Mount Rushmore Area & When To Visit
If you're looking for the ideal time to visit Mount Rushmore, mark your calendars... In 300,000 years, the monument will be visually perfect! It's true. Gutzon Borglum, the visionary sculptor who created the memorial, left "extra" material in the carving to compensate for the natural wear and tear caused by the elements. Of course, a little extra rock hasn't kept almost two million visitors a year from paying homage to the "Shrine to Democracy." The abundant wildlife and natural beauty in the Black Hills, coupled with an assortment of amusements in nearby cities and towns, makes Mount Rushmore a vacation destination that should be at the top of every American's list.
Mount Rushmore, SD
Recent additions to the attraction include a welcome/visitor center with restaurant, ice cream shop, gift shop and museum. Walking trails allow visitors access to multiple views (including an odd scene from under our First President's nose). A little knowledge about the sculptor and the local miners that helped create this towering icon will make your visit a lot more interesting. A visit to the Borglum Historical Center at the base on the monument will help. For further insight, choose between the Mount Rushmore Tour and Mount Rushmore/ Chuck Wagon Supper Tour -- both are fascinating, narrated tours that encompass the Borglum Historical Center, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the (work-in-progress) Crazy Horse Memorial. During summer, when the sun goes down, the lights around the mountain come up: a lighting ceremony takes place at 9:00 p.m. at the monument's new amphitheater. Take the 1880s Train and Mount Rushmore Lighting Ceremony Tour for a memorable experience. (Bring a sweater or light jacket for the lighting ceremony--even in summer, it can get chilly at night!)
The closest town is Keystone, right at the base of Mount Rushmore. You'll find quaint specialty shops -- including South Dakota Fudge and Black Hills Gold Jewelry -- restaurants and lodging (the Econo Express, the President's View Lodge) on their 1880's Boardwalk. A bit further away is Deadwood, old mining town and stomping grounds to Wild Bill Hickok, among others. All of Deadwood is a National Landmark, and the proceeds from their legalized gaming go to preserve this historic mining town. This means you can play poker at the same bar where Wild Bill played his last hand, or head over to the Midnight Star and check out some of the costumes Casino Owner Kevin Costner wore in his movies. And don't forget to visit the beautiful Spearfish Canyon. Movie buffs may recognize some of the scenery -- the canyon was a filming site for "Dances With Wolves."
Rapid City, SD
About 30 minutes away from Mount Rushmore is Rapid City. This is where you'll find the closest airport to Mount Rushmore, plus several more attractions, lodging venues and restaurants. The Journey Museum will take you on a self-guided tour of 2.5 billion years of South Dakota history. The Econo Lodge has the largest indoor water slide in South Dakota, and the lobby floor at the Radisson Hotel is a work of art in itself! The Alex Johnson Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At the Circle B Ranch, you can wander the Old West Town, pan for gold, and enjoy a Chuck Wagon Dinner and Country Comedy Show. Kids and animal lovers will enjoy the shows at Reptile Gardens and the drive-through animal park, Bear Country USA.
Black Hills, SD
Nature lovers must take the time to explore the awe-inspiring Black Hills. Custer State Park is home to the largest free-roaming buffalo herd in America. Learn more about fossils as you explore the trails and displays at Badlands National Park. And early morning drives along Needles Highway will give you a glimpse of native animals -- bison, deer, even feral donkeys -- in their natural environment.
When To Visit South Dakota
Since 300,000 years from now is admittedly a tad unrealistic to schedule time for a vacation, we return to the question -- when should you go visit Mount Rushmore? The peak season is in the summer, but visitors and locals alike say that less crowds, off-season rates, and the beauty of the changing seasons are all promising reasons to go during the off-season. And unless you plan to attend the Sturgis motorcycle rally, it may be wise to avoid that week (it's usually in August) -- hotels and attractions can be unusually crowded. So the answer to WHEN you go is not important. It is only important that you go.