18 days in South Dakota, North Dakota & Iowa Itinerary

Created using Inspirock United States travel planner
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Make it your trip
Fly
1
Rapid City
— 4 nights
Drive
2
Bismarck
— 2 nights
Drive
3
Fargo
— 2 nights
Fly
4
Dubuque
— 3 nights
Drive
5
Des Moines
— 3 nights
Drive
6
Council Bluffs
— 3 nights
Fly

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Rapid City — 4 nights

Gateway to the Black Hills

South Dakota's second-largest city, Rapid City has for many years served as a gateway to the West.
Venture out of the city with trips to Crazy Horse Memorial (in Crazy Horse), Custer (Sylvan Lake, Needles Eye Tunnel, &more) and Keystone (Dahl's Chainsaw Art, Presidential Trail, &more). There's much more to do: learn about wildlife with up-close encounters at Reptile Gardens, wander the streets of Downtown Rapid City, look for all kinds of wild species at Bear Country USA, and take in the exciting artwork at Suzie Cappa Art Center.

To find photos, maps, more things to do, and more tourist information, refer to the Rapid City trip planner.

San Francisco to Rapid City is an approximately 4.5-hour flight. You can also drive; or do a combination of subway, train, and bus. Traveling from San Francisco to Rapid City, you'll lose 1 hour due to the time zone difference. When traveling from San Francisco in November, plan for little chillier days and colder nights in Rapid City: temperatures range from 48°F by day to 28°F at night. Cap off your sightseeing on the 2nd (Fri) early enough to go by car to Bismarck.
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Parks · Nature · Outdoors · Scenic Drive
Side Trips

Bismarck — 2 nights

Bismarck is the capital of the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Burleigh County. Start off your visit on the 3rd (Sat): contemplate the waterfront views at Missouri River, engage your brain at Gateway to Science, then let little ones run wild at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, and finally grab your bike and head to Keelboat Park. Here are some ideas for day two: get engrossed in the history at North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, then appreciate the history behind Buffalo Statue, then sample the tasty concoctions at Laughing Sun Brewing Co., and finally get to know the resident critters at The Dakota Zoo.

For photos, ratings, traveler tips, and more tourist information, read Bismarck visit planner.

Drive from Rapid City to Bismarck in 5 hours. The time zone difference when traveling from Rapid City to Bismarck is 1 hour. Expect slightly colder temperatures when traveling from Rapid City in December; daily highs in Bismarck reach 26°F and lows reach 7°F. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 4th (Sun) early enough to drive to Fargo.
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Parks · Nature · Museums · Fun & Games
Side Trip

Fargo — 2 nights

Fargo is the most populous city in the state of North Dakota, accounting for over 15% of the state population. Start off your visit on the 5th (Mon): contemplate the long history of Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site and then get a new perspective on nature at Red River Zoo. Keep things going the next day: stop by Unglued Market, browse the exhibits of Fargo Air Museum, and then browse the different shops at West Acres Shopping Center.

For other places to visit, reviews, where to stay, and tourist information, use the Fargo day trip planning tool.

Traveling by car from Bismarck to Fargo takes 3 hours. December in Fargo sees daily highs of 24°F and lows of 9°F at night. Finish your sightseeing early on the 6th (Tue) to allow enough time to fly to Dubuque.
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Museums · Historic Sites · Shopping · Parks
Side Trip

Dubuque — 3 nights

Dubuque is the county seat of Dubuque County, Iowa, United States, located along the Mississippi River. You'll find plenty of places to visit near Dubuque: Grant Wood Bike Trail (in Marion), Dyersville (St. Francis Basilica & If You Build It Exhibit) and Cedar Rapids (National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library & NewBo City Market). There's lots more to do: grab your bike and head to Heritage Trail, awaken your taste buds at Iowa Wine Tours, do a tasting at Sunset Ridge Winery, and fly down the slopes at Sundown Mountain.

To see ratings, photos, more things to do, and other tourist information, read Dubuque online travel route planner.

