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  1. Default NY to Chicago to Mt. Rushmore... then what?

    Hi, I am really new to this site and am excited to post my questions. We are planning a little over three weeks for our road trip out to the mid-west in July.

    My husband and I are finally retired and we are active and want to see and do as much as we can. We love to drive and long hours on the road don't bother us. We basically want to see the major sights our country has to offer and lots of walking is fine. Hiking and crazy sports are not for us though. We also will be taking along our 8 lb dog. I wish we had a choice but it's either stay home or take him with us. He is crate-trained and will have no problem in hotel rooms while we are out. We will return after a few hours in the early afternoon, take him for long walks or drives and then return him to the hotel if we want to take in a museum or do something where he won't be allowed. We will always be on the look-out for casual outdoor spaces to enjoy breakfast and dinner with Rascal.

    Here is what I have so far.
    We will drive from NY and stop one night in Cleveland Ohio. How is the Middleburg Heights area?

    The next day we will drive onto Chicago. I booked 5 nights in the downtown area. Is this too much to get a feel of the city, see F. L Wright's buildings, and see a museum or two? Any place where dogs are welcome?

    We need a place to spend the night between Chicago and Rapid City - a pet-friendly hotel in a safe, pleasant area where we can give the dog a nice long walk before bed and again in the morning.

    Then we will drive onto Rapid City, South Dakota. I booked 6 nights there to see Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, Custer State Park, the caves, etc at a relaxed pace. Are the Badlands somewhere near this route? Are dogs allowed anywhere?

    As for Rapid City, how does 6 days sound? Are there sights we will be able to see and enjoy from the car?

    And now the big questions? Where do we go from South Dakota? We will have about 10 days left. Is Yellowstone Park doable? What else? We can also try to cut the other locations down if strongly suggested. I always book hotels with that flexibility.

    Any suggestions for the drive back to NY on a slightly more southern route for a change of scenery and maybe a couple of interesting places to spend a day or two here and there?

    As you can see I am floundering a lot. A native New Yorkers, other than the eastern coast, we have seen only Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Any and all suggestions will be seriously considered. We are anxious to see a lot!

    Thanks so very much for reading this and for any thoughts you may have.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    With regards to the dog, you may have a problem with your current plan. While their are plenty of places that are pet friendly, most of them will not allow you to leave your dog alone, unattended, in the room. As far as You really need to check with each of the specific places you want to see for their policies, because it can change dramatically.

    For a spot between Chicago and Rapid City, Sioux Falls would be a good option that's a little more than halfway. If you want something closer to halfway, then Fairmont Minnesota would be the best place that has a reasonable selection of hotels.

    Badlands would be before you get to Rapid City (about 100 miles east - a good map would be helpful here) and is something you probably would want to do as part of your drive.

    6 nights in the Black Hills could make for a very nice time, however, you might consider splitting your time up a bit. You might want to spend part of your trip around Keystone, or Custer to see places like Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, and the caves. Then you might want to stay in the western black hills to see places like Deadwood, Sturgis, and Devils Tower, Wyoming. Rapid City is the most central location to all of them, but you can be looking at drives of 1 to 2 hours each way to get to some of the attractions farther removed from Rapid.

    I assume the 10 days you've got left includes the time you need to drive back to New York?

    Yellowstone is an option, and it is one of my favorite places on the planet, but it is another full day drive past the black hills, and it would mean you need 4-5 days then to drive back to NYC. That would leave you 4-5 days to explore the park, which is doable although requires a bit faster pace than your other destination. If that's where you decide you want to go, I'd probably take a couple days away from Chicago and the Black Hills, or even cut way back on Chicago since its much easier to get to from NYC for a future trip, relatively speaking.

    If you decide after the Black Hills you just want to and a nice drive home, I'd head north, towards Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, and start making your way back, possibly stopping at Lake Itasca Minnesota (headwaters of the Mississippi River), and places along the south shore of Lake Superior like the Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks. If you've got your passports, then you could continue into Canada, and make your way back going through the Georgian Bay area, and then home either via Toronto/Niagara or Montreal. If not, make your way back south through Michigan.

