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Current Search Destination:Black Hills, South Dakota
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Overview
Essentials
Black Hills in 3 Days
Attractions
Restaurants
Events
Insider Information
Places in the Vicinity
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Essentials
Sing the national anthem at Mount Rushmore National Memorial as the four granite faces representing America's birth, growth, preservation and development are ceremoniously illuminated every evening May through September.
Appreciate the spiritual significance of dance at a wacipi (wa-chee-pee), or powwow, a Native American social gathering with pulsing drumbeats, vibrant outfits and enduring cultural legacies.
Distinguish between stalagmites and stalactites exploring such sites as Rushmore Cave , Black Hills Caverns , Jewel Cave National Monument and Wonderland Cave .
Glen Allison / flickr
Enjoy the serenity of a traffic jam when bison, deer and burros meander across the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park . Traveling at speeds of up to 60 mph, resident pronghorn antelopes are North America's fastest mammals, easily overtaking sightseers' vehicles.
Marques / Shutterstock.com
Draw a “dead man's hand” in poker, coined after Wild Bill Hickok's final combination of black aces and eights, at the plentiful gaming halls in Deadwood .
Visit Crazy Horse Memorial and see his story in the making as the massive statue of the Lakota leader takes shape near Custer City . The original sculptor and his wife worked on the project until their death; their children continue carving the memorial today.
iStockphoto.com / wundervisuals
Take in the beauty of Black Hills National Forest astride a saddle. Ideal for horseback riding, Centennial Trail is the longest in Black Hills, stretching 111 miles from Bear Butte State Park to Wind Cave National Park .
Pan for gold, though you probably won't strike it rich. Take a tour of Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone and Black Hills Mining Museum in Lead to learn about the Black Hills gold rush during the late 1800s.
Klaus Pagel / flickr
Feel the rumble of revving engines at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally , first held in 1938. Throngs of more than 500,000 walk or ride through the historic main street that is brimming with leather, music and chrome.
AAA

Black Hills in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
With the Black Hills covering roughly 5,000 square miles, you'll need a car to fully appreciate all this AAA Destination Area has to offer. Trek across its sprawling expanse to discover Native American traditions honored in Rapid City, ice age specimens preserved in Hot Springs, and a fiery Wild West alive and well in Deadwood. Hearts soar with pride at Mount Rushmore National Memorial—one of man's most spectacular achievements—while the dazzling organic handiwork safeguarded at Jewel Cave National Monument easily stops two-legged visitors in their tracks.

Day 1: Morning
You have a lot of ground to cover over the next few days, so get an early start on Day 1. Watch the sun rise over craggy peaks and evergreen-mottled hills, then head to Crazy Horse Memorial , just north of downtown Custer City . Lakota chiefs and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski first dedicated this monument to Native Americans in 1948; half a century later, the stately face of Crazy Horse was unveiled. Though Korczak passed away in 1982, the proposed 563-foot-high equestrian carving remains a work in progress, with second-generation Ziolkowskis continuing to etch this artistic vision into the mountainside. Be sure to peruse the exhibits at the memorial's visitor complex.

Day 1: Afternoon
After stopping at the visitor complex, take a short ride north to Hill City for an early lunch at the Alpine Inn .
James / flickr
All aboard! Depart Hill City in 19th-century style and travel to Keystone on the 1880 Train . Restored steam locomotives chug past remnants of once-bustling settlements, the sight of which rouses ethereal visions of miners and rough-and-tumble pioneers. During the 2-hour round-trip journey you'll also catch glimpses of Harney Peak , the highest point in South Dakota.
Though natural marvels abound in the Black Hills (the Needles Eye, Wonderland Cave and Petrified Forest of the Black Hills are but a few), garnering the most attention in these parts are four granite giants fashioned by dynamite and hammers rather than wind and water. Scattered beneath the colossal heads of Mount Rushmore National Memorial each year are millions of tiny, upturned faces—some solemn, others jubilant but every last one spellbound.
Watching over the Black Hills, this quartet of American greats—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln—surveys swells of sweet-smelling ponderosa pine largely thanks to the vision and perseverance of one: sculptor Gutzon Borglum. At the Borglum Historical Center in Keystone you'll learn about a complex man who contemporaries described as arrogant, stubborn, temperamental and, of course, brilliant.

