Wall's offerings limited, but it is a gateway to spectacular sights
Q. I'm taking my family to Wall, S. D., to visit some friends who recently moved there, and we've decided to make it next summer's vacation. I know Wall is near some of South Dakota's best sightseeing, but is there anything to do in Wall itself? I'm told it's rather a small town. I also heard something about a drugstore that's supposed to be quite famous. Watching for your answer, and thank you.
A. You're right. Wall is small, with only about 800 residents. The town, just off I-90 near Rapid City, is the northern gateway to Badlands National Park, one of the sights you'll want to see, but it's also home to the famous store to which you refer: Wall Drug Store. This storied store is the principal industry in the community, employing almost a third of the town's residents.
The drugstore has quite a history. Back in 1936, owners Ted and Dorothy Hustead had a small pharmacy, but they came up with an ingenious marketing plan. Traveling to Wall in those days meant going through hot, dusty prairie, and the Husteads realized the travelers would be thirsty. They put up signs along the highway offering free ice water, and tourists have been stopping there ever since.
The signs were so successful the Husteads decided to take a step further and began investing in billboards and Wall Drug roadside advertisements appeared across the country.
Today the Wall Drug Store covers an entire block where one can get a prescription filled, eat in the restaurant or snack shop as well as browse through the 26 retail departments that equal a small shopping center and view a $3 million art collection. You can still get a free glass of ice water or a cup of Badlands coffee for a nickel.
South of Wall is the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, some 591,000 acres of prairie and eroding badlands. The National Grasslands Visitor Center in Wall, at 708 Main St., is a good place to learn about the area's history and uses of the grassland. Across the street from the drugstore you'll find the Wild West Historical Wax Museum that displays replicas of such famous Wild West figures as Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp as well as actors John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
There might not be much to do in Wall, but it's close to some of the nation's most interesting sights. The town is about 70 miles from Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Jewel Cave National Monument to name a few.
For additional information, you can call (888) 852-9255 or check out its Web site, wall-badlands.com.
Send your questions at least sixweeks prior to travel to Madelyn Merwin in care of
Travel,Daily Herald, P.O.Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or e-mail