Stretching from Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington, U.S. Interstate 90 is one of the great cross-country thoroughfares. Every day, millions of vehicles make their way along I-90, cutting down the time it takes between major cities along the route like Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Missoula, and Spokane.
Within the Great Plains states, Interstate 90 (or I-90) runs from the South Dakota border near Sioux Falls to the Wyoming/Montana border near Sheridan. While you might think there’s not much to see along this route, there are some incredible roadside attractions along I-90.
In this post, you’ll learn some of the best roadside attractions along this important route, traversed by everything from semi-trucks to minivans every day. From historic sights to funky pitstops, there are plenty of interesting things to see along I-90 no matter which direction you’re driving.
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Yankton, Tséstho’e (Cheyenne), Mnicoujou, and Apsáalooke (Crow) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
1. The World’s Only Corn Palace
Just minutes off I-90, the world’s only Corn Palace is one the most unique roadside attractions along I-90. When I say unique, I mean it since it’s the only Corn Palace in the U.S and the world, as the name suggests. The Michell Corn Palace started in 1892 to showcase the area’s agricultural potential.
Today, it still celebrates South Dakota’s agriculture, the backbone of its economic activity. With 500,000 people visiting each year, the Corn Palace has grown in popularity over the years. It’s also a pretty fun stop to appreciate corn art. Every year, local artists design murals with plants and seeds local farmers grow to create the artwork.
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2. 1880 Town
Your next stop is 1880 Town. A cultural center, 1880 Town invites you to travel back in time and experience life in the Old West. It’s a wonderful experience if you love history. The village has more than 30 buildings from the 1880 to 1920 era, brimming with relics and artifacts from the 1880s.
There are tons of fun activities to participate in and enjoy. During peak season, you can rent costumes for the whole family and take an Old West photo as a souvenir. You can also visit the Casey Tibbs Museum to learn more about the 9-time World Champion Rodeo Cowboy.
3. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
If you want to immerse yourself in the most recent history of the U.S., you must visit this Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This place is the only remaining nuclear missile field and contains the Delta-09 missile silo, one of 150 silos spread across western South Dakota.
The historic site offers an insightful tour to visit the control center and the silo with the unarmed missile placed inside. The tours are by appointment, so prepare to allow a bit of extra time. It’s still worth it for this rare bit of Cold War history!
4. Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is one of those do-not-miss roadside attractions along I-90. Just a short detour off of the freeway, Badlands National Park gifts visitors with stunning canyon scenery. The striking geological formation creates an otherworldly lunar landscape.
It’s worth driving through, at the very least. You can take in the scenery from the comfort of your RV, or you can take the time to stop at various viewing points. If you have the time to go inside the park, there are several hikes you can take and experience firsthand the geological wonders.
5. Dinosaur Park
The Corn Palace isn’t the only quirky stop along I-90. Located in Rapid City, SD, Dinosaur Park is a small attraction sitting on a sandstone ridge overlooking the city. It comprises seven dinosaur sculptures and a short trail. The park is one of the most popular I-90 roadside attractions for families, and you’ll see lots of children climbing up the dinosaurs and taking pictures of them. Dinosaur Park is free and also pet-friendly. On top of the hill, you’ll find a lovely gift shop and some of the best views of Rapid City.
6. Chapel in the Hills
Right on the outskirts of Rapid City is Chapel in the Hills, a location that transports you to a different world. Built in 1969, Chapel in the Hills used to be the home for the Lutheran Vespers radio ministry. This architectural gem is a replica of Borgund stavkirke in Laerdal, Norway. The chapel’s design was a popular church building style during medieval times in north-western Europe.
The whole landscape seems taken from a fairytale, with the stunning chapel in the center, the towering trees by its sides, and roaming animals all around. It’s a lovely spot to stroll around and let your mind wander before hitting up the road again.
7. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is one of the most well-known stops worth making along I-90. One can’t deny that seeing the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved in utmost detail on the Black Hills is quite impressive. It’s even more impressive when you learn how the monument came to be. It took artist Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, plus 400 men to sculpt this monument.
From late May to September 30, there are evening lighting ceremonies. There is also a wonderful little tourist town below, offering neat options to grab lunch, dinner, a beer, and as many Mt. Rushmore novelties as one would ever want.
8. Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial
If you enjoyed Mount Rushmore, you’ll love Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial. Set only 15 miles away from Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial honors the heritage of North American Indians. It’s still under construction, but it will be the world’s biggest sculpture once finished. For now, you can see the face of the controversial Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial is a nonprofit project, and it’s an excellent example of art binding people together no matter what their origins are. Back in 1939, Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear asked Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish-American sculptor who had helped carve Mount Rushmore in the ’20s, to help sculpt the Crazy Horse sculpture. He agreed, and both started scouting for a location to immortalize the Lakota warrior, choosing the Black Hills, which are sacred to the Lakota.
Deadwood is another of the roadside attractions along I-90, brimming with history. Located less than 180 miles from Buffalo, Deadwood is a lovely gold rush town with a rich Wild West past. While it’s been many years since its heydays (1876 to 1879), it still retains its old town charm.
There are plenty of historical sites around Deadwood. You can see the place where Jack McCall shot Wild Bill Hickok dead from behind during a poker game. There’s also a cemetery where plenty of famous Deadwood residents rest. Many people love checking out Calamity’s Jane grave, the legendary American frontierswoman who wasn’t scared of leading the life she wanted.
10. Ta’Tanka: Story of the Bison
Before you leave Deadwood, make sure you stop by Ta’Tanka. Rebellious cowboys take much of the spotlight when it comes to Deadwood’s history. However, there were other equally essential participants in its history: the Lakota people and the American bison.
This roadside stop is an opportunity to learn more about the American bison, its sacred role in Lakota people’s lives, and how they came close to extinction. The centerpiece of the Ta’Tanka is a bronze sculpture featuring fourteen bison and three Lakota horseback riders chasing them. It’s a good experience to hear a less-told version of American history.
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11. Devil’s Tower National Monument
Devil’s Tower National Monument is the last road stop along I-90 before you leave the Great Plains. It is a breathtaking geologic wonder that juts out 5,112 feet above sea level. The Devil’s Tower also holds a special place in American history. Northern Plains Indians and indigenous people considered it a sacred site and lived around it for years. It was also a popular summer gathering place for white settlers and explorers during the late 1800s.
The monument is inside a park, and it’s an excellent place to stretch your legs. There are many trails inside the park, but if you’re looking for a shorter stop, you can see the Devil’s Tower up close, taking the short trail around its base.
Do you know of any other roadside attractions along I-90 or have questions about these ones? Let me know in the comments!