Fun things to do in South Dakota

  • Lincoln and Washington at Mt Rushmore
    Lincoln and Washington at Mt Rushmore
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  • Jefferson at Mt Rushmore
    Jefferson at Mt Rushmore
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  • Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore
    Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore
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Most Viewed Things to Do in South Dakota

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    The Famous Faces at Mount Rushmore

    by kharmencita Written Aug 16, 2012

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    These Faces of the famous US President: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, being carved on these unknown hidden woods of Mount Rushmore was the product of a weird, gifted, visionary sculptor named Gutzon Borglum who believed that through his work as a single man can change the world without being financially supported publicly. A crazy vision of him but after all those 16 years of hard labor using simple primitive equipment and untrained workers his dream that came true and presently his work declared as one of the most visited spot in the world. One of the greatest sculptural works of mankind. This Great American Memorial Park.

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    Wind Cave National Park

    by Toughluck Written Jan 10, 2012

    One of the world's longest and most complex Wind Cave caves and 28,295 acres of mixed-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest, and associated wildlife are the main features of the park. The cave is well known for its outstanding display of boxwork, an unusual cave formation composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs. The park's mixed-grass prairie is one of the few remaining and is home to native wildlife such as bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

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    Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

    by Toughluck Written Jan 10, 2012

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    The *L[http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/216bdd/]Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Contact Station is open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The tour of the launch facility is interesting and you get go down into the underground bunker.605) 433-5552

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    Badlands National Park

    by Toughluck Written Jan 10, 2012

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    You'll be there in the summer, I'm sure, but try for spring or fall. I've been here over a half dozen times, all in the summer, until 2011, when we went in October. It was great. Wonderful scenery all the time, but we could get out and do some hiking. I saw parts of the park that I didn't know existed. Yes, I did, only we never stopped long enough because of the heat. Yes, 90 degrees F here is better than in New York, but it's still hot. For more details and options, try my Badlands page.

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    Mount Rushmore

    by Toughluck Updated Jan 10, 2012

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    The Memorial is a unique place that's always crowded. The modern parking garage - paired and 4 stories high, give easy access the the park, including those using wheel chairs. The concourse offers great views and an easy approach. Food service and gift shops area readily available. You have to work to get a quiet area to sit and watch, but you'll find on a quieter day that little kids can get about without you having to worry. On busy days, keep the kids close, as the crowds can get close and they'll disappear among the taller people around them. Probably not a safety issue, but you don't know.

    You'll all enjoy the visit. Summer is the busiest. Don't think there is a quiet time of day, but spring and fall are quieter than June, July, and August. July 4th is the busiest day of the year.

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    Wall Drug

    by Tom_Fields Updated Apr 4, 2011

    Just north of the Badlands National Park is a kitschy tourist trap called Wall. This town is best known for Wall Drug, a "drug store", which has an impressive array of off-beat merchandise. With its Western theme, Wall Drug is full of rather corny but entertaining stuff. A good place to stop over for a while when travelling between the Badlands and Rapid City.

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    Shrine of Democracy

    by thecatsmeow Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Many years ago I was able to see this fantastic creation. I am planning a trip back soon. I went with a large group of people and the sight just inspired silence for a moment. I recomend seeing it just once.

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    Historical Ruby House Restaurant Keystone

    by Yaqui Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Over a hundred years ago Ruby Tucker the proprietress had a fine taste for elegance and would bring back with her from the east exquisite furniture and fine china to the Ruby House. It will take you back in time when this area was wild with buffalo hunters, gamblers, and gunfighters.

    We had a very enjoyable meal here in the evening and in the afternoon wondered back in here for one of their famous sarsaparillas. Very lovely building, but was very busy and crowded. Still worth the trip to Keystone to see this wonderful historical building and to enjoy the activities that surrounds it.

    To my dismay from an internet article, this wonderful building was destroyed from a terrible fire, but I see they have rebuilt her to her original order....yay!

    Ruby House hours are 11AM - 4PM for lunch and 4PM - 9PM for dinner, Daily.
    The Red Garter Saloon is open from 11AM - 1AM, Daily.

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    HARNEY PEAK

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Early in the morning or late in the afternoon are both great times to be atop Harney Peak - 7242 feet high, the rooftop of South Dakota. The trails are not difficult, rising through forests from trailheads at Sylvan Lake, Cathedral Peaks and Little Devil's Tower. A small fire suppression reservoir and lookout are found atop the peak. Views extend over much of the Black Hills to the south west and north; to the east, you can see forever across the Great Plains towards the Badlands.

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  • Strike Gold! Tourist Style

    by houseproject Updated Apr 4, 2011

    Big Thunder Gold Mine - Keystone, SD

    Amid all the cheezy attractions in this tourist town, the Big Thunder Gold mine is on the legit side. It is ( or was ) a real gold mine blasted into the rock by two stubborn prospectors.

    You get a true feel for what drove these pioneers to bury deep into the rocks in search of gold.

    The mine is easily accessable by anyone, even those in wheelchairs. The tour is very informative and even entertaining. Everyone gets to wear a hard hat and trek into the mine. You also get a tour of a replica Gold Mill that contains actual mining and milling equipment from the "old timers".

    For a little extra, you get to actually pan for gold and have a reasonable chance of finding $.20- $.80 worth.

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    Badlands National Park

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 28, 2009

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    With visions of The Great Dust Bowl and hearty homesteaders trying to eke out an existence in this harsh terrain, it is easy to see why many write off this area as a bleak lifeless place. Life does exist and Native Americans have been doing just that for 11 million years. European settlers did not fare so well aside from unusually high periods of precipitation. Even this had detrimental effects on a land more fragile than it looks in the form of overuse, only furthering erosion.

