Keystone – Your Monumental Playground!
If you come to the Black Hills of South Dakota, we're pretty sure you're not allowed to leave without saying "Hello & Goodbye!" to those famous faces on Mount Rushmore. We're also confident your visit won't be complete without staying at least four or five nights in the "key" to your "monumental playground"—Keystone! Here, you will find a great variety of lodging choices—everything from tent and RV camping, hotels and motels, unique bed and breakfasts, quaint lodges, vacation homes and more. The Keystone Chamber of Commerce has many on their website. Regardless of the type of accommodation you select, when you stay in Keystone, you are centrally located to all there is to see and do in the Mount Rushmore area!
Historical Walking Tour
Explore the monumental history of Keystone. Pick up a walking tour brochure from the friendly folks at the visitor center—located at the one (and only) stoplight in town. Make sure to visit the Keystone Historical Society Museum located in the old school house. Did you know that Carrie Ingalls (younger sister to Laura Ingalls Wilder), moved to Keystone in 1911? She lived, worked and raised her step-children here. You will discover a lot of her story at the museum.
Big Thunder Gold Mine
Of course the area has a rich mining history as well. Celebrating their 60th Anniversary, Big Thunder Gold Mine allows you to stretch your imagination and take a step back in time. The route is completely handicapped accessible. Knowledgeable guides will entertain you with stories about that mine as well as others nearby. If you want to experience the full impact of mining or panning for yourself, reserve a full- or half-day "claim tour"! You'll be taken through the Black Hills where you're sure to see a lot of wildlife along the way to your "claim."
Once done with your touring, plan to have lunch at the Big Thunder Family Bar & Grille. Enjoy a quick bite on the deck or relax in the dining area inside. Make sure to try a specialty "wild" item! Expertly prepared wild game is served, featuring everything from elk to rattlesnake. The wild game brat comes highly recommended!
Dining at Ruby House
Your day isn't complete without a meal at the Ruby House. Fashioned after an old-time house of ill repute, they serve delicious lunches and dinners. Plan to catch one of the "shoot-outs" in the Red Garter Saloon right next door.
Black Hills Glass Blowers
Ready to do some unique shopping? Turn at the only stop light in town onto the Old Hill City Road... Go just a few miles and on your left you'll find Black Hills Glass Blowers. Artisans Peter Hopkins & Gail Damin create beautiful pieces of art by blowing and tooling hot glass into vases, bowls, goblets, and paperweights in an array of form and color. They also lampwork figurines, animals, flowers, ornaments by using a torch to melt glass rods and tubes. Visitors can often see the blowing process or lampworking technique and shop a beautiful selection of art glass and figurines.
Return to stroll along the Keystone boardwalk, shop in the many gift stores there or have an old-time photo taken. Try your golfing skills at Holy Terror Mini-Golf. You're guaranteed to "strike gold" in fun and laughter! Then just sit back and enjoy a glass of wine at Grapes & Grinds right next door as the first day of your adventure winds down.
Rushmore Tramway Adventures
You're in for a "monumental" adventure today! Begin at Rushmore Tramway Adventures - where you can ride on the Scenic Chair Lift, fly downhill on the Alpine Slide, jump and climb through the pines at the Aerial Park, and have fun on the NEW Tubing Hill! Experience the Pinnacle Zip Tour - a two-hour guided tour from granite peaks, over valleys, and through the Ponderosa Pines. This is the only zipline tour in the world that includes spectacular views of Mount Rushmore, and it's epic! After being thrilled in this unique Black Hills playground, kick back at the peak and enjoy the simple pleasure of a walk through the beautiful gardens at Mountain Top Grille. This adventure can last just a couple of hours or a full day!
