January 15, 2018

Midwest Restaurants With Memorable Breakfasts

In the Midwest, breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, it’s the best. As a travel blogger who specializes in this region, I’ve had a few stand-out breakfasts at Midwest restaurants, but I’m always on the hunt for the next one to visit. So, I asked the experts, those have frequented more than a few: Midwest travel bloggers.

This group has some fantastic suggestions!

Here’s a collection of the most memorable breakfast experiences at Midwest restaurants:

Illinois

Charlie Parker’s Diner, Springfield, Ill.

“The breakfast horseshoes are so good. And they make a gigantic pancake that is served on a pizza pan. Also just super fun nostalgic place – interesting quanset hut building.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Jellyfish, Chicago, Ill.

“The brunch menu includes a variety of signature cocktails, soups and salads and sharing plates of everything from stuffed french toast to eel benedict to fruit sushi.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

The Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.

“French toast with peaches and waffles with wild blueberries were the stars of our mornings. You can always order eggs made to order if you’d like something other than the daily specialty. Fresh muffins and scones from their pastry chef Tara were decadent and delicious.” Recommended by Sue, who wrote about it at Food Travelist

SafeHouse Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

“I went to their new brunch a few months ago and it was a very cool experience! It is a James Bond spied theme restaurant with a themed brunch menu.” Recommended by Jamie, who wrote about it at Corn Fields and High Heels

Sunda, Chicago, Ill.

“My favorite would probably be the Tempura French Toast. The Oxtail Potstickers were pretty awesome, too.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about her brunch experience there at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Timmerman’s Supper Club, East Dubuque, Ill.

“Timmerman’s Supper Club offers an amazing Sunday brunch buffet complete with mimosas and awesome bluff top views over the Mississippi River! The buffet features a range of typical breakfast items, a fruit and salad bar, a taco station, a huge selection of desserts and a live omelette and carved meat station. There’s something for everyone…make sure you visit with an empty stomach!” Recommended by Kylie, who wrote about it at Between England and Iowa

Indiana

Cafe Patachou, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Really good upscale breakfast that was featured in Bon Apetit magazine as a top breakfast spot in the county. Nice downtown location overlooking capitol grounds.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Creighton’s Crazy Egg Cafe & Coffee Bar, Warsaw, Ind.

“Small town, farm-themed restaurant that will take you by surprise. A pleasant surprise! Simple but unique menu and a full-coffee bar. Located in the middle of nowhere, on a farm!” Recommended by Jamie, who writes at Cornfields and High Heels

Eggshell BistroCarmel, Ind. 

“… stepping inside the Eggshell Bistro is like stepping into a Parisian cafe except here no passport is required…Order a coffee, ask for a recommendation if needed, sit back and enjoy the ambiance of this bistro while forgetting that your feet are still firmly planted on American soil. The menu is an eclectic mix of international flavors and all the menu items have an egg included in it. When you go be sure to order the Kedgeree: house-smoked/sorghum-glazed wild salmon, jasmine rice, curried-spice mix, onion, caper, scallion, soft-boiled hen’s egg. Seriously delicious!” Recommended by Deb, who included the restaurant in her post “Fantastic Foodie Finds + More In Hamilton And Hendricks Counties Indiana” at Just Short of Crazy

Grilled cheese at Milktooth in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Emily Hines

Herrold on Hill, Wabash, Ind.

“Breakfast was the crowning glory of our stay…Alan made us some amazing protein waffles with strawberries and blueberries and double smoked ham Sandy topped off our meal with a fresh tomato and basil salad because, ‘We have vegetables at every meal.’” Recommended by Cindy, who wrote about it at Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl 

Milktooth, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Named one of the best restaurants in the WORLD by CondeNast Traveler, Milktooth in Indianapolis is an all breakfast/brunch restaurant located in the heart of Indianapolis. This ‘fine diner’ serves up the classics with a twist: Think dutch baby with manchego cheese, grapefruit, and brussel sprouts and a grilled cheese topped with truffle honey and a duck egg. Their award winning food makes this place insanely busy, especially on the weekends but it is worth the wait!” Recommended by Emily, who wrote about it at Em’s On The Road

Iowa

Caroline’s in the Hotel Julien, Dubuque, Iowa

“Classic breakfasts like biscuits & gravy and sweet and unique choices like bananas foster’s french toast are just the tip of the iceberg. Impeccable service and small touches like a saucer with your coffee make this dining experience top notch!” Recommended by Katy, who wrote about it at Flint & Co.

