The Journey Museum in Rapid City, SD, houses a wealth of collections and exhibits of prehistoric and historic significance. From the age of dinosaurs, to the culture and custom of the Lakota people, the pioneers and their impact, up to modern day, you can explore the region’s rich history in a fascinating and interactive fashion, as you learn about the people and customs behind the history of the Mt. Rushmore region.
The museum’s collection focus on recording and retelling the story of the Western Great Plains from several perspectives. The Museum of Geology displays dinosaur fossils and replicas in realistic settings. Educational exhibits show the geological history of the Black Hills, with geologists at work for your observation.
The Archaeological Research Center lets you experience the cultures of the historic and pre-historic people. Visit an archaeological dig site, and see artifacts from ancient hunters to the area’s first miners. The history of the Lakota Nation is told through the exhibits in the Sioux Indian Museum, where you can learn what life was like for the tribe, how the worked, played and hunted. You’ll be amazed by the extensive collection of arts and crafts created by the Sioux and displayed among the collection of Native American Artifacts.
The Pioneer Museum chronicles the arrival of the European settlers to the Great Plains. Their tale is told through the artifacts from mountain men, military and miners. Learn the history and devastation of Wounded Knee, and meet the historic figures who played prominent roles in the area’s history, like General Custer, Sitting Bull, Wild Bill Hickock, and Crazy Horse.
Of course the main attraction at Mt. Rushmore, is the massive memorial for the four US Presidents sculpted from the granite peak. But there is much more to appreciate in this South Dakota region. You can see it all from the comfort of a modern tour bus, and learn facts from your knowledgeable guide as you spend the day letting someone else drive.
The Mount Rushmore & Black Hills Tour begins with the famous Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, where in addition to viewing the awesome wonder you’ll enjoy a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, sausage or bacon, and more. After you’ve had your fill, ample time is allowed so you can tour the visitor center, browse the souvenir shop, and explore the exhibits.
Next, you’ll stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial, a work in progress which honors the culture and heritage of the North American Indians, before a visit to Custer State Park where you’ll be surrounded by astounding natural beauty at the location of the Custer’s first discovery of gold. Other tour sites include the Iron Mountain Road, and Black Hills National Forest, with waterfalls, enormous rock cliffs, bridges, sparkling streams and abundant wildlife.
Near Mount Rushmore, in Murdo, South Dakota is a must see museum. The Pioneer Auto Show and Antique Town boasts some 42 buildings full of collectibles, antiques, rare and unique automobiles, tractors and motorcycles.
Plan to spend at least a full day, if not two to fully appreciate all this place has to see. The automobile collection features more than 250 vehicles from the 1900s through the 1970s. You can see a rare 1906 Ford Model N; a 1970 GTO Judge convertible, one of only 165 produced, and hundreds of other vintage autos. The motorcycle exhibits includes among its 60 bikes, a 1976 Harley Davidson that belonged to Elvis Presley, with only 1200 miles on the odometer and still titled to the ‘King.” You’ll find more than 60 tractors on display including some manufactured by Lamborghini and Porsche. Who knew?
If cars and tractors aren’t your thing, there are still plenty of interesting and nostalgic exhibits including pin ball machines, fountain pens, oil cans, door knobs, books, toys and music boxes, to name but a few.
The museum also boasts an extensive collection of rocks, gems and minerals. The National Rockhound Hall of Fame & Lapidary is housed here. The Zeitner collection contains hundred of rarities you won’t see anywhere else.
The youngest visitors, who may not be as intrigued by nostalgic exhibits, will be entertained by taking part in the Kids Treasure Hunt. With treasure map in hand, they work their way through the exhibits following clues to find stickers to complete the map. Upon finding all the stickers, they receive a prize.
If you dream of a home where the buffalo roam, and deer and antelope play, you should plan to be in Custer State Park, South Dakota on September 26, for the annual Buffalo Round up.
