11 Things to Do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
I found a herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few hours north of Dallas/Ft. Worth, southern Oklahoma offers mountains, a former national park, a wildlife refuge and even a chocolate factory. On a recent trip north of the Red River, I explored the area between Lawton and Sulphur, Oklahoma. Here’s the ultimate list what to do in southern Oklahoma with kids .

What to do in Southern Oklahoma with Kids

I pulled together a list of 11 places for family fun in Southern Oklahoma.

Lake Murray State Park

Lake Murray offers lots of water fun and it's what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Enjoy Lake Murray and its unlimited ways to enjoy the water. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just a few miles north of the Texas/Oklahoma border, Lake Murray State Park is the first and largest state park in Oklahoma.

With over 12,500 acres to explore, I found plenty to do. Boating and water sports are the obvious choices. But I also found a golf course, ATV/motorcycle area and hiking. Along with plenty of camping from primitive sites to deluxe RV sites are available.

First I stopped by the Lake Murray Resort that offers a range of accommodations, like newly renovated lodge rooms to historic cabins. I even found some floating cabins in assorted sizes.

Find Lake Murray Resort at 3323 Lodge Road, Ardmore.

Tucker Tower

Climb up Tucker Tower as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tucker Tower offers sweeping views of Lake Murray. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next on the list, a stop by Tucker Tower is a must for families. The historic tower rises up 60-feet above Lake Murray and acts as a beacon on the lake.

The tower is an original Works Progress Administration (WPA) project at the southern end of the lake. Today it houses a museum to the WPA in Oklahoma and the views can’t be beat.

Nature Center

Explore the Nature Center as what to do with kids in Southern Oklahoma
Walk through the exhibits at the Nature Center when exploring Southern Oklahoma. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next to check out the Nature Center is a family magnet. With interactive displays kids learn about the animals in the area, always a hit with my kids.

During our visit, my kids earned a Nature Center at Tucker Tower patch by completing a booklet.

Find Tucker Tower and the Nature Center at 13528 Scenic Highway 77, Ardmore. Both are free though donations are accepted.

Bedré Chocolate Factory

Stop by Bedre Chocolate Factory as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Like chocolate wasn’t enough, Bedre Chocolate Factory offers a playground. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Continuing north, I found a chocolate factory with convenient access right off Interstate 35, that bisects the state.

Over 40 years ago, a chocolate factory began in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma. Now it draws all the road trippers traveling through southern Oklahoma. Bedré Chocolates offers a shop full of temptations. So grab a treat with the kids and watch chocolates roll off the production line from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

During our visit, we sampled their classic treat, the meltaways in nearly every flavor available. Along with traditional chocolate, my kids loved the salty snacks dipped in chocolate. As a kid bonus, I found a playscape right outside.

Find Bedré Chocolate at 37 N. Colbert Rd. and open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free to enter.

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Explore Chickasaw Cultural Center as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Tour the Chickasaw Cultural Center when exploring Chickasaw with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Next the Chickasaw Cultural Center blew my family away. With an extensive tribal cultural center across 184 acres, kids have lots of space to explore.

With facilities that include the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, it hosts reenactments and living history demonstrations. During our visit, we watched a stomp dance along with traditionally-dressed docents demonstrate Chickasaw crafts and agriculture.

Along with the village, I found a café, a gift shop, a fine art gallery along with a lake that kids can feed the fish. Such a beautiful facility that must be explored to appreciate.

Located at 867 Cooper Memorial Dr., the Chickasaw Cultural Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission varies.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Explore Chicksaw National Recreation Area as what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
Explore the natural pools of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with your kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Before I visited the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I had no idea it was the former Platt National Park. Sometimes national park gets reclassified and that’s the case for this area.

Though it might not be one of the big national parks, I found an area packed with historic buildings, natural pool swimming and scenic mountain vistas.

With a large recreational lake that beckons boat owners. And the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) historic buildings that add history. Finally the resident herd of bison is a must for kids. I found plenty of family fun for a long weekend.

Chickasaw National Recreation area features a couple of units. With the Platt Historic Unit, right outside the town of Sulphur, I found the Travertine Nature Center, the CCC buildings and the swimming areas. Then Arbuckle District offers Lake of the Arbuckles access at each of its three campground areas, Guy Sandy, The Point and Buckhorn. And an additional boat is located at Upper Guy Sandy area too.

The visitor center, Travertine Nature Center is free and open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most days. Find it at 1504 Perimeter Rd, Sulphur. The park is open 24-hours a day.

Bison Viewing

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
As my kids top choice, find the herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids love animals so stop at the Bison Viewing Area located off U.S. Route 177, just south of Sulphur. A herd of 10 buffalo call the Chickasaw Natural Recreation Area home.

After several attempts to see the buffalo, we caught the bison near twilight in the viewing area. During our visit, we even saw a couple of baby bison grazing near their mothers.

After exploring the Sulphur area for a couple of days, I decided to take the long road home. We drove over to Lawton, Oklahoma, before heading back to Texas.

About 90 miles west, I found a prairie landscape with rolling hills along wildlife refuge, the Comanche Museum and Cultural Center along with Fort Sill.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Explore the Comanche Museum when you explore Lawton with kids
The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center offers families lessons in the WWII contributions and arts of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our first stop, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, is a must for more information on Quanah Parker and the Comanche people. The Comanche Museum focuses on the history of the Comanche people from the beginning until today.

During our visit, we learned about the WWII Comanche Code Talkers. Seventeen Comanche men used their native language to communicate in an undecipherable code that helped to defeat Hitler during D-Day.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center is located at 701 NW Ferris Avenue. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed Sunday.  It’s free and took about an hour to explore.

Fort Sill Army Base

The grave of Quanah Parker at Fort Sill, another site to explore in Lawton with kids.
Sitting high on Chiefs Knoll at the Fort Sill Cemetery, we find the grave of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche Nation. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

 

Continue the history lesson and head over to the Fort Sill Army Base to visit the Fort Sill Post Cemetery (not be confused with the Fort Sill National Cemetery). As the final resting place of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his little sister, Prairie Flower on the high point of the cemetery, Chiefs Knoll.

Visit the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum for history on the fort. With 38 buildings in the area, there’s lots to see.

For artillery buffs, a visit to the U.S. Army Artillery Museum is a must. With an outdoor display, families can walk through to see Howitzers.

Since Fort Sill is an active U.S. Army Base all visitors over 16 must pass a background check at the Ft. Sill Visitor Control Center. It’s free and takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

As a top Oklahoma park area, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides a refuge for free-range buffalo, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, deer and elk over 59,000 acres. I suggest looking for animals at dawn and dusk, when they are most active.

With 11 different places to explore in Southern Oklahoma, plan a visit to Sulphur or Lawton with your family.

First stop off at the Quanah Parker Nature and Visitor Center for an interpretive display. Additionally the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers camping with 47 tent sites, 23 RV sites and 20 walk-in sites.

Open sunrise to sunset seven days a week with free admission. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers 30 miles of hiking trails though we drove through looking for wildlife.

