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The Incredible History of South Dakota’s Wall Drug Store

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Welcome to Wall Drug, the enchanting wonderland in the charming town of Wall, South Dakota. Prepare to be captivated by extraordinary adventures at every corner. From the iconic Wall Drug Store that has fascinated travelers for years to the legendary taste of rejuvenating ice-cold water, this eccentric roadside attraction is a treasure trove of surprises and delights.

Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the Wild West atmosphere, explore the captivating Western art gallery, restaurant, discover unique souvenirs and indulge in delectable treats, Wall Drug promises a memorable encounter that will leave you spellbound and longing for more in this magical small town of Western South Dakota.

History of Wall Drug

Front of the Wall Drug Store, South Dakota
nyker / Shutterstock.com

Situated right by the stunning Badlands National Park and within easy reach of the famous Black Hills, Wall Drug has gone through quite the makeover since its modest start as a drug store in 1931. From a forgettable pit stop along the Chicago Northwestern rail line, Wall has transformed into a quirky roadside attraction that lures millions of visitors annually. So, let’s hop on this time-traveling adventure and delve into the captivating history of Wall Drug, and find out how it became the beloved icon it is today.

In 1931, a pharmacist named Ted Hustead, a Nebraska native, was hunting for a small town with a Catholic church to start his business. After much searching, he stumbled upon Wall, a teeny-tiny town with only 231 residents that he jokingly called “the geographical center of nowhere.”

Pharmacist Ted Hustead bought the town’s drugstore and named it Hustead Drug, but this was during the Great Depression. Ted and his wife, Dorothy, took over the local pharmacy, which was the first stepping stone to Wall Drug’s eventual fame.

At first, Dorothy Hustead struggled to make Wall Drug successful, but everything changed when Dorothy had a brilliant idea. She suggested offering free ice-cold water to all the road-weary travelers heading towards the brand-new Mount Rushmore monument just 60 miles (97 km) away. And just like that, Wall Drug grew and became a hot spot for visitors, and its success skyrocketed.

In 1951, Ted’s son, Bill Hustead, a pharmacist, returned to Wall to join the family business. But let me tell you, things took a wild turn under Bill’s leadership.

Wall Drug underwent an incredible makeover, transforming into a mall and department store straight out of the Wild West. Bill’s imagination knew no limits as he brought in attractions like the Art Gallery Cafe, inspired by the famous Club “21” in New York City. And that’s not all!

Now, visitors to this sprawling tourist attraction can wander through a Western art museum, check out a chapel that’ll remind them of one found at New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa (all thanks to Bill Hustead), and even come face to face with an 80-foot brontosaurus sculpture by Emmet Sullivan. You might recognize that name from his iconic dinosaurs at Dinosaur Park in Rapid City and Dinosaur World in Arkansas.

Wall Drug: 6 More Sights to See

Wall Drug’s fame can be attributed to its non-stop self-promotion. Anyone traveling through South Dakota and nearby states will be flooded with eye-catching billboards advertising this remarkable establishment.

The charm of Wall Drug has even reached global proportions, with visitors proudly displaying signs indicating the distance to Wall Drug in famous locations. In 1981, during the busiest time for tourists, Wall Drug gave away an astonishing 20,000 cups of water daily, offering much-needed relief on scorching summer days.

Even today, Wall Drug stays true to its origins by providing the same amenities, such as free ice water, to its visitors. Many road-worn travelers stop at Wall Drug and leave awake and refreshed, but as its fame has grown, the establishment has added more perks for guests.

They now offer trendy bumper stickers with amusing phrases like “What the heck is Wall Drug?” and “Have you experienced Wall Drug?” These giveaways have become quite popular, offering coffee for a mere 5 cents.

In the present time, Wall is a thriving town that attracts approximately 2 million tourists each year. People come to Wall Drug not only for the refreshing ice water but also to immerse themselves in the beautiful chapel, encounter larger-than-life jackalope sculptures, and relish delectable hot beef sandwiches drenched in savory gravy.

See Related: Things to Do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Popular Attractions at Wall Drug, South Dakota

A stop at Wall Drug is a great choice if you’re on a road trip with kids. This isn’t an ordinary drugstore. It’s a thriving oasis and a fun place to visit with kids. It’s nearly impossible to miss the signs for it, regardless if you are heading to or from Rapid City.

Wall Drug is truly a jewel in the heartland of America that promises visitors a lasting impression for many road-worn travelers. These are some things to see and do during a stop at Wall Drug.