Country Kitchen, Marion, Iowa

“Country Kitchen in Marion, Iowa has the fastest service and most delicious breakfast options around. I could eat there all day with the selection they have but I enjoy their breakfast most. Kids love their chocolate chip pancakes and parents love their value” Recommended by Melissa from ThirtySomethingSuperMom

PM Park, Clear Lake, Iowa

On our first visit to Clear Lake, I was determined to have a lakefront meal. It wasn’t as easy to find a place as I had anticipated, but luckily, there was PM Park. While our meal was being prepared, the kids played on the pirate ship outside and I could sit inside sipping my coffee. Try the french cake (pretty much a french toast pancake). I wrote about it in the Great Iowa Road Trip post.

 

Kansas

The Chef, Manhattan, Kan.

“In a college town where fast-food chains dominate the breakfast scene, The Chef stands out. While there’s nearly always a wait, you can sip coffee and create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece to help pass the time. The Pancakes Bananas Foster and Buenos Dias Frittata are two of our family favorites!” Recommended by Sage from Everyday Wander.

You can watch your breakfast being made if you sit at the counter at Doo Dah Diner.

Doo-Dah Diner, Wichita, Kan.

“…perhaps the best restaurant breakfast meal of my life! Here, cooked from scratch breakfast and lunch items fill the menu. You will drool just reading the descriptions!” Recommended by Melody on The Yum originally and reshared on Visit Wichita (her primary blog is Whereever I May Roam)

Michigan

Breakfast at Tiffiny’s, Portage, Mich.

“Made fresh/from scratch and great healthy choices! Serves lunch too…but breakfast all day!” Recommended by Joan at Gramcracker Crumbs

Bunde’s Bakery, South Haven, Mich.

“Bunde’s Bakery is an adorable neighborhood coffee shop you’ll want to pop into during your summer beach vacation. Grab a delicious cinnamon roll with your latte but get there early if you want your pick of the baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.” Recommended by Lindsay, who wrote about South Haven at Let Me Give You Some Advice

Minnesota

Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis, Minn.

“Hell’s Kitchen service staff wears their jammies, ridiculously scary decor and really good food.” Recommended by Diana, who wrote about it at Mojotraveler

Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minn.

“If you want a unique breakfast experience, we recommend Mickey’s Diner in downtown St. Paul. It’s a dining car that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can sit on a stool at the counter and watch the cooks fry your bacon and flip your pancakes. My family loves the blueberry pancakes. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! I also have a general post about how small town cafes serve up the best breakfast you’ve never had! We could eat breakfast for three meals a day!” Recommended by Victoria, who included the diner in her Small Town Cafes roundup on the blog That Was A First

Note: I’ll second this recommendation! They put some magic in their omelets. I’ve never had one so fluffy and cooked absolutely perfectly. It was one of our favorite restaurant stops during our Great Minnesota Weekend.

World’s Best Donuts, Grand Marais, Minn.

“The cake donuts alone make the World’s Best Donuts worthy of its moniker: Lighter in texture than a traditional cake donut, superb when coated with a thick dusting of cinnamon sugar. There are also raised donuts, twists (try the chocolate covered one), cream or jam-filled bismarks, long johns, apple and blueberry turnovers, jam-filled croissants, caramel pull-aparts, and cream cheese and maple swirls. A small selection of gluten-free items is also available, baked off-site at a gluten-free facility. Besides the cake donuts, my favorite item was the skizzle, a flat piece of fried dough coated with sugar–basically a thin version of American Indian fry bread.” Recommended by Stacy, who wrote about it on Tangled Up In Food

Missouri

Cielo at the Four Seasons, St. Louis, Mo.

The winner of the best view at breakfast in the Midwest has to be handed to Cielo, located on the rooftop of the Four Seasons. Definitely order the chicken and waffles.

