Top attractions for a Rapid City, S.D., getaway

Ronald Reagan stands among the 40 life-sized presidential statues on Rapid City street corners.

A presidential getaway: More than Mount Rushmore

Photos & feature by Lisa Meyers McClintick

In honor of President’s Day, here’s a look at Rapid City, S.D., the longtime gateway to Mount Rushmore and newly dubbed City of Presidents.

You can admire four of the nation’s most influential presidents looming large at Mount Rushmore or pose with life-size versions of every American president in Rapid City’s downtown. The city’s bronze collection of presidential statues was completed last year and features every one but current President Obama.

You can see John F. Kennedy walking his son, John Jr., Thomas Jefferson working on the Declaration of Independence, and Jimmy Carter waving a cheery hello kitty-corner from Ronald Reagan in full ranch attire. Fans of Ronald Reagan celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth earlier this month.

Prairie Edge and its bead collection

Top things to do  
in Rapid City, SD

1. Admire the Smithsonian-worthy talent at Prairie Edge Gallery, which blends amazing Native American artwork with an Indian trading post, upscale gift boutique, gallery and bookstore with one of the country’s best collections of Native American music and literature. Best little secret here: A lofted museum showcases a stunning collection of Venetian glass beads.

Firehouse Brewery

2. Grab a drink or meal at Firehouse Brewery’s outdoor courtyard, where they fire up live music, warm torches and take full advantage of a great location in the midst of downtown Rapid City’s shops and restaurants.

Alex Johnson lobby

3. Check out The Journey, a great introduction to all things South Dakotan, from the Native American tale of creation and a simulated dinosaur dig camp to Old West towns and tipis.

4. Savor dinner at one of the new upscale eateries, such as Tally’s Silver Spoon. Look for Dakota fare, such as pheasant or bison.

Dinner at Tally’s

5. If you like something quirky, check out the Art Alley between St. Joseph and Main Streets. It’s graffiti gone wild and the one place I did see President Obama. He was in the company of Garfield (the cat, not the president) and Homer Simpson. You never know who will show up here.

6. Soak up history and atmosphere in the Alex Johnson Hotel lobby. The rooms have gone through a complete renovation, but in the lobby and ballroom, it still feels like past presidents will walk through the door and make themselves at home in the big leather chairs.