The Traveler’s Chapel

The Traveler's Chapel interior
Management / TripAdvisor

As you venture through the famous attractions of Wall Drug, take a breather at the Traveler’s Chapel. It’s like a little oasis where you can recharge your soul and find comfort amidst the lively vibes of the bustling town. Inspired by the stunning Cistercian (Trappist) monastery near Dubuque, Iowa, the Traveler’s Chapel captures the same simplicity and elegance.

The chapel’s design highlights the beauty of red oak, expertly incorporated into the choir stalls, doors, Eucharistic chapel, and other carefully crafted furnishings. When you step inside, the sweet scent of aged wood and the gentle glow of natural light instantly wrap around you, creating an atmosphere of peace and respect.

See Related: Things to Do in Rapid City, South Dakota

The Mural Room and Western Art Gallery Restaurant

Western Art Gallery Restaurant interior
renzo_p_018 / TripAdvisor

Not only is Wall Drug known for its refreshing ice water and delicious snacks, but it also houses an incredible array of Western art. If you’re interested in art, check out their Mural Room and Western Art Gallery. With life-sized murals showcasing scenes from Western Heritage, it’s like stepping back in time and experiencing the culture firsthand.

These stunning paintings, intricate sculptures, and fascinating artifacts transport you back in time. This gallery is a testament to Wall Drug’s dedication to preserving history while providing a lasting impression. The Western Art Gallery is a highly recommended destination for anyone eager to delve into the rich history of the Wild West.

Amusement Park

Front of Wall Drug Backyard
Management / TripAdvisor

And that’s not all – Wall Drug continues to become a full-blown amusement park. With a massive 5-story slide, an exhilarating shooting gallery, and countless other thrilling attractions, there’s never been a better time to visit.

That’s not all. Meet Lucy Lou, the Barton County Show Pig named World Champion Swine show pig not once but twice – in 1951 and 1952 – by Guinness World Records. Visitors adore getting up close and personal with this legendary pig.

On-Site Restaurant

On site restaurant in Wall Drug
RebeccaL50 / TripAdvisor

Wall Drug offers dining, refreshments, cocktails, and beer and wine. It has become a paradise for foodies searching for a delicious home-style meal while on a road trip through Western South Dakota.

The restaurant’s classic allure and delectable cuisine provide an unforgettable dining adventure. Savor the tastes of the Wild West while basking in the lively atmosphere that has kept Wall Drug a thriving business for ages.

Don’t forget to enjoy their mouth-watering ice cream cones and grab a free coffee to fuel your journey. The warm and inviting ambiance of Wall Drug guarantees that you’ll never have to suffer from thirst or hunger.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs in Wall Drug
Glenn M / TripAdvisor

You cannot leave Wall Drug without delving into their incredible selection of unique souvenirs and bumper stickers. Get lost in the store’s eccentric vibe as you peruse the array of trinkets and keepsakes.

The legendary Wall Drug Store bumper sticker is a must-purchase. Some variations of the popular free bumper stickers are “Where the Heck is Wall Drug?” or “Have You Dug Wall Drug?” Let’s all take a moment to recognize the genius-ness of Wall Drug’s marketing.

See Related: Things to Do in Sioux Falls

Places to Stay Near Wall Drug

Wall Drug may not have lodging options, but fear not! There are other hotels, motels, and campgrounds nearby to choose from. Whether you seek something luxurious or budget-friendly, you can expect to find the perfect accommodation to fit your needs. Let’s look at some of the options:

  • Best Western Plains MotelExperience the perfect combination of comfort and convenience at the Best Western Plains Motel. With its prime location just minutes from Wall Drug, this delightful motel boasts well-appointed and roomy accommodations, complete with all the modern conveniences you desire. Dive into the refreshing outdoor pool, indulge in a delectable complimentary breakfast, and bask in the renowned warm hospitality that the Best Western Plains Motel is famous for.
  • Americas Best Value Inn WallDiscover unbeatable affordability and comfort at America’s Best Value Inn Wall, near the famous Wall Drug. Immerse yourself in the pristine and inviting rooms of this wallet-friendly lodging, where every essential for a pleasant stay is provided. Unwind for a refreshing break at their outdoor pool, savor the complimentary continental breakfast, and relish the convenient access to Wall’s captivating attractions.
  • Badlands Frontier Cabins – If you’re searching for a one-of-a-kind and charming place to stay, Badlands Frontier Cabins is the perfect choice. Situated in the stunning Badlands region, these cozy cabins offer a peaceful escape from the busy city life. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surrounding wilderness, relax by the campfire under a sky filled with stars, and wake up to stunning panoramic views. Plus, with its proximity to Wall Drug, Badlands Frontier Cabins is an ideal sanctuary for those who love nature.

