Rapid City is South Dakotaﾕs major hub for tourism and recreation, and about 70,000 people make their homes here. Another 65,000 are close by, including armed service personnel who live on or close to Ellsworth Air Force Base. In 2014, the US Census Bureau estimated the metro area population at 135,193.
The city is a regional center of commerce, healthcare services and manufacturing. Ranching and mining are still very important to the local economy, as is education. The city is home to the nationally renowned South Dakota School of Mines & Technology; the He Sapa campus of the Oglala Lakota College; an SDSU Regional Center; the USDﾕs University Center Rapid City; a National American University campus; and Western Dakota Technical Institute. Archeology is thriving in the Black Hills: the Archaeological Research Center at 217 Kansas City Street is a program of the South Dakota State Historical Society, and it maintains records on more than 23,000 archaeological sites and 12,000 projects. The Center (history.sd.gov/Archaeology) has also been a long-term partner with the Journey Museum in Rapid City (journeymuseum.org), which hosts archaeological exhibits based on artifacts from its collections.
Originally known as The City of Presidents because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore, that title has now been firmly reinforced with the addition of bronze, life-size statues of every U.S. chief executive – all of them placed outdoors on downtown streets where visitors can cozy up and take photos (here, some of my own family members pose with George Washington). The city was founded by gold rush miners in 1876, and was at first known as Hay Camp. But it was quickly renamed for the fast-flowing creek that runs through the valley. On the 9th of June, 1972, Rapid Creek became a raging torrent and the ensuing flood – South Dakotaﾕs worst natural disaster – took the lives of more than 250 people. Since then, major engineering works have been put in place to prevent flooding.
The downtown area is vibrant, welcoming, and full of great shopping, galleries, museums and dining. The city has done a great job preserving its heritage while also developing new facilities such as Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and Main Street Square. The latter, located in the heart of downtown, is described as ﾒa fun-filled public space that features special events, arts and culture, live concerts, seasonal ice skating and interactive fountainsﾓ.
There is an excellent website, downtownrapidcity.com, where visitors can go to find out everything thatﾕs happening during their stay.
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