On a must-see-list of the US is, of course, Mount Rushmore – the “majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln” carved in a mountain. It is definitely worth a visit, but there is much more to see in the “Mount Rushmore State” South Dakota I realized when explored the area in 2013.
Another impressive mountain is the Crazy Horse Moutain, where in 1947 Chief Henry Standing Bear and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started an undertaking that is still going on today: Carving the likeness of the Lakota Leader Crazy Horse into a mountain.
You can take a tour close to the mountain, and I would also recommend attending the Legends in Lights laser show in the evening (from Memorial Day through September). It is quite the spectacle, when the mountain becomes a giant screen for a laser show.
And then there are, of course, the Badlands , a spectacular mountain range you can explore hiking.
If you need a place to stay, and are ok with something really basic – but clean an with the friendliest owners, how about the Badlands Budget Host Motel in the tiny town of Interior, right at the entrance of the national park, with a population of 67.
You realize how much comfort you are used to these days when visiting the Prairie Homestead, the home of the early settlers.
An exhibtion of a completely diffent kind is the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, where you can check out different planes and can sit in a cockpit of a F-106 fighter jet.
They even have an original “Rosinenbomber” (Candy Bomber) used in the Berlin Airlift 1948/49, when the Western Allied Forces supported Berlin – cut off from West Germany by the Soviets – through the air. The billboard mentions Col UASF ret. Gail Halvorsen, who dropped candy bars with tiny parachutes off his plane for the kids in Berlin – hence the name “Candy Bomber”.
I had the pleasure and honor to meet Col Halvorsen at the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in 2008.
What else is there to see and do in South Dakota?
And don’t forget to stop at the “famous” Wall Drug Store, 55 miles east of Rapid City. You will see the billboards when you are still miles away. It is, well, made for tourists. But you can get free ice water, just like in the old days.
I’ve already written a post about the Minute Man Missile Site.