Let’s Go: South Dakota
Visit the USA and a group of top travel creators from around the world launched the #UnitedStories campaign from the geographical center of the country: Belle Fourche, South Dakota. While South Dakota may be known as The Mount Rushmore State, there’s so much more to explore in this Midwestern jewel than rock faces and prairie lands. Steeped in Native American history and fresh with the footprints of legendary pioneers, it offers something for history buffs, adventure-seekers, and culture vultures, alike. Draw inspiration from the great American road trip, rent a classic car, check out the itinerary below, and follow the open road for this untamed state’s hidden gems.
The best way to take in this part of the country is from behind the wheel of a classic American car. Set off on an hour drive down I-90 to your first stop: Deadwood, the epitome of the wild, wild west. This historic gold-mining town nestled in the Black Hills offers everything from horse sanctuaries to hiking, mining museums to iconic casinos, so take your pick for a packed day. After a long day in the gold gulch, the road is calling once again. Head south on US-385 through the dense green of Black Hills National Forest, towards President Calvin Coolidge’s “Summer White House” — the State Game Lodge in Custer.
Start your day at sunrise with Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln — only a 40-minute drive from Custer. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s stone masterpiece — the majestic Mount Rushmore National Memorial — has become a beloved symbol of America, and seeing the early golden light sweep across the founding fathers’ faces is enough to make anyone a morning person. When your jaws have sufficiently dropped, let the good times roll in Badlands National Park. 1.5 hours east of Rushmore, the rugged beauty of the national park inspires adventure, and her maze of buttes, spires, and pinnacles provide a striking backdrop to a hike or scenic drive. By now it’s mid-afternoon, and there’s only one place to quench your thirst, satiate your curiosity, and have lunch — Wall Drug. The quirky little roadside attraction is situated just outside Badland’s northern gateway. The pharmacy-come-rest stop earned much of its fame from a self-promotion scheme started by original owners Dorothy and Ted Hustead. Billboards advertising the establishment and “FREE ICE WATER” to thirsty travelers can be seen throughout South Dakota, its neighboring states, and as far as Morocco, Amsterdam, and London, informing commuters that Wall Drug is only a few thousand kilometers away.
Spend your final morning in Custer at one with nature and gear up for a game drive in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrity state critters — pronghorns, elk, and buffalo. Before heading back to Rapid City, let your last stop be as awe-inspiring as it is important. Half an hour from the State Game Lodge in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills stands another stone masterpiece in the making — Crazy Horse Memorial. In 1948, Polish-American mountain carver Korczak Ziolkowski began sculpting the colossal tribute. Since his passing in 1982, multiple generations of his family have taken over, wielding the chisel and etching the family’s legacy. In its evolving glory — including a museum, a cultural center, and The Indian University of North America — it preserves the heritage of Native Americans and celebrates the heroic acts of Tasunke “Crazy Horse” Witco of the Oglala Lakota tribe. If completed as planned, it will be the world’s second tallest sculpture at a whopping 563 feet high and depict the war leader riding a horse and pointing into the distance.