Where to nosh and nap in South Dakota
To get the most out of South Dakota’s great outdoors, you’ll need to fuel up on food and get your beauty sleep – Tiffany Leigh shows us where to do it.
How to spend 72 hours in South Dakota
Never thought to make this expansive Midwestern state part of your itinerary? Tiffany Leigh shows us why you should reconsider… If you capitalise on a sunset landing with American Airlines into Rapid City Regional Airport, you’ll be greeted by swaths of cotton candy clouds set among rolling hills and a seafoam sky.  Most assuredly – despite it being a landlocked state – you’ll quickly realise that South Dakota knows no bounds.   From majestic historic monuments to the forested pleasures of the state’s national parks, it seems like there’s never enough time to soak it all up. But fear not, saddle up with a rental car and blaze through this glorious state whose Midwest charm and western hospitality will have you pondering why you didn’t visit sooner. [caption id="attachment_42789" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Crazy Horse Memorial (Black hills, Custer County)[/caption] Day 1: Rapid City, Crazy Horse Memorial and buffalo empanadas A swift 15-minute drive from the airport, arrive at Residence Inn by Marriott for a restful night’s sleep. Wake up to a free hot breakfast in the morning then drive into downtown Rapid City and visit Essence of Coffee for killer brews and South Dakotan hospitality.   Opened in 2013, the local hotspot is proudly Aussie owned and operated by partners who hail from Perth, Dale and Michael Fewson. Coffee beans are sourced from prime growing regions such as Peru, Brazil and Ecuador, and roasted in-house. Opt for a silky almond milk latte and follow it up with a decadent cream cheese & triple berry-filled crostata to fuel your day with sweetness. Then swing by Prairie Edge for shopping opportunities and to learn about the North American tribes (such as Oglala and Miniconjou) and their descendants whose artful wares and curios are on display and for purchase – the expansive selection includes beadwork, jewellery, hides, Pendleton blankets, and more.   Hit the road again and careen over to Crazy Horse Memorial; gaze upon a storied work-in-progress: the profile of this revered Lakota warrior who’s been etched and carved into pegmatite granite. Here you can spend hours at the knowledge centre and art gallery learning about aboriginal tribes along with the genesis of this inspired passion project, started by Korczak Ziolkowski in 1948. It’s part art appreciation, part education and a whole lot of awe and wonder. [caption id="attachment_42787" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota[/caption] In the afternoon, drive 30 minutes east and have lunch at State Game Lodge Restaurant inside Custer State Park. Housed inside a turn-of-the-century game lodge, the converted restaurant is the flagship eatery of the national park.   Chef Chris Keller prides himself upon the use of indigenous ingredients such as buffalo and pheasant, but bolsters this with global flourishes that include French, Mexican, and Asian. The braised buffalo empanadas exemplify these worldly flavours. Buttery homemade shells are stuffed with braised buffalo tenderloin scraps and charred tomato salsa. The lily is glided when these pleasure pockets are drizzled with homemade chipotle aioli. Afterwards, drive up route 89 towards the serene beauty of Sylvan Lake and take a brief stroll along the waters and pristine views of boulder-esque ragged rock (fun fact: the 2007 film National Treasure was filmed here).   Round out day one with a 30-minute drive east towards Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Gaze upon 18-metre high presidential history and artistry as you greet leaders of the past (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) whose faces have been chiselled into granite. [caption id="attachment_42792" align="alignnone" width="747"] Sylvan Lake (part of Custer State Park).[/caption] Day 2: hiking, Indian tacos and Scooby Snack cocktails Midday, drive over to Spearfish Canyon and hike to your heart’s content. If you’re hankering for a climbing challenge, the 76 Trail is a must. Just under two kilometres each way, the intense vertical climb ascends over 300 metres. You may be sweaty and sore, but that’s easily forgotten when you’re rewarded with panoramic, lush forestry and sprawling sights of Spearfish Canyon.   