Holy City of the Wichitas

Explore the World Chapel at the Holy City of Wichita when you explore Lawton with kids
The interior of the World Chapel in the Holy City of Wichita near Lawton. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, I found the Holy City of the Wichitas, a shrine west of Lawton.

In 1926, the late Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock started an annual Easter Pageant. In 1934 the 66-acre site got a federal grant and the Federal Works Progress Administration built many of the buildings that remain.

As an annual Easter Pageant, the Prince of Peace remains the longest running passion play in the U.S. Depicting the birth, life and death of Christ, the play drew a record crowd in 1939 of 225,000. With the Wichita Mountains as a backdrop, Jerusalem comes alive with Temple Court, Calvary’s Mount and the walls of Jerusalem.

Find the Holy City of the Wichitas at 262 Holy City Rd. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5p.m., free.

Where to Stay in Sulphur

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center

Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
With a Junior Suite my family enjoyed our time at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, Oklahoma, my family stayed at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center, located next the the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. With over 1,700 acres to explore, the Chickasaw Retreat offers the ultimate refuge for relaxing and reconnecting as a family.

During my stay, I enjoyed a Junior Suite with my family. With a spacious room, I found plenty of room for a roll-away or pack-n-play. In the separate kitchenette I found a small refrigerator, a full-size microwave and separate sink. The luxurious bathroom included a soaking tub for rejuvenating along with a separate shower.

In a separate building, I found a wellness center that rivaled any health club with lots of machines and an indoor track. With a steam room and a dry sauna, relaxing comes easy at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.

I also found the Sole’renity Spa, with services like manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, wraps and waxes. My kids enjoyed the indoor pool during our stay as well.

The indoor pool at Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Though indoors my boys, 9 and 12, enjoyed the pool during our trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Find Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center at 4205 Goddard Youth Camp, Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The Artesian Hotel

Stay at the Artesian Hotel when visiting Southern Oklahoma with kids.
With a complete renovation the Artesian Hotel offers families nicely appointed rooms. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Artesian Hotel offers refined lodging steps from all the sights in the revitalized downtown Sulphur, Oklahoma. The original hotel opened in 1906 and included five stories and named after the mineral water found on the property during construction.

After an extensive renovation, The Artesian offers visitors and locals a respite of refinement. The 81-room hotel features a traditional bathhouse, an indoor and outdoor pool along with shopping and restaurants. Make an appointment at the kid’s spa while you enjoy a treatment of your own at Sole’renity Spa.

Find The Artesian Hotel at 1001 West 1st Street, in the center of the revitalized downtown of Sulphur.

Where to Eat in Sulphur 

Springs at the Artesian

Eat at the Artesian Hotel during your visit.
Along with food adults crave, the kids meals offer yummy options kids love. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, my family enjoyed dinner at The Artisan Hotel restaurant, Springs at the Artesian. In an upscale dining room with seating for 140, I found homestyle-inspired entrees.

For our visit we sampled several entrees for dinner. My 12-year-old son ordered a classic cheeseburger served on a pretzel bun with bibb lettuce. Then my 9-year-old ordered the Chicken pot pie off the kids’ menu. With a flaky crust and loaded full of tender chunks of white meat chicken along with a rich béchamel sauce, this kid’s entrée would have satisfied me.

For dinner I ordered the Pecan encrusted Tilapia and along with a glass of merlot from the Springs at the Artesian’s full bar. To top off dinner, we enjoyed chocolate cake. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedré Café

Enjoy the Bedre Cafe when you visit Chickasaw Oklahoma.
With it’s vintage vibe the Bedre Cafe is a family favorite. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

For a quick lunch we stopped by the Bedré Café, located on the street-level shopping area of The Artesian Hotel. In a 1950s inspired malt shop, I found a large selection of Oklahoma’s own, Bedré Chocolates. Along with assorted baked goods and a coffee-house style drinks, Bedré Café scoops up hand-dipped ice cream and along with shakes.

For lunch my family enjoyed a panini of the day along with a turkey club wrap along with a cup of tomato soup. All satisfying though my sons loved the Arbuckle Shake made with vanilla ice cream and Bedré chocolates the most, imagine that. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day.

Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies

Stop for a fried pie what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
As an Oklahoma original sample a fried pie at Arbuckle’s along Interstate 35. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located right off Interstate 35, Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies provides a regional road trip snack. With both savory and sweet pies, we sampled the cherry and apple along with the pizza-style and beef and vegetable. With super flakey pastry that’s filled and pinched before your eyes, the pies are a must when visiting South Central Oklahoma.

Located at Interstate 35’s exit 51 in an old Sinclair’s gas station and open breakfast through dinner. This is the original location with other shops across north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Allergen Alert: All pies are fried in peanut oil.

Fat Bully’s Burgers

Grab a burger at Fat Bullys what to do with kids in southern Oklahoma
While you watch the sun set over the Arbuckle Mountains enjoy a burger. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After exploring the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, I pulled the SUV into Fat Bully’s that features half-pound burgers and live music. During our visit, we sampled the metric burger and my youngest had a kid’s meal. All the burgers sat on toasted buns with trimmings on the side.

Located at 3133 Chickasaw Trail in Sulphur, Fat Bully’s serves lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Sunday. Live music on most Saturday nights and amazing sunsets every night.

 

12 Haunted Cave Tours to Get Your Brood in the Mood this October

Take a Haunted cave tour.
Take your crew to a haunted cave this season for bone shivering scares. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Need a real scare this season? I’ve got 12 haunted cave tours across the U.S. to get your brood in the mood this October.

What about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you close your eyes to get away from the suffocating darkness. How about knowing a thousand tiny, blind bats hang inches above your head with only an old-fashioned lantern to protect you?

Your skin crawling? Do you feel the goosebumps as a mysterious breeze crawls through a cave without wind? Have a facial twitch you can’t explain?

How about watching the lights of your EMF only to hear a researcher whisper, I haven’t see that phenomenon before.

Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona

Take a hour tour outfitted with a lantern and a K2 an EMF meter to register disturbances in the electromagnetic field.

Tours:

Every day in October at 6 p.m.

Located at mile marker 115 along Route 66, that’s 63 miles northeast of Kingman, Arizona. Admission for adults is $22.95 and kids 6 to 12 is $16.95 with kids under 6 enter for free.

Cave of the Winds in Colorado

Take an adventurous lantern tour of Manitou Gran Caverns while listening to ghost stories with a little history thrown in.

Tours:

Every day in October at 11:00 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Located at 100 Cave of the Winds Rd., Manitou Springs, that’s miles 8 miles northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Explore a haunted cave this October.
Lights are optional on haunted cave tours, most use lanterns. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Spook Cave in Iowa

Take a tour with a Halloweeny name, Spook Cave. After the cave tour, kids can trick-or-treat.

Tours:

Every day 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Trick-or-Treating Friday October 20, Saturday, October 21, Sunday, October 22 and Saturday, October 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only.

Located at 13299 Spook Cave Rd. McGregor, Iowa that’s 110 miles from Madison, Wisconsin.

Wabasha Street Caves in Minnesota

Would you let a lost soul guide your candlelit tour? Take an hour tour and hear the stories of the Lost Souls. Two different tours offered.