Day 1: Evening
iStockphoto.com / philsajonesen
Morning, noon and night, ravenous guests of the Powder House Lodge Restaurant chow down amid the resplendent Black Hills National Forest . When the dinner bell sounds inside this charming log cabin, fill up on crab-stuffed mushrooms, cheese-stuffed tomatoes and rice- and couscous-stuffed quail. Also on the evening menu are assorted entrées featuring bison meat, a common ingredient in Black Hills cuisine. Choose among barbecue-slathered buffalo short ribs, 10-ounce buffalo steaks, buffalo burgers and buffalo stew.

Day 2: Morning
Study the behavior of 20 North American species at Bear Country U.S.A. , a 250-acre drive-through wildlife park on the outskirts of Rapid City. From the comfort of your own vehicle, watch black bear frolic, bighorn sheep graze, and buffalo, ahem, roam. At the end of the 3-mile route, get out and stretch your legs at Babyland, a fur-filled playpen where enthralled humans coo and inquisitive cubs muck about.
Just north of Bear Country U.S.A., Reptile Gardens shelters creatures of the cold-blooded variety. Since its opening in 1937, the attraction has acquired an impressive collection of reptiles and amphibians—purportedly the world's largest. But, up-close encounters with alligators, cobras, crocodiles, pythons and Gila monsters aren't the only draw at Reptile Gardens. (The tip-off is right in the name!) A verdant oasis awaits you in the Sky Dome, home to orchids, bromeliads and caladiums as well as a variety of desert plants, including rare cacti.

Day 2: Afternoon
You'll find plenty of casual spots to relax and refuel in Rapid City , one of the largest communities in the Black Hills. Sample the quiche Florentine or the cilantro fish tacos at Enigma Restaurant inside The Rushmore Hotel . Another lunch option is the popular chain Minerva's , where skilled chefs dole out everything from seafood macaroni and cheese to hibachi pork skewers.
In addition to fine eateries, Rapid City harbors several points of interest highlighting the region's past. Our favorite is the Museum of Geology , a South Dakota School of Mines and Technology venue housing nearly 350,000 fossil, rock and mineral specimens. More geological and paleontological exhibits reside at The Journey Museum and Learning Center , which also showcases Native American art and artifacts. If you're visiting Rapid City in early October, attend the Black Hills Powwow to appreciate tribal culture outside the gallery walls. The grand event features an array of competitions, vendors and educational activities and attracts dancers, singers and drum groups from nearly 60 different tribes.

Day 2: Evening
Hop in the car and spend the evening in Deadwood , roughly 45 minutes northwest of Rapid City. Pay your respects to such Western legends as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok at Mount Moriah Cemetery (Boot Hill) , open daily until 6 p.m. Even if you're not fond of shadowy graveyards, don't saddle up the horses just yet. In this feisty town, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy after dusk (and well past the witching hour).
While the promise of riches lured starry-eyed gold prospectors to Deadwood in the 1800s, this Old West holdout continues to entice fortune seekers with a profusion of frontier-themed gaming establishments. Try your luck at such 24-hour joints as Cadillac Jack's Gaming Resort , Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort , Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort and Gold Dust Casino . Or, bring your poker face to the Midnight Star for a few rounds of blackjack. If the chips run low, check out the movie memorabilia lining the walls. Owned by actor/director Kevin Costner, the Midnight Star displays costumes from such films as “Dances with Wolves” (the bulk of which was shot in South Dakota), “Silverado” and “Wyatt Earp.”

