Wall Drug is an expansive shopping mall located in the town of Wall, South
Dakota, in the western part of the state close to the Badlands.
Owned and operated by a single family, the Wall Drug store is different from
traditional shopping malls, and it offers a unique experience to tourists who
stop here to see the stores or drink the free ice water before heading to other
scenic attractions in South
Wall Drug was a small town drug store opened by Ted Hustead, a Nebraska native and pharmacist, in 1931. For five years, business was dwindling until Ted's wife, Dorothy Hustead, came up with the idea of offering free ice water to thirsty travelers heading to nearby Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills. They put up road signs along the highway to advertise their new idea, and within a few months weary travelers lined up—today there are thousands of tourists who stop here for refreshments.
The Wall Drug store of today mimics the storefronts of the Wild West. The cowboy-themed mall consists of a drug store, restaurants, gift shop, and many other stores. One of the most out-of-the-way features of Wall Drug South Dakota is the Wall Drug Back Yard, which is filled with variety of wonders including a replica of Mount Rushmore, a six-foot rabbit figurine, and a giant jackalope made from fiberglass.
The Western Art Gallery Restaurant inside the Wall Drug store is certainly the best place to appease your appetite. It includes an art collection featuring original works from Will James, Harvey Dunn, and NC Wyeth. It also has a variety of pieces to catch your eye, including carved statues, totem poles, and stuffed animal heads.
The donuts and coffee available at the restaurant are free for selected individuals including priests, veterans, and honeymooners, but even for ordinary travelers a cup only costs five cents. The serving method of the five-cent coffee is unique, as customers drop a nickel into a wooden box and serve themselves. The Western Art Gallery Restaurant always serves homemade sandwiches, rolls, and mouth-watering buffalo burgers at a very reasonable price.
There are many life-size characters in Wall Drug South Dakota, but the one that is the most eye-catching is the 80-foot Apatosaurus, which stands with big protruding eyes next to Interstate 90. The 50-ton dinosaur statue was built by Ernest Sullivan, who was well-known for Rapid City's Dinosaur Park and the Christ of the Ozarks. The Apatosaurus isn’t the only mechanical marvel at Wall Drug, however. You’ll also find such statues as the "Chuck Wagon Four," a band of mannequin cowboys smuggled out of a Denver department store by the Husteads.
One of the key reasons Wall Drug South Dakota is known as a major tourist attraction
is its effective advertising campaign. There are more than 500 self-promotional
billboards with slogans such as "Wall I'll be drugged" and "How many miles to
Wall Drug?" that extend from Minnesota
to Billings, Montana, and draw
visitors to this tiny town on the prairie.
The gift shop inside the Wall Drug store is a sprawling complex teeming with books, jewelry, wood carvings, leather works, and wall hangings, among other souvenir items. Shopping around can be a memorable experience, and you’ll likely find something unique to bring home from one of the most unusual South Dakota roadside attractions.