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7 Budget-Friendly Places to Eat and Sleep During Your Black Hills Road Trip

By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
October 08, 2021
Approaching the Black Hills of South Dakota through the rolling grasslands surrounding them, it’s easy to see how this isolated mountain range got its name. From a distance, these hills covered with thick ponderosa pine forest look like a black rumpled blanket. It’s a beautiful wilderness of craggy rock formations, peaceful woods and sparkling creeks that call to anyone eager to vacation in nature.
And then there’s the manmade features that make this destination stand head and shoulders (so to speak) above the rest: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, that massive cliff-side carving of four U.S. presidents, and the Crazy Horse Memorial, a similar feat of large-scale artistry and work-in-progress honoring Native Americans of all tribes.
From deep caves to the highest point east of the Rockies, the Black Hills packs a lot of things to see into a small territory making it an ideal location for road trips. In fact, AAA has created two routes that show off this area’s incredible beauty: the Black Hills Road Trip and The Needles Scenic Highway Road Trip.
Besides giving you the freedom to explore whatever sights you choose, a journey by car is also one of the most affordable ways to travel. To help you plan a Black Hills vacation on a budget, take a look at these AAA Three Diamond hotels and restaurants, which offer great value and great locations.
IHG Hotels & Resorts

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

Custer, South Dakota
(605) 673-2500
First, there’s this Holiday Inn’s location near so many things to do. It’s only a 10-minute drive away from the Crazy Horse Memorial and a 20-minute drive from the trailhead for Black Elk Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. Add to that the clean contemporary design with such rustic lodge touches as stacked-stone fireplaces and exposed wooden beams and you have a very appealing place to relax after your Black Hills adventures. Find a spot on the terrace behind the hotel to enjoy the artificial waterfall that trickles down a hillside.
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Chubby Chipmunk

Deadwood, South Dakota
(605) 722-2447
Deadwood started out as a gold-rush boomtown, and when it comes to history you’ll find plenty of fun things to do including touring restored 19th-century buildings or witnessing re-enacted Wild West shootouts. The town’s latest claim to fame, however, is a little confectionary in a former gas station known as The Chubby Chipmunk, home of hand-dipped truffles so prized that they have ended up in gift bags at the Academy Awards and the Grammys. Choosing from among so many kinds of truffles might be a challenge, but you can always go with the Chipmunk Treasure, which features a milk chocolate center dipped in dark chocolate, toffee, coconut and almonds—basically a little bit of everything!
iStockphoto.com/Erlantz Perez Rodriguez

The Deadwood Grille

Deadwood, South Dakota
(605) 571-2120
One of the best restaurants in town, The Deadwood Grille creates a welcoming environment within The Lodge at Deadwood with warm lighting, dark wood furniture and stacked-stone walls. It’s a casual setting for an unforgettable meal that might include such locally inspired dishes as elk ravioli or buffalo ribeye. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the warm caramel-apple bread pudding.
IHG Hotels & Resorts

Deadwood Mountain Grand - A Holiday Inn Resort

Deadwood, South Dakota
(605) 559-0386
This hotel’s prime location on a hill near the center of historic Deadwood means not only do you have a great view but you’re also just a short walk away from the town’s many fun things to do. What’s more, the hotel and neighboring event center are part of Deadwood’s history—the resort includes remnants of the Homestake Slime Plant, where gold slurry was processed until 1973.
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K Bar S Lodge, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member

Keystone, South Dakota
(605) 666-4545
While it may be an overstatement to say that K Bar S Lodge is in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, it’s not much of one. From various decks at the property—which is made up of several rustic-style buildings—you can just make out the profiles of Washington and Jefferson in the distance, and the national memorial is less than a 15-minute drive away.
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Botticelli Ristorante Italiano

Rapid City, South Dakota
(605) 348-0089
Italian food and South Dakota might not seem like a natural match, but Botticelli Ristorante Italiano will make you think otherwise. This family-owned restaurant serves delicious Italian fare in the center of Rapid City across from Main Street Square, site of events and other entertaining things to do downtown. The menu includes traditional dishes along with original recipes and seasonal specials. Any pasta and sauce combination you choose will be excellent, and if you’re up for dessert afterward, the cannoli is a popular choice.
Courtesy of Rushmore Hotel and Suites

Rushmore Hotel and Suites, BW Premier Collection

Rapid City, South Dakota
(605) 348-8300
From the marble mosaic of Mount Rushmore on the lobby floor to the Black Hills-themed murals in the guest rooms, this hotel celebrates the area in a big way. The sleek contemporary décor might make you think you’re in a hotel in New York or Los Angeles if it weren’t for all the stylish wall murals referencing local things to see in just about every room—well, that and the fact that the heart of Rapid City lies just outside the front door.
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