Year in Review: Highlights of 2021

Even though 2021 was the second year impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, we feel blessed to still have had many amazing adventures. We spent most of the winter in Connecticut exploring many local spots; the summer road tripping across Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, and Wisconsin (did we mention the number 4300 miles?!?!); and the spring and fall revisiting some of our tried and true favorite spots for new activities. This post is always one of our favorites each year, as it’s fun to go back down “memory lane” and reflect on the best parts of each adventure. So here is a recap of our (documented, publicly shared) 2021 adventures:

National Park Guide: Badlands National Park in South Dakota

Badlands National Park, located in Interior South Dakota, is the location of the world’s largest fossil beds. The 244,000 acre park is home to sedimentary rock layers deposited over 70 million years ago, as well as mixed grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and ferrets live. There are over 60 species of grass throughout the prairies inside the park. Named by the early French trappers and the Lakota Native American tribe that founded the area, the Badlands are known for extremes: extreme weather, extreme vastness of the plains, and extreme fossil beds. Learn more about the formation of the Badlands Buttes here.

Badlands became a National Monument in 1939 and then a National Park in 1978; the southern half of the park is located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is co-managed with the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Over one million people visit Badlands National Park each year.

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10 Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Known as the “Shrine of Democracy”, Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and attracts over two million visitors each year. The Black Hills are known for the ponderosa pine trees that give the illusion of darkness from a distance.

The concept of an attraction that would drum up business for the economy and bring visitors to South Dakota was the idea of Doane Robinson, the state historian of South Dakota. He originally wanted to honor western heroes, like Lewis and Clarke and Chief Red Cliff. Robinson sought out mountain carvers and found well known sculpture Gutzon Borglum, who was working on a project in Georgia. Borglum changed the scope of the project by switching the location and the profiles to feature American presidents that best represent 150 years of American history. He chose Mount Rushmore, named for New York attorney Charles Rushmore who inspected the mountain for mining in the 1880s, because of its location: it was big enough for the scale of the project, it was made of hard rock, and it faced southeast, which provided good daytime light.

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10 Family Friendly Summer Activities in Sioux Falls, SD

Our recent visit to Sioux Falls, the largest city (population wise) in South Dakota, was suppose to be a quick overnight, with dinner by the famous falls. But the more we researched, the list of places we “had” to visit grew longer and the more we crowdsourced, the list of places where we “needed” to dine for a meal or special treat grew larger. We ended up spending almost three full days of fun in the southeastern part of South Dakota and having so much fun!

We loved Sioux Falls for all the public parks, green spaces, and walking and biking trails; the rich history and preserved historic homes and buildings open to the public; the daily calendar of events tailored to families at the zoo and science center and butterfly garden and aquarium; and the kind, friendly people who ALWAYS stopped to let the pedestrian tourists cross the street (such a pedestrian friendly city- motorists actually do stop!) and who always had a tip about getting around road work, a recommendation for the best ice cream flavor, and a personal story of hometown pride.

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