This is a mom’s review of Corn Palace and Wall Drug in South Dakota and if they are worth stopping for!
On our road trip during the summer, we drove through South Dakota and visited some places that weren’t necessarily on our to-do list. We visited both Corn Palace and Wall Drug. While they aren’t worth going to visit as a stand-alone visit, they provide some entertainment along the drive through South Dakota that is quite whimsical and unique!
Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD
On our epic summer family, road trip Corn Palace was definitely not on my to-do list. I had never heard of it!!!
After driving for hours and hours across South Dakota, my child was desperate for something to do! He saw the signs and begged to stop. And we thought – Why not?!?
It’s in Mitchell, SD and when you get off the interstate, the route to the palace actually has some pretty good signage. It was easy to find and easy to park!
In 1892, the World’s Only Corn Palace was established on the city’s Main Street. During its 100+ years of existence, it has become known worldwide and now attracts more than half a million visitors annually. This tradition continues today with the annual Corn Palace Festival held in late August each year.
The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world”. They currently use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate the Corn Palace. A different theme is chosen each year, and murals are designed to reflect that theme. Ear by ear the corn is nailed to the Corn Palace to create a scene. The decorating process usually starts in late May with the removal of the rye and dock. The corn murals are stripped at the end of August and the new ones are completed by the first of October.
It is used today for exhibits, dances, proms, graduations arenas, as well as district, regional, and state basketball tournaments. USA Today named the Corn Palace one of the top 10 places in America for high school basketball.
Corn Palace is completely free to visit.
When we were there, the auditorium had a large vendor area with souvenirs and such. My son got an arrowhead at a booth and was pleased as punch with it. ($2 well spent)
Is Corn Palace Worth Visiting?
Overall, if you plan to stop just a few a short amount of time, I do think it is worth seeing, especially if you need a short break off the road. It isn’t far off the interstate and provided a nice break for us. It is interesting to see and kept our 8-year-old son entertained for about a half an hour or so. It also provided nice restrooms for a break as well.
Once we left Mitchell and our brief stop at the Corn Palace, we were back on the road towards Wall, SD.
Wall Drug in Wall, SD
As soon as you hit South Dakota, there are Wall Drug signs everywhere along the interstate. It is the definition of a tourist trap. But, I’ll say it’s a fun one.
Originally, founded by Ted and Dorothy Hustead in 1931, it was a bad time to be starting a business. Especially in a small town like Wall. It did start slow, in fact. But in 1936, Dorothy came up with an idea to advertise for free ice water to bring in the travelers. It worked brilliantly! People came from all over. They also advertised 5 cent coffee (and still do!).
Wall Drug Cafe Experience
Arriving at Wall Drug, we were in desperate need of a late lunch so we ate in their cafe. I’ll be honest – the line to eat was frustrating, to say the least. There were several “lines” but hard to distinguish where the began and ended. And it was SO CROWDED!
We were in a line, and a girl working there told us there was a shorter line on the other side. We NEVER did find that line, and ended up in the original line we had been in! We finally waited in a line, and order the basic burgers and hot dog. They were good burgers. We also got some homemade donuts made right there at Wall Drug – those were pretty decent as well.
After we ate, it was time to play. There is so much to do, they offer a map of Wall Drug. They even have a “mini Mt Rushmore”. My son wanted to see the T-Rex, so we went straight to the back and let him see it. He didn’t roar while we were looking at him, but we heard him later while we were in the gift shop next to him. He also enjoyed sitting on the huge statue of the “Wall Drug jackalope” and posing for pictures.
Is Wall Drug Worth Stopping At?
It’s a super cheesy tourist trap, but if you can enjoy it for just that, it can be quite fun and a nice way to break up a trip to Rapid City. Catch a quick burger and homemade donut, and don’t forget to check out the jackalope.
Have you ever been to South Dakota? Did you make any stops at Wall Drug or the Corn Palace? Any other hidden gems?