IMO The Black Hills is doing it right

Just got from a trip to the Black Hills region of western South Dakota. This is the area of Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood, Sturgis, Crazy Horse, and Custer national park. The last time I visited the area was about 10 years ago.

Things have improved in the area (which was always pretty good). Mt. Rushmore and Crazy horse have improved and now have night shows. Deadwood keeps improving with the staged street fights and numerous exhibits such as the improved cemetery visit. Most of all, the hotels and cabins we stayed at were well run and inexpensive. The whole area just has a welcoming feel to it not a tourist trap which is Orlando.

The only problem/opportunity is the Sturgis rally in where they get so many people, hotel prices are doubled and tripled. The hotel where we stayed at in Hot Springs which normally runs $75 a night, jumps to $300 a night during Sturgis.

Although this has created more opportunities because many bikers who had come for the Sturgis rally come back other times of the year when its cheaper and less crowded.

What I’m getting at is other areas could look at the Black Hills area as a model for development.

Always dug that area. Love Custer (bison!) and Crazy Horse. Mt. Rushmore is a joke. Always has been, always will be.

We never stayed in hotels, though. Trailers, tents, campers were always our thing in the area.

I’m dyin’ to get my sportbike up on some of those roads in the non-Sturgis time of year. But I’d end up in jail!

There used to be a kangaroo/wallaby zoo up there. Go figure. I think the guy died and his wife shut it down.

Agree with silenus about Mr. Rushmore. Completely underwhelming. It looks great in pictures, but fails in real life.

I just got done reading Black Hills by Dan Simmons. He can immerse you in a sense of place so thoroughly I feel like I’ve been there. Slamming 200-some Lakota names, phrases, and concepts through my brain in just under one week left me reeling. When I then watched Son of the Morning Star, it startled me how much unsubtitled Lakota dialogue I could suddenly understand.

Used to go there every year, have only made it there twice in the last 7-8 years.

Great place.

It’s a great place. However, I would personally avoid it like the plague during the Sturgis Rally. There are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many people and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much testosterone.

Been thinking of this since I read the OP. You know who else gets it right?

Reno, Nevada.

Stuff going on there all the time. 2 huge bike rallies, Hot August Nights for the classic car folks, Art Town nearly a month, skiing in winter, Rodeo, the wonders of the High Sierra in the summer, rib cook-offs, brew-fests, gambling year round, Air Races, Balloon races, motorcycle races, Virginia City for the obligatory tourist trap. And nearby legal whore-houses, if you’re into that kind of entertainment. Philharmonic, museums, TAHOE!!!

They got it going on, Stacy’s Mom! The only thing Vegas has on Reno is proximity to L.A.

I’ve got family out in SD, so I’ve been there quite a few times. I’ve got relatives who own a camper business, so we’ve usually had pop-ups out there waiting for us. The last time we stayed at a Holiday Inn on points, so I’ve never had to deal with hotel prices.

We happened to book a trip during Sturgis when I was about 13. I saw quite a few things my parents had probably hoped I wouldn’t see at 13. We stayed in a pop-up, and there was a constant hum of bikes 24-hours a day. It was a cool experience, but I can’t say I’d want to be back there at that time again.

We were planning on going out there this fall, but have had to push that trip back (hopefully only) a year. Last time we went my son was less than a year, so it’s been…8 years. There’s very little I don’t like about it. Even love the tourist trappy stuff (Cosmos Mystery Area, Mt. Rushmore).

Two years ago we drove from Illinois to western Washington, and South Dakota was undeniably the best part of the trip. There’s a rest stop every three miles, it seemed like, an attraction every ten; you get to drive 85 and never turn the steering wheel except to stop somewhere. Perfect.


Can’t disagree more. Carving busts out of a mountainside is a tremendous feat. I was awed watching the video of how it was done. If you can’t appreciate that mix of artistry and engineering, then I feel bad for you.

I love the Black Hills, been there twice and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. One gem that I haven’t seen mentioned up-thread is the Black Hills Reptile Gardens. Great (reptile-focused, though not exclusive) zoo, great shows, and of you have infants or toddlers, you could give them a ride on the back of a giant tortoise!

Custer is a state park.

I’m originally from eastern SD and have been to the Black Hills lots of times. We’ve even been there during Sturgis week - the secret to making that work is to stay in the southern part in or near Custer State Park.

A great book how the Black Hills tourism started is The Carving of Mount Rushmore by a noted SD historian, Rex Alan Smith. The Iron Mountain Road is lined up precisely to frame the monument (if you drive from south to north), and that’s no accident.

Yup, Iron Mountain Road (16A) south from right near Mt Rushmore is my favorite road in the whole world.

I love the Black Hills and the surrounding area. Custer, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Sylvan Lake and the Harney Peak trail, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City…the list goes on and on. To top it all off, Devil’s Tower(one of my favorite places ever) is just a couple of hours away.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mt Rushmore. I thought it would just be “look at mountain for 5 minutes, then leave”, but there were museum exhibits about the carving process, I heard a park ranger giving a talk on Teddy Roosevelt and the beginning of the national park movement, and it was overall much less tacky than similar tourist sites I can think of (Crazy Horse, I’m looking at you, although I suppose it might have improved in the past 10 years).

No, Crazy Horse is a joke. I was first out there in '72. Was back out there in '77, and then in '96, and last in 2006. During all that time it looked like little progress was done on it.

I do love South Dakota and the Black Hills especially, though. The entire state has a mystique to it.

We’ve been through the area twice. Once about 15 years ago on our way to Yellowstone, we stopped for the night at a B&B about 10 miles south of Deadwood. We liked it and the area so much we went back about five years later, went to Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, etc. I’d like to get back there again sometime. A motorcycle trip would be fun but not while the rally at Sturgis is going on!

Sure, a tremendous feat, but for what? A place where you go and say, “yep, looks just like the postcards” because being there has got barely any value added over Googling a pic of it.

I certainly like it better than Orlando, Pigeon Falls, or Branson. All those areas just feel like one big rip off to me. You go to Disney or Universal Studios in Orlando and with hotel, food and all your talking easily $700 or more a day for a family of 4. We probably averaged about $150 a day for this trip.

It just seems like the whole area is welcome to visitors and its not just tacky, overpriced tourist crap everywhere. Hotels are reasonable and not dives. You rarely see chain restaurants and no chain attractions (ex. Ripleys Believe it or Not’s).

As for the Sturgis bike rally, you ought to come and see it just one time. Crazy fun.

Also helping is of course that its on I-90 which goes Chicago to Seattle.

BTW, they are expanding offerings like snow skiing in the winter and Sturgis is promoting classic car shows.

Let us not forget the Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Sounds like a 50s roadside ripoff but was really rather neat.

I stand by my evaluation of Mt. Rushmore. Google an image and save yourself the gas money. You’ll get a better view, too.