South Dakota Road Trip: Seeking the Famous Wall Drug Donuts

March 10, 2014

wall drug south dakota

“You have to stop at Wall Drug,” said Kathy, my buffalo safari guide at Custer State Park. I’d just told her that my road trip in South Dakota was taking me to the 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.

WallDrug_map

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.

South Dakota road trip

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.

South Dakota road trip

But where were the donuts?  I continued to meander through the labyrinth of connected shops toward the 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.

South Dakota road trip

Did I mention the donuts were maple frosted? Maples is my Achilles Heel — even more than chocolate.

If you’re thinking of a South Dakota road trip, I highly recommend a stop at Wall Drug for the donuts.  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 afterward.

I know of what I speak.

26 comments

  1. Comment by Mike (Nomadic Texan)

    Mike (Nomadic Texan) Reply March 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    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

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

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

  2. Comment by Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it

    Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it Reply March 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm

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

  3. Comment by Suzanne Fluhr

    Suzanne Fluhr Reply March 14, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    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”?

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 14, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      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. 🙂

  4. Comment by Jackie Smith

    Jackie Smith Reply March 12, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Okay, this is fabulous. I love this place and can almost imagine biting into one of those donuts. Great post!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm

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

  5. Comment by Irene S. Levine

    Irene S. Levine Reply March 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    In the event I never get there, I got vicarious pleasure from watching you with those yummy looking donuts!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Always glad to be of assistance, Irene!

  6. Comment by Michele Peterson

    Michele Peterson Reply March 11, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    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!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      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.

  7. Comment by Donna Janke

    Donna Janke Reply March 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Can never go wrong with maple on anything!

  8. Comment by Nancy Thompson

    Nancy Thompson Reply March 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

    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!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 11, 2014 at 11:38 am

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

  9. Comment by Doreen Pendgracs

    Doreen Pendgracs Reply March 10, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    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?

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 11, 2014 at 8:50 am

      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.

  10. Comment by Patti

    Patti Reply March 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 10, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      I did visit Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park — so incredible!

  11. Comment by Nancie

    Nancie Reply March 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Those look like fantastic doughnuts. If I ever get to South Dakota, I will drop by!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      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. 🙂

  12. Comment by Viv

    Viv Reply March 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Donuts! Who doesn’t like donuts?!? Wal Drug is now enough reason for me to visit South Dakota. Soon 🙂

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

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

  13. Comment by Marilyn Jones

    Marilyn Jones Reply March 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I love Wall Drug Store…what great memories!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply March 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      It was definitely a place I will not soon forget!

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