  3. Default

    Thanks so much Michael. I will certainly check out the hotels in Sioux Falls. You gave me some other excellent suggestions and ideas to really think about. I never thought of driving further north to come home. Hmmm, sounds really good to me.

    I selected Rapid City for the full 6 days because the Holiday Inn Express there said the dog would be welcomed. Are any of the sites mentioned in SD doable by car - or maybe allow a dog that will be carried in a carry bag the entire time? It's a bit awkward but he definitely stays in one.

    Cutting into Chicago is definitely another option, or stretching the trip out closer to 4 weeks. This is the beauty of retirement. I really would love to add on Yellowstone. As for the dog, I already found out about "pet-friendly" hotels. I had to cancel one after I found out their policy. Now I call the hotels directly and am very clear about being able to leave a crated dog unattended while we are out.

    Again, I sincerely appreciate your time and advice.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    The Badlands loop can all be seen by car - with stops at many viewpoints - where your dog would be fine. You just couldn't take him on hiking trails.

    Custer State Park is pet friendly, and there's a lot you can see just by driving, including the Wildlife Loop which is one of the park's biggest highlights.

    Mt. Rushmore and the Caves do not allow pets, and just in general you'll find they aren't allowed on the trails at most national parks. State Parks and National Forests tend to be much more pet friendly.

  5. Default Please help with timing...

    We will leave NY in mid-July for a full three to three and a half weeks.
    Sleep in Cleveland OH.
    Chicago - are 3 days enough for an overview, the boat ride on the river and a couple of museums?
    sleep near Minneaspolis or Sioux Falls
    Rapid City/Antiques Roadshow/Mt. Rushmore/ Black Hills - how many days would you allow?

    Yellowstone - 2-3 days in Gardiner MT and 2-3 days in West Yellowstone - what would you do?
    Grand Tetan/Jackson Hole - 2-3 days?
    Cody WY - one day enough for overview and a rodeo?

    Drive home on a slightly southern route and any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks very much!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Spending One's Time

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Keep in mind that it's your time to allocate however you see fit. The one thing that others can offer you is warning when you simply don't have enough time for what you're planning. That is not the case here. Sure three days is enough for what you want to see and do in Chicago. Could you use more? Less? Yes to both of those. What matters is what suits you. Same with all your other locations. The one spot where your pace and interests would seem to indicate that more time is needed is in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There is just so much there - including Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind and Jewel Caves, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower, Deadwood, and other sites - that you might want to allocate another day or so.

    Some tips on your routing. Since you are headed for Rapid City, it makes no sense to head up to Minneapolis on I-94 unless that is a destination in and of itself. Just stay on I-90 when I-94 splits off in Wisconsin and head for Sioux Falls. And Cody fits better in the drive to Yellowstone rather than the drive back if you want to take a more southern route. For that southern route, look at heading down parallel to the Wind River Range in US-26/US-287 to Rawlings and picking up I-80 there to follow the old Oregon Trail along the Platte River in Nebraska, then using I-29 to cut down to I-7- through Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus on the way home.


  7. Default

    AZBuck, thank you for your list of to-do's in South Dakota. It is evident I need to find another day!
    I also appreciate the route suggestions you made. We considered going to Minneapolis just because... but I will select one of the hotels in Austin MN to spend the night and then continue straight through. I am making notes for a return trip through Nebraska, Kansas City, and so forth. Sounds good!! Thank you very much for taking the time to help us out.

