The first thing I think of when I hear someone talking about South Dakota is Mount Rushmore. I have seen so many pictures of Mount Rushmore, it really gets built up in your mind as a massive landmark. I am not saying it is not awe inspiring to see our former Presidents immortalized in stone, especially after hearing the story of how it was accomplished! But, on the other hand, you expect this massive mountain with our Presidents faces on it when you arrive at Mount Rushmore and it does disappoint a little in that respect. Putting that initial disappointment aside, if you take the time to walk under the Presidents and visit the museum and all of the other buildings on the property, you can recapture that enthusiasm for Mount Rushmore. It is a wonderful part of our country’s history and really is a must see location.
A second landmark, that we really had not known too much about before planning our trip to South Dakota, is the Crazy Horse Memorial. This Memorial has the “WOW” factor you are expecting. To get a perspective on its size, when you see the white line that is outlining the head of the horse, that white line is 6 feet wide. We paid extra to be driven up as close as we were allowed to get to the Memorial. Our perspective changed from a side view to a frontal view of Crazy Horse. It was so impressive, even the pictures do not do it justice. The museum had so much history on how this monument came into being and also of Korczazk Ziolkowski, the sculptor, and his wife, Ruth. Before heading to South Dakota, please look at the Crazy Horse Memorial website for special dates and activities.
Another activity that we always plan for is to ride any trains that are in the area of our trips. There is an 1880 Steam Train that runs between Hill City and Keystone. We first drove to Hill City, but would have to wait 2 1/2 hours before being able to ride the train, so we decided to drive to Keystone and catch the afternoon train from there. It would truly be worth the pre-planning to purchase the tickets ahead of time by visiting their website! While we waited, we went to the Big Thunder Gold Mine to pan for gold. This was a fun experience as long as you are not expecting to hit it rich, definitely a tourist activity! We decided to walk down the main street for tourists and checked out the souvenir shops, the candy shop, and the different options to eat lunch. Arriving at the train depot, we bought some t-shirts and waited for the arrival of the train. After boarding, with the option of open air or enclosed train cars (we chose the enclosed because of the cool air), we started our ride to Hill City, which took 1 hour. We did not even get off upon arrival, just switched sides of the train and rode it back to Keystone
South of Custer, SD where we were staying at the KOA campground, is the city of Hot Springs. It was a little like deja vu when we drove through Hot Springs on our way to Custer, it really reminded us of Hot Springs, Arkansas. We walked down to visit the Hot Springs waterfall and the various structures along the way.
Mammoth Site was our next stop, I did not even know there was a site like that in the U.S. After all of the walking we did, we stopped at a very nice restaurant, with great food and decent prices called Dale’s Family Restaurant.
We found another museum, the Pioneer Museum, which was a multi-story building with so many items from the Pioneer settlers. It was mind boggling how much they had to view. That ended our sight-seeing in Hot Springs and we drove through Wind Cave National Park to go to Hill City to view the Railroad Museum there.
On another day, we took a road trip through nearby towns. We visited Deadwood, SD and stopped by the Adams Museum and then the Visitors Center that was in the old train depot. We managed to drive down part of Historic main street that was not blocked off for a street concert. Continuing our road trip, we drove down Hwy 14A and stopped at the Broken Boot Gold Mine to do some more panning for gold. Our next stop was in Lead, SD, stopping at the Black Hills Mining Museum with more gold panning, but with more specific instructions and continued supervision. We finished our road trip that day by driving down Hwy 85 through Newcastle, Wyoming, and then east toward Custer, SD.