What could otherwise be a boring highway that runs from one side of the country to the other has thankfully been turned in a weird wonderland for those traveling the distance. While the stretch of I-90 features attractions everyone knows and loves: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands National Park, and Black Hills National Forest, it’s also home to many less conventional roadside stops.
Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD
Over 100 years ago, the World’s Only Corn Palace came into being as a place where residents of Mitchell, South Dakota could gather to enjoy a fall festival each year. After three different iterations, it’s now become one of nation’s premier tourist attractions. More than half a million visitors stop annually to gawk at the “agricultural show-place of the world,” each year a different theme is picked and a new mural made entirely out of different types of corn (currently they use 13 colors) is displayed. The decorating process usually starts near the end of May, and the new ones are completed by the beginning of October. In August, the Corn Palace Festival takes place, offering carnival rides, food, and live entertainment.
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
A drugstore might not be the first thing that comes to mind in terms of a landmark, but when you take into account the backstory Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, it makes a little more sense. In an effort to bring in customers during the Depression, the Hustead’s offered free ice water as an incentive. Apparently it worked because over 50 years later, Wall Drug draws up to twenty thousand people on a good summer day, and has become one of the world’s most well-known tourist stops–and yes, the ice water is still free!
1880 Town, Midland, SD
Despite its name, 1880 Town was actually created in the 1970s after a movie set in the 1880s was filmed in a nearby town using Clarence Hullinger’s antiques as props. Once the filming stopped, the movie company offered Hullinger the “main street” set as payment for the antiques and the rest is history. Coupled with relics found over years of searching, 1880 Town boasts a barn from 1919, in addition to many more buildings from the 1880s through 1920s, all authentically furnished with relics and photographs. Aside from the acres of rolling prairie and livestock, you can take a visit to the Casey Tibbs Museum, a tribute to the 9-time World Champion Rodeo Cowboy, relive your Kevin Costner dreams with props from Dances with Wolves, and travel a bit closer in time with the 1950s-themed train diner on-site.
Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
Porter Sculpture Park is the brainchild of Wayne Porter, who learned ironworking from his dad. The sculpture park features dozens of creations–from the 60-foot-tall “Bull’s Head,” which has become a landmark along I-90, to a giant pink rocking horse, and some sculptures that seem to defy description. The interactive park (visitors are encouraged to touch and personally experience the art) is open daily from Memorial Day through mid-September, and is pet friendly to boot.
Storybook Island, Rapid City, SD
For everyone who has ever wanted to live inside a fairy tale, Storybook Island is a dream come true. The admission-free theme park features over 100 fairy-tale and story-book sets, including Winnie the Pooh, Raggedy Ann, and of course, Cinderella. You can take a train ride through the land and even watch your favorite characters come to live with productions by the Storybook Island Children’s Theater (though admission to the theater is a whopping $1.) The park is open 7 days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day.