Tours:

Lost Souls Tours on Sundays October 8, October 15, October 22 and October 29 at 12:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, cash only.

Spirited History Cave Tour on Mondays, October 16, October 23 and October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 per person, cash only.

Located at 215 Wabasha Street South, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Your crew over the neighborhood haunted house? How about clumsily climbing through a cave so dark you can't remember if your eyes are open? What if the cave was full of bats? And a legendary ghost. Check out my list of 12 Haunted Cave Tours through the U.S.

Lockport Cave in Lockport, New York

Take an hour-and-half candlelit tour while walking along the Erie Canel then touring the Lockport Cave.

Tours:

Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Every day from Wednesday, October 25 to Tuesday, October 31 at 7:00, 7:20 and 7:40 p.m.

Tour starts at 5 Gooding St. in Lockport, that’s about 30 miles northeast from Buffalo, New York. Admission is $17.50 per person and kids must be 8 years to take tour.

Lewisburg Haunted Cave in Ohio

Who wants to tour a limestone cave 80 feet below ground with 30,000 live bats?

Tours:

Fridays: October 6,  October 13, October 20,  and October 27 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 7:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Located at 4392 Swisher Mill Road, Lewisburg, that’s 25 miles west of Dayton, Ohio. Admission Adults $17 and Children 10 and under $8.

Crystal Cave Park in Pennsylvania

Take lantern tour with guides dressed in Victorian clothing as they recount the hauntings in the 1800s.

Tours:

Fridays: October 13,  October 20, and October 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Saturdays: October 14, Saturday, October 21, and October 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Located at 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown, that’s 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Admission for Adults is $20 and kids 8 to 11 is $12. Not recommended for children under 8.

Haunted Cave tours across the U.S.
With haunted caves from across the U.S. find a tour near you. Photo Credit: Pixaby

Lincoln Caverns in Pennsylvania

Take the kids on a haunted cavern tour followed by a haunted hayride.

Tours:

Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20, and October 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21, and October 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Located at 7703 William Penn, Huntingdon, that’s 95 miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Admission $22.98 for adults and $13.98 for kids.

Appalachian Caverns in Tennessee

Take a haunted Halloween tour of the Appalachian Caverns.

Tours:

Fridays: October 6, October 13, October 20 and October 27 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Saturdays: October 7, October 14, October 21 and October 28 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Located at 420 Cave Hill Road, Blountville, that’s about 100 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee

A cave so haunted it terrorized generations of locals. One man even died.

Tours:

Fridays: October 20 and October 27 from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Saturdays: October 7 and October 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 21 and October 28 from noon to midnight.

Sundays: October 8 and October 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 22 and October 29 from noon to 6 p.m.

Located at 430 Keysburg Road, Adams, that’s 42 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. Admission $12 per person. No Children under 2, under 18 must have parental consent.

Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin

Take a tour through a candlelit cave while trick-or-treating for gemstones. A family-friendly cave tour where costumes are encouraged.

Tours:

Thursday, October 26 and Friday, October 27, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Located at 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, that’s 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. Admission for adults $17.95 Children 4 to 12 $9.95 and children under 3 free.

Ledge View Nature Center in Wisconsin

A family-friendly candlelight cave tour, packed with fun and facts.

Tours:

Friday, October 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 21 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Located at W2348 Short Road, Chilton, that’s 76 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for 17 and under, minimum age 5.

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Splish Splash in a Natural Pool in Chickasaw Oklahoma

Explore Chicksaw National Recreation Area as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
Explore the natural pools of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma, with your kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A few hours north of the Dallas and Ft. Worth, I found the Chickasaw National Recreation Area filled with natural pools and scenic mountain vistas. With a recreational lake open for boating, historic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps along with a resident herd of bison, I found a ton of things to do in Sulphur for families.

Things to do in Sulphur with Kids

Explore Chickasaw National Recreation Area as one of the things to do in Sulphur with kids.
Explore the Chickasaw National Recreation Area for family fun in southern Oklahoma. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Sulphur offers oodles of outdoor family fun at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Once Platt National Park, Chickasaw features family hiking trails, swimming in the summer, national park programming and even a herd of bison.

Family Hiking in Chickasaw National Recreation Area

During our visit to Chickasaw National Recreation Area, we hiked on several of the trails. I suggest any of the following.

  • Antelope and Buffalo Springs—a 1.2-mile trail, labeled easy originates from the Travertine Nature Center.
  • Bison Pasture Trail—a 1.9-mile trail labeled moderate originates from the Bison Viewing Area.
  • Flower Park—a .5-mile trail labeled easy originates from the Vendome Well.
  • Travertine Creek Trail—1.5-mile trail labeled easy originates at the Travertine Nature Center.

Swimming in Chickasaw

Your family a fan of natural pools and springs? I found some amazing pools made by manmade dams in Southern Oklahoma's Chickasaw Natural Recreation Area perfect for kids to splash and swim.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area features natural swimming holes that excited my kids. Originally built by the CCC, Chickasaw features manmade dams along Travertine Creek perfect for splashing and wading.

Families can swim in several locations in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, like Lake of the Arbuckles, Veterans Lake, Travertine Creek and Rock Creek. Boating and fishing rules the lakes though kids can splash and even swim in Travertine Creek, near the nature center.

Kids at Chickasaw

Earn a Junior Ranger badge in Chickasaw National Recreation Area as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
Earn a Junior Ranger badge at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Junior Ranger Program offers the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

Our first stop, the Travertine Nature Center, is the place to start with kids. With a creek running under the nature center, the building that resembles Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style architecture.

Explore the Travertine Nature Center in Chickasaw National Recreation Area as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
At the Travertine Nature Center, we found a  large interpretive area with displays and live animals. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My kids loved the interpretive area with live animals. With a live Barn Owl and several native snakes in aquariums, this space offers kids a place to learn. I also found displays on the geologic features of the area.

I picked up a map and the Junior Ranger booklets. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers Junior Ranger programming over the weekends to earn the badge and patch. Take a hike, or if the weather is warm, swim in the natural swimming areas created by CCC-built waterfalls.

Bison Viewing Area

Stop by and see the bison as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
I found a herd of bison in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids love animals so stop at the Bison Viewing Area located off U.S. Route 177, just south of Sulphur. A herd of 10 buffalo roam in Chickasaw Natural Recreation Area.

After several attempts at bison viewing, we caught the bison near twilight in the viewing area, including a couple of baby bison grazing near their mothers.

History of Platt National Park

Explore the Lincoln Bridge as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
My boys climbed all over the Lincoln Bridge in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A little know fact about Sulphur, Oklahoma, it’s home to demoted Platt National Park. It doesn’t happen often, but national parks can loose their designation and it happened to Platt National Park (1906 to 1976).

The Federal Government purchased 33 mineral springs to protect the area from private overdevelopment in 1902 from the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Tourists and bathers flocked to the renamed Sulphur Springs Reservation. At the time in the U.S., hydrotheraphy was fashionable along with Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Stop at Vendome Well as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
Stop by the Vendome Well on the edge of Chickasaw National Recreation Area to see how Sulphur got its name. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

In 1904, the area enlarged and then in 1906 the area was renamed Platt National Park, after Congressman Orville Platt of Connecticut. Early in Platt National Park’s history, attendance at the small park exceeded the visitation at Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks.

