Life-size bronze statues of presidents and a hotel where six presidents slept make sense in a city that’s 23 miles from Mount Rushmore. Attractions that explore natural history, geology and flight round out a stay.

By The editors of
March 30, 2016

Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.


Bear Country USA A 3-mile drive takes visitors past bears, wolves, reindeer, elk, mountain lions and 15 other species of North American mammals. Bear cubs frolic at a wildlife center.

Black Hills Contraband The state’s first fully licensed artisan distillery crafts vodka and 13 flavored liqueurs inspired by an old family recipe. The tasting room hosts comedy and game nights and live music.

Chapel in the Hills Attend an evening vesper service or come during the day to look around this intricately carved stave church, a replica of the Borgund Stavkirke built in 1150 outside Lærdal, Norway.

City of Presidents A life-size bronze statue of Barack Obama joined statues of 42 other presidents on downtown streets last year. Find maps at visitor information centers.

The Journey Museum and Learning Center A big-screen movie sets up your walk through time. Progress through exhibits that show how the area changed from the dinosaur period to Wild West days to the devastating flood of 1972.

Museum of Geology The fossils on display span the history of South Dakota and include dinosaurs, marine reptiles and plants. If mineralogy intrigues, check out agates, meteorites, fluorescent minerals and other finds in the Hall of South Dakota Minerals.

Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries Native American art, beaded dolls, drums, pottery, tribal regalia, jewelry and more fill the shop downstairs. An art gallery and bead library occupy the upstairs.

Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries

Reptile Gardens The world’s largest reptile zoo houses more than 225 types of reptiles and amphibians, plus prairie dogs, birds and insects. Shows, exhibits and kids’ activities like gemstone panning add to the fun.

The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water Twenty-one granite pieces at Main Street Square reflect the natural and cultural history of the region. Artist Masayuki Nagase carved the project over five years.

South Dakota Air and Space Museum Get up close to 30-plus aircraft and four missiles at an indoor-outdoor space next to Ellsworth Air Force Base. Base tours available by request.


Delmonico Grill Splurge on a 16-ounce ribeye with poblano cream sauce or try a seasonal special, such as bison pot roast, in the fine-dining spot downtown.

Firehouse Wine Cellars Visit for tastings, pizza paired with wine and free winery tours, plus live music on Tuesdays.

Kol A nearly 10-foot-wide coal-fired oven cooks pizzas like Notorious P.I.G. (bacon, mustard pork belly, pork sausage, sweet potato pudding and arugula). Kicky cocktails include the Spicy Fifty with red chili pepper. Kol on Facebook


Que Pasa Cantina Come for hand-mashed guacamole, a solid vegan and vegetarian selection, a lively patio and rooftop cantina, and the city’s largest tequila selection (with 50-plus featured labels).

Tally's Silver Spoon Diner-style breakfasts segue to a mix of comfort food and upscale fare for lunch and dinner. Burgers and pasta share the menu with dishes like grilled bison skirt with citrus-glazed mushrooms.

Vertex Sky Bar Guests at the Hotel Alex Johnson can sip craft cocktails or eat dinner while viewing the Black Hills, buttes and prairies from the 10th and 11th floors. 

Vertex Sky Bar

Wine Cellar Restaurant A menu inspired by European and California cuisine means a fusion of classic and cool, served in a century-old downtown building. Try Caprese Chicken with house-smoked mozzarella.

Wobbly Bobby British Pub Linger over fish and chips and toast to the wobbly bobby-British slang for a drunken police officer-with any of 48 on-tap beers.


Hotel Alex Johnson Brick flooring with Native American symbols and a lobby chandelier of war spears hint at Native American and Germanic Tudor influences. Six presidents have stayed at the 143-room downtown hotel, which opened in 1928 and was recently renovated.

Hotel Alex Johnson

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