The Black Hills offers so many things to do and attractions to experience, budgeting your time and money is important. We’ve come up with a list of free or nearly free Black Hills attractions that will help keep your wallet fat and your schedule full while you’re lodging near Mount Rushmore!
Mount Rushmore National Monument – America’s Shrine of Democracy is a must-see Black Hills attraction and is often the thing that brings most visitors to the beautiful Black Hills. While entrance to Mount Rushmore is free, there is a $10 per car parking fee. Please keep in mind and be aware that this is a parking fee and not an admittance fee, so Park Passes will not be honored. However, this parking fee is good for the entire calendar year so you can come and go from the monument at your leisure, which is great if you plan on attending the lighting ceremony. The lighting ceremony is a great way to end the day and is a must see while you are in the area. The ceremony takes place every evening during the summer months. For the 2019 season the ceremony will begin every night at 9:00 pm starting May 31st through August 11th. As the days grow shorter, the ceremony will begin at 8:00 pm every night until the final ceremony of the season on September 30th.
Wall Drug Store – Wall Drug is a Black Hills attraction that has been renowned as quintessential Americana. This free stop is full of quirky odds and ends, American art and, of course, free ice water.
Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood – Deadwood is full of history and has a rich heritage of the Wild West. However, this is not a playground and, being a cemetery, might not be suitable for some younger visitors. Entry to this Black Hills attraction costs $2 a piece. However, that $2 means you’ll get to experience some good western stories about Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock, and others.
Custer State Park – Spring for the 7-day park pass at $20 per vehicle and you’ll have access to some great Black Hills scenery. Utilize the pass over your time in the Black Hills, and you’ll easily see the value. Spend a day at Sylvan Lake or hike up Harney Peak. Tour the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. Explore the Needles Highway, and get some beautiful pictures of the Black Hills landscape, and you will see this small $20 fee is truly a bargain.
Dinosaur Park – Created as part of the Works Progress Administration and open to the public since 1936, this free Black Hills attraction is located in Rapid City and offers cement recreations of dinosaurs. At the top of the hill, you’ll get a gorgeous 100-mile view of the surrounding area. Steep flagstone stairs may limit handicap accessibility, however.
Storybook Island – This free Black Hills attraction is open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Storybook Island is a children’s park located in Rapid City. Children have the ability to see their favorite storybook characters and ride the train. While admissions are free, the park does run and function on donations.
D.C. Booth Historic Natural Fish Hatchery – Spearfish, SD is a beautiful small town north of Rapid City. At the heart of Spearfish, you’ll find D.C. Booth Natural Fish Hatchery. The area is beautiful and the kids (and adults) love skipping stones in the stream and feeding the fish in the Hatchery with a $1 or $2 bag of fish food from the gift store.
Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon – This is a favorite stop for local families, and many of our visitors who come through also admire the beauty of the area. Park your vehicle at Spearfish Canyon Lodge and take the easy Roughlock Falls Trail up to this serene waterfall. This free Black Hills attraction is fun for all ages and anyone can appreciate the beauty of this place. If you’re planning a trip later in the season (mid- to late-September) a drive through Spearfish Canyon to see the leaves changing color is truly majestic.
Stratobowl – This Black Hills attraction is a local favorite that’s a fun, easy hike the whole family can enjoy. Located within minutes of Rapid City right off of SD Highway 16, the Stratobowl is like a "mini national park." In fact, in 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere to a record 72,395 feet. This is how this little valley became known as the "Stratobowl" and the birthplace of the space age.
Badlands National Park – For $25, your car gets a 7-day pass into Badlands National Park. Here you’ll experience a landscape completely different from any of the other places on this list. With extreme temperatures (summer can reach over 100 F, while winter can reach -20 F), you won’t believe that this landscape exists just 1 ½ hours or so east of the Black Hills.
Planning a Black Hills vacation on a budget doesn’t have to be hard, and there are plenty of Black Hills attractions to help you keep the cost down while keeping the level of fun up. Staying at the Powder House Lodge in Keystone, SD means you and your family will be close to all of the Black Hills attractions on your list, as everything listed here is with an easy 1 hour drive Call us today at 1-800-321-0692 or make your reservation online to for a vacation experience you won’t forget.
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