The Badlands National Monument in South Dakota

The best family adventures in the Black Hills South Dakota

Our trusty family vacation Bound for South Dakota with my 3 boys and mom, we opted to drive on this family vacation as we were camping ⛺️ and the drive from Wisconsin to the Black Hills, SD is only 12 hours (with the exception of our numerous stops for bathrooms, gasoline, coffee, sightseeing and food!) Our vehicle was a 4X4 SUV (seats 7) loaded with our possessions including a waterproof fabric car top carrier and a small trailor with more of our vacation gear (bedding, camping stove, food, chairs, etc.)

This post contains affiliate links which I use to keep the office lights on (and coffee.) Read the Disclosure, Terms and Privacy fineprint here, learn about the giveaway rules and note, no product samples were provided for this review and the opinions expressed here are original, unique and my ideas solely.

The first day of our family travel adventure we drove out of Wisconsin through southern Minnesota to Sioux City, SD where we enjoyed accommodations at the Dakota Lodge hotel. We capped the night on the water slide and swimming at our hotel and then I put the boys down to sleep and walked to the Crooked Pint Ale House which had 18 local craft brews on tap. The Dakota Lodge of Sioux City, South Dakota, was excellent and the Crooked Pint has a full menu of not-so pub grub, healthy food too.

On our second day of our family vacation, we were greeted by a huge statue “DIGNITY of Earth and Sky” at a rest stop in Chamberlain, SD off I-90 westbound.

After a few more hours of driving, which included Ollie using his Lonely Planet Kids foldout map to follow along as we crossed US States, we made our way West to The Badlands, Rapid City, SD and Custer State Park where we had our campsite and cabin reserved for 8 days at Game Lodge Campground, with the best campsite in the whole State Park.

Ollie with our Lonely Planet Kids travel books

We’re happy to partner with Lonely Planet Kids (Amazon link FYI) to feature a handful of our favorite travel books for the kids (and kidults) on our South Dakota vacation.

On Friday, our first day at Custer State Park, we drove the Wildlife trail which wound around to Mount Rushmore. It was fun but tiring with lots of walking but magnificent.

 

After Mount Rushmore, we traveled down the highway to Keystone, SD where we road an Alpine slide and had ice cream.

We had planned to visit Bear Country USA near Rapid City, South Dakota but unfortunately our truck broke down and so we made arrangements for a tow to a local mechanic; a taxi to pickup a car rental which we drove back to our campsite at Custer State Park.

On Saturday we bummed around the campsite, played in the creek at our site and then drove the Needles Highway to Silven Lake where we hiked and swam and Keller, my oldest son, jumped off tall rocks into the water.

 

We were there all day and everyone got lots of sun, so we took the fast route back to camp and made grilled cheeses sandwiches and crashed out early as we had to get up early for our tour of the Big Thunder gold mine in Keystone, SD.

Much of South Dakota was originally set aside for the home of the Lokata’s but when Custer’s crew came to map out the area for the US government records, gold was discovered. This news spread and hundreds of mining camps were illegally setup, too many for The US Army to kick out. So mining was made legal and to this day, South Dakota has some very unique laws which exist including, you can be shot for claim jumping, aka found exploring a mine.

Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, SD was one of the favorite destinations on our South Dakota vacation as it combined fun, mystery, excitement, participation from those of us on the gold mine tour, lots of history from our tour guide who is a local and we ended our tour with panning for gold! The panning was a small extra admittance fee but was the highlight after our amazing goldmine tour from Liz at Big Thunder Gold Mine.

We also tried panning for gold and everyone found some gold too after a few lessons from our tour guide Liz and another friendly employee at Big Thunder good mine. We also enjoyed lunch and takeout, camping, from the Big Thunder gold mine Restaurant.

Read more about Big Thunder Gold Mine on Facebook and Trip Advisor.

After the gold mine, we enjoyed a driving tour of a zoo like space called Bear Country USA which included wildlife from the area for viewing.

Monday, I hooked up to WiFi at the Game Lodge at Custer State Park Resort where I worked very early in the morning. I love the public WiFi; front porch with panoramic mountain vistas; restaurant and bar and gift shop at the Lodge which was originally build by US President Collidge morning in 1918 and was his Summer White House as well as US President Eisenhaur in the 1950’s.

