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Rapid City

Get presidential in the Mount Rushmore State

While it may be just a stone’s throw from some of South Dakota’s most awe-inspiring landscapes, Rapid City is more than just a gateway city. Downtown, an ensemble of restored brick buildings, public art projects, galleries and restaurants punctuate lively streets where bronze statues of U.S. presidents stand sentry on practically every downtown corner; hence the moniker, City of Presidents.

With a clutch of worthy museums, child-friendly outdoor attractions and the iconic Mount Rushmore just a short drive away, Rapid City inspires curiosity about America’s history along with a thirst for outdoor adventure. Just beyond this exciting lifestyle city, with its manicured gardens, leafy parks, bike paths and trails that unfurl into deep green valleys and magical forests, the wild and surreal topography of the Black Hills awaits exploration.

Library of Congress

Journey Museum

One of Rapid City’s premier sites, the compelling Journey Museum and Learning Center brings to life South Dakota’s history from prehistoric times through the modern era. The museum contains fascinating collections curated from the area that tell the region’s story through the study of paleontology, geology, archaeology, Native Americans and pioneers. Highlights from the geology section of the museum include fascinating dinosaur fossil exhibits and a huge geologic cross section of the Black Hills, which traces the region’s evolution over the course of 2.5 billion years.

The Native American venue provides a worthy introduction to the diversity of Sioux culture and artistry with several rare artifacts acquired from Sioux artists and artisans, including glass beadwork, porcupine quillwork, hide painting, feather working, wood and pipestone carvings, and metalworking. A fully interactive facility geared toward families, the museum is also home to a learning lab and a dinosaur tent. The Journey Museum also features high-tech shows including Journey Into Space, a virtual-reality space odyssey enabled by the NASA-supported Uniview Digital Universe Software.

Mount Rushmore

Just 25 miles south of Rapid City, Mount Rushmore is hailed as one of the world’s human-made wonders. An enduring marriage of art and engineering prowess, sculptor/creator Gutzon Borglum’s vision was to immortalize in stone the nation’s birth, philosophy and values through an iconic representation of its most lauded presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

The singular site stands some 60 feet tall and was carved into the granite of a colossal rocky outcrop of Mount Rushmore between 1927 and 1941, at the cost of about $1 million. Over recent years, the addition of a new visitor center, a museum and a hiking trail around the site has added a fresh new spin to memories of your childhood visit. During the summer, every night at 9 p.m., there is a lighting ceremony that includes a brief film about the four presidents followed by the national anthem.

Can’t get enough of epic statues? Fifteen miles to the east, the 563-foot-tall Crazy Horse Memorial honors the Lakota leader who fought for his people. While the monument isn’t completed, the profile carved out of the rock is worth the trip.

Bear Country

Eight miles from Rapid City, sprawling across 200 acres of Black Hills terrain, Bear Country USA is home to the world’s largest collection of black bears (privately owned). Along a 3-mile drive, black bears, grizzly bears and more than 20 other native mammal species, including elk, wolves and buffalo, can be seen roaming and entertaining visitors in a natural setting. The creatures are not shy, so keeping your windows up is a good idea. The drive culminates with an enchanting tour around Babyland, where baby bears, otters and raccoons can be seen playing.

Hills of Plenty

With forests of ponderosa pine, granite peaks, glorious views and trails for all skill levels, the Rapid City area and surrounding Black Hills National Forest is a hiker’s wonderland. Just a hop from Rapid City’s historic downtown district, the privately operated Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park Trail Network spans nearly 20 miles of trails across 300 acres of scenic Black Hills lands. Myriad paths fork from a 9-mile trail that provides superb mountain biking, hiking (for novice and intermediate levels) and jogging on well-marked recreational trails with incredible views of Mount Rushmore.

Avid bikers can explore the city along the Leonard Swanson Memorial Pathway, a serpentine 12-mile bike path that traverses Rapid City along Rapid Creek. Less than a mile from downtown, the Skyline Drive single trail network is also very popular with bikers for its thrilling downhills mixed with vertiginous ascents and tricky areas that require technical skills. While the trail runs for just 6 miles, there are numerous spurs to prolong the fun.

South Dakota’s rugged Old West frontier spirit can be relived at any number of guest ranches and horse camps within a short drive of Rapid City. Many ranches offer all-day riding with the freedom to choose your horse, route and pace. Outfitters close to town also offer everything from hourlong to half-day rides.

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Rapid City CVB



South Dakota Department of Tourism