Eggtc, Kansas City, Mo.

Eggtc is regularly featured on “best of” breakfast lists for Kansas City for good reason: It’s delicious. What made it all the more memorable (from a tired, traveling parent’s point of view), was the waitress thoughtfully got us a to-go cup for our coffee after we were done with breakfast. I wrote about it in 24 Hours In KC With Kids.

Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, Springfield, Mo.

“History and modern convenience meet at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe in Springfield, Missouri. An open kitchen allowed us to watch the cooks prepare our unique dishes in this renovated turn-of-the-century pharmacy building. Try a Freedom Waffle for a cheery and colorful way to start your day.” Recommended by Jeff, who wrote about it at Our Changing Lives

Fruit display at the brunch served at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Postcard Jar

The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Branson, Mo.

“The Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks was amazing! Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks is more than a meal — it’s an experience. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch in the beautiful Keeter Center there which included full breakfast selections and personalized omelets and waffles all made with farm-fresh ingredients grown on the campus. Details like an ice sculpture, hand-cut fresh seasonal fruits, domestic and imported cheeses, crudités, and made-to-order Caesar salads took brunch to a new level. We loved the award-winning carved ham and were entertained by students who sang and played the piano while we dined.” Recommended by Ann who writes Postcard Jar Travel Blog with her husband, Steve

Nebraska

Culprit, Omaha, Neb.

“I adore Culprit. Their specialty donuts and morning buns are a great welcome-to-Omaha breakfast when you’ve just picked someone up from the airport and want to simultaneously nourish, spoil and impress them — but need to save room for lunch. If you’re feeling more indulgent, you can linger over their perfect, decadent quiche and a Spanish coffee.” Recommended by Jenna, who writes The Beaspora

The Green Gateau, Lincoln, Neb.

This charming downtown Lincoln restaurant has the feel of a European bistro. The food is exceptional and fresh. I always add a beignet to my order. And a mimosa. Always a mimosa. Expect a wait for brunch if you don’t have reservations.

Upstream Brewing Co., Omaha, Neb.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is have breakfast outside at Upstream Brewing Co., while watching the farmers market shoppers. I usually order the french toast. For more Omaha dining recommendations, read this post.

Ohio

Bagel Street Deli, Athens, Ohio

“Best bagel sandwich I’ve had to date at Bagel Street Deli in Athens.” Recommended by Nidra at Adventure Mom

Oklahoma

Dilly Diner, Tulsa, Okla.

“Dilly Diner treats their employees amazing, and their food is absolutely amazing. Their employees are genuine and sweet. Feels like home.” Recommended by Linda

Waffle Champion, Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Flip the menu – one side is sweeter offerings, the other more savory (think bacon, egg, and cheese, or fried chicken) and all of it is delicious. I had the Blueberry Sunrise waffle: blueberry-thyme compote, lemon goat cheese spread, with an oat crumble sprinkled on top. When I asked if they could add pecans, the answer was, ‘Sure! Are espresso pecans all right?’ Um, YEAH, duh.” Recommended by Sheila, who wrote about it in a post called “5 Places to Live Like Local” on the blog Perceptive Travel

South Dakota

And the winner of the tastiest donut in Wall, South Dakota, goes to…the maple donut.

Wall Drug, Wall, S.D.

Wall Drug is about the cheesiest and touristy stop you can have in South Dakota, and it will also be one of the most memorable. For quick but very tasty breakfast, wait in line and get yourself one of their famous cake donuts. I sampled all of their flavors, and can confidently tell you to order the maple donut. I included Wall Drug in this post about our Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure.

Wisconsin

Frank’s DinerKenosha, Wis.

“Frank’s Diner is in an old street car diner. Very cool. And you have to get the garbage plate. Delish!” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters. Sheila from Perceptive Travel also recommended Frank’s Diner, writing “Two visits to this town. Two breakfasts at Frank’s Diner in downtown Kenosha. Batting 1.000 so far.”

Mocha Moment, Janesville, Wis.