In 1976, Platt National Park lost its national park designation and rolled into the newly-formed Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The original Platt National Park area is the Platt Historical District, right outside the town of Sulphur.

Civilian Conservation Corps in Platt National Park

Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, shortly after his inauguration. Nicknamed Roosevelt’s Tree Army, the New Deal program employed 3 million people over the term of the program from 1933 until 1942. In all, 4,500 CCC camps were established to restore or construct national parks, national forests, state and community parks across the country.

Explore Platt Historic District as one of the things to do in Sulphur.
Explore the Platt Historical District in Chickasaw National Recreation Area for Civilian Conservation Corps cabins. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Open to unmarried men from 18 to 25 whose parents were on assistance, participants earned $30 a month with $25 a month sent home. Initial enrollment was for 6 months and could be renewed for 2 years.

Like the work in most CCC projects, Platt National Park’s work is organic with a heavy use of local materials. The CCC constructed the majority of the small dams along the rivers to provide natural swimming areas and built trails, pavilions and bridges.

Lodging and Camping in Sulphur

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center has a hiking trail.
The Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center offers a mile-long hiking trail on the grounds. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit to Sulphur, Oklahoma, my family stayed at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center, located next the the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. With over 1,700 acres to explore, the Chickasaw Retreat offers the ultimate refuge for relaxing and reconnecting as a family.

Located next to the Platt Historical District in Sulphur, The Artisan Hotel offers families refined lodging, steps from all the sights. The original hotel opened in 1906 and included five stories and named after the mineral water found on the property during construction.

After an extensive rebuild in 2010, The Artesian offers visitors and locals a respite of refinement with upscale yet family-friendly dining, mineral bathing and notable spas for adults and kids alike.

For families wanting a rustic getaway, Chickasaw National Recreation Area provides six campgrounds with over 400 sites, some reservable and most seasonal.

Where’s Chickasaw National Recreational Area

Chickasaw National Recreation area features several units. The Platt Historic Unit, right outside of Sulphur, features the Travertine Nature Center and the CCC buildings and swimming area. Arbuckle District offers Lake of the Arbuckles access at each of its three campground areas, Guy Sandy, The Point and Buckhorn. An additional boat is located at Upper Guy Sandy area too.

Chickasaw National Recreation area is 140 miles north of Dallas/Ft. Worth and 75 miles south of Oklahoma City. Located near the town of Sulphur, 12 miles east of Interstate 35.

Details for Chickasaw National Recreational Area

Chickasaw National Recreation Area is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. This area is a fee-free area.

Travertine Nature Center is open every day, except Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and 5:30 p.m. during the summer.

Disclosure:

Consideration for brands listed.

Retreat to Family Fun at Chickasaw Center

 

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center has a hiking trail.
The Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center offers a mile-long hiking trail on the grounds. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

Located steps away from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, formerly the Platt National Park, I found the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center set on top of a bluff in the Arbuckle Mountains. It offers families a secluded area to discover the rolling landscape of South Central Oklahoma.

What I loved at the Chickasaw Retreat 

  • The secluded area allows families to reconnect with each other without roughing it.
  • The hiking path located on the property features superb views of the lake.
  • The Wellness Center offers health club style facilities.

What I wanted at the Chickasaw Retreat 

  • Families always want an outdoor poolscape.
  • More breakfast options, like make-your-own waffles.
  • Real glassware in the rooms along with real creamers for coffee.
Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
The Great Room at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center offers a space to gather and reconnect with your group or family.  Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

The Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center

With over 1,750 acres of secluded mountain top to explore, the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center offers the ideal spot for families to reconnect. The facilities are large but not the crowds. With just 43 rooms on the property, I found a table at the complimentary breakfast and a chaise by the pool.

If traveling with a group of extended family or friends, I found a Great Room on the second floor. With unparalleled views of the mountains from the floor-to-ceiling windows, this space offered seating groups and a central fireplace, gaming table and television. The opportune spot to congregate in the evening.

The Chickasaw Retreat features a guest laundry along with a business center, meeting and conference space.

My Room at Chickasaw Retreat 

During my stay, I enjoyed a Junior Suite with my family. With a spacious room, I found plenty of space for a roll-away or pack-n-play. With neutral walls and modern art, my room exuded calm sophistication.

Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
My family enjoyed an Junior Suite at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.  Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

A large balcony with a pair of chairs allowed for morning coffee, thanks to an in-room Keurig maker with coffee and tea. I found an in-room safe, an alarm clock with a iPhone dock along with charging plugs on all the lamps. The large flat-screen TV sits on top a full-size credenza.

A separate kitchenette provides a small refrigerator, a full-size microwave and a separate sink. Lots of storage, but I didn’t find any dishes. I would have liked to see real glassware and mugs to accompany the deluxe ice bucket.

The work desk at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.
I used the work desk outfitted with extra outlets at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.  Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

My Bathroom at the Chickasaw Retreat

The luxurious bathroom includes a soaking tub for rejuvenating. The stone vanity offers ample space along decorative lighting and upscale toiletries. I found a closet area in the bathroom area along with the ironing board.

The bathroom at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
My bathroom at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center featured a soaking tub and a separate water closet outfitted with a glass-enclosed shower. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

My room included a separate water closet area with a separate glass-enclosed shower with decorative tile work. A family-friendly feature that allows for sink use with a kid in the shower.

The amenities at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center.
Moms always love the amenities in a room, like the Bedrè Chocolates, locally-produced.  Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

Dining at the Chickasaw Retreat

A complimentary continental breakfast buffet is served daily from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily, in the dining room, next to the registration area. During my stay, I found muffins, pastries and cereals along with coffee. Yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and biscuits and gravy were on the buffet along with orange and apple juice. 

Activities at the Chickasaw Retreat 

In a separate building, I found a wellness center that rivals any health club. Equipped with treadmills, stationary bikes and Cybex equipment.

Stay at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center for the Wellness Center.
The Wellness Center at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center offers lots of equipment, a steam room and a sauna. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

After entering an immaculate, modern locker room, I found a separate shower stalls with curtains. Finish getting ready at a vanity lined with sinks and mirrors, outfitted with decorative lighting.

With a steam room and a dry sauna, relaxing comes easy at the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center. I also found the Sole’renity Spa, with services like manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, wraps and waxes.

The indoor pool at Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
My boys, 9 and 12, enjoyed the indoor pool during our trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker 

The indoor pool is a standard rectangle but includes a spa. With the deepest section at 4-feet, kids rule the pool in the evening.

Family Fun in Sulphur Oklahoma

During our visit, we explored the Chickasaw National Recreation Area along with the revitalized downtown Sulphur. With its unique shopping and outdoor activities, like swimming, hiking and boating, my family explored non-stop for our entire weekend away.

Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma, offers over 1,750 acres of mountain views, along with a wellness center.

 

Where’s the Chickasaw Retreat 

Located in South Central Oklahoma 12 miles from Interstate 35 and 87 miles south from Oklahoma City. The address is 4205 Goddard Youth Camp, Sulphur, Oklahoma, the closest town. 

