As the pandemic has practically ingrained into our lives, there’s no place like home for the holidays. So hang some stockings on the mantle, decorate gingerbread houses with chocolate and gumdrops, and leave out a few sugar cookies for Santa Claus.

Winter in the Black Hills. Christmas Nights of Lights event at Storybook Island in Rapid City.

Mid-pandemic or otherwise, no holiday is complete without a night out in the frosty air, searching for the most festive display of holiday lights with loved ones.

For Julie Schmitz Jensen, the president and CEO of Visit Rapid City, that perfect night in the lights would begin at the Christmas Nights of Light at Storybook Island in Rapid City.

“It is so amazing how every storybook character is lit up, and all the lights are bright,” she said.


Storybook Island is volunteer run, and after the year this world has had, Schmitz Jensen couldn’t be more excited for the 16 miles of twinkling luminosity.

“It’s been magical forever, since [Storybook Island] started doing it, but it’s really going to be magical this year because it’s outdoors,” said Schmitz Jensen. “There will be people, I hope masked up, that will get to watch their grandchildren run and children run around. To me that is what keeps us all a little more sane.”

For her, finding those outdoor activities is the key to remaining safe during the holidays. And Storybook Island isn’t the only dazzling outdoor display in the city. 

After spending some time with characters from childhood, Schmitz Jensen says her perfect night in the lights would resume in the heart of downtown Rapid City.

Food for the Holidays

When you visit Storybook Island, volunteers ask that you bring a can of food to help feed families in need.

“I would go to Main Street Square, and I would ice skate a little bit and look at the beautiful decorations,” she explained, further describing the square as “phenomenal.”

From the massive Christmas tree to the ice skating rink, Schmitz Jensen says Main Street Square is a can’t-miss stop during the holidays.

Ice skating at Main Street Square during the winter.

Rapid City Parks & Recreation have decked out both Wilson Park and Halley Park, blanketing them in strings upon strings of twinkling lights.

She continued, “Our Parks and Rec department is pretty amazing in how they keep Rapid City people excited about whatever season it is: both in the summer when it’s all about the flowers, and in the winter, they decorate for Christmas.”

Tour de Lights

Find the most festive neighborhoods with holiday light displays with the Tour de Lights. To check out the lit-up homes, visit to see the lineup.

And of course, let’s not forget about the residential areas that sparkle in the night.

“That’s important, driving around with the people you’re safe with and showing the beauty of the season,” emphasized Schmitz Jensen. “There are neighborhoods that are going all out.”

What better way to end your night in the lights than with a relaxing drive around the city with your family, sipping a mug of hot cocoa?

“To me, it is just about trying to keep something alive during the pandemic, and what’s alive is the holiday spirit,” said Schmitz Jensen.

Rapid City is prioritizing safe travel. For more information, visit
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