“It’s a family-owned and operated coffee shop and cafe in Janesville, Wisconsin. Tucked away from the road, it’s surrounded by the woods. The owners’ son sources and roasts their coffee, and all the delicious pastries are made in house. It’s definitely a local hot spot and was packed with regulars the morning I visited.” Recommended by Erin, who included it in her post about the 10 Best Breakfast Spots of 2017 post on The Epicurean Traveler

Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market, Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market is a favorite of locals and in-the-know visitors. The farm-to-table fare features fresh twists on breakfast classics and designer omelettes. The menu changes with the season (pumpkin bread pudding anyone?) Their bakery’s chocolate croissants are TO DIE FOR.” Recommended by Tabitha, who wrote about it at Trippin’ Midwest Mama

 

Get More Travel Inspiration

Want vacay inspiration every month? Subscribe to the FREE weekly e-newsletter sharing giveaways, Omaha & Nebraska tips, travel inspiration and more! Subscribe here.

December 30, 2017

10 Beautiful Midwest Destinations For Families

I’d like 2018 to be a year of beauty and wonder for my kids. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to encounter some truly beautiful or unique places. There are so many beautiful Midwest destinations! Here are a few of my family’s favorites so you, too, can have a year of beauty and wonder with your family.

I’m stilling brainstorming where we may go in 2018, so I’d love your suggestions! Where in the Midwest should I go with my family for beautiful sights and wonder-inducing experiences?

 

Botanica, The Wichita Gardens

The Monster Trees might have been my favorite part of all Botanica Wichita.

Where: Wichita, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Obviously, being a botanical garden, things are going to be beautiful. Must-see pretty spots at Botanica include the koi pond and Chinese Friendship Garden.

Why kids will like it: You must take the kids to the whimsical Downing Children’s Garden to see the Monster Woods, musical maze, the familiar storybook character statues. and, being Kansas, the yellow brick road.

Read more about this kid-favorite destination!

 

Clear Lake

The view from the top of the carousel at Clear Lake’s Fourth of July celebration.

Where: Clear Lake, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: Like most Midwestern lakes, there’s a beautiful of the sky reflecting on the water and the serene appeal of quiet, lapping waves on a shore. But, the bonus with Clear Lake is that it’s a getaway without being far from modern conveniences. The town of Clear Lake is literally right at the water’s edge.

Why kids will like it: There are a couple beaches to choose from where kids where it’s shallow enough for littles to enter the water safely. My kids particularly remember Clear Lake for its Fourth of July festival…and the chance to stay overnight in a yurt.

Want to stay in a yurt? Here’s a post about the only yurts in Iowa you can stay in. 

 

Coronado Heights Park

Coronado Heights Park has a structure that looks strikingly like a castle to young children (and grown ups with big imaginations).

Where: Lindsborg, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Coronado Heights sits on a sandstone bluff looking over flat pastures. The beauty is the view, yes, but also the stark contrast of an ancient-looking castle set on the plains.

Why kids will like it: The castle, obviously. It’s not really a castle, but go ahead and let them believe there was once a small, medieval castle just northwest of Lindsborg.

Bonus: Don’t just visit the park and miss out on the charming town of Lindsborg. The town wears its Swedish heritage with pride, and it’s utterly charming to visit.

We tacked on a visit to Coronado Heights during our weekend trip to Wichita. Read about that stop here!

 

Ledges State Park

We looked for rocks in the shallow river that flowed through Ledges State Park.

Where: Madrid, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: This park is an unexpected treasure in the middle of Iowa. The walk along the sandstone gorge carved out by a tributary of the Des Moines River is unforgettable.

Why kids will like it: Playing in the water is a big draw, but part of the fun, too, is Canyon Drive, a route that passes through the sandstone gorge and is often partly submerged under water. The bigger the splash, the better.

 

Loess Hills

They don’t call them the Loess Hills for nothing. Don’t expect a flat hike at Preparation Canyon State Park.

Where: Western Iowa and Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: We’ve hiked a few trails in western Iowa’s Loess Hills, and each have had their own unique beauty about them. Trails along these unique formations can sometimes lead to rolling hills or steep bluffs, and have views of prairies or forests. You’ll find them along the eastern edge of the Missouri River flood plain.

