Take me back to the black hills, the black hills of Dakota…
These are the beginning lines to one of my favorite songs in one of my favorite movies, Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day and Howard Keel. It is also a very descriptive song of the beautiful Black Hills in South Dakota, this week’s state highlight. Last year, Rachael highlighted 5 Reasons you should visit South Dakota. Today, we’ll share some specific sites to see once you get there.
South Dakota became a state in 1889 as the 40th state in the union. South Dakota was explored by Lewis and Clark, and began to really develop during the gold rush in the black hills.
Currently population is around 780,000. The state capital is Pierre, located in the middle of the state.
South Dakota was originally inhabited by the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes as part of the Sioux nation.
South Dakota is most famous for the National Monument: Mount Rushmore. And this is our first highlight for the state.
Mount Rushmore is located just outside Rapid City, South Dakota. The National Memorial is operated under the National Park Service. There is no fee to enter the memorial, but you will pay for parking, $11 per private vehicle.
There is more to do than just gaze in awe at the faces carved out of stone. There are hiking trails to get a closer look (not on the actual faces like that Nicolas Cage movie), and a great education center with information about how the faces were carved, the project director, and the continuing maintenance of the monument. You can also learn more information about the presidents who are memorialized.
This is a great hands-on history lesson for the whole family. Visit during the spring through fall for the best weather. The park is open during the winter, but weather can be a challenge.
Mount Rushmore isn’t the only stone sculpture in the area. There is current progress being made on the Crazy Horse Monument.
Carving on the monument began in 1948. The Lakota leader memorial is still under construction, and when it is finished, it will be the largest stone sculpture. You will pay about $30 per car, or $11 per person. All entrance fees and donations go towards the non-profit organization to continue the sculpting process and fund the Indian University of North America.
Both of these monuments are located within the Black Hills National Forest.
There are wonderful camping sites, hiking trails, and even hidden gems in the Black Hills. There are several caves in the forest, including the Wind Caves National Park. And the Mount Rushmore caves.
You won’t want to miss the final resting place of some of the most colorful characters from the Wild West, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Visit the Deadwood City Cemetery to pay your respects, and then tour the city museums to gain a greater understanding for the town’s history.
On the other side of the state is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.
I’ve never visited, but it sounds like a lot of fun! It also made the top 10 list on different travel sites. There are interactive attractions inside the palace, and the outside of the palace changes every year. It’s on my to-do list for the next time we visit South Dakota.
You may also want to visit Bear Country USA.
Drive around the beautiful landscaping and enjoy the wildlife from the safety of your own car. They have a section full of baby animals and you can even see a Grizzly Bear (with your windows, and a fence, between you). The animals are free roaming. There is a fee to enter the park, check out their site for the most current prices.
Have you ever been to South Dakota? What sites did I miss? Share your pics of Mount Rushmore with us, use #usabytpe.
Just in case you missed last week’s highlight, Hawaii:
Check back every week to learn about the fun places you can see in each state!