My boyfriend and I (mid-30s) are coming to the Black Hills in September. We will be staying in Rapid City and will have 5 full days, plus the day of arrival. I want to see Mt. Rushmore (and night ceremony), Crazy Horse, Custer State Park (if I'm correct, this is the wildlife loop, Iron Mt. Road, and Needles Hwy), Badlands, Wall Drug, Spearfish Canyon, Devil's Tower, Bear Country, Jewel Cave, and possibly ride the 1880 train. I would like to spend some time in Keystone as well-the alpine slide, shopping, etc. I have a few questions and would also like help with itinerary, as far as what I can put together on any day. I know Spearfish, Deadwood, and Devil's Tower will make one day. Badlands and Wall Drug will go together. What about the other attractions? Also, I have a few questions...
1) The lightshow at Crazy Horse-is it worth trying to work into the schedule?
2) If all goes as planned, we should arrive on Saturday at 9:30 AM. After getting our rental car and taking our luggage to the place we are staying, will there be enough time to go to the Badlands and Wall Drug and not feel rushed, or should we put this off to another day to get an earlier start? Also, is there a certain time of day/evening that's better to see the Badlands?
3) I have read that the wildlife loop is better in the morning or at dusk. I've read other reports that make it seem like anytime is fine. Which is more accurate? And if in the morning, how early should we be?
4)I've read various reports on the 3 scenic drives as well, as far as being done in one day vs. being split. If you split them, which ones can be done together? Is it really necessary to split them?
5) I would like to ride the 1880 train, but it is only roundtrip from Keystone at 11:15. Is it possible to do any of the scenic drives before or should I do them on separate days?
6)I'm considering a helicopter or hot air balloon ride. The balloon ride has mixed reviews on here and most were from over a year ago so that worries me a bit. Any information on those would be really helpful.
I'm really excited about this trip!! Thanks so much in advance for any help given!