Why kids will like it: This is Midwest nature at its purest.

Here are three hikes in the Loess Hills to consider!

 

Missouri Botanical Garden

The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden is 14 acres with bridges, waterfalls and peaceful nooks.

Where: St. Louis, Mo.

Why it’s beautiful: This huge botanical garden has a space that appeals to everyone, but the most beautiful, to me at least, is the 14-acre Japanese Garden. It’s peaceful with its path around the lake, and everywhere you look, you see pure beauty.

Why kids will like it: The kids enjoyed feeding the Koi fish at the Japanese Garden and looking for turtles around lake. However, you’d be making a huge mistake if you skip the seasonal Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. It’s a lot of fun (pack their swimsuits).

They don’t call this place one of the most beautiful gardens in the U.S. for nothing! Read why here.

 

Smith Falls

A view of Smith Falls on a sunny day.

Where: Cherry County, Nebraska (nearest city is Valentine, Neb.)

Why it’s beautiful: Located in Smith Falls State Park, this 63-foot waterfall is the tallest in Nebraska. You don’t forget the first time you ever see this waterfall.

Why kids will like it: You hear the waterfall before you actually see it, which thrills children to no end. The fun part is that you can stand under the water, if you dare (it’s very cold no matter the season, and the water hits you pretty hard).

Bonus: Getting to Smith Falls from Omaha is half the fun – you drive through the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska. Plus, most people opt to canoe the Niobrara River to Smith Falls State Park, which in my opinion, is another beautiful thing to experience.

Get Western Nebraska road trip inspiration to visit Smith Falls here!

 

Sylvan Lake

Where: Black Hills, South Dakota

Why it’s beautiful: Sylvan Lake is found within Custer State Park in South Dakota, which is itself, a truly unique and wonderful destination. Visit Custer, and make sure Sylvan Lake is on your list of stops. This gorgeous lake is a worthy destination for any family, either for an easy hike, water sports, or a waterside picnic.

Why kids will like it: The trail around lake is mostly easy, but there are some more challenging points that kids love. This is a spectacular spot to immerse yourself in nature.

Get inspired for a Black Hills road trip starting with this post!

 

Table Rock Lake

Jumping into Table Rock Lake to cool off in the summer.

Where: Stone County, Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: Table Rock Lake is a reservoir in the expansive Ozarks region of southern Missouri (and expands well into Arkansas). I particularly enjoyed Table Rock because it offered an peaceful escape from the frenzy of nearby Branson, Mo.

Why kids will like it: Water sports and small cliff jumping is a big appeal here. If you plan ahead, you can rent a houseboat to extend your stay on the water.

Toadstool Geologic Park

Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Where: Harrison, Neb.

Why it’s beautiful: This is Nebraska’s own Badlands. It’s off the beaten path, and much smaller than South Dakota’s Badlands, but park is just stunning to hike.

Why kids will like it: I suspect they like it because they’re imagining they’re on the moon. At least, that’s why I liked the park. Please note: The trail can be challenging for young children, and seriously panic-inducing for parents who bring their young children. Hike with care.

Read some Western Nebraska road trip inspiration in this post!

* * * * *

Get Travel Inspiration In Your Inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

July 27, 2015

Visiting Mammoth Site With Kids

I’ve never had more than a passing interest in dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. But ever since I read about Hudson-Meng Bison Kill site in Nebraska, my interest was piqued on major archeological digs in the Midwest. What would it be like to see a massive dig site in person?

The question leads to why I wanted to include a stop at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs during our South Dakota road trip. The answer: You’ll be impressed by the experience.

The number of bones uncovered at Mammoth Site is impressive.

The number of bones uncovered at Mammoth Site is impressive.

More than 60 Columbian and woolly mammoths have been identified there, as well as a number surprising (to me) fossils of camels, llamas and giant short-faced bears, to name just a couple here.

 

What to expect

Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief: It’s in a climate-controlled building (AKA air-conditioned).

A partial view of the excavation area at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

A partial view of the excavation area at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

You’ll want to take a tour, which includes a short film in the beginning and a guided walk around the “in-situ” exhibit (fancy talk for bones being on display as they were discovered).