Disclosure:

Consideration for brands mentioned.

Know before you go:

  • Self-park is complimentary.
  • The Pool and Gym are open till midnight.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password, a great feature for tech-savy kids.
  • Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center is a pet-free and smoke-free facility.

Camp in a Cabin that Kids Love in Key Hole State Park Wyoming

A cozy cabin near Devils Tower National Monument.
Sitting on the porch of our cabin in Key Hole State Park, about an hour from Devils Tower National Monument.

Camping in Key Hole State Park

Once you leave the Black Hills area of South Dakota and head west, the lodging and restaurants get a bit sparse. Since I’m traveling with three kids, I’m always looking for cabins instead of roadside motel rooms. After road tripping across the U.S. one thing I’ve learned, kids love cabins.

Key Hole State Park fits the bill, I got a cabin for the kids and it’s 41 miles away from Devils Tower National Monument with easy access off Interstate 90. This location provides a quick 50-minute drive in the morning before the crowds really swarm the popular National Park Service site.

camping in the shadow of Devils Tower National Monument in Key Hole State Park.
Devils Tower National Monument offers families a National Park Service site less than an hour away from Key Hole State Park.

Key Hole State Park features a 14,000-acre reservoir for water recreation with a marina and fishing. I also found 170 camping sites with tables and grills. The playground for the kids offers another feature for families.

What’s in our Cabin

Key Hole State Park surrounds the Keyhole Reservoir and our cabin sits right on the water. The view from the front porch offers Moms a moment to savor the morning sun dancing off the water before the kids wake up.

cabins in Key Hole State Park
The pine paneling and furnishings of our cabin give it a cozy feel that the kids loved though bedding isn’t furnished.

We stayed in Cabin #1, right on the reservoir. It features a pair of bunk beds, a full-size bed, a small table and bench, perfect for a family of four. The interior features pine paneling and all the furnishing are made from peeled pine timber. The beds are outfitted with mattresses only so the kids used their sleeping bags and I brought a fitted sheet and topped with my sleeping bag along with pillows for everyone.

The cabins feature full electricity, so I plugged in all the electronics at once. I found a window unit in the cabins though I didn’t turn it on during our stay in July.

Cabins in Key Hole State Park near Devils Tower in Wyoming.
Kids love cabins as much as kids love bunk beds that I found in Key Hole State Park.

The cabins don’t features indoor plumbing but a potable water spigot was located next to our parking spot.

Restroom Facilities at Key Hole State Park

Let’s talk about the bathrooms for a moment–kids don’t care on vacation but Moms do. And I’ll be honest, the restroom situation wasn’t the best. We stayed for one night so I just dealt with it since the kids loved the cabin and bunk beds. For families staying longer than a night might want to consider this before booking.

I've got your cabin for family fun in Wyoming, near Devils Tower National Monument.

I failed to find a modern restroom next to our cabin (site #1) and we walked to a primitive vault toilet nearby. Meaning a composting toilet without running water and electricity instead of a flush toilet with a sink with running hot water. I prefer modern restrooms with showers and hot water for campgrounds with cabins. I didn’t find a shower in the entire campground.

Without lights in the restrooms, meant I had to load the kids up in the SUV so I could leave the headlights on so we could have light. Luckily, my kids didn’t have to go to the restroom during the middle of the night.

The carful of kids brushed their teeth at the outside water spigot and I put my hair up in a ponytail and washed my face with cold water. I’ll take a hot shower at the next place.

To sum it up, I love the cozy cabin with its amazing view of the Key Hole Reservoir. But the restroom situation could be an issue for some Moms.

Wyoming offers lots of National Park Service sites in Wyoming.
The big sky and popular National Park Service sites, like Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Devils Tower lure us to Wyoming.

Where’s Key Hole State Park

Key Hole State Park is located at 22 Marina Road, 16 miles from Moorcroft, Wyoming. A quick 20-mile drive to Devils Tower National Monument offering families a national park service site along with a lake view.

The cabins cost $57 a night but I paid an additional $50 refundable deposit. I reserved my cabin in advance and cabins are reservable from May 15 to September 15. No minimum night stay required for the cabins, a convenient feature.

Take the Kids to See the Devil in Wyoming

Devils Tower National Monument for families in Wyoming.
Add Devils Tower National Monument to your Wyoming road trip itinerary.

The carful of kids spent several days exploring the Black Hills area of South Dakota and the national parks of South Dakota, like Mount Rushmore, the Badlands National Park and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Devils Tower National Monument, about 110 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota, offers another must-do National Park Service site for families in neighboring Wyoming.

Devils Tower topped my bucket list since first I saw the monument in the 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s an eery site, a stone tower jutting out of a grassy plain and I see why Steven Spielberg choose this spot as a UFO landing site.

History of Devils Tower National Monument

A laccolithic butte of igneous rock sits in the Bear Lodge Mountains of the Black Hills. Devils Tower stands 1,268 feet above the nearby Belle Fourche River.

Hike the Tower Trail at Devils Tower National Monument.
The Native American prayer clothes hang from tree branches on the Tower Trail.

Sacred to Native Americans in the area, its native name of Bear Lodge was misinterpreted by explorers to Bad God’s Tower. Bad God’s Tower became Devils Tower when the monument was named.

Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the National Park Service’s first national monument in  1906. It offers one of the premier traditional crack climbing area in North America. Though most ascents take four to six hours, the fastest climb was completed in 18 minutes.

What to do in 2 Hours at Devils Tower

Devils Tower National Monument offers an iconic destination for families. You can spend all day or you can check it out in a couple of hours, depending on your itinerary.

Explore Devils Tower National Monument with your family.
Hiking the Tower Trail offers families great views and an easy paved path at Devils Tower National Monument.

If limited on time, stop by the Visitor Center and attend a Ranger Talk if available. Then hike the Tower Trail. On the way out of the park, check out the Prairie Dog Village.

Kids at Devils Tower

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

Earn a Junior Ranger Badge at Devils Tower National Monument
Taking the Junior Ranger Oath after completing their booklets, attending a Ranger Talk and taking a hike.

We stopped by the Visitor Center to pick up our Junior Ranger Booklets and sat down for a Ranger Talk, a requirement to earn the collectible badge. A volunteer ranger and school teacher explained how to climb Devils Tower and she showed our group climbing equipment. My boys were mentally prepared to climb the 1,200-foot high rock, too bad we hiked instead.

Hiking with Kids at Devils Tower

Hiking is my go-to activity for families in National Park Service Sites. Devil Tower offers several hikes for families.

  • Tower Trail, a 1.3 mile paved loop that encircles the Devils Tower, features Native American prayer clothes tied to the trees and shrubs. It starts a short way from the Visitor Center.
  • Red Beds Trail offers a 2.8-mile loop for views of Devils Tower.
  • Joyner Ridge Trail, a 1.5-mile loop offers a less crowded trail at the edge of the park.
  • South Side/Valley View Trails, a .6-mile trail that takes families to the Prairie Dog Town.

Explore Devils Tower National Monument in eastern Wyoming, about an hour from South Dakota's Black Hills, for family-friendly hiking and a prairie dog town.