Just a short drive South of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Custer State Park lies in the beautiful Black Hills. Full of lush forests, serene meadows, majestic mountains, and a wealth of wildlife, including white-tail and mule deer, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, and one of the world’s largest publicly owned bison herds. The bison roam freely throughout the park, grazing in the open prairies, and sipping clean, clear waters of the areas four mountain lakes, and several streams.
Each fall the herd of nearly 1300 animals is rounded up and corralled. Park staff along with the help of carefully selected volunteer cowboys and cowgirls, drive the buffalo to the corrals for annual vaccination and thinning of the herd. In order to ensure plenty of forage and optimum herd health, about 300 animals are sorted out to be sold at auction. It is a glorious occasion and a rare sight to behold, and the public is invited to watch.
Park entrance fees are waived for round-up day, and there will be breakfast and lunch available to purchase.
The area has many fun events planned for the whole weekend, so stick around to enjoy the Annual Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival, with more than 100 vendors displaying fine arts and crafts. Western style pancake feeds start the morning off right, and other fun food events include a Dutch Oven Cook-off, and Chili Cook-off. For a small fee you can sample some wonderful dishes.
Just an hour down the road from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the town of Hot Springs, South Dakota, is the largest Mammoth research facility in the world. Mammoth Site was discovered in 1974 during preliminary excavation for a new housing subdivision. When excavators discovered first a Mammoth tooth, then other remains, property owners abandoned the development plans and instead built a museum and building to enclose the site.
The site lies in an area of Karst topography, meaning cave systems and underground waterways lie beneath the surface. A collapse of a cave created a sinkhole, which attracted wildlife to the warm spring water found below. The animal population’s remains gradually settled into the sinkhole. Unlike other paleontology sites, the remains found here are not fossils as they were not mineralized but actually preserved in the clays and sands accumulated in the sinkhole.
Currently 61 Mammoths have been unearthed, most being Columbian Mammoth, but they have found three Wooly Mammoth. Other animals discovered at the site include Giant Short-faced Bear and American Camel.
Work at the site is on-going and you are invited to tour the area. You’ll enjoy a short video to educate you on the history of the dig-site, then take a guided tour around the sinkhole, and visit the exhibit hall.
If you feel like getting dirty, you can actually take part in a simulated excavation offered through August 15th. A Jr. Paleontology Program invites kids 4-12 to learn excavation techniques and identification of Mammoths and Short-faced Bears. An Advanced program is offered for anyone age 5 and up.
The facility has always operated as a non-profit, utilizing donations and volunteers. They are planning a new Learning Center and are closing in on the fund-raising goals. Contributions can be made as a one time donation, become a supporting member, or you can ‘buy a brick.’ Or, you can visit the site and rest assured your admission will go to the continuing excavation and preservation of this national landmark.
While you are in the area why not spend a day learning about the fascinating natural history and these great creatures which once roamed our land.
Mt Rushmore is a much celebrated American monument in memorial of four of our favorite US Presidents. But what about all those other men who served as President and left their mark on our collective patriotism?
Stop on your way to see Mt Rushmore and dive into the history and great moments of all the past presidents at the National Presidential Wax Museum, in Keystone SD. You’ll find all the great moments in American presidential history with accurate details and authentic period costumes and decor. Re-live events such as President Nixon congratulating the astronauts after the first moon-voyage, Lyndon Johnson being sworn in aboard Air Force One, and George Washington giving Betsy Ross the thumbs up on her newly stitched stars and stripes.
With every past president represented in an iconic moment from their term, you’ll enjoy a trip through American history.
While you are in South Dakota to see the famous Mt. Rushmore Monument, be sure to visit the nearby work in progress.
The Crazy Horse Memorial, just eight miles from Mt. Rushmore is an undertaking of epic proportion. The first blast on Thunderhead Mountain to begin the work, took place in 1948. There were actually five survivors from the Battle of the Little Bighorn on hand to witness it. Work continued slow but sure since then, and at last in 1998 the face of the Oglala Lakota Warrior, Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated.
The memorial is open year-round, and work continues year-round. Once the face was completed, work began on the horse’s head. The massive creation is destined to become the world’s largest sculpture, if it is completed. So big it is, that all four President’s heads on Mt. Rushmore could fit inside Crazy Horse’s head!
