Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 1
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Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024

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Greetings Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to my perfect Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour! One of the best things in life is checking items off a travel bucket list. Really, checking anything off any list is enough to give an amazing sense of accomplishment.

But for many people, America’s fantastic Mount Rushmore monument, located in South Dakota, is so hard to get to that it’s difficult to see.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Mount Rushmore

#1 TOP PICK

Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
MOUNT RUSHMORE TOUR
✔️ Most popular tour on Viator
✔️ Breakfast and dinner included

#2 PICK

Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 3

PRIVATE MOUNT RUSHMORE TOUR
✔️ Five star ratings
✔️ Personalized experience

#3 PICK

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ALL OTHER RAPID CITY TOURS
✔️ Choose your favorite
✔️ Find the best deals

That’s why this Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour is for you! This itinerary will show you how easy and fun it is to check Mount Rushmore and some of South Dakota’s other most beautiful sights off your bucket list. If I, a native New Yorker who can’t drive, can do it, you can do it too! Let’s go!

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

Morning: Mount Rushmore

The easiest way to take a Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour is to hire a local to do it for you! Fortunately, there is an excellent company that gives Mount Rushmore Tours that will take you on an all-day experience to Mount Rushmore and all over the Black Hills of Dakota. They’ll even throw in your meals!

Check rates and availability easily by clicking here.

Just make sure to check that the tour is operating because it mostly only runs from May through September. The Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour starts at their base just a short drive or Uber ride away from downtown Rapid City. Once you get there, you’ll be well on your way to learning…

Three Fun Facts: Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
1) What Can You Do Before the Tour Starts?

There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Fort Hays, which is where the Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour begins. You’ll probably be hungry since the tour leaves pretty early in the morning.

That’s fortunate because right away you get to chow down on something called an “all-you-can-eat cowboy breakfast”. I think the cowboy part comes from the metal plate. I didn’t see any actual cowboys dining with it.

I usually don’t eat a big breakfast, so I didn’t take advantage of the all-you-can-eat part, but I recommend the biscuits and gravy because the gravy had a nice kick to it. The coffee was tasty too.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

You might wonder why Fort Hays looks like something out of the 1800s. Was it really built during the days of the Wild West? No, my dear Internet Stranger. This is only the fake 19th century. In fact, this is the set of the movie Dances with Wolves. Feel free to explore the set while you wait for your bus tour to start.

You can even see a bullet hole in the window from a scene in the movie when someone gets shot. That seems kind of dangerous to me to have people firing loaded guns around Kevin Costner. But since Costner also directed that movie, I guess he knew how to keep himself out of harm’s way.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
2) What Tips Should I Keep in Mind for Seeing Mount Rushmore?

Your driver will drop you off at the monument and give you a good amount of free time to explore. I suggest picking up the audio guide, which is an extra charge. It will make your wanderings more purposeful and interesting.

Keep in mind that the Mount Rushmore peeps will make you leave a photo ID as collateral so you don’t walk away with their Very Valuable Audio guide. So be sure you turn your audio guide in and get your ID back at the end of the tour.

I visited during the high season, but Mount Rushmore still wasn’t too crowded, and it’s relaxing being in the South Dakota open air. Enjoy walking along the path, listening to fun facts on the audio guide, and taking as many photos as you can of Abe Lincoln’s profile and about a jillion Ponderosa pines.

There are at least 29 different stops on the audio guide tour, but don’t feel that you have to listen to all of them. After all, we are on a group tour and our time is limited. Start at the Avenue of Flags, and stop and listen to the guide whenever you feel like it. There will be no test at the end!

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
3) Why is Mount Rushmore?

An excellent question, Internet Stranger! Mount Rushmore was designed by an American sculptor named Gutzon Borglum. (Very cool name.) Originally it was just supposed to honor Washington and Lincoln. However, Jefferson was added because he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

A lot of people question why Teddy Roosevelt is the fourth President featured here. The main reason was that he played an important role in conserving America’s natural resources.