Prairie Dog Town

On the way out of the park, we stopped at the Prairie Dog Town, right inside the entrance gates. The kids loved watching them duck into their tunnel system. Listen for their tiny barks as they communicate to each other. Don’t touch or feed them even though they’re super cute.

The prairie dogs of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
Kids love animals so stop by the Prairie Dog Town in Devils Tower National Monument.

Camping at Devils Tower

Devils Tower features a 50-site campground open from May until October. The Belle Fourche River campground offers potable water though no hookups.

During my visit to Devils Tower National Monument, I found a nearby camping cabin at the Key Hole State Park, 41 miles away from Devils Tower, a quick 50-minute drive. Our cabin featured full electricity, but the potable water is outside at the spigot and no indoor plumping.

A cozy cabin near Devils Tower National Monument.
Sitting on the porch of our cabin in Key Hole State Park, about an hour for Devils Tower National Monument.

Where’s Devils Tower

Located 33 miles northeast of Moorcraft, Wyoming, or 27 miles northwest of Sundance, Wyoming, on Wyoming Highway 24,  Devils Tower is open 24 hours a day, closed Christmas and New Years Day. The Visitors Center opens from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer season and opens from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the rest of the year.

Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $15 per vehicle to explore the monument.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Devils Tower is a popular destination and I found limited parking at the base of the tower.
  • I found a line for the entrance during the summer season.
  • Don’t feed the Prairie Dogs. They carry Tularemia, a bacterial disease.

 

Launch a Missile with the Kids in South Dakota

Explore the Minuteman Missile Site for Cold War History in South Dakota
At the Delta-Nine Launch Facility, I found a de-activated missile within sight of Interstate 90 in South Dakota.

Why tour a Missile Site

Under the swaying grass of the South Dakota plains, 1,000 missiles stood on constant alert for 30 years. Used as a deterrent in the Cold War against Russia, a pair of missileers living 30 feet underground were a command away from launching a missile that could destroy civilization on another continent.

After an arms reduction in the 1990s, the National Park Service opened a site dedicated to the Cold War. The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a decommissioned missile field next to Badlands National Park.

History of the Minuteman Missile

During the late 1950s, the Minuteman I missile was developed as an Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It provided an improvement in technology from the previous generation of ICBM’s, the Titan Missile.

The Titan Missile, the first-generation ICBM’s, required a lengthy and potentially dangerous launch sequence with larger underground silos. The Minuteman missiles offered solid-state fuel, a more stable option, and smaller, more efficient underground silos.

Explore the Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota.
Hidden in plain sight, the Delta-One Launch Control Facility sits on top of a underground bunker where missileers stand on constant ready.

Over the years, the Minuteman II missiles replaced the Minuteman I until their retirement after the START—Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991. And today, Minuteman III missiles still stand guard against nuclear attack.

What to do in 2 hours

The Black Hills of South Dakota offers plenty of family adventure so if you are short on time. I suggest starting at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center to learn about the Cold War and the Minuteman missile program. Then drive to the Delta-Nine Launch Facility, or missile silo, to see a deactivated missile all hidden in plain sight along Interstate 90.

Explore the defense systems of the Cold War at the Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota.
The Delta-Nine Launch Facility, or missile silo, offers families with limited time a look at a deactivated Minuteman missile.

The Delta-One Launch Control Facility is an industrial-looking complex that’s locked at all times. And doesn’t offer much above ground unless you have a ticket to the underground tour so skip it if limited on time.

Delta-One Launch Control Facility Tour

 As a former flight crew member, this tour tops my list of interesting National Park Sites I’ve visited over the years. An under-the-radar tour, my family secured tickets to look into a classified world from 30 years ago.

Exploring the Minuteman Missile Site with a family.
I wanted to see some red phones in the Delta-One facility.

After driving and parking in a gravel parking lot, my family, including three kids, waited for the special missileer ranger to arrive. After unlocking the gate on the razor-wired fence, we walked to the unassuming building in plain sight of Interstate 90.

The upper portion of the facility houses a kitchen area, living area and security area. This area provided back-up generators and environmental systems for the underground facility.

Explore the underground facility at the Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota.
Hard to believe but launched Minuteman missiles could reach their target across the world in 30 minutes.

In all, eight Air Force personnel, based out of the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base, worked on the topside of the Delta-One facility. A cook, a facility manager and six security personnel worked three days on and three days off, keeping the Delta-One facility secure for the two missileers located underground.

In a small elevator, we descended 31-feet before unloading in view of the 8-ton blast door. Behind the door, that can only be opened from inside, we entered a small self-contained living space.

exploring the underground Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota
We entered the underground bunker through the 8-ton blast door.

For 24-hours shifts, two missileers watched and waited for a launch command that never came. In addition to standing on the ready, missileers oversaw the maintenance of the launch facility and authenticated messages.

Exploring the Delta-One facility at the Minuteman Missile Site in South Dakota.
The underground facility could support life for 30 days after a nearby attack once the doors were locked.

During our tour, our special missileer ranger walked us through a mock launch that had this kid of the Cold War ready to duck-and-cover. The tour was gripping and eery in a way that only history can haunt your idle thoughts.

Exploring the unground Delta-One facility at the Minuteman Missile site in South Dakota.
With an aviation seat equipped with a harness and strapped to the floor, a missileer watched and waited for a call that never came.

 

Kids at Minuteman Missile Site

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

Explore the Minuteman Missile Site to learn about the Cold War.
We waited outside the fence for the park ranger giving the tour at the Delta-One facility.

The Minuteman Missile Site offers three different programs for kids, depending on age, and a tour of the underground facility is not necessary. The booklet can be downloaded and mailed back to the visitor center for a ranger to look over and send the earned badges back to your kids too.

The underground tour is an effective history lesson though the subject matter might be frightening for some kids. At the time of the tour, my son was barely old enough to attend.

Take the family 30-feet underground to a classified world from the Cold War, where two missileers waited and watched for a launch command that never came.

Lodging and Food Service

The Minuteman Missile Site is a day-use park. Wall, South Dakota offers the closest restaurants and lodging. Stop off at Wall Drug Store for a café and unique roadside attraction, 21 miles west. Badlands National Park offers cabins within the park and the eastern entrance is 5 miles south of the Minuteman Missile site.

Where’s the Minuteman Missile Site

Minuteman Missile National Historical Site opens from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1. The visitor center is free along with the Delta Nine Launch Facility.

I found three separate facilities for the the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Start at the Visitor Center located at 24545 Cottonwood Road, Phillips, South Dakota, at exit 131 off Interstate 90. To tour the Delta-Nine Launch Facility or Missile Silo, use exit 116 off of Interstate 90. For tour ticket holders, the Delta-One Launch Control Facility is off Interstate 90 at exit 127.

Reserve tickets in advance for the Delta-One underground tour. Adult admission is $6 and kids 6 to 16 are $4 with two tours daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with more scheduled during the summer. 

Know Before you go:

  • Kids under 6 and under 40″ tall are prohibited on the Delta-One underground facility tour.
  • Only 6 people allowed on a Delta-One tour due to the limited space.
  • Delta-One visitors must be willing to climb two 15-foot ladders unassisted in case of emergency.

