Mount Rushmore is a famous national monument in the United States. This national treasure is located in The Black Hills of South Dakota and attracts over two million visitors annually. The Shrine of Democracy, the site of the faces of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Washington, can be seen in the valley below since 1941. There are many other attractions to see and do in South Dakota.
Let’s talk about what you can expect from a Mount Rushmore visit and some things to do to make the most of your time there.
Mount Rushmore 2021 Season Opens
After 14 years of construction, Mount Rushmore was finally opened in 1941. The sculpture was created by Gutzon Borglum, a Danish-American sculptor, and his son Lincoln Borglum. It was designed to attract tourists to South Dakota’s Black Hills. The sculpture would be a tribute to four pivotal American presidents.
The original plan was to have western American heroes like Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, and Buffalo Bill Cody as the faces of Mount Rushmore. However, after careful consideration, they decided that the faces of “great presidents,” which would appeal to a broader range of tourists, were the best. They settled on Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Washington as the faces of Mount Rushmore. Construction began in 1927 during the Great Depression. Mount Rushmore opened on October 31, 1941. It was finally completed 14 years later. Mount Rushmore now attracts over 2 million visitors each year.
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore
We established a base in Rapid City, South Dakota. We highly recommend staying there to enjoy the Mount Rushmore experience and the Black Hills experience.
After spending the day exploring the town, we began our Mount Rushmore tour with an evening. We arrived at Mount Rushmore just before sunset, so we could explore the grounds and walk the avenue of flags before visiting the museum to learn more about the monument.
The next day, we returned to Mount Rushmore. We were able to explore the area without having to crowd the busses.
- You can use your parking pass for up to 24 hours after purchase, so you can visit other times without being on the premises.
Mount Rushmore: Things to Do
The Lighting Ceremony
Even though it was a bit kitschy, the Mount Rushmore lighting ceremony in the evening was fascinating. It tells the story about the building of the monument and some American history that omits the dark Native American past. The bleachers and bandstand were touristy. It would have been more beautiful to leave it in its natural state. Everyone around us loved it. Here you have it!
Although it was fascinating to watch the video, it is dated. They should replace it with something more modern and include more Native American history. The faces of Mount Rushmore have been lit up after the video.
My favorite ceremony was the touching moment following the lighting when the national park ranger invited all active and retired military to the stage to remember their sacrifices for our country. This is a fitting place, as the Mount Rushmore National Memorial may be America’s most patriotic monument.
Avenue of Flags
The Avenue of Flags is the first thing you’ll see upon arriving at Mount Rushmore. The Avenue of Flags is made up of flags from all fifty states and six additional flags representing one district, three territories, two commonwealths, and two other American states. For the perfect touristy shot at Mount Rushmore, keep an eye out to find your flag.
Grand View Terrace
You will reach the Grand View Terrace after you have walked along the Avenue of Flags. You will see the Grand View Terrace, which is what you believe it to be. This is Mount Rushmore’s best view, and you’ll want to take photos of the presidents before exploring. This is the iconic shot we all remember from magazines and movies.
The trail is just over a mile long (1km) and takes you to Mount Rushmore’s base. You can also learn about Mount Rushmore’s faces and see them from different angles. The path starts at Grand View Terrace and takes you away from crowds to let you view the monument close up as you go downhill. You will find plaques that tell you about the presidents along the route. The trail has 422 steps to climb, so ensure you have a good grip on your wheelchair.
You can visit the Sculptures Studio as you return to Grand View Terrace via Presidential Trail to learn more about Mount Rushmore’s carving, blasting, and completion. This building is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs and is open from 8 am to 8 pm in the summer. Gutzon Borglum uses plastic models and tools to realize his vision.
Lincoln Borglum Visitor’s Center
It is free to visit the visitor’s center. You can also enjoy the interactive museum and 14-minute film and shop. It is located below the Grand View Terrace.
Memorial Teams Ice Cream
It is possible to wonder why we would have ice cream when visiting Mount Rushmore. But ice cream here is essential. Memorial Team Ice Cream is named after Mount Rushmore carvers. They were second in the 1939 state baseball tournament. Even if you don’t want ice cream, stop by to see the photos of the entire baseball team wearing their uniforms.