16 Photos That Will Inspire You To Visit South Dakota

Labor Day weekend took me to South Dakota, with a kindred spirit and high expectations. What surprised me most about the state was the geological and cultural variety. The Black Hills, Badlands, array of beautiful lakes, prairies and sand hills kept me engaged throughout the drive.

I am planning to post more in-depth about my trip to SoDak, but wanted to give a glimpse into this glorious land through a photo essay.

Here are the 16 most interesting and awe-inspiring shots from my trip that I'm sure will make you plan a visit! It is Mount Rushmore's 75th anniversary, afterall.

1. Foggy downtown Deadwood resulted in some eerie vibes in this historic old west town.

deadwood

2. A pop of color spotted in Hot Springs.

hotsprings

3. Buffaloes hugging the highway.

4. Colorful stripes accentuate the Badlands' Mars-like appearance. 

5. Conflicted mountain goats spotted in Badlands National Park before a storm.

badlands

6. The streets of downtown Rapid City, also known as The City of Presidents, are characterized by bronze statues of each POTUS. 

rapidcity

7. Driving into fog in the Black Hills, accompanied by raindrops.

blackhills

8. This pink stucco theatre in Hot Springs was begging me to watch a movie.

pinktheater

9. Buffaloes on the highway horizon.

10. Mount Rushmore looks happy to celebrate its 75th birthday. 

mountrushmore

11. A distant house gets lost among the fog cloud. 

fog

12. Colorful and charming Keystone, tucked into the Hills neighboring Mount Rushmore.

keystone

13. Inspiring art in Art Alley, Rapid City.

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14. Friendly Wall Drug welcomes you to park here.

walldrug

15. Dilapidated old buildings in mysterious Deadwood.

16. Another turquoise antique finding a home in Hot Springs. 

Have you been to South Dakota? I'd love to hear your experiences and favorite places! Tag @erika4reals on Twitter. 

Stay curious,

A Weekend Getaway to Denver

This is what happens when you stumble upon $40 roundtrip tickets a week before the flight: you spontaneously end up in Denver, Colo. for a day and a half with your BFF, staying with your Kansan-turned-Coloradan friend from high school, reigniting some old habits, eating one of the best burgers of your life and taking in some breathtaking views from 8,000 ft. high. 

It was a successful weekend, to say the least. Bea (the aforementioned BFF) and myself landed at DIA with no set plans for the short trip. This is an example of it being better to have no itinerary, go with the flow and just enjoy spending time with an old friend; however, I'm always happy to pass along recommendations to others who are thinking about visiting the Mile High City.

WHAT TO DO
Go hiking, obviously. We drove out to Evergreen to do a fairly easy hike at Maxwell Falls. I recommend this trail if you're not an avid hiker, don't want to spend all day hiking, but still want to see good scenery. It overall took us about an hour and a half to complete the hike, and it's nearly a 40-minute commute from Denver, which is very reasonable. Click here for recommendations for day hikes near Denver. 

Of course, you need some city time to go along with the mountain hiking. We enjoyed exploring downtown Denver; we walked around the Union Station area, hung out at Wynkoop Brewery and explored Larimer Square during a sun shower. Denver has a very walkable downtown that is fun to explore on one's own accord, but isn't overwhelming.

As we are currently suffering through post-grad depression (it's real, folks), we had to visit Regis University, where our friend Eric attended for undergraduate. It was crazy to see how much smaller his campus was than the University of Kansas, my alma mater. Although an aesthetically appealing campus, the mountains in the distance really helped its beauty rating.

At the overlook on Maxwell Falls trail near Evergreen, Colo.

At the overlook on Maxwell Falls trail near Evergreen, Colo.

Beautiful Union Station in downtown Denver. The light rail from the airport is $9 and takes you here. Saves time for someone picking you up from the airport and is cheaper than an Uber or taxi!

Beautiful Union Station in downtown Denver. The light rail from the airport is $9 and takes you here. Saves time for someone picking you up from the airport and is cheaper than an Uber or taxi!

Regis University.

Regis University.

WHERE TO EAT
I'm not gonna lie, I'm not the expert on the Denver food scene—but I'm not going to ignore a couple of fantastic meals I had while I was there over the weekend. I shamelessly ate two burgers during the short trip: one at Wynkoop Brewery in LoDo upon arrival in the city, and the second at Mead St. Station in Highlands after our hike (so I obviously deserved a burger). I had a standard cheeseburger at Wynkoop, but it was delicious. At Mead St. Station, I consumed a ~grass-fed bison burger with jalepeno goat cheese, bacon jam and crispy onions~. With a side of spicy french fries. Yeah. I may or may not have gone into a food coma post-lunch. 

You would think as a burger lover I would be critical and picky when choosing my next burger victim, but I have a philosophy: no burger gets discriminated against. I like some more than others, sure, but TBCH I haven't had one that has disgusted me. 

On a lighter note, we ended the trip Saturday evening with salads at MAD Greens. The "Mighty Aphrodite" was a solid 7/10, but I'm not much of a salad person.

The Western burger at Mead St. Station in Highlands. 

The Western burger at Mead St. Station in Highlands. 

What you really need to get out of this: learn how I ended up with $40 roundtrip tickets to Denver in the first place. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for Frontier's newsletter and get cheap fares! I don't usually fly Frontier, but when I do I get cheap AF tickets. 

Follow me on the Instaslam if you're so inclined: https://www.instagram.com/erika4reals/

Stay curious,
 

St. Louis in 24 Hours

I admit I'm a little embarrassed I have never been to St. Louis, especially having grown up just a few hours west in Kansas. Now that I'm living in Kansas City, there also seems to be a mild rivalry between the two major Missouri cities. Obviously, I'm going to side with KC on this one, but I was pleasantly surprised from my recent trip  and came to the conclusion that St. Louis is pretty cool!