Day 3: Morning
A limestone ring encircling the Black Hills comprises Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park . About 13 miles west of Custer City, Jewel Cave, so named because of its plethora of calcite spar crystals, is the world's second-longest cave. Although more than 143 miles of passageways already have been charted, exploration of this splendid ecological treasure continues. Wind Cave, approximately 30 miles southeast of Jewel Cave, is highlighted by exceptional boxwork and frostwork formations; the national park grounds also encompass 28,295 acres of mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest.
Since there's probably not enough time to visit both of these inspiring subterranean sites today, choose one and get there early to beat the crowds. Each of the caves is accessible via a ranger-led guided tour, and tickets for tours—distributed on a first-come, first-served basis—can go quick, especially during the summer. (Tour information is available for Jewel Cave visitors; phone (605) 673-8300.)

Day 3: Afternoon
Famished after this morning's underground adventure? If you ventured to Jewel Cave, squelch hunger pangs at the Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room . Gorge on their beer-battered onion rings and gravy-soaked buffalo meatloaf, then treat yourself to a hot fudge sundae for dessert. The rustic log building is in Custer State Park , a 71,000-acre domain boasting gorgeous scenery and diverse fauna. Hike through elk stomping grounds; fish for trout at lakes Legion or Sylvan; or mountain bike between Badger Hole and historic French Creek, site of the first Black Hills gold discovery.

Day 3: Evening
Closer to Wind Cave National Park (about 13 miles south) is Hot Springs , known for its warm mineral waters. Continue on to The Mammoth Site and examine the in-situ (left-as-found) bones of Columbian mammoths and other ice age beasts protruding from an ancient sinkhole.
Before the sun retreats beneath the horizon, traverse the curvy Needles Highway Scenic Drive . Photo ops of majestic rock formations hemmed in by pine and spruce and backed by rust-colored skies abound, so plan on making a few pit stops. In addition to such picturesque diversions, sharp turns and frequent crossings by mountain goats, bighorn sheep, turkey, bison and deer make the 14-mile tour anything but a cursory jaunt. The route cuts through Custer State Park.

