Fun things to do near Rapid City SD

Fun things to do near Rapid City SD

There are many fun things to do near Rapid City SD if you have an extra day or two.  One of the main things is of course, a visit to Mt. Rushmore, a quirky American attraction.  But Mt Rushmore isn’t the only national park, sculpture or nature outing near Rapid City SD.  There are numerous others.  During my visit, I was able to sample a few.


things to do near Rapid City SD


Crazy Horse Memorial

This is Rapid City South Dakota’s other famous carving.  Unfortunately, only the face of Lakota Chief Crazy Horse has been carved to date.  Work continues on today.  If the final carving looks like the model sculpture, it will be really cool.

The history of Crazy Horse Memorial is really fascinating.  For one, the sculptor of Crazy Horse also worked on Mt Rushmore.  In addition, there is a history behind this memorial with the Lakota Native Indians that is very interesting.  Check out this picture and history slide show for more details.

For Pricing and admission, click here.



Custer State Park

If you don’t have enough time to drive out to Badlands National Park (which I didn’t), then consider a visit to Custer State Park.  Here you will see bison roaming (as you would at Badlands) as well as other wildlife.

In addition, check out Needles Highway, a winding roadway through the park with views of the forests and mountain.  The ‘Needles’ are the granite spires and pillars that have eroded over time.   Drive through the Needles Eye tunnel if your car is small enough lol.  As well, check out the Cathedral Spires which are a grouping of ‘needles’.

This scenic drive will take you to Sylvan Lake and the unique rock formation formed from the inclement weather.  I have to admit, it was extremely windy here and in general in Rapid City in late October.  Sylvan Lake is considered the crown jewel of Custer State Park.

The topography here is really interesting and distinctive.  To me it fits in perfectly with the other creative or quirky attractions in Rapid City like Crazy Horse and Rushmore.  I only mean that in a positive way.  In fact, I really enjoyed this spirited and cultural aspect of Rapid City.  These unique attractions are only found here in South Dakota which makes a trip here to be so worthwhile.

I’d recommend Custer State Park as a relaxing, nature-oriented and fun attraction.


things to do near Rapid City SD


Keystone Town

While driving to Mt Rushmore National Park on Hwv 16A, visit Keystone Town in the Black Hills, SD.  If you are driving really fast, you may zoom past it as it’s only a mile long.  It’s a town focused on South Dakota items.  Do stop by the Rocky Mountain Taffy Shop for tasty treats in the shape of Rushmore or good ole fashioned candy.  This used to be called Coffee Shoppe Fudge store/café a few years back (pic above) but it looks like it got a makeover.  I really like the feel of this small town (population 337 per the 2010 census).  Also, there are souvenir shops with Black Hills, South Dakota and Rushmore themed items lining the street.  Fun stop.



More fun things to do near Rapid City SD

List includes the Presidential Wax museum, Bear Country USA, Badlands National Park, Big Thunder Gold Mine and 1880 Train.  I wasn’t able to visit any of these (except the entrance to the wax museum).  However, if I was in the area again, I would visit any of these places.  Thus, I don’t have a recommendation either way but they could be worth checking out.


Custer State Park

Crazy Horse Memorial

Keystone Town - Taffy Candy Shop

Visit Mt Rushmore, a quirky American attraction

Visit Mt Rushmore, a quirky American attraction

My trip to visit Mt Rushmore is one of my most favorite and memorable vacation jaunts.  I took this trip in late October 2010 with my sister near to my birthday.  It was fall weather and cold.  I was beyond excited to visit Mt Rushmore which I constantly referred to as “a slice of Americana”!  It was.  Mt Rushmore is one of those places that you see on tv but never really make an effort to go visit.  Hopefully, after reading my post, you will be inspired to visit Mt Rushmore. I promise you will not regret it.  I loved it.


visit Mt Rushmore


Beginning your visit Mt. Rushmore starts with parking your car at the Mt. Rushmore National Park parking. If you go during the fall, there should be ample parking. During the summer, it will be crowded. Entrance to the park itself is free but parking is around $10.


visit Mt Rushmore


The Avenue of Flags

After entering the park, walk through the Avenue of Flags that displays 50 flags for each of the 50 United States of America. There are 6 additional flags for Washington DC, USVirgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and Northern Marina Islands.


visit Mt Rushmore

After walking through the Avenue, you’ll arrive at the Grand Viewing Terrace where you can view the Mt Rushmore in all it’s glory.


visit Mt Rushmore


Mt. Rushmore

Mt depicts the faces of 4 US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Chosen for their contribution to our great nation, this represents over 150 years of history.

The sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work in 1927 and completed the Mt. Rushmore in 1941. Let me share some fun facts that I found on website.

Rushmore Facts:

  • Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began drilling into the 5,725-foot mountain in 1927, at the age of 60.
  • Creation of the Shrine of Democracy took 14 years and cost a mere $1 million.
  • Rushmore’s granite faces tower 5,500 feet above sea level.
  • The carvings on Mount Rushmore are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
  • Each head on Mt. Rushmore is as tall as a six-story building.
  • More than 800 million pounds of stone were removed from Mount Rushmore while carving the presidents.
  • Each president’s face is as tall as the entire Great Sphinx of Egypt, measuring 60 feet from the chin to the top of the head.
  • The presidents’ noses are 20 feet long, each mouth 18 feet wide and the eyes are 11 feet across.
  • The workers had to climb 506 steps daily to get to the top of Mount Rushmore.


visit Mt Rushmore


Presidential Trail

Do be sure to take the Presidential Trail which is a half mile trail around the Mt Rushmore.  From the trail (picture above), you can view each president from a unique vantage point that showcases that president. As well, you can take lots of pictures (as I did).  At the end of the trail, you’ll have the full view of the 4 presidents.  This view is also available from the Grand Terrace (earlier).



Visitor’s Center

Do check out the visitor’s center for more information on this fascinating and unique attraction. During the summer, there is a video of the sculptor, Borglum, the workers and the process of completing Mt. Rushmore.

Sculptor’s Studio

Take a tour of the studio that Borglum used to envision his creation. Again, during the summer, there is a ranger talk about the creation of the monument.

Don’t forget to swing by the gift shop for a souvenir, the bookstore for more information or the café for a snack.

Visit Mt Rushmore @ Sunset

There is a sunset illuminated viewing of the Mt. Rushmore but unfortunately, I didn’t make it to that. I’ve heard from online reviews that it is really wonderful. It does take place during late October timeframe but I was elsewhere and didn’t make it back over. For Illumination hours, click here.

I can’t say enough how fun this trip was. To visit Mt Rushmore in person really brought it to life for me. Don’t hesitate to make this trip. Where else in America (or elsewhere…) can you find this? In addition, the surrounding area of South Dakota and Black Hills have a lot to offer.

For more information on where to stay while in South Dakota, check out my hotel review, Rapid City hotel review – Fairfield Inn.