The trail will undoubtedly create hunger pangs, which you can alleviate at Cheyenne Crossing. A nine-minute drive south-east and you will have arrived at David Brickner’s popular outpost. The late 1800s converted stage coach stop is now a restaurant that offers what Brickner describes as “Americana Cabin” fare – chef Matt Johnson’s Indian Taco is an exemplary mash-up. A large puffy WoodenKnife fry bread is piled high with meat and bean sauce (pro tip: ask to switch from beef to buffalo!), and then it’s topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, black olives, a fat dollop of sour cream and picante. You may need a nap afterwards, but it’s well worth conquering this edible mountain. [caption id="attachment_42788" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Graffiti Alley, Rapid City, South Dakota[/caption] Then, take a meandering scenic drive on CanAm highway north-east of the restaurant into the town of Deadwood. Try to strike it rich in this historic gold rush/mining town for casino and poker games with the locals at Saloon 10. Quench your thirst with an (in)famous Scooby Snack cocktail which is a sunshine blend of Malibu, midori, pineapple juice and cream. Or if you’re keen on something strong enough to knock your boots off, you’ll love the 150+ artisan bourbon, whiskey and Scotch varieties available to try. Day 3: glass-blowing, Calamity Jane and a hike to Mt Roosevelt In the morning, wake up from sound slumbering at SpringHill Suites Deadwood, thanks to its ideal location on a quiet road stretch of CanAm highway – a 10-minute stroll from downtown Deadwood’s main street.   First, make a pit-stop at Toni Gerlach’s Pump House for a much needed java jolt and local pastries. The space is also home to her Mind Blown Studio where she does glass-blowing onsite and crafts stunning sculptures (feathers, elephants, dream catchers, etc.) and functional pieces for purchase (e.g. vases, pen holders, oil jars). Interested guests can also opt to take hands-on classes and learn about this art form. [caption id="attachment_42790" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Black Hills National Forest[/caption] From there, it’s a quick uphill jaunt towards Mt. Moriah Cemetery and where you can tip your hat and pay respects to brazen gun-slinging folk of the past such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, who are now resting in peace. And don’t forget to wander over to Brown Rocks Overlook at the west end of the cemetery - there are wondrous sweeping views of Deadwood and the Black Hills.   Before making the pilgrimage back to the airport, capture one last breath of the wild outdoors; slather on some sunscreen and hike up Mt Roosevelt. Part of Black Hills National Forest, it’s less than a 10-minute drive outside of downtown Deadwood. From there, it’s an easy 1.6-kilometre walk through emerald wilderness. You’ll be greeted by the Mt Roosevelt Monument aka Friendship Tower which was erected in the 1900s by legendary Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock as a memorial tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. Climb up the tower’s spiral steps and glimpse captivating views that include Bear Lodge Mountains, Custer Peak, along with the towns of Lead and Deadwood. DETAILS Getting there American Airlines operates daily service from Sydney (SYD) to Los Angeles International (LAX) with its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. From there, it's a swift connection to Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and into Rapid City Airport (RAP).   SYD-LAX-DFW-RAP (all prices quoted are on a return, per person basis, including tax and surcharges): Main Cabin prices start from 818 AUD Premium Economy prices start from 1,902 AUD Business Class prices start from 4,197AUD   Premium Economy is a recent and new feature service option on American Airlines, which is situated right behind Business Class. For those who are budget-conscious but are seeking more comfort on-board, this is an affordable upgrade that is ideal for long distance travel.   As the largest airline in the world, it was the first US carrier to launch Premium Economy. With this Dreamliner aircraft, the plane features three cabin configurations that include 29 fully lie flat beds and direct aisle access seats in Business Class, 21 Premium Economy seats and 234 Main Cabin seats.   In the Premium Economy service, you get priority boarding, larger leather seat including 38 inches of pitch, and larger touchscreen monitors for entertainment (movies, TV, music, games). Also provided is an amenity kit, chef-crafted meals, and complimentary wine, beer, and spirits.
