Somewhere along the highway, you might see a sign advertising Wall Drug Store. At first, you think nothing of it, until you see the next sign. And the next. And the next. Wall Drug Store signs appear every few miles along the 650-mile Interstate 90. If you’ve never been to Wall Drug Store, be sure to stop on your next road trip through South Dakota.
Not because they have free ice water or 5 cent coffee. Not because the food is good or the pharmacy is well stocked. Wall Drug Store is a rambling touristy western bit of roadside Americana. There are shops selling cowboy hats and boots, turquoise jewelry, and laminated placemats just like the ones I had when I was a kid. There are cutouts for picture taking, ice cream for licking, and buffalo burgers to fill your tummy.
What started as a small drug store in the town of Wall, South Dakota, has grown into a tourist mecca due to the ingenuity of its owners in the 1930s. When the drug store began advertising it’s free ice water, cars began detouring off the highway and making a stop. Now, over 80 years later, Wall Drug Store is no longer just a drug store. It’s a 12 shop mall with a 530 seat restaurant.
It’s a tourist attraction visited by 20,000 people a day. And if you haven’t seen a sign yet, don’t worry, you will. They’re located all over the world, in places like Seoul, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, London, and even Antartica. If you go, be sure to pick up your own free sign to bring back home.
Trip taken July 2013.
Photos taken by Kurt Magoon (in 2009) and Jasperdo (in 2010) and licensed by CC under 2.0.