South Dakota: 5 Free Things to do in the Black Hills
Mount Rushmore National Memorial may be the most famous landmark in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but it's not the only one.
Covering approximately 8,000 miles (nearly 13,000 kilometers), the Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range with a big Native American influence. The Lakota took over the mountains from the Cheyenne in the 1700s and named it Paha Sapa (translated to Black Hills.) The Lakota signed a treaty with the U.S. government in 1868 exempting the hills from white settlers. But when gold was discovered in the mountains, the U.S. government broke the treaty and moved the tribes to reservation lands in other areas of the state.
The Lakota influence can be seen not far from Mount Rushmore in the still-unfinished mountain carving of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. Farther south, visitors can see buffalo up close as they roam the prairie in Custer State Park.
Here are five free things to do in the Black Hills:
From Deadwood to Motorcycle Rally
Walk Through Historic Deadwood
Established during the Black Hills’ gold rush in the 1870s, Deadwood is known for gambling, prostitution and lawlessness. Only the gambling remains today, but street shows and memorabilia at stores lining the brick streets evoke the town’s wilder days. Deadwood’s history is so unique that it’s the only city in the United States to be named a National Historic Landmark.
Sneak a Peek at Mount Rushmore
There is no entrance fee to see Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but parking will set you back $11. Instead, stop on a nearby side road with a scenic view area to snap a photo of the faces of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson. The monument may be farther away, but the views can still be just as breathtaking. Head to U.S. Route 16A for a good view.
Spend a Day at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Hundreds of thousands descend on the town of Sturgis (population: 6,600) every August for this annual gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. Alcohol, leather, bare skin and ramped up engines take over during the weeklong event. Many riders will drive their motorcycles from all the country for the event, and children and families are invited. This year’s rally is scheduled for Aug. 5-11.
Stop by Wall Drug
On the cusp of the Black Hills along Interstate 90 in the tiny town of Wall is this sprawling tourist attraction consisting of a drug store, gift shop, restaurants, a chapel and several other stores. Pharmacist Ted Hustead bought the drugstore in 1931. Business was slow until his wife, Dorothy, came up with the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travelers. Today, signs dot Interstate 90 enticing travelers to stop at the famed drug store. And the water remains free.
Gaze at Rapid City’s Art Alley
Located in downtown Rapid City near the historic Hotel Alex Johnson, Art Alley is a place where artists can showcase their talent through graffiti, paintings and sculpture. Stroll between Sixth and Seventh streets to see how creativity can take hold along a city block.