Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Custer’s First Choice: Sage Creek Grille

The small city of Custer, South Dakota, served as my base for exploring the region’s Black Hills National Forest and the treasures within its boundaries: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the world’s 10 most beautiful drives, and two of the world’s top 10 caves and caverns. Once I returned to the town at night, dinner was never more than a little walk from my hotel, and one of the best I had was at Sage Creek Grille, an unpretentious little place where you can contemplate which pieces of artwork you’d like to take home as you enjoy your evening meal. Read more >

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Rapid City, South Dakota’s Five Best Delights

Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City, South DakotaA pleasant, easygoing vibe permeates South Dakota’s second-largest city. Compact enough to see largely by foot, it seems populated entirely by friendly people who made me feel welcome in their hometown. Often used as a base for exploring the nearby Black Hills, it’s perfectly situated to enjoy the region’s stellar outdoor activities, from trout fishing to hiking around granite peaks. But the city itself, and some of its unique attractions, deserve a little time and attention, too. Read more about the top five things to see and do in Rapid City >


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Sunday Driving, Any Day of the Week

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park, South DakotaRemember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >


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More Than the Goddess of Wisdom: Minervas in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Since it opened nearly 40 years ago, Minervas has expanded to 10 locations in the upper Midwest. But its original venue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is still the most elegant. I came upon it by accident, while I was roaming around the downtown area and admiring the artwork of the annual SculptureWalk dotting the sidewalks. The unassuming brick building featured an outdoor seating area of about a dozen tables protected from the street by globular planters overflowing with pink and yellow flowers and occupied by happy diners enjoying both their meals and the view of the historic 90-year-old State Theatre across the street. That — and the tantalizing menu under glass — was more than enough for me to step inside for dinner. Read more >


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Feel Like Family Over Dinner at Botticelli in Rapid City, South Dakota

Named for the Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, this downtown Rapid City eatery received both the Best of the Black Hills Award for Italian restaurants and the Wine Spectator Excellence Award in 2014. Recommended to me by some local cognoscenti, Botticelli has been serving hungry South Dakotans and visitors alike since 1997. And when you’re here, you almost feel like part of la famiglia. Read more >


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Top 5 Yellows

Ceramics and pottery, Orvieto, ItalyIt may elicit groans and sighs of dismay from children when a yellow school bus pulls up on the first day back to class in September, but it will also make millions of parents secretly smile. In fact, at least to me, yellow remains the most joyful color. Whether it’s the daffodil fields of Oregon, the Yellow Mounds in Badlands National Park in South Dakota, or the predominant color in the ceramics and pottery made in Orvieto, Italy, yellow is bound to add a little cheer to your day. These are my top five occurrences of yellow from around the world. Read more >


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Five Buildings of Distinction in Pierre, South Dakota

Karcher-Sahr House, Pierre, South DakotaHalfway between lovely Sioux Falls in the eastern part of South Dakota and the gorgeous Black Hills in the west, Pierre seemed a good resting spot for a couple of days as I traversed the state. And when I first arrived here, I knew immediately that “resting” would be the operative word in this very small city of 14,000 of the friendliest people you’re ever likely to meet. But the city’s size — it’s the second-smallest capital in the United States (after tiny and charming Montpelier, Vermont) — also offers a good opportunity to really get to know and admire some of its outstanding architecture. These are my top five buildings in Pierre. Read more >