I knew about Wall Drug in South Dakota long before I knew what Wall Drug Store was. My ten-year-older-than-me sister had taken a road trip in college and brought back for me “Where the heck is the Wall Drug?” bumper sticker.
I was confused about what this slogan meant, never mind the fact that I was years from being able to drive, still I kept it in a box of souvenirs tucked away under my twin bed.
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It wasn’t until many years later, when I took a South Dakota road trip of my own, that I discovered what Wall Drug is…and where the heck it is.
What is Wall Drug in South Dakota?
Today, Wall Drug Store is a popular South Dakota roadside attraction and tourist trap in Wall, SD visited by two million tourists annually. But it wasn’t always so.
Ted Hustead, a pharmacist from Nebraska, purchased the property in 1931. He was looking for a small town with a Catholic Church and small Wall, with a population of 231 to 326, hit the spot. Unfortunately, the small population didn’t bring big business.
It was his wife Dorothy who came up with a brilliant plan: advertise free ice water to parched passersby. It was that simple idea that brought travelers to the sleepy town and made Wall Drug Store into the tourist attraction it is today.
Wall Drug South Dakota is a Western-themed shopping mall with a drug store, gift shop, restaurants, travelers church, taxidermy, a giant Jackalope, and an 80-foot brontosaurus.
So where the heck is the Wall Drug?
Wall is located off Interstate 90 at mile markers 109 & 110 in Western South Dakota. It’s 8 miles north of Badlands National Park, 55 miles east of Rapid City, 70 miles east of the Black Hills National Forest, and 77 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Really, if you’re taking a South Dakota road trip, it’s hard to miss. Billboards advertising Wall Drug (and free ice water) permeate the side of the highway and can be seen for hundreds of miles throughout South Dakota and beyond. How many Wall Drug signs are there? According to the Chicago Tribune, there were about 3,000 Wall Drugs signs in 50 states by the 1960s…but today only about 250 remain. Most are found on a 650-mile-long stretch of Interstate 90 from Minnesota to Billings, Montana.
Wall Drug Store
Location: 510 Main St, Wall, SD 57790
Hours: 7am to 9pm daily
Cost: Free to See, Free Ice Water, food and souvenirs vary
Photos: September 2008