Rush Mountain Adventure Park
Continue the thrill-seeking mode a few miles out of town... Experience family fun on all levels at Rush Mountain Adventure Park! Go underground and discover amazing formations carved by nature on a guided tour through Rushmore Cave. Above ground, fly through the sky on the unique 2 seated Soaring Eagle Zipride, and see who's got the fastest shot in the west in a "shoot-out" at the Gunslinger 7D interactive ride. Find more thrills on the Rushmore Mountain Coaster as you cruise the rails through trees, pigtail turns and whoops in a 1 or 2-person cart where you control the speed and the excitement! Opening in 2018, the NEW Wingwalker Challenge Course will encourage kids of all ages to harness up and try their skills at multiple over-the-ground obstacles. It's a mountain of family fun!
For a little more laid-back thrill, climb aboard the 1880 Train at the Keystone depot. Experience a steam engine powered, two-hour round trip that follows the original route of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad between Keystone and Hill City. In the late 1800s, trains brought miners and supplies to both towns. Watch out for train robbers along the way!
Powder House Restaurant
After the excitement of the day, return to Keystone and delight in a great dinner at the Powder House Restaurant. Known for their excellent Prime Rib, we guarantee you'll enjoy a delicious meal in a cozy setting.
Custer State Park
Mother Nature provides a beautiful "wildlife playground" here in the Black Hills and only minutes from Keystone. Travel up the hill, past Mount Rushmore (we're saving that for tomorrow), and head south onto Iron Mountain Road. This one-of-a-kind drive was fashioned so Mount Rushmore is framed in the tunnels you'll drive through. Unique "pigtail bridges" twist down the mountains toward Custer State Park. A must-stop is their new Visitor Center, featuring a beautiful short film about the Black Hills and the wildlife found here, narrated by Kevin Costner.
Continue to the Wildlife Loop where you most likely see buffalo. Sometimes just one or two, sometimes hundreds! Please view them from the safety of your vehicle—they may look tame, but they are not. You are also likely to see prairie dogs and the friendly "begging" burros!
Dining at State Game Lodge or Blue Bell Lodge
You may want to stop for lunch at the State Game Lodge before completing the Loop, but if not, there is also dining at Blue Bell Lodge, near Blue Bell Stables. If you like, take a trail ride at the stables and get up close to nature's playground via horseback! Once you've finished your time in the Park, travel on up the Wildlife Loop toward the National Scenic Byway that is Needles Highway.
Presidential Wax Museum
Today, it's all about "The Faces" – A "monumental" day, indeed! Start off learning all about past presidents at The National Presidential Wax Museum in Keystone. See life-like, life-size figures of all U.S. Presidents in authentic period costumes and accurately detailed surroundings. It's sure to put you in a patriotic mood!
Rushmore Borglum Story
Stroll across the street to the Rushmore Borglum Story for a step inside the mind of the carver of Mount Rushmore. This unique stop features many works of art from Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum. Learn the story behind the man and how he came to be the "chosen one" for this monumental undertaking.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
After a long, relaxing lunch anywhere in Keystone, take the 2-mile drive up the hill to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Plan to arrive no later than 6 p.m. and take a Mount Rushmore Self-Guided Tour. This award-winning tour incorporates narration, music, interviews, sound effects and historic recordings of Gutzon Borglum, Lincoln Borglum, American Indians, and workers. It truly is a step back in time. The gift shop, as well as the bookstores at Mount Rushmore, are filled with perfect take-home items. Of course, you'll find t-shirts, magnets, and keychains, but you'll also discover beautiful works of art, unique books of the area, and a wide selection of Black Hills Gold!
Carver's Café at Mount Rushmore
A great meal can be found at the newly remodeled Carver's Café at Mount Rushmore. From locally sourced buffalo burgers and brats to a plated dinner, wonderful desserts, fudge and Thomas Jefferson's own recipe for vanilla ice cream (it's the best!), you are sure to have the best of company while dining there. After dinner, find a stop in the amphitheater and settle in for the moving and patriotic lighting ceremony. This 45-minute presentation takes you through the "why" for each president on the mountain and celebrates all that America is. It truly is a monumental experience.
There is so much to explore and encounter here in the beautiful Black Hills and all roads lead back to the monumental playground – Keystone – the home town of Mount Rushmore National Memorial!
courtesy of Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association