A Travel Price Comparison for United States of America Columbia vs. Rapid City for Attractions, Families, Couples, and Backpackers

Should you visit Columbia or Rapid City?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Columbia or Rapid City? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Columbia

Columbia is a friendly, welcoming, and suburban city. Visitors also love the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Rapid City

Rapid City is a activity-filled, friendly, and fascinating city. And you can't forget about the food, hiking, and shopping.

Columbia and Rapid City: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Home to Mount Rushmore
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife


Is there more to do in Columbia or Rapid City?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Rapid City than Columbia. While Columbia is larger than Rapid City, Rapid City has more sights and attractions for tourists. Rapid City is better known for its museums, food, and hiking, while Columbia is more popular for its nightlife. Rapid City is more touristy than Columbia and is popular for its proximity to Mount Rushmore and many other iconic parks. Also, Rapid City is famous for Mount Rushmore. Columbia is well known for its southern hospitality and friendly people.

How is Columbia different from Rapid City?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Rapid City and Columbia. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Columbia or Rapid City?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is renowned for its sights and museums. Also, Columbia is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its museums and history.

The museums, monuments, and landmarks in Rapid City are among the most recognizable in the world. You'll find a wide variety of museums and landmarks nearby. Popular places to visit that aren't far from town include the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, and the Journey Museum & Learning Center. There's also the Museum of Geology and the National Presidential Wax Museum. And of course, there's the iconic Mount Rushmore.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Columbia. As the state capital, there are some decent museums around town like the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Military Museum, the South Carolina State Museum, and the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum.


Is the Food Better in Columbia or Rapid City? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is a popular place for its local cuisine and restaurants. However, Columbia is not a good city for its restaurants.

Visitors will find a budding food and restaurant scene in Rapid City. You'll find local restaurants in town that serve local specialties such as chislic (grilled meat), fry bread, and walleye (a local fish.

Columbia may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. Barbecue and other southern favorites are among the more local dishes, but the city is also filled with fast food joints and other major chain restaurants.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Nightlife?

Columbia
Rapid City

Columbia is very good for nightlife and partying. However, Rapid City is lacking in good options for its evening party scene.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Columbia. You'll find live music venues as well as low key bars and more trendy cocktail lounges.

Rapid City is generally a quiet destination but there are options around. You'll find some places with live music and good drinks, but the city isn't really known for its nightlife scene.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Hiking?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is a well-known place for the nearby hiking options. However, Columbia is not a hiking destination.

Rapid City is a popular spot for hiking. The region is filled with national parks, state parks, and natural areas with wonderful hiking trails. You don't have to travel far to get into nature and experience some of South Dakota's best natural beauty.

Columbia is not a hiking destination.


Is the Shopping Better in Columbia or Rapid City?

Columbia
Rapid City

Both Columbia and Rapid City are notable shopping destinations.

Columbia offers some nice shopping areas. You'll find independent and locally owned shops along Devine Street and in the Five Points area. Also interesting are the Vista, which is a warehouse district, and Trenholm Plaza.

Rapid City has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. Rapid City has some interesting local shops as well as larger malls and shopping centers.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Families?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is renowned for its family-friendly activities. Also, Columbia is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Rapid City is a very family-friendly destination. Nearby national parks and outdoor activities, this is the perfect base for exploring the area with kids. Nearby you'll find the Big Thunder Gold Mine, which has tours and lets you pan for gold, and Custer State Park, which is filled with wildlife. Wall Drug is worth a stopoff, as is Dinosaur Park.

Columbia is a family-friendly city. Around town you'll find parks, playgrounds, and kid-friendly restaurants. There's a zoo in the area as well as a nice state park - Sesquicentennial State Park. There's also EdVenture Children's Museum, which is filled with hands-on exhibits.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Couples?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is a well-known place for its romantic activities. However, Columbia is not a good city for couples.

Rapid City is a very popular place to visit for couples. Couples will enjoy the amazing national parks in the area and the easy access to iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore. There are many opportunities for wildlife spotting as well as great hiking trails and unique landscapes.

Columbia is not always the best place to visit for a couple. You'll find parks to explore and some nice restaurants that make for a good date night.


Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is a well-known place for backpackers. However, Columbia is not a good city for backpackers and budget travelers.

Rapid City is a great city to visit for backpackers. Backpackers will appreciate the surrounding natural beauty and the nearby national parks.