You get headphones to wear so you can hear your guide. My 3-year-old hated them with a passion.

Photography is allowed, but you’re encouraged to wait until after the tour so that you don’t miss whatever the guide is showing next. It’s so tempting, though, to want to snap photos in the moment.

Tools used at Mammoth Site to uncover bones.

Tools used at Mammoth Site to uncover bones.

After the tour, you’re free to roam, then proceed to the next door. It’s full of interesting replicas, including a mammoth model and a walk-in mammoth bone hut. There’s a gift shop full of books, stuffed animals and apparel.

A replica of a hut made out of mammoth bones in Muller Exhibit Hall.

A replica of a hut made out of mammoth bones in Muller Exhibit Hall.

 

Tips

We lucked out and saw Mammoth Site Excavation Committee members at work during our visit. However, the people who timed their visit about 30 minutes after us missed them during their lunch break. Time your visit around the noon hour.

It's pretty fascinating to watch the work being done at Mammoth Site.

It’s pretty fascinating to watch the work being done at Mammoth Site.

There picnic tables for lunch time, if you packed accordingly. The tables aren’t far from an outdoor work site.

Near the picnic tables is a work space for the volunteers to sift through dirt to find tiny fossils.

Near the picnic tables is a work space for the volunteers to sift through dirt to find tiny fossils. You might luck out and catch someone at work.

Near Mammoth Site is the restaurant Woolly’s Western Grill. It’s a kid-friendly place to get a bite to eat.

 

Bringing little ones here

How did these two do at an active dig site?

How did these two do at an active dig site?

My kids are 3 and 5, so not exactly at the grade levels that have been studying any of this in school. That said, they’ve at least read “Magic Treehouse” books and know a thing or two about woolly Mammoths and other prehistoric creatures, so they’ve got that going.

There are items on display at Mammoth Site that encourage visitors to touch, which appeals to kids.

There are items on display at Mammoth Site that encourage visitors to touch, which appeals to kids.

My 3-year-old daughter, Mooch, lost interest early on in the tour; our 5-year-old fared better. The tour guide provides a lot of facts, but there’s very little hands-on things to keep the truly young interested.

I think one of the best options for families with little kids is to register them in one of the kids activities offered there – in the summer, there are two types of  junior paleontologist classes, which sound like the perfect hands-on learning my kids would like; unfortunately, it didn’t fit with our travel schedule. There’s also an Atlatl Throwing Experience that sounded intriguing.

 

If you go

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs

Where: 1800 US 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hours: Open year-round, hours vary depending on the time of year. Details

Cost: Adults (13+), $10; seniors (60+), $9; kids (4-12), $8; kids 3 and younger, FREE. Summer classes are $10-$20.

Website

Disclaimer: The Hot Springs tourism office provided complimentary admission to Mammoth Site of Hot Springs for me and my family. All opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.

 

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

July 22, 2015

Hot Springs Hills Inn In The Southern Black Hills

Hot Springs, South Dakota, is one of the southernmost cities of the Black Hills, and one that attracts tourists for a couple reasons. The big draws are Mammoth Site and Evans Plunge.

It’s a small town that feels less touristy than many others in the region. Mr. Wonderful and I marveled at the castle-like appearance of some buildings, thanks to the interesting sandstone architecture throughout the town.

There’s also a neat waterfall along a trail that passes through town.

Hot Springs has a waterfall in the middle of town.

Hot Springs has a waterfall in the middle of town.

So if you have a budding paleontologist in the family or just want to cool off in a big pool, you may find yourself in Hot Springs.

Where to stay

Hot Springs Hills Inn invited my family to stay two nights while we explored the area. Hot Springs was a town I had on my itinerary on because I wanted to take the kids to Mammoth Site, and because it was close enough to Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. It was a nice homebase for exploring the southern region of the Black Hills.

About Hills Inn

The Hills Inn in Hot Springs, South Dakota

The Hills Inn in Hot Springs, South Dakota

If you search customer-rated sites on attractions or lodging, you’ll find The Hills Inn as one of the top ranked options in Hot Springs, if not the top one. The Hills Inn is a family-run motel with a small outdoor pool and a putt putt golf course connected on site (which is FREE to motel guests). Wally greets the guests at the front desk, he’s a friendly guy.

