Vacation fun close to home
Sometimes, you just need to escape for a few days.
Sure, the traditional family vacation is great if you can carve a week or two out of your work schedule and cobble plans together. But quick trips can be both less taxing and less expensive. And there are plenty of events worth checking out for folks who are willing to hop in the car and drive for a few hours to find fun.
Once the snow flies, traveling the Dakotas can be treacherous. But before then, why not consider making one or more of these five simple weekend road trips that offer a variety of entertainment options and are no more than a half-day’s drive (give or take) away from Aberdeen.
Saturday and July 14, Brookings: The Brookings Summer Arts Festival is a big summer lure for this eastern South Dakota town. It’s akin to Aberdeen’s Arts in the Park, attracting some 200 artists from across the nation who represent 17 disciplines of art.
Over two days, the festival draws about 75,000 attendees, according to organizers. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 14 at Pioneer Park.
The Children’s Museum of South Dakota is also worth a visit, appealing to both kids and adults. It has hands-on displays, an outdoor campus, a music room and Mama T., a 25-foot long, 60-foot tall animatronic dinosaur that attracts attention when she roars.
New to the museum is a pond that features fish that are authentic to the region.
Need food suggestions? Try Cook’s Kitchen for breakfast, Nick’s Hamburger Shop for lunch and the Pheasant for an upscale evening meal.
July 19-20, Watertown: The Cookin’ on Kampeska Wing Fling and BBQ Thing combines food, music, the great outdoors and more.
The event includes a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned barbecue cookoff, salsa showdown, chicken wing-eating contest, volleyball tournament, water ski show, children’s inflatables, 1-mile, 5K and 10K runs and live music.
Make sure you pack your swimming gear in case you want to hop in Lake Kampeska for a dip. And you could always stop by the Bramble Park Zoo or the Redlin Art Center.
All Cookin’ on Kampeska events are at the Stokes-Thomas City Park on the shores of the lake. Admission is $5 per day for everybody older than 5.
Information: watertownsd.com. Click on the “Calendar” link on the right side of the page.
Aug. 2-4, Medora, N.D./Theodore Roosevelt National Park: There’s plenty to do in the Medora area all summer long. Next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it’s a hugely popular tourist destination with many entertainment options. The best known is likely the nightly Medora Musical. Dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt and the time he spent in the North Dakota Badlands, it begins at 7:30 p.m.
On weekends, visitors can check out “Recollections of Murder and Mayhem” at 11:30 a.m. at the Museum Theater. And the nightly Pitchfork Steak Fondue and Cowboy Cookout offers a good meal option at the end of a busy day.
There are plenty of other attractions in or near Medora, including the national park, which offers trail rides, camping options, wildlife viewing and the beautiful Badlands of North Dakota.
Aug. 22-24, Mitchell/Freeman: The Corn Palace Festival always draws a crowd to Mitchell and offers a carnival, vendors and four days of entertainment. This year’s best bet is country legend Dwight Yoakam, who takes the Corn Palace stage at 7 p.m. Aug. 22.
Other acts booked to play the festival include comedian Terry Fator, Craig Morgan and Gloriana, Sherwin Linton and the Happy Together Tour.
As long as you’re in the area, sneak down to Freeman and catch an independence performance of “The Odd Couple,” which shows at 7 p.m. July 22, 23 and 24 at the Freeman Community Center.
And while you’re in town, make sure to stop at a local cafe for an order of chislic, a snack the locals claim as their own. Be warned: The folks in Freeman will tell you real chislic is made with lamb meat, not beef.
Sept. 20-22, Deadwood/Black Hills: Bookworms should consider an early fall visit to Deadwood for the South Dakota Festival of Books. Among the authors featured will be U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser, best known for “Lights on a Ground of Darkness.” He’ll appear with four-time Pushcart Prize winner Naomi Shihab Nye.
Some of the other authors slated for this year’s event include Peter Heller (“The Dog Stars”), C.J. Box (“Breaking Point”), David Treuer (“Rez Life”) and Walter Dean Myers (“Monster”).
Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda of The Washington Post is scheduled to share his insights into the publishing industry.
The South Dakota Humanities Council presents the annual festival, which attracts notable authors to the state. There is a charge for some sessions, while others are free.
Information, including registration: sdbookfestival.com.
And there is, of course, plenty else to do in the Black Hills, ranging from playing cards in Deadwood to checking out the fall foliage in Spearfish Canyon and spending a relaxing afternoon at Sylvan Lake.
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