On the Road for the Donuts in South Dakota


“You have to stop at Wall Drug,” said Kathy, my buffalo safari guide at Custer State Park. I’d just told her I was going to visit South Dakota’s Badlands the next day.  “And make sure you get one of their homemade donuts – they’re legendary.”  Decision made.  I’ll travel just about anywhere for donuts.  If there’s anything better than donuts, I haven’t found it yet.

The next morning, I left my Rapid City hotel and set off in blustery winds for the one-hour drive to the Badlands.  And I do mean winds.  I could barely hold my rented Subaru Outback on the highway, driving through what appeared to be a meteor shower.  It might have been tumbleweeds, or it might not have been.

About ten minutes into the trip, I saw a huge road sign that said “Wall Drug – Pretty Close.”  This was puzzling, as I knew I was not pretty close.  The next sign said, “Wall Drug — 5¢ Coffee.”  I started seeing similar signs every five minutes.  It was then that I concluded Wall Drug was no ordinary pharmacy.

Wow, that was an understatement.  Or under-thought, in this case.


I pulled into the quirky old west Main Street and saw that Wall Drug Store took up a whole lot of real estate in that chain of shops.  I pulled open Wall Drug’s door, and instead of a pharmacy, I gazed upon rows of shops including an apothecary, western outfitters, chapel, bookstore, the ubiquitous tee-shirt shops, and three restrooms, all operating under the watch of myriad taxidermy beasts.


I stopped in one of the shops to chat with the shopkeeper, Eddie.  “Wow, this isn’t what I was expecting!” I said.  “We get that a lot.” said Eddie, who also worked at the Badlands and gave me a treasure trove of information about the national park, a map, and what route to take to get the best photos.

Badlands 009

But where were the donuts?  I continued to meander through the labyrinth of connected shops toward back of the Wall Drug tourist megaplex until finally I hit gold dough.  I ordered two donuts for the photo op I had in mind, got my 5¢ coffee and then began to scout the dining area.  I found a pleasant-looking middle-aged couple talking amicably with a young woman who looked to be in her mid-to-late twenties.  I took a seat at an empty table near them.

I took out my Nikon, arranged my tray, donuts, and coffee just so, and then paraded over to their table.  I excused myself and then launched right into my [true] tale that I was a travel writer roaming the prairie lands without my photographer, and asked if one of them would please take a photo for me.

The older couple looked at each other, guffawed, and pointed to the young woman across the table from them.  “She’s a professional photographer!” the man said.  Come to find out, it was Katie Adkins, a budding new local talent whose show was being hosted at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology that very night!

Don’t you love it when that happens?

But I digress….

Katie graciously snapped a few photos for me, the four of us chatted for a few minutes, and then I went back to my own table.


Did I mention the donuts were maple frosted?  If you ever get to Wall Drug in South Dakota, I highly recommend them.  If you get two for your own photo op, don’t try to eat both of the deliciously dense treats or you’ll hate yourself afterwards.

I know of what I speak.


  1. I love Wall Drug Store…what great memories!

  2. Donuts! Who doesn’t like donuts?!? Wal Drug is now enough reason for me to visit South Dakota. Soon :)
    Viv recently posted…International Women’s Day 2014My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      South Dakota was such a pleasant surprise! The day at Wall Drug and then the Badlands was amazing.

  3. Those look like fantastic doughnuts. If I ever get to South Dakota, I will drop by!
    Nancie recently posted…Travel Photo Thursday — Mar.6/14– Halifax’s Old Burial GroundMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      They were way too good! I did eat both of them, I confess. They were maple-frosted… there was no possible way for me to resist. :)

  4. Been there! Ate those doughnuts! As a matter of fact we took a bag with us as we were on a cross country road trip. Loved Wall Drugs, what a great place to let your imagination run wild. Did you visit Mt. Rushmore? Crazy Horse? That area has so much to offer, we’d like to return one day.
    Patti recently posted…Something Beyond Words ~My Profile

  5. I remember all the crazy signs leading you to Wall Drug! I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed after all the hype, but then … I didn’t try the maple donuts! (That was many years ago and I don’t remember them having donuts at that time.) Where would life be without road trips?
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…Moana Surfrider: the 1st Lady of WaikikiMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I’ll go almost anywhere for a maple donut! And since Wall Drug was right on my route to the Badlands, it was a very convenient and fun stop.

  6. You had me at donuts but what a fantastic place Wall Drug turned out to be. Also reminded me of the old Burma Shave signs we used to see along the highways when I was a kid. Sweet!
    Nancy Thompson recently posted…Homemade Chinese Dumplings ~ they’re what’s for dinnerMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Ah, another kindred spirit donut lover! I believe there are more of us than have previously admitted! Not familiar with Burma Shave, tho….

  7. Interesting store. I’ll have to check it out when I’m in the area. I don’t eat donuts a lot, but when I do I often choose the maple glazed.

  8. It’s funny how maple is a favourite of so many people – it’s mine too! Although the new VON’s doughnuts here in Toronto recently created a creme brûlée donut that sounds pretty irresistible too. I haven’t been to the Badlands for awhile but it sounds as quirky as ever!
    Michele Peterson recently posted…Cooking class in Guatemala: Ceremonial chickenMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Maple is even better than chocolate, in my opinion! The crème brûlée donuts sound really yummy, too. Boston cream were another favorite when I lived in New England.

  9. In the event I never get there, I got vicarious pleasure from watching you with those yummy looking donuts!
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…Book Review – Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the LineMy Profile

  10. Okay, this is fabulous. I love this place and can almost imagine biting into one of those donuts. Great post!
    Jackie Smith recently posted…Lana’i: Laid-Back LuxuryMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      It was a fun place on its own, made only better by the donuts. Definitely a stop for anyone going to the Badlands!

  11. It reminds me of the South of the Border signs driving from Philly to Florida — although South of the Border itself was a bit of a bust. I figure you had to eat both doughnuts in the interest of journalistic integrity since the photo of you with two doughnuts implies that you consumed two of them. So, according to the AP Style Manual, is it “doughnuts” or “donuts”?
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted…What’s Up with Wats in Chiang Mai, Thailand?My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Yes, that’s exactly why I ate them! That, and I go nuts for all things maple. Apparently the AP style is “doughnuts,” but let me plead my case…. I lived in New England for 50+ years and I am ALL ABOUT Dunkin’ Donuts — won’t go near that awful bitter Starbucks. So it’s always been “donuts” for me, and I might be too set in my ways to change now. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :)

  12. The owners of Wall Drug did an amazing public relations stunt by placing all those signs in so many states. Fortunately many are still visible, not like the Burma Shave signs that are gone now. I am also a donut critic and wish the low calorie type were as good.
    Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it recently posted…Legend of St. Patrick Driving Snakes Out of IrelandMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I know what you mean. I often eat sugar-free foods, and have to tell myself, “maybe not as good, but good enough.” :)

  13. Patti,
    You are evil and I have never met you. I absolutely love Maple glazed donuts and you have posted one that appears to have glaze on so thick it is literally dripping on the table. OMG it looks delicious! Makes me want to get in my little Honda (Nope I don’t have a huge Cadillac like some Texans) and drive to this place and chow down until I can’t walk. Thanks (I think) for sharing this post! Safe travels.
    Mike (Nomadic Texan) recently posted…My Amazing Life-Chapter 8, Jadi BatekMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Oh, they were ridiculously delicious! Halfway through the second, I started feeling the guilt, but ignored it and finished it. Very, very yummy.

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