Mount Rushmore tips
April 4, 2011 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Mount Rushmore! Where to stay and what to do! Tell me.

I'm planning a trip to Mount Rushmore in mid-June with my husband and mom. (If it's relevant, we're in our 30s and she's in her 60s.) We'll be driving from the Twin Cities and staying for 3-4 days. Questions for you:

a) What's the best place to stay? Caveats: we aren't rustic people. None of us camp and we would get eaten by coyotes if we tried. Favorite hotel/lodging? I'll consider any price range right now, low to high. We don't need anything fancy, but passable (and smoker-friendly) is a must.

b) How dog-friendly is the general area? I understand the Mount Rushmore area itself isn't too dog-friendly, but how about the surrounding parks, etc? We have a Pekingese.

c) My mom is intent on seeing Mount Rushmore, but what else shouldn't we miss? Like I said, we're not super nature-y people, but we do appreciate a pretty park or piece of nature (for a short period of time). So long hikes are probably out, but I'm open to anything else, especially quirky novelties or good restaurants.

d) Anything else we should know? Assume I know nothing about the area (which would be a correct assumption).

Thanks! And my mother, who's crossing things off her bucket list right now, thanks you.
posted by Laura Macbeth to Travel & Transportation around Keystone, SD (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
c) Crazy Horse memorial. The Badlands (scenic drive through the park). I thought Deadwood was kitschy fun. If you have the time to get all the way to Devil's Tower, do so.
posted by dzot at 10:26 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Worth seeing the unfinished countermonument of Crazy Horse. Given you're driving, you certainly ought to see the Badlands, some of the most startling landscape you'll see anywhere in the US.

The Corn Palace in Mitchell is right on your way too, and certainly qualifies as a quirky novelty.
posted by escabeche at 10:28 AM on April 4, 2011

Seconding Crazy Horse and a drive through The Badlands. If you have any interest in dinosaurs, there are also some cool dig sites.
posted by questionsandanchors at 10:30 AM on April 4, 2011

I spent three summers working for the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. It's a great little theater that's totally worth a visit if you've got the time. (and I'll be there in June! If you need a guide, memail me!) For places to stay, I'd recommend the town of Custer. It's pretty central to a lot of other neat towns and scenic spots.

Seconding the Badlands and the Mitchell Corn Palace.
Wall Drug is on your way there. You'll need a bumper sticker to make the trip official.

Other can't-miss favorites:
Jewel Cave or Wind Cave
Sylvan Lake
Needles Highway (If you miss everything else, DON'T MISS THIS!)
The town of Keystone, home of the Alpine Slide (so fun!) and Black Hills gold panning. A scenic ride on a steam train can be picked up there too.
Google 'Pig-Tail Bridges' and find one of those. The scenic highways are awesome around there.
Cathedral Spires is an incredible hike if you're up for it.
Crazy Horse is way cooler than Mount Rushmore.

Have a fantastic time! You can't go wrong out there. Everything is beautiful.
posted by alight at 10:39 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, do not decide on a whim to drive all night and get to Mt. Rushmore at 3 AM, park in the parking lot in a conversion van containing four adults and five children, and decide it is too late to pitch a tent and so everyone must buckle down in the van where-ever then can before storming out at dawn to beg the maintenance staff to let you in so that you can use the restroom and have some coffee and get the hell away from your smelly family and friends even as you look up at the mountain and it is glorious in the early morning sun, at least what you can see, tilting your head strangely to avoid aggravating that crick you've gotten from how you spent the night before.

My family, we had some epic road-trips when I was a kid. Mt. Rushmore scarred me for life. The prairie dogs in Teddy Roosevelt National Park almost made it worth it.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:44 AM on April 4, 2011

Yes to the N-th degree on Crazy Horse. Consider bringing tissues. Very powerful stuff.
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:54 AM on April 4, 2011

Don't expect much from Mount Rushmore. It's neat, but it's not engaging - you won't spend a whole day gazing at its glory, for example. After about 15 minutes, you'll all realize "hey this is great I guess but I'm done now let's move on". Crazy Horse, on the other hand, is amazing and you could spend a ton of time there.
posted by pdb at 11:15 AM on April 4, 2011

I love love love the Black Hills. Nthing Crazy Horse (do NOT miss -- it's extremely close to MtR), Badlands, Wall Drug, and Corn Palace (these last three are not what I'd call extremely close, but if you can get there, dooooo it. They're on your route for sure). I enjoyed Mount Rushmore a lot. Be sure you drive around so you can see the profile view of Mt Rushmore -- it's on your way out of the area. Also seconding Devils Tower if you get all the way out there. It and the Badlands are both super amazing.

Also on your drive to the Black Hills, you can go to Porter Sculpture Park if it's open. It wasn't open when I drove through, but the sculptures I could see from the road looked awesome.

Spearfish Canyon is beautiful and worth a drive through at least. I think when I went to the Black Hills, I stayed in Rapid City, drove through and did Rushmore and Crazy Horse in one day, and then spent that night in Spearfish.

Also the geographic center of the USA is a fun journey. There's a marker in Belle Fourche, but the actual place is out of town a bit on someone's ranch.

I went to Deadwood and wasn't really that into it, but if you go there, I recommend going up to Mt. Moriah cemetery and walk up to see Seth Bullock's gravesite (as well as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane -- but Bullock you might miss if you don't know to look for it).

In Rapid City, I recommend a meal at the Corn Exchange.

Also near MtR is Presidents Park which is a kind of weird and fun attraction with giant busts of presidents. I didn't go to the full park, but there was a teaser mini-park I ran into somewhere along the road that featured giant busts of Reagan, Kennedy, and GWBush. Plus a weird mini-Washington Monument.

Sorry if my post is disjointed; I kept thinking of other random things to recommend!! South Dakota is really teeming with awesome quirkiness. Have a wonderful trip!!!
posted by hansbrough at 11:32 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The various lectures at Mt. Rushmore are pretty interesting. But if you're going to the Badlands, then do stop by the Minuteman Missile Silo.

Wall Drug is tacky, but has a surprisingly good western history book store.

The Prairie Berry Winery is in Hill City, and while chokecherry wine might not be everyone's tipple, there's a selection of local wines.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:07 PM on April 4, 2011

If you go to Deadwood, stop in at the Chubby Chipmunk. It's a funny little store that has really good, big truffles. And if they're closed, there's a vending machine right outside the door called the 'Chub O' Matic' so you can get truffles off-hours!
posted by martianna at 6:29 PM on April 4, 2011

The boyfriend and I drove up to Mt. Rushmore a few years back and we LOVED Bear Country, one of those drive through animal parks. Your hotel's tourism rack will probably have coupons!
posted by jabes at 6:42 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you have an appreciation for kitschy tourist traps, this is the place for you. They have ICE COLD WATER!!!

wiki ref
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 10:17 AM on April 5, 2011

Response by poster: All excellent suggestions. Thank you! I'm actually excited now (I was only feeling so-so before). If anyone has stayed in a specific hotel they liked in Custer (or didn't like), I'm open to that, too.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2011

The Cosmos Mystery place... too lazy too google
posted by thilmony at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2011

How could I forget Bear Country USA?? Seconded!!
posted by hansbrough at 7:45 PM on April 5, 2011

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