Though it wasn’t named after the fast pace in which residents live their lives, but instead the waterway the city was built on, Rapid City is much more than just a large, unhurried city in South Dakota. Founded by a few miners in the 1800s, today the city is home to over 60,000 residents, amazing national parks and four presidents…well, sort of.
Throughout the year, tourists come to visit the historical sites (Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore, for instance) and take in the Rapid City lifestyle. Here, life is a bit laidback with a strong dose of classic Americana. It’s true, there’s even a music festival here called “Americana Festival.” Surrounded by mountains, full of character and probably one of the best spots to hike, ice skate, bike, explore and so on, Rapid City lives up to its “Star of the West” nickname. Lucky for you, it’s willing to share the spotlight. Let’s find you a home in this Midwestern treasure town, shall we?
As you peruse our finely structured “where to live” section you will notice that rents, for the most part, are relatively cheap in Rapid City. This is because the cost of living is affordable and the city isn’t filled with McMansions. Also, South Dakota doesn’t have a state income tax, so keep in mind that while your paycheck may be smaller, your rent is rent, too. The best part? That’s you’ll get to keep a little extra in your pocket simply by living here.
Rapid City (or RC) is broken into north, south, west sides—all filled with quaint suburbs and appealing living options. Let’s see if you prefer a view of the plains (east) or the hills (west)…
North Side: Until recently, North Rapids wasn’t a hip place to live. No one was renting or buying here. Then residents realized that cheap little treasures were available in this end of town. Quiet, cozy and filled with historic homes (many from the 1930s), the North side is home to families, seniors and residents looking to build a life in the area and possibly snatch up a fixer-upper at a great price. Many of the single-family homes here are medium sized (about 3 bedrooms) and feature quirky characteristics (who has heard of a 1 ½ story house?). Apartments are often established, like the homes, but are very affordable (two bedrooms/$500). The affordable rents and the proximity to the highway make living in the North side a great option for those looking to save, live alone on a small salary or college student income. $-$$$
West Side: The West side of Rapid City is a middle/upper middle-income area where residents of all ages live. It’s a quiet end of town where single-family homes tend to be medium to large (3 bedrooms or more) and apartments are cozy. Anywhere you live in this end of town you will be guaranteed great scenic views. That just means that the apartment amenities (fitness centers, garages, paid garbage and water) are simply an added bonus. You’ll be close to shopping, great schools, parks/walking trails and the National Guard training camp (for those moving here to serve), making living on the West side a convenient (close to I-90) and affordable option. Rents for one bedrooms start at $560/two bedrooms start at $650. $$-$$$
South Side: Located minutes from Downtown, living in the South side of Rapid City allows you to take part in the serene things such as golf courses and scenic views and the exciting things like nightlife, dining and downtown events. Two bedrooms can cost you around $640 or so and will include on-site dry cleaning, garages, storage and some paid utilities. Because the Medical District is located here (and is the biggest employer in the city), many young professionals and families reside here. There are also an abundance of great public and private schools, nicely maintained subdivisions, outdoor recreation spaces and some of the best shopping in the city. Bonus: Depending on which part of the south side you live in, you’ll see the plains to the east and the hills to the west. $$-$$$
Downtown: Downtown RC is a mixed bag of fun. Families, young professionals, and National American University students tend to reside around here. Established homes fill the quiet tree-lined streets and apartment options are diverse. For those wanting a more “downtown” feel, some apartments here feature a bit of city living appeal with studios, warehouse lofts above downtown stores and eateries.
The best part of living in the downtown area is that the living costs and the pricing fluctuate, matching every budget. You can snag a studio for about $450, while some fancier lofts can cost a pretty penny (about $2k). Basic apartment living (with tanning beds, rec rooms, pools) can be found for around $895. Living here means access to some of the biggest and best events in the city, as many events are held in Main Street Square. Residents are drawn to Downtown for the history, entertainment value and the scenic views of the Black Hills. $$-$$$$
Many apartments feature heat as an amenity, and it’ll only take one winter here to see why. Rapid City gets COLD! We’re talking “in the negatives” cold. While it makes for a white Christmas, it also means you should secure a rental with heat and maybe even a fireplace.
When it comes to pet friendly, most apartments will allow four legged friends — with a deposit. We aren’t talking about the buffalo, burros and sheep you may see roaming the hills — they make horrible roommates. Although there are many breed/weight restrictions on dogs, the consensus in Rapid City is that felines are perfectly fine roommates. Cats are often welcome with little or no deposit.
Fitness is a part of the lifestyle around here and many apartment homes throw in a gym membership with their rental fee. If a complex doesn’t offer a membership to a local, they most likely feature their own 24-hour workout facility on the premises.
If you are moving to Rapid City with your own set of wheels, it’s important to learn the rules of the road here. First of all, when traveling, you will most likely rely on I-90 to take you around. Running east and west, the interstate connects drivers to major parts of the city, including Interstate 190 (which connects with I-90 to bring you downtown). If you’re looking to head to the Black Hills, U.S. 16 is your main road and highway 79 will take you south to Nebraska or north to North Dakota, for those weekend road trips.
No one really seems to be in a rush in Rapid City. How’s that for irony?
There is virtually no traffic congestion in Rapid City, even with all the tourism, so don’t fear travel times. However, if you ever find yourself in traffic, take solace in one of the 20-plus radio stations that city offers.
As for public transit, Rapid City has that covered. With a bus system (Rapid Ride), a seasonal trolley system (City View) and a Dial-A-Ride bus, residents looking to go green or with a lack of wheels can travel around the city without a worry—though the bus system doesn’t operate on Sundays.
Always wanted to rock climb ala Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible? Consider your wish granted in Rapid City. Looking to perfect your triple axel or simply learn how to skate a “figure 8?” Rapid City can make it happen. The bottom line is that any and every outdoor/recreational activity is at your fingertips in Rapid City. Horseback riding, skating, hiking, you name it; it’s in your backyard in this Midwestern town.
It’s fair to say that taking a look around at the lifestyle here is like staring at a Ralph Lauren ad. Blue jeans are a way of life, mountains and plains sit in the background and Native American influences are everywhere. Rapid City is referred to as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” but it is so much more than that. Clean air, friendly people and postcard-worthy views are just some of the charms of Rapid City and just some of the reasons tourists come to visit and residents come to live.
Head out (mid) west and start living.
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