    Badlands was designated a National Monument in 1929 and became a National Park close to 50 years later. While many think only of its eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires, much of the park is prairie, in fact the biggest protected track of mixed grass prairie in the United States. On an overcast day, you could drive right by unimpressed by what appears at first a bleak landscape but if the sun is out and in particular if it is low in the sky, these very rock formations take on a much more spectacular glow and the creatures who call this land home come out to play when this very land is its most livable.

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    Mount Rushmore National Memorial

    by richiecdisc Updated Dec 26, 2009

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    Rushmore National Memorial is an impressive sight and most Americans get teary-eyed if they plan an evening visit when the massive 60 foot sculptures are lit up after a special presentation movie heralding America as the land of free. The area surrounding the Memorial is quite pretty and it is no wonder it was a special place for Native Americans long before the sculptures came into being. In fact, it was granted to the them in 1868 in perpetuity before being taken back only ten years later. The carvings of the presidents has not set well with original tribes who called these hills home and in 1971 they seized it back though obviously it did not last. Controversy still surrounds the site from the Native American perspective since the choice of only the presidents seems to reflect the idea of manifest destiny. Add into the mix that its sculptor was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan and you have a recipe for political disaster. A stunning physical endeavor surely but a Sequoia it is not. In the end, will it be seen as a period piece? Perhaps.

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    Black Hills National Forrest

    by Basaic Updated Nov 21, 2009

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    The Black Hills National Forrest consists of 1.2 million acres in Southwest South Dakota. There are lots of attractions in the area to include several national and state parks. The forest itself has spectacular scenery and several pulloffs, campsites and other places to enjoy it. the granite faced mountains in the area are amongst the oldest in North America. They were formed about 60 million years ago. Try the drives along US Highways 16 and 16A and South Dakota Highway 87.

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    Mount Rushmore

    by lashr1999 Written Aug 7, 2009

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    The mountain was originally known by the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers which was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took for a spiritual journey. The area was taken over by the US around 1877 on a claim that is still disputed based on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. It was named Mount Rushmore during a prospecting expedition by Rushmore, David Swanzey, and Bill Challis. The idea for the Mount Rushmore sculptures came from Historian Doane Robinson in 1923 who wanted to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, Robinson asked sculptor Gutzon Borglum to become a part of the project. Mount Rushmore commission was authorized by congress on March 3, 1925. Between 1927 and 1941 Borlum and over 400 workers sculpted 60 foot carving of 4 US presidents. What is notable is that not one worker died during the construction of this massive project. They chose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. The sculpture was supposed to be different in fact Susan B Anthony was to be included. A lack of funds stopped the competition of the project in 1941.

    When you first walk in, you can see Flags of different states and the dates they were accepted into the United States. Here, you can try posing with your state flag or the state that you want to go to. Continuing further there is a museum area where you can see how the monument was built. You can see the monument in varying degrees of progress. Also, there is a case with different used picture postcards of Rushmore. It is interesting to see the art work over the years for a monument that relatively does not change. Directly in front of the monument is a stage area. Here, there are various benches where you can sit and watch the monument. I guess at the stage are different speeches or performances are put on.

    Starting from the stage area you can walk around the monument. While at the stage area try to aligning your heads with that of the 3 presidents so you can take that cheesy picture and become part of the monument. Do not worry, you can not get lost if you walk straight ahead since it is a long loop trail. Various Viewing areas are available where you can see the monument from different angles. There was a small alcove with a hole which a duo of climbers were trying to sneak and climb up the monument. They went up a few feet before coming back down so they would not be caught

    Towards the end of the trail you can visit the sculptors studio here you can see the mountain sculpture and the original model of the carving. Anyway, after all that walking you may be tired. You will be looped back to your starting point where you can relax and shop at the gift shop. You can get something to eat at the cafeteria or get an ice cream to cool you down if it is a hot day.

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    Crazy Horse Memorial

    by lashr1999 Written Aug 2, 2009

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    Ziolkowski a sculptor who worked on Mount Rushmore received a letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear in 1939 which stated "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too. To accomplish this vision Ziolkowski in 1948 began carving the crazy horse memorial into Thunderhead Mountain. This mountain is between Hill city ad Custer and about 8 miles from Rushmore. This land is considered sacred by native American so this carving is controversial to some. Lame Deer, a Lakota Medicine Man stated: "The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. Additional controversy lies in the fact that Crazy Horse did not want to be photographed when alive and was buried where his remains could not be found.

    The sculpture is still an ongoing work with no definite completion date. You can hear blasts occurring at times. The sculptor died in 1982 before seeing his vision completed which is the form of Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. In fact, the face of crazy horse was only completed in 1998. The entire complex is owned by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and his wife and children closely follow the progress of the work. The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be a massive 641 feet wide and 563 feet high. If you compare the size to Rushmore, the Rushmore heads are about 60 feet while Crazy horse’s will be 87 feet when complete.

    When entering you walk through a museum with different stories of Cray Horse as well as other Native American memorabilia. There are various lookout points where you can see a side view of the crazy horse monument. Unfortunately when we were there we did not get to do the 25 minute ride which takes you to the front of the monument due to lack of time. I think it was an additional $5 to do this.

    One thing that was disappointing here was the Snack Place. When we went there no snacks left. There were no sandwiches. They had some nacho left, one bowl of bean and ham and some old burritos. Hopefully they will get restocked soon.

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South Dakota Things to Do

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