 

Stop and Hit the Wall Drug in South Dakota

Consideration for brands mentioned.

Enjoy a fresh donut at Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.
Yes, Wall Drug Store in South Dakota sells fresh maple donuts. Pull the car over and grab one while they’re hot.

Few road trip attractions can beat a drug store in South Dakota. Seriously, Wall Drug tops my list for ultimate road trip stops for everyone, not just the kids.

From my house in Central Texas, I drove 1,154 miles to stop for a buffalo burger at Wall Drug, thanks to the built-in app in their website that calculates the mileage. It’s hard to pass up Wall Drug with their billboards dotting the interstates across the entire Midwest. And really, don’t. It’s an iconic roadside attraction and the place to grab a glass of their free ice water and stretch those road-weary legs.

Wall Drug is South Dakota's Badlands and Black Hills offers family fun.
Stop by the Apothecary storefront at Wall Drug for a step back in time.

History of Wall Drug Store

In 1931, Dorothy and Ted Hunstead opened the only drugstore in a speck of a town, Wall, South Dakota. After five years of struggling to get the business off the ground, the Hunstead family needed customers to walk through the door.

Then one hot, dusty afternoon, Dorothy decided to put up signs along the highway to Badlands National Park offering Free Ice Water. It worked, visitors started walking through their doors for a cool drink and found all the stuff they forgot to pack.

A stop at Wall Drug in South Dakota is a must for a road trip.
Need some boots? Wall Drug sells boots, western belts and bags along with cowboy hats in all sizes for the family.

Wall Drug Store Today

The Hunstead Family still offers free ice water, 5¢ self-serve coffee and a free bumper sticker. But today, Wall Drug is one of the top attractions in South Dakota.

A rambling space that covers a city block features sundries and souvenirs along with specialty clothing, like boots, leather goods and cowboy hats. Spend an hour or half-the-day, be arrive early, Wall Drug shutters the doors around 5 p.m. most days.

Stop by South Dakota's Wall Drug on your road trip.
Need a cup of coffee? Wall Drug offers self-serve 5¢ coffee, cash only.

Eat at Wall Drug

In addition to the free water and the 5¢ coffee, I stop at Wall Drug to eat. It tops my list when road tripping across South Dakota on Interstate 90 for its authentic charm. With over 500 seats, getting a table won’t be a problem either.

With the largest privately-owned collection of western art and illustration in U.S. hanging on the knotty-pine walls of the dining room, I sat down at a marble-topped table with my menu. The choice for me was obvious, a Buffalo Burger, with locally-sourced South Dakota bison.

Stop by Wall Drug in South Dakota for family fun and food.
The locally-sourced Buffalo burger and onion rings is perfect after a day of driving or exploring.

I always try to eat the iconic food of a destination, like the South Dakota buffalo burger. But for kids and less adventurous eaters, I found a menu full of all-American favorites.

Family Fun at Wall Drug

Don’t miss the backyard for all the photo ops. Sitting on the giant jackalope can’t be beat for cute kid pictures and the miniature Mount Rushmore sculpture is close enough to touch.

Hop on the Jackalope at Wall Drug in South Dakota.
Kids and Moms love the Jacklope in the backyard of Wall Drug in South Dakota.

The enormous T. Rex, similar to the one found in Badlands National Park, roars to life ever few minutes. Kids can mine or pan for treasure or try their hand at the shooting gallery.

During the summer, take off the shoes and run through the backyard splash pad.

Wall Drug in South Dakota features a replica of Mount Rushmore.
Get a picture of the kids with the presidents at Wall Drug.

Shopping at Wall Drug

I dare anyone to find a place with more shopping in Wall, South Dakota. I found Black Hills gold, silver and turquoise jewelry. Along a wall of lined with cowboy boots, I spotted boots for everyone, even hard-to-find kids sizes. Add a hat and a handbag and complete the western outfit.

Camping in one of South Dakota’s five national parks? I found a stocked camping store. I love my vintage-looking enamelware and Wall Drug sells tons of different colors and unique serving pieces.

Wall Drug Store along Interstate 90 in South Dakota supplies everything a traveler forgot at home and a cafe packed with burgers and donuts.

Wall Drug supplies all the South Dakota souvenirs anyone could need. If they don’t carry it, it wasn’t made.

More Reasons to Stop at Wall Drug

The Western art collection in Wall Drug should not be missed. Gracing the knotty-pine walls, I found over 300 pieces of original art, especially western oil landscapes. Including two pieces painted by the Mount Rushmore architect, Gutzon Borglum. In all, the art collection is worth more than $3 million.

Need a place for quiet reflection? I found a peaceful Traveler’s Chapel. The Pharmacy Museum offers a quaint look at the apothecary storefront from years ago.

A stop by Wall Drug in South Dakota is a must for your road trip.
Wall Drug features over 300 pieces of original Western art and sculptures.

The stuffed and mounted animal heads excite the animal spotters. The kids pose for pictures with wood-carved cowboys.

Where’s Wall Drug Store:

Wall Drug Store is located at 510 Main Street, off Interstate 90 exits 109 and 110, near Badlands National Park. It is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For the Café, it’s open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Nearby Attractions:

Though free ice water is great, you must be on your way to somewhere. I suggest spending a few days in the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota discovering their parks.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Badlands National Park

Wind Caves National Park

Jewel Caves National Monument

Custer State Park

 

 

 

Explore Scotts Bluff National Monument for Family Fun

 

Visit Scotts Bluff National Monument with kids for Pioneer History.
Scotts Bluff in Western Nebraska marked the end of the plains for pioneers on the Oregon Trail. Photo Credit: NPS

On a quest to see the lower 48, the carful of kids drive on to Jasper National Park in Canada from our home in Central Texas. Our most recent stop included an Old West shoot-out in Dodge City, Kansas. And before that, we explored Lawton, Oklahoma, to learn about the Comanche people.

Waking up in Kansas, Scotts Bluff National Monument lies just beyond the horizon in Nebraska. A new state for us and that’s the point of our quest, to explore the new states.

A road trip stop in Nebraska, Scotts Bluff National Monument.
A new state, Nebraska, offers miles of crops and a national monument.

This area of the U.S. does NOT offer a north/south interstate to jump on and speed things up. I would have to drive west to Denver to catch I-25. So far, we seen miles of crops dotted with occasional road construction while driving through the midwest.

Scotts Bluff

Scotts Bluff National Monument rises 800 feet above the North Platte River, located nearby. It offers a notable natural feature along the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails. All pioneer trails that passed through this area.

Visit Scotts Bluff National monument to learn about the Oregon Trail.
At the entrance of Scotts Bluff National Monument, we stop for a picture, a family tradition.

Named after a fur pelt clerk, Hiram Scott was an employee of the American Fur Company. He died in the area under a cloud of mystery.

History of Scotts Bluff  

Scotts Bluff stood as a natural landmark since the beginning. The first human traces found in this area date back 10,000 years. The Pawnee and Kansa people, among others, set up semi-permanent villages next.

Visit Scotts Bluff with kids in Nebraska.
Scotts Bluff sits along several pioneer trails, like the Oregon Trail.

