airport. We rented a sport utility vehicle, which is really the best way to get around the Black Hills region at a leisurely pace.

Interstate 90 runs east-west across the state and is the main route for driving to Rapid City. You also can enter the Black Hills area on east-west highway routes U.S. 16, U.S. 18, South Dakota 34, South Dakota 40 or U.S. 212.

You’ll discover some of the area’s best scenery when you get off the interstate and venture on the secondary roads — especially U.S. 16, which links Rapid City to the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse areas.

This area of South Dakota observes Mountain time (two hours behind us here on the East Coast).

WHERE TO STAY

In Rapid City, we stayed at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel (605/343-8550) off Exit 59 of I-90. Newly remodeled, it is a Western-themed hotel with reasonable prices. From the hotel, it’s about a 25-minute drive south to Mount Rushmore.

There’s also the Alex Johnson Hotel (605/342-1210) downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The hotel has been host to six U.S. presidents.

In Keystone, home of Mount Rushmore, the Presidents View Resort (605/666-4212) and the White House Resort (605/666-4917) are situated at the base of the mountain.

South of Rapid City and Keystone is Hot Springs, home of the Mammoth Site and Wind Cave National Park. The Budget Host Hills Inn (605/745-3130) is near those sites.

WHERE TO EAT

The area is rich in fresh cuts of beef, buffalo and elk — and very proud of it. There’s also pheasant or walleye for the non-meat lovers in your family.

Piedmont Valley, just west of Rapid City, is home to two of the region’s favorite supper clubs — Elk Creek Steakhouse (605/787-6349) and Mad Mary’s Steakhouse (605/787-4042).

In downtown Rapid City, the Firehouse Brewing Co. (605/348-1915) is in a 1915 firehouse, which has good pub fare for lunch or dinner. The brew is good, too. The Landmark Restaurant (605/342-1210), tucked in the Alex Johnson Hotel, delivers regional gourmet selections.

If you’re in the southern region of the Black Hills, try the Elk Horn Cafe in Hot Springs (605/745-6556). This is the perfect place to get your day started with a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes. Go light on the pancakes, though — they’re as big as your plate.

For lunch, head to Hill City near Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorials. On Main Street is a place called the Mount Rushmore Brewing Co. (605/574-2400). It’s the newest brew pub in the Black Hills region and is in a building that dates to 1902. Prime rib, seafood, pizza and pub fare are all worth a try.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

• South Dakota Department of Tourism, 605/773-3301; www.travelsd.com

• Black Hills Central Reservations, 800/529-0105; www.blackhillsvacations.com

• Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800/487-3223; www.rapidcitycvb.com

• Custer State Park, 605/255-4515; www.state.sd.us/sdparks

• Crazy Horse Memorial, 605/673-4681; www.crazyhorse.org

• Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, 800/888-1798; www.hillcitysd.com

• Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, 800/325-6991; www.hotsprings-sd.com

• Keystone Chamber of Commerce, 800/456-3345; www.keystonechamber.com

• Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce, 605/347-6682; www.sturgis-sd.org

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