A view of the putt-putt golf course next to Hills Inn. Guests at the motel can play for free.

A view of the putt-putt golf course next to Hills Inn. Guests at the motel can play for free.

As far as motels go, this is as clean as I’ve ever seen them, with a few extra amenities I don’t expect from a motel, like the FREE breakfast. Running from 6:30 to 9 a.m., there is a small assortment of items from fresh fruit and cereal, to bagels and toast…and my kids’ favorite, chocolate donuts.

We took advantage of the breakfast during our stay, bringing our plates, orange juice and coffee to a table poolside. There’s a small dining room off the lobby, as well.

Breakfast poolside at The Hills Inn, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Breakfast poolside at The Hills Inn, located in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The other amenities I thought were nice touches: A 40-inch TV, a refrigerator and microwave. Plus FREE putt-putt which I mentioned earlier. Nice, huh?

The location

It’s super near Mammoth Site and Evans Plunge. Further afield is Wind Cave National Park (I’d guess about 10 minutes away) and Custer State Park (30 minutes).

Hot Springs’ Freedom Trail is near the motel, and if you walk it, you’re about a mile or so from that waterfall I mentioned earlier.

 

If you go

Hot Springs Hills Inn

Where: 640 S. Sixth St., Hot Springs, South Dakota

Website

 

More about Hot Springs

There is a coffee maker in the room at The Hills Inn and there’s some included with breakfast, but you may want to venture out for a cup of joe. Hot Springs Coffee Kiosk was a pleasant surprise for me – good stuff.

As far as dining goes in town, you don’t have a lot of choices, but we were happy with what we did pick. All places were pretty close to The Hills Inn. We grabbed tasty dinner to-go one night from T/D Smokin BBQ. We also had dinner at Woolly’s Western Grill (located near Mammoth Site) and a post-Evans Plunge breakfast at Dale’s Family Restaurant (right across the street from it).

 

Disclaimer: My family was provided a complimentary stay at Hills Inn in order for me to write this review. All opinions are my own.

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

 

 

 

 

July 21, 2015

Evans Plunge In Hot Springs, South Dakota

Evans Plunge is one of those attractions in the Black Hills that everyone seems to have been to as a kid. I mention it to several friends, and they each recalled a story from their childhood. Some remember the rocky bottom (the rocks are still there). Some mention how cool the waterslides were.

My first visit was as a mom, so I don’t have that nostalgic recollection. My kids will someday.

I was invited to visit Evans Plunge on my recent family road trip through the Badlands and Black Hills. It’s located in Hot Springs, a small town in southern South Dakota known for nearby hot springs.

This location isn’t in a natural setting of a hot spring, just so you know.

The waterpark in Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The water park in Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

We went early one weekday morning, so we didn’t contend with other tourists save for one other family. Everyone at the pool at that time was local – kids in swim lessons or adults in exercise classes. It meant no lines for the slides.

Evans Plunge is a spring-fed water park of sorts – it’s mostly a large swimming pool with some fun features like kid-friendly water slide, three larger slides and Tarzan swings. The water is warmer than most pools because of the spring water – 87 degrees.

OK, I did not capture this photo. I didn't dare bring my camera in with me to a pool. I know myself! Photo provided by South Dakota Tourism

OK, I did not capture this photo. I didn’t dare bring my camera in with me to a pool. I know myself! Photo provided by South Dakota Tourism

We got lifejackets at the check in for our beginner swimmers. They weren’t needed in the kid pool, which was 3 feet deep with a small frog slide. They were handy in the larger pool. There are also a couple tubes on deck to use.

The waterslides are definitely for big kids (and parents). I only went down one, and while it wasn’t scary fast or anything, I knew better than to ask my kids if they were interested in trying it out.

Since we were there early, I had to ask for the slides to be turned on. And because of the timing of our visit, the outdoor pool wasn’t open yet (it opens at 11 a.m.). But we enjoyed an uncrowded pool and no lines for anything.

