So you’ve been awed by Mt. Rushmore and wondered at the tenacity of the sculpting family behind the Crazy Horse Memorial. You’re ready for fresh air and the beauty of outdoor activities of South Dakota. You definitely have great options to enjoy nature in the Badlands, Black Hills, Custer State National Park and the Mickelson Trail, to name a few. In the intense heat of the South Dakota summer sun, though, you may want some indoor time.
When you are visiting the gorgeous Badlands and Black Hills nearby, you will pass through or near the town of Hot Springs in South Dakota. Here are 5 indoor activities you can do in South Dakota when being outside gets too much for you (or the kids).
The Mammoth Site is open year round as a museum and a working archeological dig. It has the largest collection of mammoth bones in the world. The area used to be a watering hole nearly 26000 years ago and the occasional mammoth would fall in. So far, they have found 61 mammoths’ remains. Amusingly, we were told all these mammoths were male. I’d like to think the female mammoths were too smart to fall in the pond and not be able to get out.
The different sizes of various mammoths
My children thought the exhibit was fascinating. The Mammoth Site runs a summer camp and, if we lived any closer to Hot Springs South Dakota, I would definitely send my kids off to be junior palenteologists.
Giant Mammoth Tusks
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is also located in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Our tour of the sanctuary turned out to be a private one because we were the only people there. The guide was local and really knew her stuff.
The Wild Horse Sanctuary
We saw all 4 different types of mustangs – American, Curly, Spanish and Choctaw. Some of the mustangs came right up to us and we even got to feed some of them. Once again, my kids were enthralled at getting so close to the mustangs.
I know this activity is technically mostly outside but being driven around with the fresh wind in our faces in a jeep was a refreshing change from hiking up and down hills.
My kids are BIG fans of thermal pools and so, of course, we had to try the hot springs for which Hot Springs was named.
Evan’s Plunge claims to be the oldest tourist attraction in the Black Hills. It’s somewhat dated but for a quick play in the pool, my kids were happy. There are a couple of water slides as well. I joined a local water aerobics class that was happening while my husband played with the kids.
Think of it as a large community centre pool and you won’t be disappointed. It is definitely not as clean, sparkling and shiny as the Icelandic and Austrian thermal pools we’ve been to. The water is more warm than hot but Warm Springs doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?
Wind Cave National Park
You can take guided tours of Wind Cave National Park which was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world in 1903. The wind that the caves are known for are due to the difference in pressure between the cave and the surface. Wind Cave is sacred to the Native Americans who lived in the area.
We were part of a fairly large group. The tour guide was excellent though and we had no problems keeping up with him. Wind Cave is part of a large and complex cave system much of which is still not explored. On average four new miles of cave are discovered each year!!
Pioneer History Museum
The Pioneer History Museum is in the centre of Hot Springs and housed in what used to be an elementary school. It’s got a mixed collection of historical memorabilia. You get a sense of pioneer life with its display of everyday items. It was good for my children to see how much they take for granted nowadays!! The museum is open during the summer months and is free for the under 12 set.
The Hot Springs Jail which saw quite a bit of action in its day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of fun indoor activities near Hot Springs South Dakota. Our favourite would have to be the Wild Horses Sanctuary because we are horse-crazy in my family. What would be your pick?
This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust and The Weekly Postcard.
So many people have heard of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland that it’s become something of a cliche. Why am I writing about it? Because I am a sheep. baaaa.
No, seriously, it seemed to be the only place that everyone wanted to talk about in my when I wrote about our family’s tour around the natural hot springs of Iceland. Of the approximately half a million visitors that go to Iceland every year, approximately 80% visit The Blue Lagoon. So, if you are going to go, and it seems like most of you are, I’m happy to contribute my two krona to the Blue Lagoon Iceland reviews available.
What is the Blue Lagoon?
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal pool, spa and hotel located in a lava field in Iceland. It is Iceland’s most visited tourist site.
Some Fun Blue Lagoon Facts
Know before you go. It’ll impress your friends and family.
The Blue Lagoon’s Temperature
The average temperature of the Blue Lagoon’s water is a gloriously warm 100°F (38°C).
The Blue Lagoon’s water temperature is so nice that you can enjoy it in freezing air temperatures and not even notice how cold the air temperature really is. Honestly, your body is so warm from the water that you can even run across the outside of the thermal pool (quickly on a cold day!) and not be in shock.
