WALL DRUG - WALL, SOUTH DAKOTA
Yeah, it's a tourist trap... but a darn good one!
- Wall, SD - DO IT FOR THE KIDS!
Take I-90 exit 110 and follow the signs.
The phrase "tourist trap" is not often used in a complimentary manner, however Wall Drug has taken the concept to heights never before seen... creating a "tourist oasis" in the middle of the South Dakota Prairie. Wall Drug is a wonderful story of American entrepreneurship. Looking for a way to attract business in the 30's, Ted Hustead acted upon his wifeís suggestion to offer free ice water to hot, thirsty motorists traveling cross-country in their un-air-conditioned vehicles. The idea worked and opened a floodgate of ideas designed to attract tourists which continues to this day. Today you will find a giant snorting smoke-belching Tyrannosaurus Rex, the performing faux-cowboys called the Chuck Wagon Four, a miniature Mount Rushmore photo opportunity (your family provides the faces), a travelerís chapel, a restaurant, a huge fiberglass jackalope, an animated Indian village... and thatís just a few. There are seemingly endless gift shops filled with overpriced, yet irresistible souvenirs from rattlesnake ash trays to stuffed jackalopes to Wall Drug toothpick holders. The kids will love the novelties, the shopping, the fiberglass animals and the animated singing mannequins... and admit it, you like that kind of stuff a little bit too, donít you? Wall Drug is also known for its creative advertising, the famous road signs. Although highway beautification laws have eliminated most of these signs, they are still alive and well across the highways of South Dakota. We had the breakfast buffet at the Wall Drug Cafť in the middle of the complex. Even at 8 AM, it was very crowded. The food was OK. They have all the usual breakfast fare... bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage gravy and biscuits, etc. The breakfast buffet is $6.95 per person plus beverage. Donuts and a few other items are extra. Our bill came to about $36 for the four of us. Wall Drug does not charge admission, but again, the souvenirs and food are quite expensive. Ice water and one bumper sticker are free. Also, the staged photo opportunities are free. We visited late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning and it was extremely crowded both times. I can only imagine what the crowds are like in the middle of the day. Parking is also at a premium, although we were fortunate enough to park in front of the building both times. On-street parking is available, but difficult to find a spot. Downtown Wall (population 800) has a few parking lots meant for Wall Drug patrons, and if you canít find a spot on the street, you might have a short hike from one of these lots. We spent the night at Super 8 in Wall. It was expensive by Super 8 standards (~$80), and the quality was low for a Super 8 (a tad run-down, no pool, not enough parking, bad floor layout, surly front desk person). If you are just passing through, cheaper and more abundant lodging is available in Rapid City, 50 miles to the west. If youíre traveling 1-90 with kids... sure... why not spend an hour at Wall Drug. Itís no problem at all getting off and on I-90. Wall Drug is not culturally, spiritually nor intellectually enriching, but hey... itís kinda fun and youíll never forget it.
We visited Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning in July, 2002
Weather: Warm and pleasant evening and sunny, pleasant morning
Read my South Dakota Reviews on epinions.com:
|Click on thumbnails to the right for larger image.|
|Photos top to bottom:|
|1. Wall Drug Front|
|3. Jackalopes for sale|
|4. Tyrannosaurus Rex|
|5, 6. Traveler's Chapel|
|7. Fiberglass Jackalope|