You could easily spend an hour here, and likely more when you’re with kids. If you’re feeling the need for some strength training, there is a fitness center upstairs that’s included with admission. Need a snack or lunch? There is a small concession stand there, as well.

The great thing, I learned from one helpful lady at the pool, is that our wristbands are good for the whole day. You could leave to eat lunch, nap, whatever, and then return in the evening.

 

If you go

Evans Plunge

Where: 1145 N. River St., Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $12 (ages 13+), $10 (ages 3-12), FREE (ages 2 and under). For access to hot tubs, sauna and steam room, add $3.50.

Tip: You can get 25% off your admission if you bring a receipt showing that you’re staying at a hotel, motel or campground in Hot Springs

Website

Disclaimer: Evans Plunge provided a complimentary family pass for my family to visit. All opinions are my own.

 

* * * * *

 

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)

 

July 20, 2015

Try The Buffalo At Dakotah Steakhouse in Rapid City

Dakotah Steakhouse is one of those restaurants that gets high ratings on travel and food sites and you wonder, is it really that good?

Yes, yes it is.

Dakotah Steakhouse is in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Dakotah Steakhouse is in Rapid City, South Dakota.

This Rapid City, South Dakota, restaurant was located across the parking lot from our hotel during our recent stay. The city’s tourism office said it was a place I ought to check out, so they gave me a gift card and off I went with the family.

What to expect

Coolest restaurant art I've seen in a long: The Dakotah buffalo. Side note, order a buffalo dish here.

Coolest restaurant art I’ve seen in a long: The Dakotah buffalo. Side note, order a buffalo dish here.

This was the nicest place we dined at during our Western Nebraska/South Dakota road trip. While you may want to pack something a little nice to wear for dinner, it’s also in a city that attracts tourists, so you won’t be turned away if all you have are shorts, a clean shirt and flip flops. But, I felt more comfortable having changed out of my sweaty, touristy day clothes.

The restaurant has a lodge feel, with a huge fireplace and wood throughout. It was cozy though it actually was quite a spacious restaurant.

The view inside Dakotah Steakhouse. Not super dressy, right?

The view inside Dakotah Steakhouse. Not super dressy, right?

It’s the kind of place that you want to sit back and take your time, perhaps order a bottle of red. Which we did… but we couldn’t sit back and relax because the kids were with us. And it was taking too long for their food to get to the table and they were a ticking time bomb of impatience. Kids…

It is fairly kid-friendly. There is a kids menu and with some activities on it (for kids older than my own). However, it’s like any other steakhouse I’ve been to, in that it takes time to prepare the food.

It’s a great place for a date night, but come prepared to entertain your kids if you’re bringing them along.

What to order

Obviously, the steak is a big draw; it is a steakhouse. But we’re in South Dakota so you kinda have to try the buffalo, right? The buffalo served here is provided by local ranchers.

I was given great advice to try the buffalo skewers, which my whole family scarfed down. Get yourself some of that when you visit!

Buffalo skewers are so good you won't want to share.

Buffalo skewers are so good you won’t want to share.

Entrees: I got a few recommendations of great dishes, from the walleye dinner to the buffalo ribeye, to the elk ravioli. I went for something I couldn’t find in Omaha, and got the ravioli – it was so good!

Mr. Wonderful ordered a KC strip, which the kids ate half of.

For sides, we both got the Three Sisters Soup, and I recommend that one. To come with my dish, I ordered asparagus wrapped in bacon, which is as good as it sounds, and Mr. Wonderful got mashed sweet potatoes. We ordered an additional side to share with the kids, fried macaroni and cheese, and it was hands down, the favorite.

Stuffed, we had no room for dessert.

Cost?

It’s going to be more than most stops for a traveling family, that’s for certain, but most stops aren’t going to be at a steakhouse, amiright? If you splurge on one meal on your South Dakota vacation, you can’t go wrong here.

And get the buffalo.

 

If you go

Dakotah Steakhouse

Where: 1325 N. Elk Vale Road, Rapid City, South Dakota

Website

* * * * *

Planning a trip to South Dakota and Western Nebraska? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Canoeing the Niobrara River with Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Chadron State Park (Chadron, Nebraska)

Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Nebraska)