Family friendly to visit the black hills immediately after Sturgis?
April 24, 2011 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Should we avoid vacationing in the Black Hills, SD area, right after the Sturgis rally? We (4 adults, 4 kids aged 3-8) are planning to arrive on August 14, the day the rally is ending. The plan is for camping and visiting the Black Hills, Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park, ect. Are we likely to regret arriving on the tail end of a biker rally, or should it all be over and done?

Biggest concern is to avoid a not-family friendly environment. We're not big prudes, but there are things grownups can do, and sometimes kids should be separated from those things.
posted by Steve3 to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
I've traveled in the area during and after the rally, and I think the most I've ever seen are long lines of motorcycles on the roads. To a child, this is exciting. Nothing else was encountered.
posted by RedEmma at 5:52 AM on April 24, 2011

Best answer: I have coincided with the rally in South Dakota and it's pretty fabulous! But it's also a mess. And it's a mess for miles and miles, in all directions—as, you can imagine, there are motorcycles just everywhere. (More recently, I arrived in another small town during another big rally, with a similar experience.) It's... just very busy. (It's sort of a remarkable thing to see!) It's not unlikely there will still be tons of people traveling around before and after the rally. Not everyone rushes off right away—some people ride quite a ways to get there, so some people plan side trips and the like.

But the only kid-friendly issues you'll have is potential noise. They're good people! It's not like it's mayhem and pillaging or anything. They just look mean; they're actually very courteous. (They're better drivers, certainly, than most people.) It's just a whole lot of motorcycles. So my worry in this case is that you won't get a sense of the quiet and vastness of the area, since you're going at the most crowded time of year. Loud pipes (allegedly—the jury is out, right?) save lives; they also irritate people who go to bed early, if you're sharing a campground or a highway.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:54 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

We were there before and after the rally (not during), and it was quite OK. Neat to see the 50-60 year-old accountants riding their Harleys.
posted by mbarryf at 6:37 AM on April 24, 2011

I wouldn't worry so much about the family unfriendliness about it as just the sheer amount of traffic you're likely to encounter everywhere. A lot of the biker folks are also people who might like to go vacationing in the Black Hills afterwards. I've driven though the Sturgis Rally a few times as a single woman and had basically no troubles whatsoever, people were nice or ignored me entirely. So agreed with RJR, it is likely to be loud and crowded which might be more of a problem than family-unfriendly. It's a fun thing to see but that might be the wrong time to be there, one of the things that is great about that part of the world is how empty it is.
posted by jessamyn at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2011

I traveled there about a week after the rally a few years ago. It was fine, just a little crowded. Most of the bikers who were still in the area were doing the same kind of family-friendly sightseeing we were.
posted by pourtant at 7:46 AM on April 24, 2011

Agreed with the above. We were in South Dakota smack dab before, during, and after the Sturgis rally in 2007, and it was fine. The most annoying thing was that a lot of the cheaper hotels jacked up their rates accordingly, so that Super 8's were charging $110 a night for a room.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2011

Back in '84, my family took a 6 week around the country road-trip in which we ended up coming back across South Dakota coincident with a big rally (may have been the Sturgis one). Probably the best campground neighbors we had all trip.

I don't know how the biker culture has changed in the 28(!) years since then, but the only real problem was the traffic in some of the smaller towns we went through. I was a new driver at that point, and I let my parents drive.
posted by straw at 8:17 AM on April 24, 2011

My parents took our family to Sturgis during the rally when I was about 8 years old. I didn't see anything that shook me to the core. Lots of ladies wearing leather bras, some motorcycles with airbrushed naked ladies on them (which my parents redirected my attention away from), etc. We only did walk around there during the daytime, and later on that night there was a knife stabbing in one of the bars.
I still would think it'd be fine for a family to go to, especially since you'd be going after the rally was done. And are you actually going to Sturgis itself, or are you just going to be in Rapid City, Keystone, and Custer State Park? Looking on a map, it seems as though you'd miss Sturgis entirely if those three were the only stops you'd be taking.
posted by asranixon at 8:21 AM on April 24, 2011

Agree with everyone above. My family went on pretty much the trip you're describing when us kids were 9-15. We didn't see anything objectionable and to a man (and woman), the bikers we encountered along the way were friendly and polite.

If you do talk with many of the bikers, you'll probably be surprised how many of them are late-mid-life crisis 'respectable' folks.

Just make sure to keep the little ones away from the bars and the main Sturgis event, and it'll be a great trip trip. Some of the best memories of my childhood are from that trip.
posted by graphnerd at 8:31 AM on April 24, 2011

Response by poster: @asranixon: No, Sturgis is not our destination, but while it may be the epicenter of the rally, I'd have to expect plenty of overlap with the major regional sights we'd be seeing and where we'd be staying- I doubt Sturgis itself could hold all the bikers.

The 3 boys on the trip will probably love the bikes, but "loud and crowded" aren't really the aspects I seek in a vacation. The black hills will be around for another summer trip, and due to scheduling between the 2 families, we might just choose to do this another year.
posted by Steve3 at 8:32 AM on April 24, 2011

Be prepared for how crowded and touristy Mt. Rushmore and the town of Keystone are. I was completely surprised by that when I visited there last August! I mean t-shirt, fudge, and "your name on a grain of rice!" shop kind of touristy. I would recommend not staying in the town if possible. We drove past a lot of pretty lodges in the mountains around Keystone, but had reservations in what turned out to be a crappy hotel in town.

I know that's sort of tangential to your question, but feel obliged to tell you. I don't know why I was so shocked that a major tourist spot would be crowded and, well, touristy in the middle of summer, but I was!
posted by apricot at 9:53 AM on April 24, 2011

Response by poster: @apricot- ha! The wife and I have been to the Badlands/Rushmore before, and know exactly what you're saying. I found Rushmore itself worth about 15 minutes of observation (at most!) then watch the documentary "how Rushmore was made" video, and it's time to go. We'll be camping at Badlands National Park, and this time I won't go running up a hillside with my telephoto lens in hand to take a picture of a bison 100 yards away... little did I know on my first visit that they're as rare as finding a squirrel in a suburban yard. We woke up to one lumbering by 20 feet from our tent the next morning.
posted by Steve3 at 11:00 AM on April 24, 2011

Around 20 years ago I was a small child on a camping trip in South Dakota that turned out to be during the Sturgis rally. Our campground was full of motorcycle noise, but other than that it was fine. I'm not sure how quickly the motorcycle-population declines as the rally ends.
posted by JiBB at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2011

I live here. The difference between rally week and the next week is pretty drastic. There will still be some bikers left over, but they're usually the older, mellower ones who want some scenery after the party. We're always pretty touristy in the summer, so the traffic will be there regardless. The main problem would be overpriced, and possibly scarce, hotel rooms or campsites. If you come, make a reservation in advance (good practice all summer, really).

And, as far as family friendly? This area is the definition of family friendly. I've taken my toddlers to Sturgis Main Street at night at the height of the rally and saw nothing untoward. By the time it's over, and the campgrounds are closed, the rowdy element is pretty much gone. For the most part, bikers are lovely people.
posted by SamanthaK at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2011

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