The European explorers and fur traders used this route along the North Platte River to travel between St. Louis, Missouri, and the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Coast. Hunting and trapping the valuable beaver, the pelts exuded luxury in the 1800s.

Starting in 1836, emigrants traveled west along the Oregon Trail. When they reached Oregon, they received 320 acres of farmland. In 1847, Brigham Young lead the first Mormon wagon train to Utah.

The Pony Express rode this route from 1860-1861 to transport mail between Sacramento, California, and Saint Joseph, Missouri. The transcontinental railroad linked the coasts in 1869.

In 1919, the area was designated a national monument.

Scotts Bluff Summit

Hop aboard the free Summit Shuttle if your vehicle is prohibited on Summit Road. The driver will share the significance of this monument during the 7 to 10 minute drive.

Visit the Scotts Bluff Summit with the kids.
Scotts Bluff Summit is a must with kids if you have time, a quick 10-minute drive from the Visitor Center.

Completed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Summit Road features the only three tunnels in Nebraska. And kids always love tunnels.

At the top of the bluff, we found hiking trails and vast views in every direction.

What to do with kids at Scotts Bluff

At the Visitor Center we picked up our Junior Ranger Badges and walked through the interpretive area. I found exhibits depicting the migration of 250,000 American pioneers that passed through this area from 1843 to 1869. The Visitor Center features a short film too.

Hike on top of the Scotts Bluff Summit for family fun
The interpretive signs at the summit tell us what’s on the horizon.

If time and weather allows, I always include a hike when we explore a new national park site. So we drive up Summit Road to Scotts Summit to take a short family-friendly hike.

Next the Visitor Center I found a living history area with covered wagons. This area helps the kids understand the journey on the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. On most Saturdays, costumed interpretive rangers explain the history of the area.

Hiking in Scotts Bluff

Hiking gives families a chance to explore the summit or take a one-way hike back to the Visitor Center. During our visit, we hiked around the summit that features parking but no restrooms or picnic tables.

  • North Overlook Trail is a paved .5-mile loop. Moderate.
  • South Overlook Trail is a paved .4-mile loop. Easy.
  • Saddle Rock Trail is a 1.6-mile hike, one way, from the summit area to the Visitor Center, includes steep grades and sharp turns. Difficult.

Got a road trip stop for your family in western Nebraska.

Where to Eat

Scotts Bluff National Monument offers a vending machine for drinks and a water fountain with a bottle filler. The monument doesn’t offer food service.

When road tripping and visiting national parks, I always pack meals when we are away from towns. The carful of kids found three covered picnic tables near the Visitor Center and pulled out the cold-cuts for a picnic dinner.

Where’s Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument located at 190276 Old Oregon Trail in Gering, Nebraska, on the western border. Open from sunrise to sunset. The admission is $5 per car or purchase an America The Beautiful National Park Pass for $80 if visiting several national park sites.

An ideal road trip stop when driving to the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave, and Custer State Park.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Summit Road is narrow and includes three tunnels. Vehicles longer that 25 feet and taller than 11’7” are prohibited.
  • Trailers are prohibited on Summit Road.
  • Summit Road remains open year-round, though closed Christmas Day (December 25) and New Years Day (January 1).
  • Summit Road opens from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer season and closes at 5 p.m. during the rest of the year.
  • Cyclists can use Summit Road after the daily closure until sunset.

Get the Heck into Dodge City with the Kids

Dodge City Kansas and Boot Hill museum tops the list for family fun.
Boot Hill Museum tops the list for family fun in Dodge City, Kansas. Once an Old West cow town overflowing with cattle rustlers and gamblers, now offers kids a taste of western adventure.

As a child of the 80s, National Lampoon’s Vacation, with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, put Dodge City, Kansas, on my to-do list. So years later, here I am with my carful of kids ready for fun.

The Boot Hill Museum

The Boot Hill Museum in the middle of Dodge City, Kansas, offers the ultimate stop for adventure-loving boys. The Old West came alive for the carful of kids with stagecoaches, saloons, old schoolhouses and scraggly characters.

Dodge City's Boot Hill Jail is a must for families when road tripping.
This Mom loves to put the kids in jail at the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas.

For the carful of kids, the real draw starts in the saloon. When dusty cowboys ride into town looking for some fun, misunderstandings are moments away.

A hungry cowboy looks at a barmaid wrong and the barkeep throws him out the swinging doors. The next thing I know, the carful of kids hear a a couple of pops. Our heads turn and we are in the middle of a Dodge City gun fight, dust cloud included. The eyes of my boys pop out of their heads.

Stop at the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas, for an Old West shootout.
The pretty barmaids cause a ruckus at the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas.

Offered twice daily during the summer season, the gunfight offers families a front row seat for Old West adventure. I had my doubts but the action had my carful of kids on the edge of their seats. Thanks to their Nerf guns, my boys relived the action in our backyard after our trip.

As we meandered through the rest of Dodge City’s restored buildings, the creak of the wood floors took us back in time. I found more than 60,000 antiques that date back to the 1870s and collected from Dodge City residents. Don’t forget to hop abroad the stagecoach for an authentic frontier road trip experience.

History of Dodge City

Dodge City represents the Wild West for most Americans, and named after nearby Fort Dodge. In 1865 as the Indian Wars intensified, the U.S. Army constructed the fort, near the Santa Fe Trail, used for cattle drives.

Hop abroad the Stagecoach at Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas.
Not our next road tripping vehicle! The motion of the stagecoach actually made my youngest a little nauseous. Can’t imagine a real trip across the frontier in one.

Dodge City became a boom town after a Texas Longhorn quarantine pushed the cattle drives west. At the intersection of the Santa Fe Trail, the Chisholm Trail and the Western Trail, Dodge City collected cowboys and cattle rustlers alike.

Gambler-turned-lawman Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson tried to keep the town in order. Yet Dodge City’s reputation as a wild frontier town, made it a legend. The name Boot Hill Museum originated after the Boot Hill Cemetery, where outlaws that died with their boots on are buried.

Head to Dodge City, Kansas, for road trip fun with the family, a summertime shoot-out  tops the list for my boys.

Other Dodge City Sites

I found a bronze sculpture dedicated to the Texas cattle drives, El Capitan, at Second Avenue and West Wyatt Earp Boulevard. The 100th Meridian Marker offers another interesting road trip stop at 1105 East Wyatt Earp Boulevard.

If you have a bit more time, the Historic Dodge City Trolley Tours hits all the stops around town. Admission charged.

Dodge City Kansas offers family fun at Boot Hill Museum.
Climb abroad the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Steam Engine parked in front of the Boot Hill Museum for your train kids.

Know before you go:

  • I purchased the Family Pack that includes admission for two adults and two kids ages 17 and under for $42. This includes admission to the museum, an introductory video and the summertime shoot-out. Otherwise, adult admission is $12 and kids admission, 5 to 10, is $9 along with a senior discount (65+).
  • Boot Hill Museum features a variety show and a country-style dinner for an additional charge.
  • Boot Hill Museum, located at 500 W. Watt Earp Blvd, opens from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Open at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year.
  • Be there for the daily shoot-out at noon and 7 p.m. during the summer season.