The work is supported financially through fees from the visitor’s center and gift shop, and donations to the non-profit organization whose mission is to “honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.”
The Monument at Mt. Rushmore is an engineering feat, a symbol of patriotism and an epic sculpture in which Americans take pride. The Black Hills in South Dakota which are home to the massive presidential faces, are not only a gorgeous setting, but offer many exciting opportunities for family outings while you are visiting the area.
The Black Hills area is beautiful and rich in both minerals and history. The railroad played a crucial role in the mining history of the area, and you can experience an historic, scenic, unforgettable ride on a vintage steam powered train.
Possibly the most influential development of the American frontier was the railroad, and initially all the trains were pulled by steam engines. In the late 1940’s diesel powered engines were fast replacing steam. Thankfully, there was a group of people who felt this era in locomotion should be preserved, and they created the 1880 Railroad, where you can still experience steam locomotive ride.
There’s nothing like the sound of the whistle from the steam engine, and the call of the conductor, “All Aboard!” Then you wind through the Black Hills stunning scenery and past historic mining towns, mines, camps and mills, and learn about the area’s past production of abundant natural resources; lumber, tin, tungsten, mica, tourmaline, and feldspar.
Timing is everything. That is especially true when it comes to photographing the massive faces of Mt. Rushmore. What’s the best time to capture your family vacation memories with no shadows on the Presidential faces?
Morning. Professional photographers will tell you the morning light is warm, and creates the best colors. As luck would have it, morning is when the faces of Mt. Rushmore are fully lit by the rising sun. The best time for photos is between 9am – 11 am. Bonus – its not likely to be crowded in the morning.
After your morning viewing and photo session, take some time to stroll through the Avenue of Flags. Each of the 50 states, and six US Territories are represented. Then, take a hike along the half mile Presidential Trail, for different vantage points of the massive sculpture. There is a wheelchair accessible trail as well.
Grab some lunch, then check out the Sculptor’s Studio where you can view models of the monument and tools used for the fine sculpting of the faces. You’ll also want to spend some time at the Visitor’s Center and Museum where you can learn fascinating history of each of the featured Presidents.
Wrap up your evening in the Mt. Rushmore Amphitheater, where during the summer months Park Rangers show a historical film before the patriotic tribute and
final dramatic lighting of the monumental faces.
Its a day well spent.
Vacations Made Easy offers several Mt. Rushmore vacation packages.
The Mount Rushmore area has more than just amazing monuments and parks for visitors to view, so next time you’re in the area, check out some of the awesome events available in the surrounding towns like Rapid City.
Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo (January 31 through February 9 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Join the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo, the second largest event in the state with an estimated 331,000 people in attendance, at the James Kjerstad Event Center on the Central States Fairgrounds & Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City! With 96 different agriculture-driven events, the show will take you on an adventure with events like the Ranch Rodeo, Sheep Dog Trials, and Bronc Match, which are all crowd favorites. Aside from the show, enjoy access to nearly 300 vendors set up during the trade show to sell everything from fine arts to front-end loaders.
Rodeo Skate Day at Main Street Square (February 1 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Come along to Main Street Square for a special Rodeo Skate at Main Street Square, where Sutton Rodeo officials and Main Street Square staff have collaborated to feature Stock Show activities in Downtown Rapid City for the third year. Get autographs of select Rodeo Queens and Xtreme Bull contestants from 11 a.m. to noon. JDProductions will host family entertainment from 1 to 5 p.m., and a western souvenir will be given away with each purchased skating pass. The Main Street Square’s ice skating rink will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Snowshoe Walk in the Park (February 1 at 1 p.m.)
Located in the Northern Black Hills, this Snowshoe Walk is a great way to try something new! No experience is needed, and snowshoes are provided, but pre-registration is needed for those who need to borrow snowshoes. A Mickelson Trail pass is required, which costs $3 daily or $12 annually. Learn more by calling 605-584-3896.