See Related: Top Things to do in Custer State Park, South Dakota

Things to Do Near Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug is a blast, but the fun doesn’t end there. Western South Dakota is packed with all sorts of amazing sights to see that you can go on a great trip with your friends or family.

1. Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park at Sunset

Skip the interstate and drive below it to witness one of the most spectacular natural attractions in the US. Brace yourself for a one-of-a-kind landscape of rough canyons, striking spires, and vast prairies.

The Badlands earned their name for being scorching, grubby, and unsuitable for settling down and starting a homestead. But don’t let that discourage you – just taking a leisurely drive on the main road (only a 2-hour detour) is worth it. Take a break to visit a prairie dog village, picnic near a spire, and soak in the fantastic panoramas.

See Related: Where to Stay in the Badlands: Best Areas & Places

2. Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest Sign

Get ready to be amazed by the stunning Black Hills National Forest in the western part of South Dakota. This area is renowned for its stunning peaks, such as Mount Rushmore, where you can gaze upon the faces of four American presidents carved into the granite cliffside. Although it may take approximately an hour and a half to arrive at the heart of the forest from Wall Drug, rest assured that the journey is worthwhile.

Take a hike through lush pine forests, uncover secret waterfalls, and bask in the peacefulness of crystal-clear lakes. You can camp, fish, and spot wildlife in this diverse landscape. Don’t miss out on other unmissable points of interest like Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park – there’s so much to explore!

See Related: Things to Do in Pierre, South Dakota

3. National Grasslands

Just a quick drive from Wall Drug, you’ll discover the peaceful oasis of the National Grasslands Visitor Center. Imagine South Dakota’s expansive grasslands’ fascinating ecosystems and cultural heritage. While the grasslands cover a wide area, the Buffalo Gap National Grassland is the closest, about an hour away from Wall Drug.

Get hands-on with interactive displays, participate in educational activities, and venture out on picturesque trails that showcase the stunning beauty of this hidden natural gem. The National Grasslands Visitor Center is a true treasure trove that guarantees an excellent learning experience about the area’s cultural heritage.

See Related: Things to Do in Aberdeen

4. Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument skyline
Tbennert / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Get ready for an incredible adventure to witness the remarkable Crazy Horse Memorial, a tribute that celebrates the rich history and culture of Native Americans. Be amazed by the massive sculpture built to honor the legendary Lakota warrior.

Just south of the famous Wall Drug, right by the charming town of Custer, you’ll find the remarkable Crazy Horse Monument. It’s conveniently located about an hour from Wall Drug, so you can quickly embark on road trips to experience its wonders.

Engage in interactive exhibits and guided tours to discover the remarkable story behind this unique project. The Crazy Horse Monument is a powerful symbol of the unwavering strength and perseverance of the Native American community.

See Related: Things to Do in Rapid City

5. Custer State Park

Beautiful Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park
jkraft5 / Adobe Stock

Are you ready for an adventure? Head to Custer State Park and experience the wonder of the wild buffalo. This stunning park is on the way to Mount Rushmore, so it’s a highly recommended destination. Just turn off the main road, and you’ll be surrounded by miles of hiking trails and remarkable granite peaks.

Embark on a thrilling journey southwards from Wall Drug to reach the stunning Custer State Park, a haven for nature enthusiasts. Located just an hour’s drive from Wall Drug, this park guarantees an unforgettable and exhilarating adventure.

But that’s not all – there are over 1,300 bison at Custer State Park. Imagine coming face to face with one of these incredible animals in their natural habitat. It’s genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

See Related: Things to Do in Yankton

6. Delta-09 Missile Silo

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
Jeffrey M. Frank / Adobe Stock

Discover a fascinating slice of Cold War history at the Delta-09 Missile Silo just west of Wall Drug. You’ll be thrilled that this excellent site is conveniently close to Wall Drug, making it a quick and easy journey from town.

This underground complex once held a powerful nuclear missile during the Cold War. Experience what it was like for the workers who operated in this top-secret facility and discover that era’s technological advancements and tensions.

Don’t miss out on the chance to tour the launch facilities and see the missile silo at the Minuteman Missile Site. Plus, enjoy knowing you could have a missile delivered anywhere in the world in 30 minutes or less – or your next one is free.

See Related: Things to Do in Deadwood, South Dakota

7. Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore at a distance
SL-Photography / Shutterstock

Mount Rushmore, a true American icon, is a stunning sight that must be seen to be believed! This magnificent landmark can be found just east of Wall Drug, offering visitors the chance to witness one of the most stunning spectacles in the United States. Carved into the striking granite mountainside, the faces of four esteemed U.S. presidents stand tall and proud, beautifully preserved for all to marvel at.