Attractions
In an area with dozens of attractions and points of interest, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
“America will march along that skyline,” said sculptor Gutzon Borglum, gazing up at Mount Rushmore's rugged summit in 1924. Four American presidents now preside over the Black Hills, their likenesses carved into the mountainside. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln symbolize the first 150 years of U.S. history at Mount Rushmore National Memorial , a AAA GEM point of interest. The Presidential Trail affords closer views of the mammoth structure while the Sculptor's Studio brings you closer to the artist who created it.
Man and nature meld at Crazy Horse Memorial , a AAA GEM attraction in Custer City . Only the head of the proposed 563-foot-high mountain carving is complete, so work continues, with explosive blasts routine. A 6.2-mile organized hike to the memorial's peak attracts nearly 15,000 visitors every June and again in October. The statue representing Crazy Horse, chosen for his modesty, courage and dedication, venerates the “land where [his] dead lie buried” as a tribute to Native Americans.
Custer State Park and the vicinity are named after Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who found gold on the banks of an area creek. Situated in the southeastern portion of the Black Hills, the AAA GEM attraction is teeming with activity, from mountain bikers to mountain lions. Whether you stay a few hours, a full day or a week, such activities as fishing, hiking and rock climbing kindle a far-reaching love of the outdoors.
AAA GEM attraction Needles Highway Scenic Drive stretches 14 miles as it winds through the state park along SR 87. The route leads to Sylvan Lake and links such geological formations as the Cathedral Spires and the Needles Eye, an approximately 40-foot-tall granite spire with a slit down its center.
Wind Cave National Park , a AAA GEM point of interest, blends mixed-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest and the fourth-longest cave in the world. Native American legends refer to the cave as a “hole that breathes cool air.” Leading tours through its delicate passages and grottos, rangers highlight calcite formations known as boxwork and frostwork. Thirty miles of hiking trails reveal sensational views from Lookout Point and such wildlife as eastern kingbirds, upland chorus frogs and mule deer.
Nature also lent a hand in forming The Mammoth Site , a AAA GEM attraction in Hot Springs . After being trapped in a sinkhole more than 26,000 years ago, such animals as Columbian mammoths and pronghorns remain preserved at the paleontological dig site. Visitors tour the research facility year-round to view excavations, a working paleontology laboratory, educational films and ice age exhibits.
Slides, pools and other fun attractions make visitors feel young at heart at Evans Plunge , a Hot Springs water park. First welcoming swimmers in 1890, the attraction sits atop a collection of mineral springs once praised for their alleged healing properties. Spring water flows to a warm, indoor swimming pool at a rate of 5,000 gallons per minute. A health club, Jacuzzis, a steam room and a sauna also are available.
The Borglum Historical Center in Keystone interprets the life of Gutzon Borglum with a gallery of his paintings, sculptures and tools. At age 60, Borglum started work on Mount Rushmore, suggesting a national, rather than regional, theme. While gaining a reputation as a tempestuous, stubborn perfectionist, he frequently met with politicians to gain funding for the carving. In the end, the federal government doled out $836,000 of the total $989,999.32 bill.
Linking Hill City and Keystone, the 1880 Train affords scenic vistas to guests traveling aboard the restored locomotive. Creeks, pines, canyons and bridges adorn the Black Hills backcountry viewed during the approximately 2-hour, round-trip tour. The AAA GEM attraction is one of America's last steam trains in service, appearing on several TV shows and in film.
Nearby Rapid City features Bear Country U.S.A. , a 250-acre wildlife park toured via a 3-mile drive. The AAA GEM attraction houses elk, bighorn sheep, arctic wolves and many other creatures that visitors can safely watch from inside their vehicles. Home to 11 bears at its inception in 1972, it now boasts the world's largest collection of privately owned black bear, with nearly 100 furry beasts roaming the park.
The Museum of Geology , another AAA GEM attraction in Rapid City, houses a collection of nearly 350,000 vertebrate fossils and minerals at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Fossil specimens indigenous to the Black Hills are emphasized at the teaching and research facility, though its global mineral collection is also impressive. Other fossil exhibits include an oreodont, a hoofed mammal; a mosasaur, a serpentine marine reptile; and a plesiosaur, a carnivorous aquatic reptile.
Walk through an indoor jungle filled with lizards, parrots and tropical plants at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Highlights include a 1,200-pound saltwater crocodile, three educational shows and tribal art from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The AAA GEM attraction possesses the only rough-scaled pythons outside of Australia. In addition to its assortment of pythons, mambas and cobras, it also houses the planet's most venomous snake, the fierce snake.
U.S. law declares free-roaming horses to be “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Complementing this belief, 11,000 acres of grassland, forests and valleys shelter unwanted mustang horses at Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in Hot Springs. Guides discuss the site's ecosystem and history during a 2-hour bus tour. At one stop, visitors examine Native American prehistoric rock drawings believed to be 10,000 years old.
After filming the Academy Award-winning “Dances With Wolves” in South Dakota, Kevin Costner added his own touch to the Black Hills— Tatanka: Story of the Bison . At the Deadwood attraction, visitors learn about the millions of bison that once inhabited North America. Not counting the 14 bronze sculptures featured at the center, about 400,000 tatanka exist today after facing extinction in the early 1900s.
In the southwest, Jewel Cave National Monument attracts visitors with its educational tours, hiking trails and more than 390 plant varieties. Bird-watching is also popular at the AAA GEM point of interest, as 120 species of birds, including the red-breasted nuthatch and the bald eagle, frequent the park. Declared a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, crystal-lined Jewel Cave is the second-longest in the world, with many of its passageways still undiscovered.
Experts re-created one of the world's largest mines at Black Hills Mining Museum in Lead ; one-hour guided tours through the simulated Homestake Mine elaborate on the local industry. The AAA GEM attraction also showcases photographs, a hands-on gold panning display and a video presentation detailing mining changes since gold fever first swept the Black Hills in 1876.
Black Hills National Forest covers more than 1.2 million acres, offering more than 450 miles of trails, 30 campgrounds and two scenic byways. Visitors interested in fishing will find brown, brook and rainbow trout as well as northerns, perch and crappies. The forest holds several boating options, including rentals and launch sites at Sheridan Lake and Pactola Reservoir marinas. Though it's doubtful you'll run out of recreation ideas, rangers and a visitor center provide information about the forest's history and leisurely pursuits.
Immerse yourself in Black Hills history at The Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City. Traveling 2.5 billion years into the past, visitors discover how dinosaur bones are recovered; why the Black Hills were the Lakota's center of the universe; and how the discovery of gold shaped the region. Four collections, including The Museum of Geology and The Sioux Indian Museum, display artifacts from the last 10,000 years.
Old Fort Meade Museum recalls the military post's past units, including a regrouped 7th Cavalry after the Battle at Little Bighorn, the African-American 25th Cavalry and the 3rd Cavalry's all-Lakota troop. The attraction displays letters written by soldiers, uniforms, guns and photographs. An Army National Guard training facility is nearby, as are seven original 19th-century buildings and a historic cemetery.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.

Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
The State Game Lodge, a gracious stone and wood structure in Custer State Park , presents diverse new Western fare at the State Game Lodge Dining Room . After sampling pheasant and buffalo ravioli, pan-seared rainbow trout and roasted venison, wander the surrounding mountain valley once explored by Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Dwight D. Eisenhower. A creek named after first lady Grace Coolidge flows through the historic Custer State Park property, which also is the starting point for Buffalo Jeep Safari tours.
Overlooking the beautiful Black Hills wilderness, nearby Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room serves such home-style dishes as meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. For a distinctive and tasty meal, order up the buffalo pie—a bowl filled with mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh vegetables and tender buffalo meat. Try the coconut-pecan frosted, Coco-Cola chocolate cake with strawberry compote for dessert. If you prefer to take advantage of Custer State Park's serene beauty, picnic lunches are available, as are evening chuck wagon cookouts.
After touring the Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum , stop for lunch or dinner at Sage Creek Grille . Original artwork embellishes the open, contemporary dining room in downtown Custer. Appealing culinary creations include Cajun chicken linguine, elk and buffalo burgers, bourbon barbecue pork loin, baked salmon and delectable desserts. Enhance the experience with a selection from the wine list, featuring bottles from around the world.
Housed in an 1886 Hill City landmark, the Alpine Inn is decorated with Old World chandeliers and wood paneling. This restaurant serves European-inspired lunches and outstanding desserts. Evenings offer a prix fixe menu of bacon-wrapped filet mignon, a lettuce wedge with house dressing, a baked potato and Texas toast. Despite its simplicity, the eatery is extremely popular, with 1-hour wait times common in the summer. Don't let the line turn you away; while your table is readied, enjoy views of the city's bustling main thoroughfare from the veranda.
Travel to a secluded, scenic area of Hill City, where the gracious owners and waiters at Horse Creek Inn Restaurant & Lounge keep a keen eye out for their guests. This rustic, homespun restaurant features choice hand-cut steaks, shrimp scampi, trout, pork chops and lip-smacking desserts. Over the weekend drop by for lunch to try the eatery's outstanding burgers, sandwiched between freshly baked buns.
For a more sophisticated dining experience, spend an evening at Enigma Restaurant . At The Rushmore Hotel in downtown Rapid City, this upscale eatery fuses European and Mediterranean cuisine in such creations as gnocchi Gorgonzola, salmon en papillote and steak au poîvre—along with the more familiar rainbow trout, filet mignon and buffalo ribeye. Before your meal, sample a house aperitif at the martini bar or choose a wine from the international cellar. Afterward, treat yourself to a scrumptious dessert prepared tableside.
Minerva's offers Black Hills diners a first-rate banquet of steaks, chops, seafood, pasta and pizza. The understated décor is handsome and comfortable, and the dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Rapid City's BEST WESTERN Ramkota Hotel , this local chain is suitable for the entire family and offers a fitting atmosphere for special occasions.
A taste of fine northern Italian cuisine in the heart of downtown Rapid City, Botticelli Ristorante Italiano dishes up a variety of chicken, beef, veal and fresh seafood entrées. Murals reminiscent of Renaissance painters Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo dress up the quaint restaurant, which also offers seasonal outdoor dining. Adding to the pleasant atmosphere, the capable waitstaff exhibits a thorough knowledge of menu items without intruding on the intimacy of your meal.
For a rare and sophisticated culinary experience, make reservations at Roma's Ristorante in Spearfish . The skilled, personable and accommodating chef owns the restaurant; her professionalism is reflected in the attitude of her knowledgeable crew. Shrimp scampi, smoked salmon, pastas, pizza and a variety of other appetizing dishes are prepared in an on-stage kitchen. Live piano music plays on Friday evenings, and a working model train amuses in the winter.
Featuring a large dining room with ceramic tile floors and local artworks, Bay Leaf Cafe creates a one-of-a-kind experience in Spearfish. Regional game and fish—elk, buffalo, pheasant, rainbow trout, walleye—are prominent on the menu, along with USDA Prime steaks, seafood, pasta and vegetarian dishes. The delightful treats from the dessert tray are always hard to resist.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.

