With vaccinations up and COVID-19 cases down, Montanans might tentatively begin to make summer travel plans. When I plan a vacation I'll start with a general Google search, just to get the basics, but then I like to go on Instagram to see what other people like to share about a place. Often times, with the right hashtag, you can find a hole-in-the-wall bar that got lost in a sea of Yelp reviews or get a good idea of what that hike will really be like (sure it's marked a "blue" trail but I'll believe it when I see it).

Take Rapid City, South Dakota, for example. A quick search on the hashtag #visitrapidcity and you'll see model moms and cute kids, a random guy in a sleeping bag, and videos posted by hotels (which, come to think of it, might be useful...) but you'll also get a lot of nature porn, and I'd argue, a fair idea of what it would be like to visit. Here's what the top posts on Instagram have to say about Rapid City:

1) This place is for bikers (the pedaling kind).

Usually, mountain biking is more my thing (I mean, we live in Montana), but this road actually looks kinda cool. With the right tires and some warm outerwear, this would be really fun. The caption even claims it's "number 2 of 30 'most gorgeous roads in America.'" Note to self: plan road trips for all 30 of those roads.

2) South Dakota has creatures, too.

Sure, if you head up to Zimmerman Trail or do any biking or hiking in the Indian Cliffs area, prairie dogs will be a dime a dozen. But sometimes, nature is more interesting when it's not in your backyard. Chipmunks and squirrels are always cuter when they're in National Park than when they're in my backyard.

3) They've got hot air balloons.

Yes, we have a hot air balloon launch in Billings in July, but they have one in Septemeber (who doesn't want to see two hot air balloon launches?) and their launch isn't in the middle of a soccer field.

4) The Presidents.

Mount Rushmore is reason alone to visit South Dakota, and even if you've seen it before, have you seen it in winter? Might be a reason to take a pre-summer vacation. Look at the way the snow falls on the rocks. It's a whole new way of taking in the monument.

And how fun is this?! I want to buy a stocking hat, just so I can leave it on this guy.

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