To reach this incredible monument from Wall Drug, you’ll embark on a thrilling 50-minute drive that promises to take your breath away with its picturesque landscapes. The route is worth undertaking – winding through gorgeous vistas and showcasing nature’s splendid bounty.

At Mount Rushmore, you’ll find more than just majestic sculptures – there are trails for hiking enthusiasts looking for an up-close encounter with nature’s wonders nearby.

8. Wildlife Museum & Gift Shop

Wildlife Museum & Gift Shop sign
Levi V / TripAdvisor

Experience the magic of wildlife at the Wildlife Museum & Gift Shop, where nature bursts into life in vibrant and unexpected ways. Delve into an impressive collection of taxidermy animals, from majestic bears to elusive big cats. Within Wall Drug itself, you can visit the Wildlife Museum & Gift Shop, located at 510 Main Street.

Immerse yourself in interactive exhibits that provide fascinating insights into the habits and habitats of different species. And don’t miss out on the chance to peruse their gift shop, where you’ll discover unique souvenirs and mementos that celebrate the beauty of the animal kingdom in small-town South Dakota.

9. Buffalo Gift Shop

Front of Buffalo Gift Shop
Rick4404 / TripAdvisor

You must check out the Buffalo Gift Shop, also within Wall Drug. It’s a total paradise for unique and eccentric souvenirs that perfectly capture the essence of Wall Drug.

You can peruse an incredible selection of buffalo-inspired knick-knacks, hilarious bumper stickers, and original presents that will surely make you grin. Whether after a charming keepsake or a fascinating talking point, the Buffalo Gift Shop has everything you need.

10. Sage Creek Wilderness Area

Fall Color in Sage Creek, Sage Creek Wilderness Area, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA
Billy McDonald / Adobe Stock

Dive headfirst into the untamed magnificence of the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, a hidden treasure close to Wall Drug. Stray from the usual routes and adventure through wild terrains, where vast prairies and rough badlands collide with the endless sky. While the specific entrance may vary, it is accessible through a few trails within Badlands National Park, just a short distance from Wall Drug.

Soak up the peace of this unspoiled wilderness and watch out for a range of critters that inhabit this place, like bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs. Make Sage Creek Wilderness Area your haven of natural wonder.

See Related: Things to Do in Hot Springs

Is Wall Drug Worth Visiting?

If you’re traveling through Western South Dakota and need a chance to recharge, stop at Wall Drug. This iconic tourist spot is famous for its free coffee, free ice water, and tons of activities unavailable elsewhere east of the Mississippi since 1931. That’s over eight decades strong.

What started from humble beginnings as a small-town drugstore became 76,000 square feet of souvenirs, gifts, and Western gear. Yes, you read that right – seventy-six thousand square feet! It’s like getting lost in a treasure trove of goodies.

The moment you step inside Wall Drug, you’ll feel transported back to the Wild West with vintage decorations as far as the eye can see. Let’s not forget about their famous homemade donuts, too – fluffy and fresh out of the fryer daily.

Aside from the refreshing drinks and food available at this place, you can also enjoy a range of attractions. Have you ever heard of an antique carousel? Well, this place has got the USA’s only one! Imagine hopping on a horse that’s been around for multiple generations – pure fun.

FAQs

What is Wall Drug?

Wall Drug is a drug store, and a must-stop destination in the small town of Wall, South Dakota. It was founded in 1931 by Dorothy and Ted Hustead. The store features an extensive collection of souvenirs, a restaurant, an ice cream parlor, and a pharmacy.

What are some of the attractions at Wall Drug?

Some attractions at the Wall Drug Store include the giant jackalope statue, the dinosaur statues, the photo op with a six-foot-high prairie dog, free water, 5-cent coffee, and free watermelon samples.

Is Wall Drug suitable for children?

Yes, Wall Drug is a fantastic place for the whole family. There are so many awesome things to do that everyone will love. Kids can have a blast checking out the excellent shops, sampling the delicious ice cream cones, and having fun with all the wacky exhibits and photo ops.

What are the store hours at Wall Drug?

You can visit Wall Drug from 8 AM-8 PM! But to ensure you have the latest info on their hours, it’s a great idea to check out their visitor information and call them.

Can I purchase Wall Drug merchandise online?

Yes, you can buy Wall Drug merchandise online from their official website. They’ve got an incredible selection of stuff, like cool clothes, home decor, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs that capture the essence of Wall Drug.

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