Events
In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of exceptional festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Robust traditions of the West echo through the Black Hills during its many festivities, revitalizing even the most worn-out sightseer. Travelers used to sneakers and baseball caps will be kicking dirt off snakeskin boots and tipping leather-trimmed cowboy hats at rodeos, historical celebrations and cultural gatherings.
Beginning in late January and extending into February, the award-winning Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo lures more than 300,000 people to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City , offering various horse events, a trade show and an antique auction.
Take advantage of waived entrance and fishing license fees during Custer State Park Spring Open House in mid-May. Hayrides, cookouts, gold panning and a buffalo chip throwing contest are enjoyable additions to the natural beauty of the park.
The narrow thoroughfare in Deadwood bursts at its seams during Wild Bill Days in mid-June. Musicians strum guitar strings well into the evening while historical re-enactments and the Cowboy World Fast Draw Championships mark gunslingers' return to the Wild West.
In 1874, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's cavalry found gold on the banks of French Creek. Gold Discovery Days in late July commemorate this momentous unearthing with a parade through downtown Custer City , a car show, a pancake breakfast, a boat regatta and a hot-air-balloon rally.
Saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling and roping events electrify spectators during the Black Hills Roundup Rodeo in Belle Fourche . Aside from its equestrian draw, a parade, barbecue and art exhibition add to the July event's appeal.
The popular Mount Rushmore Independence Day Celebration at the national memorial features historical salutes and bands on both July 3rd and 4th.
Sturgis Bicycle, Art and Music Festival in mid-July takes place at Sturgis City Park and includes bicycle, art and music events and activities. A different local musician or band performance on the main stage every hour; bicycle races and rides; art for sale and artist demonstrations; and children's activities are highlights of this festival.
In August, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally welcomes more than 500,000 inimitable bike enthusiasts to the week-long event. First-rate machinery and races reign supreme, although coordinated sightseeing tours; merchandise, from bike parts to jewelry to T-shirts; and such exotic foods as alligator and ostrich bites generate more than just an adrenaline rush.
In autumn a variety of festivities take place, including Native American Day at Crazy Horse Memorial and Oktoberfest in Deadwood.
Performers at the Badger Clark Hometown Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in late September educate and entertain audiences with storytelling, poetry reading and singing. Spotlighting the life of the cowboy, the Hot Springs event honors a 20th-century poet who chronicled the Western lifestyle.
Buffalo Roundup & Arts Festival in late September prepares the herd at Custer State Park for the fall auction, when about 450 surplus bison are sold. Artisans display their wares across from the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center while festivalgoers enjoy musical acts, square dancing and the best chili around. As many as 30 contestants compete in the Buffalo Wallow Chili Cook-off .
In October, more than 400 tribes attending the Black Hills Powwow evoke their Native American heritage through traditional dance, music and art. Educational presentations, a parade and a marketplace enhance this Rapid City event.
Several area gatherings herald the advent of winter and the holiday season in Black Hills. Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, enjoy a festival of lights parade at Rapid City's Holiday Celebration . Hot Springs is crammed with holiday gifts, decorations and activities during Christmas in the Hills in early December. The Sturgis Parade of Lights illuminates the streets of downtown in early December with more than 30 floats decorated with festive lights.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
codyphotography / flickr

