A Sassy Midwestern Road Trip with Toyota!

Every summer my family and I usually take some time off for a family trip. Last year we stayed a little local with a quick road trip to Galena, IL and it went so well that we thought maybe we would try a longer road trip. We might have overshot that goal a tiny bit since Galena is about a 3 hour drive and we ended up picking a Midwest road trip stopping in Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and Minnesota, but ultimately it was so worth it. 

Hands down the best part of our trip was how we got to and from all our destinations in the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited. It was the perfect road trip vehicle with enough space for all 3 of us, our luggage for the week, and of course tons and tons of snacks! 

2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Most-Loved Features

*as decided by the Confetti family! 

  • The premium audio with dynamic navigation - key for getting us around the National Parks we visited!
  • There are 11 speakers in the car all from JBL and it's just super good quality. Perfect for us all to listen to podcasts during our drives.
  • Heated power outside mirrors with turn signal and blind spot warnings which was super ideal for all the driving we were doing on big highways. 
  • Two outlets in the back of the car for charging devices. There is also a wireless charging unit in the front of the car so you can put your device on it to charge when you drive! 
  • The car also comes with 24 hour roadside assistance which made us really comfortable driving through some of the sleepier parts of the country knowing we had back-up if we needed it. 

Below is a recap of our trip in case you are interested in planning your own cross-country trip to the Dakotas. We had so much fun exploring all thanks to Toyota! 

DAY 1 - Drive from Chicago to Iowa City 

  • This is about a 3.5 hour drive so we decided to stop here for lunch and explore. So many cute shops, restaurants and murals! We loved bopping around and actually stayed overnight about an hour away at my aunt and uncle's house nearby. 

Day 2 - Drive from Akenny, IA to Sioux Falls, SD

  • This is another chunk of your day driving - about 4 hours
  • When we arrived in Sioux Falls we had a late lunch and then went exploring the Falls and downtown which has a sculpture walk and tons of cute cocktail bars 
  • For dinner, we hit up The Harvester which was one of my best meals of 2021. They make potatoes 5 different ways! 

Day 3 - Drive from Sioux Falls, SD to Rapid City, SD 

  • This is about a 5 hour drive so we used this time to stop at a bunch of the fun roadside attractions! 
  • Some of our favorites included Wall Drug, Mitchell's Corn Palace and Porter Sculpture Park! 

Day 4 - Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore

  • For the rest of the time we stayed in Rapid City and did little day trips from there to other notable areas in South Dakota. It was nice to have a home base to come back to and not have to keep traveling and unpacking a suitcase over and over! 
  • Our first day in Rapid City, we drove through Keystone State Park and saw tons of wildlife on their Wildlife Route - including bison! Lots of them! 
  • We hiked around Sylvan Lake in Keystone Park and then drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This was very much my favorite part of the day. It was so much more educational than I thought it would be. Did you know the Lakota commissioned the piece from a famous sculptor and then he and his family lived at the base of the mountain as they worked on it? It's technically not done yet, but it will be gorgeous once it is! 
  • Then we mosey'ed over to Mount Rushmore to see some Presidents on a rock. It was cool, but Crazy Horse was much more educational and awe-inspiring in our opinion. 

Day 5 - The Badlands

  • We got up early to go to the Badlands and take a hike through the alien-like structures that makes up the topography of the area. 
  • We also did a scenic loop drive which was perfect in the Toyota! 
  • We ended the day hanging out with the prairie dogs in Robert's Prairie Dog Town and then headed back to Rapid City. 

Day 6 - Devils Tower in Wyoming

  • This was my personal favorite day since I had zero expectations of what Devils Tower would be like, but this national monument is pretty spectacular and very, very special and sacred to the indigenous people. 
  • We did a 1-hour walk around the Devils Tower and then found another prairie dog town before leaving to check out the town of Deadwood, SD.
  • Deadwood is known for being a gold town in the 1800s and still has a lot of nostalgia surrounding the time period like saloons, brothel museums, and is also known as being the place where Wild Bill was murdered. He is buried here with Calamity Jane and seeing their graves was a highlight of the day. 

Day 7 - Drive from Rapid City, SD to Rochester, MN

  • We drove back through Minnesota so we could stop and see my sister's old roommate from college. We drove straight through to Rochester and had a nice dinner at Pittsburgh Blue steakhouse downtown. 

Day 8 - Drive from Rochester, MN back to Chicago 

  • We stopped in Red Wing, MN to visit my sister's friend and her family stopping to get the most delicious donuts at a local bakery. It had been voted best bakery in Minnesota and for good reason! 

We had the best time and honestly none of it would have been possible without Toyota who got us there and back safely in their 2021 Highlander Hybrid Limited. Thank you again Toyota!