But also, TR was a damn badass. Someone shot him and instead of going to the hospital, Roosevelt insisted on giving a speech he had planned to make that day. He said that it would take more than that to kill a bull moose. So if anyone deserves to have their face on a rock, it’s President Teddy.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

But Mount Rushmore was not without controversy. Native Americans protested because the Black Hills are sacred to them, and they didn’t want the faces of American presidents carved into them. (We’ll learn more about this later on the tour.)

One fun fact I liked is that even though it was difficult to carve Mount Rushmore, no workers were killed during its creation. There is a monument to all the people who worked on Mount Rushmore, so you can stop for a moment at the wall, read their names, and pay a little tribute to their monumental efforts.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

Afternoon: Explore the Black Hills

There’s so much more to the Black Hills of South Dakota than just Mount Rushmore! And fortunately we have a very capable local driver/guide to take us around to all of it. There will be yummy downhome cooking, gorgeous nature, fascinating history, and pigtails. Lots and lots of pigtails. I’ll get you started with…

Approximately Top 5: Black Hills

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
1) Pigtails!

One of the fun things about taking a bus tour for a non-driver like me is to have the chance to ride along some very wacky roads. Our driver, whom I shall call Kevin, though he was no relation to Kevin Costner, took us down the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway so we could experience the famous pigtail bridges.

These bridges got their name because of their odd corkscrew design. Going across them is almost like being in a slow rollercoaster.

Kevin kept joking that he was a student driver or that it was his first time driving as he made this difficult turns without batting an eyelash. Even if you are an experienced driver, I think it’s better to go along these roads on the tour because your driver will handle them like a pro. If you’d never gone over a pigtail bridge before, I’d think it would be a little freaky.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
2) Lunch!

We stopped for lunch at the State Game Lodge, where President Calvin Coolidge used to have his summer home. I can see why “Silent Cal” would have enjoyed it here. There’s basically no one around for miles to bother you with a conversation. Unless you count a babbling brook as talking.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

You can order a la carte, but I recommend the buffet because it’s a better value. Look at all those veggies and yummy mashed potatoes I loaded up on! The best thing at the buffet is the buffalo stew. That might sound kind of odd, but buffalo is actually a lean, healthy, and sustainable meat.

American buffalo (more properly called bison) are at risk for overpopulation, so it’s better to eat some than have to wait for the extra old ones to be culled.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
3) Sylvan Lake

After lunch, we get to stretch our legs a bit at the beautiful Sylvan Lake. This is one of the most famous beauty spots in all of Custer State Park. There won’t be enough time to get on the water, but you can walk off that lean buffalo meat by taking a stroll around Sylvan Lake’s sapphire waters.

Fun Fact! Sylvan Lake was not actually made by elves, which is what I assumed when I heard the name. It’s a completely man-made lake. Just when I think about giving up on humanity altogether, I see a lake like this, and I realize if a human can build this, we can probably stop sending abusive messages to each other on Twitter.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
4) The Animals of Custer State Park

Custer State Park is the largest state park in South Dakota. (It was named after famously controversial Lt. Colonel Custer from Custer’s Last Stand.) We’ve been driving through it on this Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour ever since we left Mount Rushmore. Sylvan Lake just might be the most beautiful part of Custer State Park, but it’s not the number one reason to visit.

The best reason to see Custer State Park is the opportunity to see bison up close and personal. Well, not too close because as Kevin reminded us, it’s the law that you need to stay 100 feet away from the animals. But you can still see a lot from the safety of the vehicle.

Don’t miss the chance to see the baby bison. They are a gorgeous golden color. Kevin said the color would change as they get older. I suddenly had a great idea for a sequel to 101 Dalmatians about Cruella de Vil tracking down baby bison to make a fabulous gold coat. It could be called 101 Baby Bison. Disney, I give this idea to you! All I ask is ten percent of the gross.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour
5) Crazy Horse Memorial

Our final stop on the Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Leaders of the Lakota Sioux community wanted a famous North American Indian leader carved into the Black Hills after the creation of Mount Rushmore. They chose Crazy Horse because of his importance to the community and his military prowess. (He led the Lakota to victory against Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.)

