What rock group has 4 men who can’t sing? Mount Rushmore!
We recently visited Rapid City, South Dakota, known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and the “City of Presidents.” Since my last trip to Nashville, I’ve been wanting to travel, and a year later, I’m excited to restart my traveling adventure. We took a pause for some time to readjust, but it’s safe to say that the traveling now continues!
Rapid City, South Dakota
Allegiant was having a sale on several of their flights and one of them was to Rapid City, South Dakota! Being the proud American I am, visiting Mount Rushmore seemed like a fantastic idea. Originally, I was going to make this a solo trip, but after doing some research and reevaluating, I decided that I felt more comfortable traveling solo to larger cities, like New York City than to smaller places, like Rapid City. Bigger cities feel a lot safer since there are always people around.
We flew in Friday night and grabbed dinner at Murphy’s Pub and Grill. This was one of my favorite places – I tried their chicken wings with watermelon-jalapeño BBQ sauce. I mean, have you ever heard of watermelon BBQ?! I wonder if it’s a Midwest thing since I’ve never heard of it before! Those chicken wings were so good, and I definitely need to find the sauce they were using.
We spent the next day in downtown Rapid City. We started off with coffee and breakfast at Harriet & Oak. Then, we began our adventure in the City of Presidents.
The City of Presidents
The City of Presidents showcases life-sized bronze statues of all our presidents. Each of the statues showcased the president’s personality, which I loved! This made it really engaging and unique. The statues were scaled to be true to height, so it’s interesting to see how tall the presidents were. The only president that wasn’t true to size was our 27th President, William Howard Taft. President Taft’s weight would have been too expensive to replicate in bronze.
Presidential Scavenger Hunt in Rapid City, South Dakota
There was also a scavenger hunt where, if you could identify ten presidents, you can redeem a prize from Visit Rapid City or Mount Rushmore Society.
Note – I took photos with several of the statues of the presidents that I thought were interesting! No political affiliation.
I had so much fun looking at all the presidents and seeing who was taller or shorter than me. We did the scavenger hunt in a span of two days – the first day, we saw a majority of the Presidents and came back the next day to find the remaining ones! I forgot to take photos of James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Super bummed about that! 🙁
When you submit the scavenger hunt, you win a Presidential soda! You can choose from JFK (orange), Theodore Roosevelt (strawberry), or Abe Lincoln (white cream).
AgriCulture at Main Street Square
During our trip, we discovered the AgriCulture event at Main Street Square. The event happens once a year, and we were lucky to walk by while it was happening. It’s a public event that educates people on where produce comes from!
If you’re like me, the most you know about produce is that it pretty much comes from the grocery store, ha! I learned so much about pigs, sheep, and bison and how those animals are being used in our agriculture. I also learned a lot about how wheat is processed.
Facts I learned about the sheep industry –
- Texas has the most sheep, with 750,000+ and the most sheep operations, with 10,600+ and Arizona is the second state with the most sheep operations!
- Over 3.44 million sheep were shorn in 2017, which resulted in about 24.7 million pounds of wool
- Sheep milk is more nutritious and contains more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, and E than cow milk
Fun facts I learned about bison –
- Bison are very dangerous – not that I know from first-hand experience, but that’s what they told me!
- An adult female bison weighs up to 1,400 pounds in the north and about 800 pounds in the south
- An adult male bison weighs up to 2,200 pounds in the north and about 1,200 pounds in the south
What I learned about pigs’ names –
- Female pigs are called sows
- Male pigs are called boards
- Baby pigs are called piglets
It was really fascinating to learn about a different world, aka farming, that I’ve never been exposed to.
We also took a lunch break and stopped by Paddy O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Grill. I got the chicken wrap and loved how crunchy the chicken was. I’m going through a chicken phase right now where I’m eating everything chicken – from chicken wings to chicken sandwiches, I love chicken!
Staying at Under Canvas Mount Rushmore
During our trip to South Dakota, we decided to stay at Under Canvas. I stayed at Under Canvas last year in the Grand Canyon and had such a great experience, so when I saw that there was an Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, I knew I had to book a tent! The facility was in the woods and it was so beautiful.
One of my favorite things about the Under Canvas facility is glamping – they have a bathroom facility (with clean towels) where you can shower. There are also portable batteries so you can charge your devices, like your phone or tablet. Another favorite thing about Under Canvas is that there are unlimited s’mores and you can have them 24/7, perfect for a late-night snack. They also have activities throughout your stay, like yoga, live music, homemade card making and so much more!
The facility also serves breakfast and dinner that you can purchase. We got one of their shareable, which had steak and fries that were really good!
I highly recommend staying at Under Canvas if you’re not a big camping person.
Visiting Mount Rushmore
We started off our Sunday morning by visiting Mount Rushmore. Driving from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore took about 30 minutes, and you also pass a smaller town called Keystone. When you get to the monument, there are parking garages (parking was $10). Walking towards Mount Rushmore, you’ll see the Avenue of Flags. All 56 flags are arranged in alphabetical order shown with the year that the state or districts were admitted or acquired by the union.
We did the half-mile Presidential Trail loop – at the end of the trail loop (or beginning, depending on where you started), was the Sculptor’s Studio. At the Sculptor’s Studio, there was a park ranger who gave us a 15-minute presentation about Mount Rushmore.
It was really interesting to learn that they had to erase Thomas Jefferson’s face since the sculpture on the mountains was really problematic. Additionally, they originally planned on sculpting the whole entire bust for the Presidents, but the US had entered World War II, so the government stopped funding and they had to stop the carving.
Another interesting thing I learned about Mount Rushmore is that an inch on the Presidents’ head is a foot on the monument. The park ranger also demonstrated how measurements were made from the real face onto the monument’s face. He used me to demonstrate in his presentation, and I was given a Younger Ranger badge for Mount Rushmore! I thought this was so cute.
Lunch and Fudge in Keystone, South Dakota
On our way back from visiting Mount Rushmore, we were so hungry that we pulled into the first restaurant we saw in Keystone. We grabbed lunch at Red’s Chicken House and BBQ. I thought the place was pretty good, and I liked what I ordered, but Yelp would say otherwise, ha!
We also stopped by Turtle Town for some fudge – I grabbed a pound of chocolate fudge to give to my friends back home. It seemed as if a lot of the places in South Dakota sold fudge, so it piqued my curiosity if fudge was a Midwestern thing, since I rarely see any places in Arizona selling fudge. After doing a quick 5-second search, I found out that fudge first originated in Baltimore, Maryland, but is most popular in Mackinac, Michigan, with over 13 fudge shops!
The best fudge I ever had was by made my best friend’s dad in 6th grade. I’ve never had fudge that was as close to as good as how he made it, ha. I wonder if I can reach out to her on Facebook and see if her dad is willing to share the secret family recipe.
Upcoming Trips to the Midwest
The trip to Mount Rushmore and visiting surrounding cities, like Keystone and Rapid City, was so much fun. I definitely think everyone should visit Mount Rushmore in their life! Apparently, my mom said I had visited Mount Rushmore before when I was 3 years old. It’s interesting that she mentioned that because I do have this small snippet of memory of traveling with my grandma and one of my aunts that I supposedly went with. However, I always assumed it was a memory from a dream instead of a real-life occurrence. Has this happened to anyone else, too?
Anyway, I’ll be spending some time out on a farm milking cows soon in Ohio, and then heading straight to Iowa for a work conference. I am so excited about all of these travel plans!