Dreaming of Travel: Mount Rushmore

Published on September 21, 2022 - Updated on September 21, 2022

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a one-stop shop for experiencing the breathtaking beauty of South Dakota's Black Hills and learning a ton about United States History. While Mount Rushmore only requires a half-day visit, it is one of America's "must-see" national landmarks.

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What to Do at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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Plan to spend several hours at Mount Rushmore National Memorial and a few days in South Dakota's Black Hills to really get a feel for the area.

Start your visit to Mount Rushmore by visiting the information desk across from the bathrooms when you enter the park. Here, you can pick up a Jr. Ranger packet, find out about any presentations, and have all your questions answered. Mount Rushmore can get very crowded, so come before 9 am or after 3:30 pm to avoid crowds. (We are partial to evening visits and the illumination of the faces.)

Walk down the Avenue of Flags. Don't forget to find your state flag and take a photo. There is a small cafeteria and ice cream shop here - perfect for a refreshment on a hot South Dakota summer day.

You won't want to miss the Lincoln Borglum Visitors Center. A video about the construction of Mount Rushmore plays here. It features fascinating footage of the dynamite construction. There is also a small museum with original artifacts from the construction.

Plan time to explore the Presidential Trail. On the trail you'll find a youth exploration area, a Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage area, changing views of the monument, and eventually, it connects you to the Sculptor Studio.

Where to Stay When Visiting Mount Rushmore

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The best lodging options are in Rapid City (30 min) or Custer (27 min).

We loved our stay at Pleasant Valley Farm in Custer. The tiny houses were a perfect home away from home for our family of five. We had plenty of space and a whole farm to explore.

If you prefer staying in a historic building, check out the Hotel Alex Johnson, a Hilton property located in a 1927 building nestled in Downtown Rapid City.

The Fairfield Inn and Suites in Rapid City is home to South Dakota's largest indoor waterpark.

There are also plenty of cabin rentals and campgrounds in the area, so you are sure to find a good fit for your needs.

Where to Eat Near Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore has a small cafeteria. Its ice cream shop is top notch though, and a must when visiting. We packed our own picnic dinner to enjoy while watching the evening program before the illumination of the faces.

In Custer, check out the Mount Rushmore Brewing Company and Pounding Fathers Restaurant. Sit upstairs for a more formal dinner or downstairs for a casual feel. There are lawn games to enjoy and plenty of kids running around.

The Feel Good Cafe is a great option for a coffee and lighter fare, or check out the Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. for a heartier meal.

In Rapid City, we enjoyed the Firehouse Brewing Company. To the delight of our children, it's located inside an old fire hall.

Nearby Attractions

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There is so much to do in this area of South Dakota! You won't want to miss some of these other amazing finds while you are visiting the Black Hills.

Has your family been to Mount Rushmore? What did you think!? If you have any great photos of your family enjoying a day out here (or anywhere for that matter!), be sure to tag us on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!

Looking for other fun family vacation ideas? Check out our Dreaming of Travel posts on Costa Rica, Virgin Islands National Park, Maui or White Sands National Park for some inspiration!

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Elizabeth Newcamp
Elizabeth Newcamp grew up in Atlanta, GA, went to school in South Bend, IN, and as a military spouse has called Washington D.C., California, Texas, Colorado, Alabama, Florida, and The Netherlands home. She has a JD from Emory University. She writes the Homeschool and Travel Blog, Dutch, Dutch, Goose! and co-hosts Slate's parenting podcast Mom and Dad are Fighting. Elizabeth is an avid traveler, having been to over 30 countries and all 50 US States, where she has laughed, cried and more than once thought about kicking the travel habit until her three kids are grown. She is actively engaged in her community, enjoys the outdoors, and has a passion for engaging her children within the world around them.
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