A friend's wedding brought us to St. Louis, but a few friends and myself figured we should make the most out of the short trip. We hit the road Friday after work, making it to STL around 9:30 p.m. Before we checked into the hotel, we ventured to the nearest Target to buy some forgotten items and snacks. (I couldn't resist buying this skirt and I don't regret it, either. And to my dismay and your luck it is now on sale! Ugh. Maybe I regret it a little bit.)

The wedding was at 2 p.m. Saturday in Kirkwood, Missouri. This means we had the whole morning to go explore the city. We had heard cool things about The City Museum downtown, so we decided to check it out. It was $12 admission + $5 for rooftop access. If you go, the rooftop access is worth it—it was the best part of the museum!

I should maybe put museum in quotations marks. We pulled up to the "museum," and were appalled by the school bus hanging off the side and a ferris wheel and slides covering the rooftop. What is this nonsense?!

We soon discovered that this museum was really just a bunch of random stuff thrown together. Which is both confusing and awesome. We went into it thinking it was more of an adult playground, but unfortunately there were kids running around EVERYWHERE. The museum is open until midnight on weekends, though, so it might be better to go later in the day if you're wanting some adult swim time!

After climbing towers and flying down slides where we didn't know lead to and sweat dripping down my legs (thank you, Midwest summers), we decided to call it quits and grab some food before getting ready for the wedding.

I humbly obliged to partake in some Raising Cane's right off the highway—a couple people hadn't had it yet and so we felt bad for them. I always go with the 3 piece combo with a Diet Coke.          ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The wedding was beautiful. Tears were shed and kind words were spoken, and so happy that one of my oldest friends found the love of her life. You could literally feel love in the church as if it were wind.

After the wedding, we had some time to kill before the reception. When in St. Louis, go to Anheuser-Busch. That should be obvious.

We paid for the $10 Clydesdales tour which was totally worth it. The horses were huuuuuge, the stables were gorgeous and we also got lots of free beer, so that's cool too.

It seemed like the Anheuser-Busch brewery area is like a college campus. Many large brick buildings within a few block radius, some with stain glass windows, and neatly kept landscapes. It was a beautiful tour, although a bit impersonal due to the scale of the place and the amount of people in each group. I would say the Boulevard tour is a bit more personal and educational, but this tour really makes you respect the history of Budweiser as it *really* is America's beer.

I would say, make sure you have some extra time to burn after the tour is over because they give you a drink ticket for a 16 oz. beer to enjoy in the biergarten. We unfortunately didn't have much time to spare if we were going to get to the reception on time, so we acted accordingly (I did not binge drink, but I'm not going to say that my friends didn't...)

My favorite part was the biergarten, though. It was very quaint and picturesque! A great place to go just to eat and get a beer during the warmer months, even without going on a tour. I would definitely go again next time I'm in St. Louis!

All in all, my Saturday in St. Louis was magical. The love for my friends deepened, and my distaste for beer stayed pretty much the same. Thanks for a great 24 hours, St. Louie!

"It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one's childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London." - muh boy T.S. Eliot

Stay curious,

A Scientific Study

I wouldn't say I'm the scientific type, but touring Scripps Institution of Oceanography definitely made atmospheric sciences and oceanography pretty interesting. Our friend Dillon is working on getting his PhD here and this ocean is his office view (I hate you, Dillon).

We walked around the campus, explored a couple of the buildings and met some of Dillon's classmates. It was a very unique experience that I'm glad we were able to do!

The above photo is my one of my favorites I took from the trip. There's just something eerie about the dark branches framing the otherwise bright and sunny picture. 

Cody has a thing for climbing trees. I don't what else to say about that.

While we were here, we also were able to see some ice cores (unfortunately I didn't think about taking a photo of them, it was too cold in the room! I think the thermometer read -10 degrees Fahrenheit). 

I believe these ice cores were drilled up several miles deep in Antarctica, and scientists are able to tell what the climate was life thousands (millions?) of years ago by the bubbles in the ice. We were able to hold one of the cores while standing in sub zero temperatures wearing beach clothes.

Then again, I could be wrong about all of that. Like I said, I'm no scientist. (Just an Instagramist.)

Wondering why I went to college in Kansas and not San Diego.

Fun fact: The La Jolla plants were an inspiration to Dr. Seuss when he was creating his cartoons—he had lived in La Jolla for some time. I can definitely see the similarities of these pictured to the plant drawings in his books! 

In downtown La Jolla, there's a Dr. Seuss art gallery that we walked through and simultaneously fought back flashbacks from our childhood. 

On the Scripps campus, there's a wonderful little spot called Caroline's Seaside Cafe. This was one of the highlights of the trip (of course it centered around food). The brunch was amazing, and the views were even better. Did I mention how the weather was absolutely perfect? If I could dine here every weekend, I would! A definite must-brunch while in La Jolla.

Pictured below was their Local Strawberry & Wild Arugula Salad with goat cheese, candied pecans and a sherry vinaigrette. I had the banana pancakes with a side of fruit. Either dish is highly recommended, depending if you're in a breakfast or lunch mood.

Photo by @cody_kuiper

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Here's the live beach cam from the Scripps pier & La Jolla Shores.

I hope you're not getting tired of San Diego, because there's still more to come. At the very least, these posts are for me to reminisce and pretend like I am back in sunny, dreamy, perfect San Diego!

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Stay curious,