Note that underground the water temperature starts off at an incredible 464°F (240°C). Thank goodness it cools down before it gets to you!
How is the Blue Lagoon Heated?
The 6 million litres of geothermal seawater in the Blue Lagoon comes from 6,500 feet/1981 metres below the surface.
The water you are soaking in at The Blue Lagoon is technically waste water from the geothermal power plant that you can see from the Lagoon itself.
Surplus mineral-rich water from the nearby Svartsengi Geothermal Power Station fills up the Blue Lagoon.
Yes, the water is natural but there wasn’t a pool here before some marketing geniuses decided to create one. Technically the Blue Lagoon is not one of the natural hot springs in Iceland.
Moreover, the lava field surrounding the Blue Lagoon is 800 years old. I personally think having both the water and the lava be natural phenomenon more than makes up for the fact that the thermal pool itself was recently created.
How Deep is The Blue Lagoon?
Not as deep as your love.
The deepest the Blue Lagoon gets is 1.6 metres so for adults its standing height. My children refused to wear armbands which were beneath their dignity. They managed fine with a mixture of paddling about and hanging onto our neck like monkeys.
The floor is natural rock but not slimy like parts of the floor at other hot springs in Iceland, such as the Myvatn Nature Baths.
The Blue Lagoon Silica
The seawater contains algae, silica and minerals. On one side of the geothermal pool is a bucket of silica mud mask. You apply to your skin, leave it on for a few minutes and then rinse. Sure it was nice but I can’t say it was anything as special as a proper facial.
This silica and other minerals forms the basis of the skincare range from the Blue Lagoon. There is a skincare store at the Blue Lagoon itself as well as other outlets, including Keflavik Airport.
Your Blue Lagoon Experience
Here I let it all hang out. Sort of like you have to in the communal shower area.
Blue Lagoon Admission
The Blue Lagoon is open daily and requires a reservation for admission.
The line can be long for entry at standard tickets. There are two other levels of tickets though that are much faster.
I would advise that you cough up the extra $30 or so and get the Premium ticket for your Blue Lagoon trip which is a fast entry. Among other things, you also get a bathrobe, slippers and a couple of drinks complimentary.
We didn’t pay for Luxury ticket which seems outrageously expensive considering you only get a separate lounge as an upgrade from the Premium ticket. This lounge though is quite exclusive – no more than 12 people at a time and individual showers/changing rooms. Just call us frugal exhibitionists!
Children are free to enter the Blue Lagoon. Teenagers are about half the price of an adult ticket. On the downside with having children go free is that they don’t get a towel of their own.
You can get a Premium ticket drink at the Lagoon-side bar. I chose a smoothie and my husband had a beer.
A footbridge over the Blue Lagoon Iceland
The Blue Lagoon Lockers
The Blue Lagoon lockers are the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. You wave your wristband over the lock mechanism which isn’t on the locker itself and the mechanism recognises which locker number it is.
Update: We have since seen this locker type at Universal Studios Florida so it may not be as difficult for you to manoeuvre as it was for us!
The Blue Lagoon & Nude Concerns
Like every hot spring in Iceland, you need to have a thorough shower (with soap) before you enter the Blue Lagoon. And, you need to do your shower naked. Not bathing-suit naked but butt-naked. This rule applies for both adults and children, male and female.
We did see a couple of tourists shower while wearing a bathing suit at the Blue Lagoon. In any other geothermal pool in Iceland, these women would have been told off by the strip changing room attendants.
The changing room showers are mainly communal so you will need to get comfortable with being nude in front of other people at the Blue Lagoon changing rooms. Unlike other geothermal pools we found in Iceland though, the Blue Lagoon has some cubicles so that you can have a private shower. You may have to wait for a cubicle though.
If public nakedness in a changing room is a real concern for you, you should get the Luxury ticket which comes with private shower/changing rooms.
In the Blue Lagoon itself, you will need to wear a bathing suit. There is no naked bathing in the geothermal pool.
Blue Lagoon and Your Hair
The water has minerals in it that are supposed to make your skin feel great.
On the other hand, the Blue Lagoon will leave your hair feeling like straw. If you put in lots and lots of conditioner on your hair after soaking in the Blue Lagoon, your hair will return to normal. Eventually.