As you can see, the monument isn’t finished. The Lakota have opted to finance the construction of the sculpture themselves instead of relying on money from the federal government, which means the project will take longer to complete. In fact, the original sculptor, a Polish-American named Korczak Ziolkowski, died because the project has taken so long, so his family is continuing the work.

If you want to support the Crazy Horse memorial, consider doing some shopping at the gift shop. They sell many Lakota made products like jewelry and pottery. I bought some adorable beaded buffalo earrings from a local Lakota artist named Noel Brown. They are so cute, but I need to remind myself not to eat them because buffalo meat is delicious.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Mount Rushmore

#1 TOP PICK

Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
MOUNT RUSHMORE TOUR
✔️ Bucket list experience
✔️ Breakfast and dinner included

#2 PICK

Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 3

PRIVATE MOUNT RUSHMORE TOUR
✔️ Five star ratings
✔️ Personalized experience

#3 PICK

rapid city south dakota

ALL OTHER RAPID CITY TOURS
✔️ Choose your favorite
✔️ Find the best deals

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

Evening: Dinner and a Show

Once your Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour is over, the night time’s fun can begin. You’ll get dropped off at Fort Hays where you can spend a little more time exploring. Check out the ropemaking shop and see how the cowboys would have made their own rope out of rawhide. Why didn’t they just order it on Amazon?

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

Soon enough the fine folks at Fort Hays will call you for dinner. As you can see, it’s a ton of food, though none of it’s fancy because it’s meant to be a cowboy-style chuckwagon dinner. You get a big potato baked in foil, beans, and applesauce. The applesauce was my favorite side because there were real chunks of apple in it.

For the main course, you can choose between beef or chicken. I definitely recommend getting the chicken. It was by far the more popular choice, based on what I heard from the people sitting around me. There’s also a small biscuit with honey in it and a spice cake.

I preferred the spice cake because it was fluffy and not too sweet. The one thing I didn’t really recommend was the lemonade because it tasted like it came from powder. Water was fine with me as a beverage!

The evening ended with a rootin-tootin country show. This show had everything: an Elvis impersonator, a lady fiddle player, my very favorite country song, and a patriotic tribute to our troops. There’s no way I could have seen any of this back home in NYC.

That’s all the fun I can share with you through the magic of the internet. Sadly, I can’t actually take you to all these amazing places because I don’t know how to drive.

You’ll just have to book the tour for yourself by clicking here

That’s only if you want to have a South Dakota blast!

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

Where to Stay?

I suggest choosing a hotel in Rapid City for this Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour. If you’re anything like me, you can’t resist staying in a hotel with a touch of historic charm. That’s why I recommend the Hotel Alex Johnson, located right in the center of Rapid City. It’s an easy walk to basically any location in Rapid City you could want to visit!

But more importantly for classic movie lovers, it’s where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint stayed when they were filming North by Northwest. They even mention the hotel in the movie! How’s that for glamour?

If you care for more modern touches, enjoy the secret rooftop bar, Vertex, on top of the hotel. You either need to be a hotel guest or a member to come here, so it’s Very Exclusive! You can indulge in fancy cocktails and get great views of Rapid City.

If you’re looking for great deals on this hotel, click here.

And if you’d rather explore the many other hotels in Rapid City at every price point, click here. This search engine will help you find the best places for your taste and budget so you can really enjoy your Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour.

Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

That’s a Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour

What would you do on a Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour? Which is better, an Elvis impersonator or a lady playing the fiddle? And who was trying to assassinate Kevin Costner on the set of Dances with Wolves? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Note: If you want to learn more about how I put my itineraries together, just click here! There are tons more fun things to do in Rapid City than you can fit on one Mount Rushmore from Rapid City tour.

Enjoy the most fun things to do in Fargo North Dakota. Experience a 24 hours in Fargo tour. Have fun with a day of what to do in Rapid City SD.

Best Mount Rushmore From Rapid City Tour 2024 6

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