Columbia is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. While it's not an expensive place to visit, there is little in the area to attract backpackers.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Students?

Columbia
Rapid City

Columbia is very good for its student-friendly activities. However, Rapid City is not popular with students.

Plenty of students visit Columbia. The University of South Carolina, and other nearby colleges all bring in a decent student population.

Rapid City is not popular with students.

Is Columbia or Rapid City Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Columbia
Rapid City

Both Columbia and Rapid City offer respectable public transit options.

Public transit is generally limited in Columbia. The COMET is the bus system through town, but you really must have your own car to enjoy the city.

Public transit is mostly limited in Rapid City. While there are a few buses, this isn't a realistic option for traveling through the region.


Is Columbia or Rapid City a more walkable city?

Columbia
Rapid City

Rapid City is a moderate city for its high level of walkability. However, Columbia is not a good city for its ease of walking around.

Rapid City is generally not very walkable. While the downtown is walkable, most visitors use the city as a base for exploring the surrounding areas, and this requires a car.

Columbia is not a very walkable city. It's filled with suburban-style development and is generally very car dependent.

For even more information, also check out Is Columbia Worth Visiting? and Is Rapid City Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Rapid City or Columbia?

How long in Columbia or Rapid City?

It's fun to spend time in either Columbia or Rapid City. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Rapid City due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Columbia, and 2-4 days is enough time in Rapid City.

Families should spend more time in Rapid City than Columbia. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Rapid City, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Rapid City than Columbia. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Rapid City that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Rapid City than Columbia if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Rapid City.


  • How many days in Columbia or Rapid City? Ideal Length of Stay
    Columbia 1-2 
    Rapid City 2-4

One day in Columbia or Rapid City?

With museums and nightlife around the suburban city of Columbia, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Columbia, one day is sufficent for most.

The city of Rapid City offers food and shopping. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Columbia or Rapid City?

With nightlife and shopping around the destination of Columbia, there's plenty to do. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this city.

Rapid City is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Rapid City, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.


Five days in Columbia or Rapid City?

Columbia, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Rapid City is a popular choice for travelers. It's no surprise that museums is why people visit. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Columbia or Rapid City?

Columbia is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Rapid City is a great place to explore. It's no surprise that museums is why people visit. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Wildlife Tours to United States of America, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in United States of America, The Best Historical Tours in United States of America, and The Best 10-Day Tours in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Rapid City or Columbia?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Columbia is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Rapid City is $116. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Columbia and Rapid City in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Columbia -
    Rapid City $60
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Columbia $0.00
    Rapid City $120
Compare Hotels in Columbia and Rapid City

Looking for a hotel in Columbia or Rapid City? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Columbia


Hotels in Rapid City


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Columbia Hotel Prices and Rapid City Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Columbia -
    Rapid City $53

Is it cheaper to fly into Columbia or Rapid City?

Prices for flights to both Rapid City and Columbia change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Columbia $5.03
    Rapid City $23

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Rapid City

For Rapid City, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Roller Coaster Tickets with Dinner and Show in Rapid City: $70

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Columbia -
    Rapid City $26

Tours and Activities in Rapid City

For Rapid City, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Mount Rushmore Self-Guided Walking Audio Tour: $15
  • Murder Mystery Detective Experience in Rapid City SD: $15
  • Black Hills & Badlands: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tours: $20
  • Pinnacle Zipline Tour in Keystone: $109
  • Bus Tour of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills: $133
  • Mount Rushmore and Black Hills Tour with Two Meals and a Music Variety Show: $164
  • Badlands Winter Wonderland Adventure: $239
  • Full-Day Private Sightseeing Tour in South Dakota: $275
  • From Private Spearfish Canyon Tour: $650
  • From Private Devils Tower Tour and Hike: $650
  • Private Black Hills Monuments Full-Day Tour: $650
  • Badlands National Park Private Tour: $650

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Columbia $88
    Rapid City $6.93


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Columbia and Rapid City, we can see that Rapid City is more expensive. And not only is Columbia much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Columbia would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Columbia and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Rapid City would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Rapid City than you might in Columbia.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Columbia Expensive? and Is Rapid City Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Columbia or Rapid City?

Columbia has a larger population, and is about 88% larger than the population of Rapid City. When comparing the sizes of Columbia and Rapid City, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.