    PS. Since there is something we really want to see in Milwaukee we chose to stop in Austin, rather than drive onto Sioux Falls after Chicago. The drive to Rapid city will be a little longer but it will work out.
    Last edited by Long Island lady; 05-20-2012 at 05:06 PM. Reason: added explanation for our decision

  8. Default How is this Itinerary from NY to YNP and GTNP? ... and suggestions to return please

    I received great tips from this forum and others on driving west from NY. We have an SUV and are seniors, so sightseeing is our passion rather than strenuous activities or great adventures. This is what I have for our 3 to 3 1/2 week trip in July.
    First night in Cleveland,
    2 1/2 days in Chicago,
    one night in Minneapolis,
    one night in Mitchell SD,
    tour The Badlands on the way to Rapid City
    remainder of that day plus 4 more in Rapid City
    one night in Cody WY - with the hopes that we have the stamina to take in an 8 PM rodeo.

    I thought to break up YNP this way. Please share your thoughts and advice:
    We will enter YNP from the east, drive around a bit and exit the north to our hotel in Cooke City, MT.
    We have the full day in Cooke City,
    Then we will drive through the northern entrance, tour as we exit the western entrance to West Yellowstone, WY.
    We have another full day there.
    Then we drive from the western to the southern entrance, drive around via Old Faithful, and go thru GTNP to Jackson, WY.
    Another full day in Jackson.

    (You are probably wondering why we chose to break up the park this way and not stay central within YNP instead. We will have a small dog with us and some hotels won't allow him to stay in the room even if crated. We also started planning late and I couldn't get reservations.)

    Now we want to return on an alternate route. We have allowed 7 days, although 6 is preferable, as we know 500 miles a day is the max. we should attempt.
    Our only definite stop is one night in Denver CO to tour the Denver mint. Please suggest what other towns are worth stopping at along route 80. It can be just for a couple of hours to relax and enjoy an outdoor meal with our dog or to spend the night.
    Thank you very much.

    Moderator Note: Please keep all questions about this trip together in the same thread.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 06-18-2012 at 06:28 AM. Reason: Merged 3 Threads Together

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    A few thoughts on your current plans:

    Minneapolis remains a fair bit out of your way, and you won't have much time there on your current plans, but Buck and myself have both already mentioned that.

    If you want to get to a rodeo in Cody, then I'd spend at least the last night of your black hills stay in the western black hills, somewhere like Spearfish or even into Wyoming. It would likely make more sense to do that anyway if you want to visit places like Deadwood or Devils tower that would require a lot of backtracking if you stay only in Rapid.

    Rather than Cooke City, which is actually the northeast gate of Yellowstone, I'd look at spending that night in Gardiner, which is much closer to the main loop road. Cooke City would mean going all the way out through the Lamar Valley. I'd say your Yellowstone trip would look like this:

    Day 1: Drive by the lake, See the mud volcano, Canyon, and Tower Falls areas, heading briefly into the Lamar Valley if you have time (I kind of think you won't).
    Day 2: See Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyers area, and as much of the other geyser areas between Madison/West Yellowstone and Old Faithful as you can.
    Day 3: Finish the Old Faithful area, and if time the West Thumb area before you head south to the Tetons.

    Here's a look at some of the many options for things to see and do along I-80, although if you are going through Denver, you might also consider I-70. Check out the Map Center for more ideas for things to do along both.

  10. Default

    Thank you Midwest Michael for your response, once again. My husband wants to make that detour to Minneapolis to call on a friend and we decided to skip Deadwood and Devils Tower.
    I did book a hotel in Cody already and considering it's about 400 miles from Rapid City, it seems like I did that one right.
    I apologize if I repeated my questions but, as you see, I am still confused with the enormity of YNP and fitting in all the other places we are trying to see. I thought there were only four entrances to choose from and since Cooke's City did have a hotel where we could leave the dog in the room unattended, we grabbed it early on. Your suggestion led me to research it further and dumb me now sees there is a north entrance as well as that northeast one. That is certainly so much smarter!! Let's hope I can find a hotel at this late date that will accept the dog. And THANK YOU for laying out a Yellowstone itinerary so clearly for me. I needed that.
    I will focus on the return trip once I get Gardiner squared away.
    And lastly, are there any states or cities that are known for having better gas prices that other?

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