5 free attractions in South Dakota's Black Hills

Mt. Rushmore? Sure, but there's lots more to see
2013-05-19T00:00:00Z 5 free attractions in South Dakota's Black HillsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Mount Rushmore National Memorial may be the most famous landmark in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but it's not the only one.

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 the range Paha Sapa, or 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:


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 unusual that it's the only city in the United States to be named a National Historic Landmark.


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 be just as breathtaking. Head to U.S. Route 16A for a good view.


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 over the country for the event, and children and families are invited. This year's rally is scheduled for Aug. 5-11.


On the cusp of the Black Hills along Interstate 90 in the tiny town of Wall is this sprawling tourist attraction consisting of a drugstore, 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 drugstore. And the water remains free.


Located in downtown Rapid City near the historic Hotel Alex Johnson, Art Alley is 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.

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