Alternatively, you can take some preventive treatment to minimize the effects of Blue Lagoon hair. Take leave-in conditioner with you and apply when you are rinsing you hair during the pre-Lagoon shower. After your hot springs experience, you should use deep conditioner. Your hair will still feel icky but the return to normalcy will be a lot faster.
A Blue Lagoon Massage
If you book early you can get a reservation to have a massage in the Blue Lagoon itself. The massages are in a special roped off area adjacent to the main geothermal pool. Your masseuses will knead away your worries as you relax on a floating mat.
We unfortunately did not have a chance to get a massage at the Blue Lagoon because we got given times which didn’t fit in with our schedule. Needless to say, these massages are very popular. You will need to pay extra for them.
If you have older children, you will be able to have your children play nearby as you have your massage because the spa area is so close to the thermal bath.
The Blue Lagoon for Kids
Children under the age of 2 are not allowed in the pool. Children from the ages of 2-8 are required to wear armbands to aid in their flotation. We saw plenty of younger kids who did not abide by this rule.
If your little girl has the usual long hair which is her pride and joy, she may find the dreaded Blue Lagoon hair issue traumatising. If you can’t convince her to wear a swim cap, I would tie it up and use conditioner like for adults.
Want a second opinion on how suitable the Blue Lagoon is for children? This Blue Lagoon Iceland review discusses in detail one family’s experience at this destination.
The Lava Restaurant
We thought the food and service at Lava Restaurant was excellent. There are children’s menus available. With your Premium admission, you get a glass of sparkling wine with your meal.
The restaurant is cool and contemporary with double-height ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Blue Lagoon.
If you choose not to eat at the Lava Restaurant, there is a cafe with casual seating. This area can get crowded and may not be what you want after such a relaxing experience.
Is the Blue Lagoon Worth It?
In my opinion, yes. It is an easy introduction to the culture of Iceland’s hot baths.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal pool is geared towards tourist comfort and what non-Icelanders would expect. For example, the smell of sulfur at the Blue Lagoon is kept to a minimum. Even in the standard changing rooms, you have private shower cubicles which I have not seen at any of the other Icelandic hot springs.
Having said that, all you will see are tourists. People from Iceland tend to use the other geothermal pools that are (ahem!) actually naturally-occurring pools. These natural hot springs in Iceland are in every town and relatively cheap because they are provided as a community service. Locals tend to use the thermal pool nearest them.
As befitting Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction, Blue Lagoon trips have been made easy from both Iceland’s Airport or Reyjkavik. If you are driving, there is a big car park available for visitor use.
From Iceland’s Airport to the Blue Lagoon
If you have the time, it’s great way to unwind either after you land or before you leave for the airport. It is open from 8 AM (7 AM during the peak summer tourist months) until anywhere between 10 PM to midnight.
We scheduled a few hours in the afternoon at The Blue Lagoon before boarding our evening flight. It was a 15 minute drive to the airport.
Many flights to Reyjkavik arrive early in the morning before you can check into your hotel. If that happens to you, I suggest you make a reservation at the Blue Lagoon and have a nice soak to wash away any bodily aches and mental stresses before you proceed with the rest of your trip. There is a convenient luggage storage area at the Blue Lagoon.
In addition, Icelandair has terrific connection options where you can stop over in Iceland for up to seven days without any additional charges to your plane ticket. You may even just want to schedule a few hours layover so that you can spend some time unwinding at the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon Iceland is great for a relaxing soak either before or after your flight into Iceland’s airport.
Hotels Near The Blue Lagoon in Iceland
The Blue Lagoon now also has its own hotel, the 35 room Silica Hotel. If you stay at the hotel, you get premium admission to the Blue Lagoon. In addition, the Silica Hotel has its own bathing pool.
It is a short 23KM (15 mile) drive from Keflavik International Airport (the Iceland Airport) to the Blue Lagoon. The Silica Hotel is effectively an airport hotel. And, one of the nicest ones with the best amenities I have encountered I must add!
In 2018, The Retreat at The Blue Lagoon will open as a day spa facility as well as accommodation for overnight guests.
There are other amenities nearby in the town of Keflavik as well though. Keflavik has some cool things to do, including fun attraction about a giantess in a cave related to an Icelandic book series.