We also visited Wind Cave National Park and drive back on a NPS gravel road where we drove through a Hurd of Buffalo while connecting with the Wildlife Loop Rd.

Other stops in the Black Hills that we checked which I recommend include the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, SD and the rodeo in Mitchell, SD. We’ve decided there is too much to do in the short 10 days that we’re here and I’d love to come back! Our family favorites included: our campsite and the lodge at the Game Lodge campground in Custer Hills State Park; the drive to Mount Rushmore, the panning for gold at Big Thunder good mine and the tour their and the Badlands!

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Dream Big and head to Aspen Square Condominium Hotel

Our family has big dreams of family vacations like traveling to Montréal in Canada, Washington State in the PNW and heading back to Colorado for a stay in the Rocky Mountains!

This post contains sponsored links from Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, all opinions are my own.

One of the great locations I’ve been looking into is Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, located in downtown Aspen, Colorado. I’ve included a few photos of this cozy, beautiful local below for your viewing pleasure. As you can see, Aspen Square gets really great customer reviews on travel website like Orbitz.com, Expedia.com and TripAdvisor.com and reading many of these, I am sold. Fireplaces, fully-equipped kitchens, heated pools, hot tubs, 24 hr. check-in, free wifi and so much more to enjoy! What a great place to stay which includes everything you could ask for in a hotel/condo in the mountains in Colorado.

Here’s what Aspen Square has to offer about their “signature full-service condominium hotel”:

Aspen Square’s warmly welcoming personality, ideal location across from the base of Aspen Mountain, and full hotel-style services and amenities combine to make our property a great choice for a memorable vacation year round.

Booking a stay at Aspen Square during the off peak winter season has many advantages for a frugal traveler.
* Early and late season rates can be as much as 50% lower than high season, for the same room type
* More rooms are available in the lower seasons, so even hard to book rooms like our one-bedrooms or three-bedrooms are more likely to be open for booking.
* Guests receive the same outstanding services and amenities as the high season guest
* Smaller crowds translates to shorter lift lines, easier access to restaurant and event tickets
* Pre-holiday stays allow guests to enjoy the festive ambiance without the crowds and costs associated with holiday rates and costs in town
* End of season snow is sometimes the best of the entire winter season, with longer ski days in late March and early April

I highly recommend booking your family destination or ski vacation at Aspen Square Condo/Hotel in cozy Aspen, CO. Check out Aspen Square’s special deals for booking where to save big on seasonal and pre-holiday savings and learn more about Aspen Square’s lift ticket sales and gear rentals for your snowy fun too!

CONNECT WITH ASPEN SQUARE

  • Join Aspen Square on InstagramFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Google+
  • For reservations at Aspen Square: www.aspensquarehotel.com or 866-285-7876 or reservations@aspensquarehotel.com

Watch us ride the longest zipline-Ski Apache Windrider in NM

Keller and I had a chance to ride the longest zipline in the lower 48 USA States, called Windrider at Ski Apache in Alto, NM, near Ruidoso.

This is a sponsored post however all opinions are my own.

Windrider zipline at Ski Apache, Ruidoso nm
This adventure experience was wrapped up during our family vacation from Wisconsin to New Mexico and we’re happy to let you know that the Ski Apache zipline tour near is extremely fun and well worth your family time.

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Ski Apache, here we come!

Road Trip to New Mexico via Route 66 from Wisconsin

We’re on our way to New Mexico via Route 66 from Wisconsin and will be heading through the following beautiful States: leaving from Wisconsin to Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and finally New Mexico. Along the way, we’ll stop to share some photos from the road and once we arrive in Ruidoso, NM where we’ll be featuring Ski Apache’s zip line tour and family gondola rides. Below is our travel map and photos of Ruidoso, New Mexico. Follow along as we tour the historic Route 66 and thanks for reading!

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Summer fun in Calgary Alberta Canada

In this special guest post, we’re featuring author and beer educator Marty Nachel as he spans the globe from Chicagoland to Calgary, Alberta in Canada for a travel adventure of hiking and beer!