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You’ve heard of tiny houses – introducing the tiny hotel
As the tiny house movement gains pace across the globe, Rob McFarland checks out some small spaces in Portland, Oregon that are big on style and fun. Once upon a time, hotels were all about lavish indulgence. They’d have giant spa baths, luxury toiletries and towering stacks of fluffy white towels. Of course, some still do, but most properties pay at least lip-service to guests’ increasing concerns about the environment. Baths have been replaced by showers; towels are no longer changed daily and toiletries are refilled rather than replaced.   It’s a good start but many would argue that to really reduce your footprint you need to do something more drastic – take up less space. The tiny house movement has been slowly gaining momentum in the USA, with people trading in their sprawling McMansions for smaller, more eco-friendly properties. Predictably, it was only a matter of time before someone did the same with a hotel. The founders of Tiny Digs spent eight months looking for the right location for their hotel of ‘tiny houses’. Eventually they settled on an old car lot in Portland, Oregon’s vibrant Kerns neighbourhood, six kilometres east of the city centre. After launching in September 2016 with six houses, they now have eight and plan to add more.   I stayed in the Cabin, which is an adorable homage to all things woody. The interior is made from tongue-and-groove cedar, the outside is covered with cedar logs and the bathroom door is fashioned from beetle-damaged pine. Miraculously, the designers have crammed a queen-size bed, a kitchenette, a dining table, a sofa (which converts into a second bed) and an en suite into a floor space of just 14 square metres. Make no mistake, it’s cosy – you wouldn’t want to throw a dance party or attempt to cook a six-course meal – but it just shows what’s possible when you apply clever design to a compact space.   All but one of the houses was designed by one of the hotel’s four founders: each has a different theme and the attention to detail is utterly charming. The Gypsy Wagon (the one exception – it was purchased) is a bohemian riot of brightly coloured fabrics, the Beach is all soothing pastel blues and the Barn has a sink fashioned out of an old whisky barrel. My log cabin is decorated with suitably outdoorsy pictures of grizzly bears and rutting stags, plus there’s an eclectic reading selection that includes a tongue-in-cheek wilderness survival guide with a chapter on how to negotiate with a hippie. The houses are arranged in a semi-circle around a communal fire pit and the compound is illuminated by strings of twinkling lights. It’s a homely, welcoming set-up and guests often congregate around the fire over a drink. Of course, a hotel is only as good as its location and Tiny Digs is ideally situated one block from NE 28th Avenue, known locally as ‘restaurant row’. Within a 10-minute stroll are more than 50 restaurants and brewpubs, offering up everything from Cuban to Thai to classic American comfort food. If you want to explore further afield, there’s a Biketown rental station nearby or downtown is only a 10-minute cab ride away.   To be fair, Tiny Digs wasn’t Portland’s first tiny house hotel. That honour goes to Caravan, which opened in 2013 in the Alberta Arts District. The property is still going strong, with six themed houses clustered around a cosy communal fire pit. [caption id="attachment_41930" align="alignleft" width="1500"] An ingenious solution for sleeping and lounging in the Modern tiny house[/caption] Head an hour east of Portland and you’ll find another collection of tiny dwellings in the Mt Hood Village RV resort. From here you’re well-positioned to explore the spectacularly verdant Mount Hood National Forest.   I’ll confess I was a little sceptical at the prospect of squeezing myself and my suitcase into such a compact space. But by the end of my stay I was a convert. I loved the ingenuity, the irreverent decoration and the sheer, irresistible cosiness of the place. It also made me think seriously about how much space and stuff one person really needs. Which, presumably, is the whole point. Tiny top spots: Tiny Digs Hotel 2646 NE Glisan Street, Portland. From $230 per night. Caravan 5009 NE 11th Avenue, Portland. From $220 per night. Mt Hood Tiny House Village 65000 E. Hwy 26, Welches, Oregon. From $185 per night.
Here’s what a perfect 48 hours alone in Los Angeles looks like
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