Alternatively, you can stay in Reykjavik and visit the Blue Lagoon as a day trip. Having stayed at the Reyjkavik Residence Hotel twice, I know that right near this hotel there is a tour bus stop that takes you from Reyjkavik to the Blue Lagoon. By the way I have been very happy both times I stayed at the Reyjkavik Residence Hotel and would highly recommend it.
It takes about 40 minutes to travel the 47 KM (29 miles) from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon by road.
Join Guided Blue Lagoon Tours
First, you will have to decide if you just want to go to the Blue Lagoon or combine it with other sightseeing.
You can take a 1/2 day Blue Lagoon tour that takes you from Reyjkavik to the Blue Lagoon and back. This tour provides both the transport and admission ticket. Lasting about 5 hours, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the geothermal waters.
Alternatively, you can take a combination tour where your visit to the Blue Lagoon will be combined with other popular tourist activities in the area.
However you chose to get there, I am sure you will enjoy your visit to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland!
Alternative Icelandic Thermal Pools
Didn’t make a reservation and can’t get into the Blue Lagoon during your visit to Iceland? Or, maybe you are just too frugal to pay the steep admission price.
As I mentioned, there are other geothermal pools in Iceland. In fact, Reyjkavik Iceland hot springs make up 20 of the 175+ in the country. You can rock up to any geothermal pool in any town, pay the admission fee and hang with the locals. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, you don’t need to make reservations ahead of time.
In Reyjkavik we went to the Vesterbaejarlaug Thermal Pool. This pool complex is huge – with indoor and outdoor pools, a kids pool, water slides, different temperature hot pots, a steam room and sauna.
My kids had a wonderful time playing on the slides and the pool toys. We shared the pool areas with school children who were getting their P.E. lessons. In Iceland, swim lessons are mandatory for all school kids.
Vesterbaejarlaug reminded me though of community pools in any country. It was not as slick as the operation at the Blue Lagoon. For example, the pool tiles could have done with some serious regrouting. Did my kids care or notice? No. On the flip side, admission to Vesterbaejarlaug is no where as expensive as tickets to the Blue Lagoon.
Geothermal Pools near the Golden Circle
You can leave Reykjavik (and its big city feel) and visit some of the Icelandic hot springs nearby without having to drive the Ring Road.
The Secret Lagoon is a low-key alternative to the Blue Lagoon and is conveniently located for visits to the Golden Circle.
The Secret Lagoon is a small geothermal pool set in natural surroundings. Created in 1891, it was Iceland’s first public swimming pool. The Secret Lagoon has maintained it’s rustic feel and remnants of the old shed and a little geyser are visible. No water slides and different temperature hot pots here.
Random Trivia: On the way to the Secret Lagoon, you will find lots of greenhouses which are heated by the area’s geothermal activity. According to Atlas Obscura, Iceland has Northern Europe’s biggest banana plantation! These bananas are grown in greenhouses like the ones you see near the Secret Lagoon.
Laugarvatyn Fontana is another geothermal pool near the Golden Circle. It’s a very modern pool area (unlike the Secret Lagoon) with cool water sculptures and water jet.
If you are feeling brave, you can go dip in the adjoining Lake Laugarvatyn for which there is an entrance directly from the thermal pools. I dipped in a toe in the Lake and decided it was way too cold for me.
During the day, this geothermal pool also has a demonstration on how you can bake bread with the heat from the underground steam.
If you did want a cheap community pool that was as amazing (and possibly even more so) than the the Blue Lagoon, I suggest going to the town of Hofsos in Northern Iceland. The Hofsos Geothermal Pool, built by the same architect as the Blue Lagoon, is an infinity pool with views over Skagafjörður bay. It is pretty incredible!! Even in the height of summer when we went, the wind whips in off the Glacier bay tingling your ears until they ring.
Another big attraction in the North of Iceland is the Myvatn Nature Baths in Lake Myvatn, a volcanic lake. Be forewarned, the Myvatn Nature Baths have a strong smell of sulfur. My fussy children were unimpressed but we thought the views made the smell worth it.
My kids love thermal pools having been introduced to the joys of warm water pools in Austria. So it was only natural that we would do a thermal pool tour along the ring road. There are more than 175 swimming pools in Iceland so it was pretty easy to find one pretty much everywhere we stayed.