Great Plains Bison
The bare-chested hunter races along the ravine, his knees pressing into his horse to guide it. With bow poised, he remembers the disapproval after the last hunt, when two of his arrows were found in a bison carcass. There will be no criticism tonight, for the lone arrow strikes the humped beast just behind its left shoulder, piercing its heart. Waves of dirt surge beneath the 2,000-pounder as its massive, horned skull slams into the ground.
The demands of the bison hunt trained Native American warriors well, as sharp reflexes and steady nerves were crucial. Although bison have poor eyesight and may appear indifferent or slow, they easily outrun horses, moving at speeds of up to 30 mph. Standing up to 7 feet tall, with tough hides and battering-ram skulls, bison are clearly dangerous, resilient brutes. However, of North America's estimated 60 million bison, fewer than 1,000 remained by 1900. With the influx of European settlers, bison populations that once darkened the Great Plains were slaughtered in huge numbers until only the efforts of conservationists prevented the animal's extinction.
Bison are eternally linked with Native Americans, though not all tribes depended on the herds. For those that did, bison represented life. Accordingly, these people respected their prey, seeing it as a natural symbol for the universe. They migrated with the coarse-haired giants and through them, communed with the Great Creator.
In South Dakota, the Lakota hunted bison for food, clothing and shelter. The men enjoyed such spoils as bison liver—eaten raw following the chase—and handed the carcasses off to the women, who prepared the skins to make robes, tipi covers, moccasins and bags. A horn became a ladle or container, while the brain was used to soften hides. Nothing went to waste; even dung was burned as incense. At mealtime, the Lakota boiled the meat in holes in the ground, but they mostly prepared food for later use by making pemmican or jerky.
Today's chefs prepare bison meat more extravagantly. CNN founder Ted Turner, a prominent bison rancher and promoter, serves bison burgers, pot roast and meatloaf at his chain of restaurants. Many of the more than 4,000 bison ranchers in existence advertise with tempting recipes ranging from sweet and sour bison ribs to Italian bison meatballs.
iStockphoto.com / bhofack2
With less fat, cholesterol and calories than beef or chicken, bison meat is steadily gaining demand, although the industry has struggled. The undomesticated and unpredictable animals are raised in every U.S. state and Canadian province. There are now approximately 400,000 bison, with more than half residing on private ranches. Public herds roam free at Custer State Park , Wind Cave National Park , Badlands National Park and other protected areas.
Places in Vicinity

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Best Western Ramkota Hotel
2111 N LaCrosse St. Rapid City, SD 57701
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1314 N Elk Vale Rd. Rapid City, SD 57703
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531 Main St. Deadwood, SD 57732
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Best Western Golden Spike Inn & Suites
601 E Main St. Hill City, SD 57745
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