Among many titles, Marty Nachel wrote the bible of beer making books Homebrewing For Dummies which you can find on Amazon. Marty is also a Faculty member at the College of DuPage Business of Craft Beer certificate program where you can join him for a 5-week Beer Evaluation course at College of DuPage to become a certified beer judge. Program info is available on the Aleconner Facebook page, at the COD.edu website or call (630) 942-2208 for class registration info!

And now from Marty Nachel from Alberta, Canada.Read More »

Exploring Multnomah Falls in Oregon & #GIVEAWAY

At least once, everyone must plan to visit the Pacific Northwest, USA including Oregon, Washington and beyond. In this post, we welcome guest contributor and Pro photography Rachel Konsella of Vancouver, Washington. Plus, enter our giveaway for a vintage collection of tourist bells (which were my grandma’s.)


ANTIQUE BELLS #GIVEAWAY (USA/18+/ENDS 3/12)

***3/13/2017 UPDATE – Congrats to the giveaway winner: Karen M. of Michigan, who has been contacted and shipping confirmed! Thank you again to all the entrances to took time to participate in this giveaway and I look forward to continuing want to give away each month, cheers!***

Please enter the giveaway for this post too where we will be shipping, to one winner (see rules) a set of antique/vintage tourist bells.Read More »

25 best travel Instagrams to follow in 2017

For 2017, my New Year’s resolution is to explore and travel to more destinations than I did in ’16. I’ve loaded my Instagram account @matt.w.sweeny by following the list below of best travel Instagram accounts for 2017, it’s time to get out and explore! Below are groups of Instagram accounts which I foresee as having the best insights on travel in 2017. For the record, some images below show “Follow” but we have followed all of these with our Instagram account @matt.w.sweeny.

Jump to the Giveaway!

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TRAVEL BLOGGERS & JOURNALISTS INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW IN 2017

1) @traveldudes
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Romantic Getaway Must Haves

Secret Romantic Getaway Must Haves

Have you been planning a secret romantic getaway for your significant other? The anticipation of keeping a secret can be exciting, trying and in my case almost impossible to pull off!

Planning a secret romantic getaway for your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other is a great way to spend a night or weekend away from the kids to rekindle your relationship and celebrate each other with intimacy. Below is a list of suggested must haves for planning your secret romantic getaway.Read More »

Breezy Point Resort and the Breezy Belle in Minnesota

Last week, we hit the pavement for a fun, adventure-filled family vacation at Breezy Point Resort near Brainerd, MN. We left the pets with family and traveled from our home near Madison, WI to Breezy Point Resort, which we found to be relaxing, enjoyable and, an all inclusive family destination (which we chose for its proximity to Wisconsin.)

We kicked off our Minnesota road trip by stopping by the childhood home of Laura Ingles WIlder, ya' know, from Little House On The Prairie. The obligatory fam' pic in Peppin, WI
We kicked off our Minnesota road trip by stopping by the childhood home of Laura Ingles WIlder, ya’ know, from Little House On The Prairie. The obligatory fam’ pic in Peppin, WI

The Breezy Point Resort is a 4 season resort located just outside Brainerd, MN in central Minnesota. There’s many services which are included with the timeshare we booked via RCI at Breezy Point Resort which included use of the shuttle, multiple indoor swimming pools (with hot tubs, kiddie pools, etc), numerous restaurants on site (or favorite was the Dockside Lounge which overlooks the beautiful lake) and our boating tour on the Breezy Belle!

Please note, our family went on a free tour of Pelican Lake aboard the Breezy Belle with yummy pizza from the Dockside Lounge thanks to Breezy Point Resort in exchange for this review.

Thanks to Breezy Point Resort for providing accommodations for our tour of Pelican Lake aboard the Breezy Belle in exchange for this review (and the Dockside pizza!) we loved our stay, big time!

The arcade at Breezy Point Resort was a hit!

In addition to the Breezy Belle, Coffee House and arcades, other highlights at Breezy Point Resort include multiple swimming beaches; boat rentals at the Breezy Point Resort Marina (non-motorized aka kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, paddle boards,etc and motor boats, including party barges); and the Spa.

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