Looking for a good, old-fashioned taste of Americana? Look no further than Rapid City, South Dakota. Anchored by the iconic Mount Rushmore, there is so much more to this place than you may expect. Use this handy guide to make the most out of your Mount Rushmore Vacation.
Mount Rushmore Vacation, Top 2 sights – Rushmore and Crazy Horse
Carved into the granite cliffs of South Dakota’s Black Hills, there are 2 monuments that you can’t miss. The iconic Mount Rushmore, completed in 1941, features 60-foot tall sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. In the area, you’ll also find a cafe, gift shop, and a short hike allowing a closer view of the monument.
About 17 miles to the southwest, you’ll find the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been a work in progress since 1948. Upon completion, Crazy Horse’s head will be 87 feet tall, though the entire sculpture, which includes his full-body, riding a horse, will be 563 feet tall. The Crazy Horse memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, an elder from the Lakota tribe, the native owners of the Black Hills. Here you’ll find exhibits on the history of the land, a gift shop, and a restaurant. You can also take a short bus ride to get closer to the memorial.
The City of Presidents – Rapid City, SD
The jumping-off point for most of South Dakota, Rapid City has built its own vibrant culture and entertainment center. Make sure to spend some time downtown, where you can find 43 lifesize bronze statues of former US presidents. During your day in town, you can also enjoy a plethora of unique, local shops and breweries.
Just outside of downtown, you’ll find Dinosaur Park. Open to the public since 1936, this well-weathered tourist attraction is both picturesque and educational. The park features a small gift shop and a paved walking path to view 7 lifesize replicas of dinosaurs that once walked the midwestern plains.
Finally, no tour of Rapid City is complete without a visit to the beautiful and serene Chapel in the Hills. Located about 10 minutes south of town, this chapel is an exact replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. The unique architecture and calm surroundings are the perfect way to end a day in the town.
Mount Rushmore Vacation, Best Outdoor Adventure – The Badlands National Park
Located about an hour east of Rapid City, the Badlands National Park is definitely worth visiting. Here you’ll find plenty of short trails to various viewpoints within the park. The landscape features large, open prairie land and plenty of unique rock formations. Make sure to visit around sunrise or sunset when the wildlife will be its most active. If you are lucky, you may see a herd of bison frolicking on the grasslands. For more information, check out this article on visiting the Badlands National Park.
The Black Hills
About 45 minutes south of Rapid City, you’ll find Custer State Park, one of the popular destinations for exploring the infamous Black Hills. Here you’ll find a variety of hikes to satisfy outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike to Black Elk Peak, which is the highest point in South Dakota.
Aside from hiking, another popular activity in the area is Wildlife Loop Road. On this 18-mile scenic drive, you may see bison, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, wild burros, and prairie dogs.
The Old West – Deadwood, SD
Traveling northwest from Rapid City, you’ll find a cluster of historical towns offering a range of experiences from the Old West. The most popular destination, Deadwood, was once home to famous figures like Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Here you can visit historical buildings from the gold rush era, tour an underground mine, and even pan for your own gold. Other areas of interest in this region include the towns of Lead, Sturgis, and Spearfish.
With natural wonders and fun activities in literally every direction, a Mount Rushmore vacation is just what you needed. This quaint, historical, remote part of the country is can’t-miss for anyone looking to explore modern-day American culture.
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