Why Custer, South Dakota, is a Must Experience.

When I asked my daughter where she’d like to take a road trip together, I never thought Mount Rushmore in South Dakota would be the answer. It was never on my list and I was shocked that it was on hers. But you know what? We had a great adventure.

I was blown away by two things in this area:  the scenery and the beauty of the Native American people.

Custer State Park was so serene.  During one rainy afternoon, we spent time playing board games at the State Lodge.  I felt completely disconnected from the world.  What a wonderful feeling.

Mount Rushmore was a surreal moment for us.  My daughter had just learned about it school.  For me, it was when I saw the stairs as seen in the movie National Treasure.

While Mount Rushmore was memorable, Crazy Horse Memorial will really stick with me.  It is a museum, as well as a living, breathing historical moment.  You can sense the history, the passion, the commitment of the Native American people at Crazy Horse and you want to return to see the progress of the memorial.

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WHERE TO STAY

Custer State Park – State Game Lodge.

A beautiful spot, nestled into the mountains, with wildlife roaming freely (bison included).  The lodge was built in 1920 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it’s a bit like boarding at summer camp. We played board games one afternoon, looking out the window as rain pitter-pattered over the verandah roof outside.  This alone made the experience worth the stay. A great place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.  Click here for latest prices.

Don’t just take my word for it:  Reviews

Summer White House

WHERE TO EAT

State Game Lodge – Dining Room

Indian fry bread, topped with applewood smoked bacon, sautéed chicken, tomatoes, herbs, wild forest mushrooms and fried leeks.  It was mouthwatering good!

Don’t just take my word for it:  Reviews

Purple Pie Place.

This funky little purple house in Custer is a must do, but it’s only open during summer and autumn months.  When we arrived mid-afternoon during July, it was packed.  There was not a table open.  While Natalie indulged in ice cream, I tried their berry pie.  Delicious.

Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park.  

No trip to Custer State Park should be done without driving the Wildlife Loop.  It gives you a great vision of ‘old America.’   View bison, antelope and donkeys up close (at times) – just please stay IN your car!

Don’t just take our word for it:  Reviews

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Crazy Horse Memorial. 

This is a memorial dedicated to all Native American tribes.  It’s amazing to think about the perseverance and dedication it took, while refusing Federal funding, to complete this monument.  They also provide a unique place for Native Americans to sell their wares. I love it.  It’s so honorable.

Don’t just take my word for it:  Reviews

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore was our ultimate destination for our road trip.  It was what we drove 1500 miles to see.  Tucked into the Black Hills, massive heads were etched into stone.  It was remarkable really. You have no idea how close you are to the monument until you are driving up to the parking lot and suddenly, there they are.  It was raining when we went, but it didn’t take away the awe factor.  It’s truly a feat of how they carved the heads and we took advantage of the ranger’s knowledge as they relayed the history of it (The piece about Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses is great!).

Mount Rushmore is definitely a fun place to visit, but more worthwhile (for us) was Crazy Horse Monument.

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HELPFUL TIPS:

Custer State Park is big, so make sure you have plenty of time to explore it.  The Wildlife Loop is not to be missed.

Stay in your car if you do the tour Wildlife loop.  Don’t hang out the window or let your kids ride in the back of your truck – it is not safe people!  These are wild animals you are looking at and the bison MAY charge your vehicle if spooked.  (O.K. maybe not while they are laying in a field, but this was only one group of bison we saw along the loop).

I am not sure I’d return to Mount Rushmore.  It was cool, but it really is a ‘been there, done that’ type of destination. BUT, I would definitely visit Crazy Horse Memorial again.  Of all of the recommendations I’ve listed above, this was my absolute favourite.

HANDY LINKS:

Our Trover Page –  check out how cool Custer, South Dakota is –  then plan your own road trip!

Check out these recommended guide books for deeper, local information.

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Custer, South Dakota is a Must Experience | Travel Far Enough | When I asked where my daughter wanted to go on a road trip, I never thought South Dakota would be the answer. It turned out to be an EPIC roadtrip! As in life-changing.
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