August 28, 2014
Where to go?
On your way out of Nashville we stopped at Beachaven Vineyards and Winery for a quick tour and tasting. Fun spot right off the highway with surprisingly great wine! On our way into St. Louis, MO we stopped at the Apple Valley Hillbilly Toyland and Museum. Probably one of the most terrifying places I’ve been in my life full of objet d’arts scattered across a lawn made by the proprietors and a tiny shed jam packed with thousands of toys that will give you nightmares. Worth a stop for some great American kitsch, but beware the owners love to talk and if you are in a rush it’s hard to extricate yourself. In the Badlands I highly recommend the 40 mile loop to see the different landscapes of this crazy lunar space and you can jump out of the car and hike when you want to. On the way to Mt. Rushmore from the Badlands you can make a stop at the corn palace, which unfortunately was under construction when we visited, but still very impressive. Another stop along the road to stretch your legs is 1880’s town, which is an old Western town made as a movie set and is another classic kitschy road trip stop. Of course visit Mt. Rushmore in Keystone, that’s pretty much the only attraction there, but make sure to also stop at Custer National Forest after for some great sitings of wild prairie dogs, donkeys and gigantic herds of Buffalo.
Where to stay?
In St. Louis we stayed at the Westin right next to the baseball field, which was fun to hear the excitement of the game and we could actually see into the field from the room. The game ended early so we had no problem with noise or traffic. In Omaha we stayed at the Magnolia Hotel, which was great for its location near Old Town Omaha. In the Badlands we stayed at the Circle View Guest Ranch, which was one of our favorite stays of the trip. The owners are super sweet and made the best breakfast of the entire trip with fresh eggs collected that morning on the ranch (we even got to help collect some) and the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted!
What to eat?
I was pleasantly surprised by Old Town Omaha- it is a few blocks of cute streets with lots of quirky boutiques and a ton of dining options. Our dinner was nothing to write home about, but the ice cream at Ted & Wally’s was some of the best of the trip and worth the 30 minute line to get it!
Not to miss?
Seeing the Badlands at sunset. Watching the sun change on the rocks is a transcendent experience and a joy for any photographer with a love of light. I imagined the rocks were the Rouen Cathedral and every snap was my version of Monet’s masterpiece in light impression. And the wild donkeys are pretty fun in Custer they come right up to the cars wanting carrots and if there are any newborn calves let me tell you baby donkeys are adorable!