Traveling by flight from Fargo to Dubuque takes 6.5 hours. Alternatively, you can drive; or take a bus. Expect a bit warmer temperatures when traveling from Fargo in December; daily highs in Dubuque reach 31°F and lows reach 18°F. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 9th (Fri) to allow time to drive to Des Moines.
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Parks · Outdoors · Museums · Trails
Side Trips

Des Moines — 3 nights

Des Moines is the capital and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Iowa. Explore the numerous day-trip ideas around Des Moines: Raccoon River Valley Trail (in Jefferson), Fun Valley Ski Area (in Montezuma) and Reiman Gardens (in Ames). Next up on the itinerary: ponder the world of politics at Capitol Building, stroll around Heritage Carousel, sample the tasty concoctions at Reclaimed Rails Brewing Company, and tour the pleasant surroundings at Rotary Riverwalk Park.

To find other places to visit, ratings, maps, and more tourist information, read our Des Moines trip maker app.

You can drive from Dubuque to Des Moines in 3.5 hours. Other options are to fly; or take a bus. Traveling from Dubuque in December, expect nights in Des Moines to be about the same, around 22°F, while days are somewhat warmer, around 37°F. Cap off your sightseeing on the 12th (Mon) early enough to go by car to Council Bluffs.
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Parks · Outdoors · Winter Sports · Trails
Side Trips

Council Bluffs — 3 nights

Council Bluffs is a city in and the county seat of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States. Venture out of the city with trips to Bodega Victoriana Winery (in Glenwood), Desoto National Wildlife Refuge (in Missouri Valley) and Loess Hills Scenic Byway (in Percival). The adventure continues: try your luck at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, examine the collection at Union Pacific Railroad Museum, let the kids burn off some steam at Bayliss Park, and take in panoramic vistas at Lewis and Clark Park.

To see other places to visit, reviews, photos, and tourist information, read our Council Bluffs road trip planner.

Traveling by car from Des Moines to Council Bluffs takes 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of bus and taxi. In December, daily temperatures in Council Bluffs can reach 37°F, while at night they dip to 20°F. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 15th (Thu) early enough to fly back home.
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Parks · Fun & Games · Wildlife · Outdoors
Side Trips

South Dakota travel guide

4.3
National Parks · Scenic Drive · Monuments
The State of Great Faces and Great Places
Famous for the cliffside monuments of Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorial, South Dakota is a land of Old West history, American Indian culture, and impressive natural wonders. Get to know the state's diverse and breathtaking landscape with a trip through Custer National Park, with a herd of 1,300 free-roaming bison, or by traversing the dramatic peaks of Badlands National Park near the Black Hills. Allow time in your itinerary to visit the state's largest city, Sioux Falls, for shopping, dining, and entertainment options, as well as a number of museums and historical attractions.
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North Dakota travel guide

4.6
National Parks · History Museums · Historic Sites
Geographic Center of the North American Continent
A primarily rural state, North Dakota is the ancient home of the Lakota tribe. Norwegian settlers once made up the European population, and one of the state's major attractions is the Norsk Høstfest, the largest Norwegian festival in the United States. The vast plains and never-ending sky inspire the many orchestras that call the state home. The spirituality of the music is second only to the spirituality of the people, as the state has the nation's highest percentage of churchgoing residents. The state's open fields are conducive to fishing, hunting, and winter activities.
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Iowa travel guide

4.1
Casinos · Historic Sites · Specialty Museums
The Hawkeye State
Part of the American heartland, Iowa is marked by a strong agricultural heritage, with farmland encompassing around 90 percent of the state's land. However, a holiday in Iowa offers more than corn and cows: you'll also discover charming towns, beautiful lakes, and a handful of vibrant cities. Iowa City, a university town, provides a healthy dose of culture and nightlife, with a youthful and artistic vibe fueled by a sizable student population. A trip to some of Iowa's small towns provides a true American experience. Fortunately, the welcoming residents bear very little resemblance to the dour Iowans portrayed in Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic."
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