South Dakota’s Black Hills are filled with small towns that pack a big punch. The area has plenty of gorgeous landscapes and fun family activities that will leave you wondering about the next town over.
Possibly the most visited town is Keystone, home to the famous Mount Rushmore. Although the granite faces are a fun pastime, Keystone has so much more to offer traveling families.
Mount Rushmore’s Many Faces
Most families that visit Keystone will do so to see the large granite faces of Mount Rushmore. Carved into the side of Harney Peak, the memorial features past presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
While the monument is an interesting sight and will capture children’s interest, it won’t last for too long. But there are some other things your family can do at the memorial. The on-site Lincoln Borglum Museum will teach you and your brood about how the monument was carved, with windows overlooking the sculpture so you can spot the things mentioned within. The Presidential Trail will take you closer to the monument, but it also takes you to the Sculptor’s Studio, which often offers hands-on activities for children as they learn about Mount Rushmore’s history. Also along the trail, kids can spot a unique view of the faces through a crack in a cave ceiling or visit the recently-opened Youth Exploration Area that provides even more activities for kids involving the sculpture as well as other aspects of U.S. history and the surrounding nature and wildlife.
Before you leave, make sure to try the vanilla ice cream at the Memorial Ice Cream Shop, said to be made using the first American ice cream recipe created by Thomas Jefferson in the 1700s.
Endless Spots for Family Fun
When you travel with kids, you need to find action-packed adventures for them to experience the world while attempting to deplete their endless supplies of energy. Keystone is one of the best places to do this because there are so many places that offer fun and exploration in the great outdoors.
One must-stop spot is Rushmore Tramway Adventures. Set alongside the town’s main road, it offers a plethora of activities for kids. For a mild ride over the hillsides, try the scenic chairlift or descend the mountain in a wheeled cart down the alpine slide. For thrill seekers, the property’s 800-foot zipline has two lines so you and your kid can race side-by-side through the trees. The icing on the cake is the aerial adventure park, where families can spend hours in the trees, crossing suspended bridges, climbing ladders and maneuvering from one platform to another. The park also includes some shorter ziplines, with 10 different courses ranging from beginner to expert.
Across the street from Rushmore Tramway Adventures is Holy Terror Mini Golf, a themed 18-hole course that is named after an actual gold mine. The hillside course sticks pretty closely to the theme, with specks of gold in the rocks and surrounded by streams and trees, just like the actual mine.
Also located in Keystone is the 1880 Train, a vintage steam-powered locomotive that takes you on a ride to nearby Hill City and back. This is a great way for kids to delve deeper into the area’s rich history and experience how times used to be in the Black Hills. A host narrates the ride, providing information about history and nearby points-of-interest. Kids can sometimes spot deer, wild turkeys and rabbits out the windows.
The quaint downtown area is only a few blocks long, but the wooden buildings are fashioned to look like the Old West. Filled with shops and restaurants, it’s a great spot to spend the afternoon. There are plenty of souvenir shops to wander and specialty shops for things like taffy, jewelry and candles to take home to friends.
For lunch, stop by Teddy’s Deli for a made-to-order sandwich, salad or wrap. Out front, a wooden carving of Teddy Roosevelt himself welcomes you. They have delicious food and a nice view of the main street from the spacious dining room.
To try something a little different, visit the Ruby House Restaurant. The restaurant, which also includes the Red Garter Saloon, has an indoor section as well as a two-story covered deck so you can watch the entertainment as you dine. The saloon puts on gunfight comedy shows on the main street, complete with costumed actors and sound effects, which really add to the Wild, Wild West atmosphere. Before the shows, costumed cowboys wander the street, cracking whips in front of cars and shouting to passersby about when the gunfight will start.
End your day with a fruit smoothie or a milkshake from The Fat Frog. Their tasty ice cream and friendly staff will leave you with a smile.