Frankly with all the driving, hiking, and other activities we did on our road trip around Iceland, soaking in a warm pool was the perfect way to relax for my husband and myself. The kids did their usual diving, sliding and swimming, of course. It’s good to be young and NEVER tired.
Geothermal Pools in Iceland
Swimming in geothermal pools is a big part of Icelandic culture and so we felt we were partaking in the local culture. On an island with so much water (on the island and surrounding it), swimming lessons are a compulsory part of the school curriculum. All of the pools we went to had inflatable armbands freely available for young non-swimmers.
Swimming in the open air is kind of cool no matter what the weather. We were out in those thermal pools in sunshine, cold, rain and fierce wind. It’s surprising how you don’t really register the outside weather when all but your head is immersed in really warm water.
In a couple of the smaller thermal pools on the North and East coast of Iceland, we were the only foreigners there. I had little toddlers staring at me in open curiosity because I’m pretty sure they had not seen too many dark-skinned persons in real life before.
The pools all had lockers to store your stuff. In some cases you could keep your valuables behind the front desk. You must bathe without bathing suits before getting into the pools though. It’s a non-negotiable part of local culture. We saw some tourists keep their bathing suits on at the Blue Lagoon but I don’t think that would fly in the local towns.
You can rent towels from the front desks as well. They are not the most luxurious of towels but they did the job. Who wants to carry wet towels around Iceland?!
The Two Big Thermal Pools
Everyone has heard of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik but Mývatn Nature Baths in Lake Mývatn is less touristed. At the Blue Lagoon we overheard someone complain about the sulphur smell but we didn’t think it was bad. The Blue Lagoon is a well-run operation beautifully landscaped in an 800 year old lava field.
The Blue Lagoon
We were not sure what to expect at Mývatn because the name in Icelandic translates to ‘fly water’ in honour of the swarms of flies in the region. The Lake Mývatn region was indeed a flyfest as our car’s windshield quickly got splattered dark by the dumbest of the flies. The baths area itself though was fine. The geothermal water comes up from 2500 meters (8200 feet) below the surface and smells strongly of sulphur. The view of the surrounding area is fabulous.
Myvatn Nature Baths
Our Favourite Thermal Pools
My son’s favourite pool was at the Bogarnes Sports centre. It’s got indoor and outdoor pools (with 3 water slides). The pool is heated with water piped in from the Deildartunga hot spring nearby which is the largest hot spring in Europe. It pumps out 180 litres of boiling water every second!
My daughter loved the pool facilities at Blönduós which is fairly new. There was a kiddie pool, and an outdoor pool with hot tubs, water slides and lanes set aside for serious swimmers. It was very family-friendly with a lot of pool toys available for the kids to borrow.
Blonduos thermal bath
My husband chose the Hofsós pool as his favourite because it has an infinity edge over Skagafjörður bay. It was designed by the same architect responsible for creating the Blue Lagoon. I couldn’t last more than a half-hour there though because the wind whipping off the fjord created a painful ringing in my ears. All of me was warm from the water except my head which unless I was going to develop gills had to necessarily stay above water.
Hofsos infinity-edge thermal pool
As for me, I never met a thermal pool I didn’t like!
Thermal Pools in Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
Reykjavik itself has about 20 pools so you are spoiled for choice:
Laugardalslaug, Iceland’s largest pool complex, is very family-friendly with water slides and a kiddie pool.
Another good one with kids is Salalaug which has indoor/outdoor pools, hot tubs and a waterside.
Arbaejarlaug is another indoor/outdoor pool with kiddie pool and water play facilities for children.
The oldest public bath in Iceland is Sundhöllin designed by a famous architect. It has diving boards but no watersides.
Near the Golden Circle, you will find Laugarvatn Fontana which has geothermal baths and a thermal bakery. It’s located right on the black beach at Laugarvatn lake. The Secret Lagoon in Fludir in the Golden Circle area was built in 1891. Surrounded by natural beauty, it’s got its own little geyser that erupts every few minutes. That little water feature should make up for the lack of water slides.
The website, Swimming in Iceland, is a great resource to find pools near where you are going to be. Just type in your location and it lists the pools nearby as well as pertinent details like opening times and costs. Trust me, this is one cultural institution all the members of the family will enjoy thoroughly.