If there is one place synonymous with South Dakota it is the iconic Mount Rushmore. I think it is perhaps the most well known monument in the US after the Statue of Liberty and it has been on my USA Bucket List for the longest time! When we were doing our South Dakota road trip we knew we had to hit up Mount Rushmore. In this guide we give you our tips for visiting Mount Rushmore with kids or without to help you make the most of your time at this National Monument!
Best Time to Visit Mount Rushmore and South Dakota
South Dakota is not a place I would want to visit in Winter – what can I say I don’t like the cold! However in summer the temperatures in South Dakota are perfect! There are also most activities that are held at Mount Rushmore during the April to October period. We were there in August (memorial Day weekend) and the weather was perfect, however Mount Rushmore being one of the most visited attractions in the US means it can get exceptionally busy! Getting there early is definitely necessary when visiting in Peak Season!
Next Read: Ultimate South Dakota Summer Packing List
Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore
Get there Early
When we went to Mount Rushmore we were suffering from serious jet lag and we arrived at Mount Rushmore just before 5am! When we arrived the tickets booth weren’t even open and we were the first car in the car park practically. This meant we had the place pretty much to ourselves!
Also, if travelling in peak season and you want to do a hike on the site getting there early will mean you don’t have to hike in the worst of the heat!
Best Things to Do At Mount Rushmore with kids
Walk the Avenue of Flags
The avenue of flags is the first place you will visit on your trip to Mount Rushmore! Every visitor walks from the car park to the monument through the avenue of flags.
There are actually 56 flags along the Avenue of Flags these represent the 50 states, one district, three territories and two commonwealths of the USA!
If you want to spot your state or territories flag please note that these are in alphabetical order! Underneath each flag is a plaque with the date of the State’s admittance into the union!
It is a pretty impressive site to behold!
Spot the Faces from the Grand View Terrace
The Grand Terrace is the best place to take in all of the faces that have been carved into the mountain! There are several telescopes along the Grand View Terrace if you would like to get a better view of the monument.
This is also in my opinion the best place to take photos from! As we were there so early we were able to get some lovely family photos here without crowds!
Take a Hike on the Presidential Trail
Before we had visited Mount Rushmore, I had lots of people say that you go look a the monument, take a quick photo and then leave! However there is a lot more to Rushmore than this and you can even go on a hike! The most popular hike at Mount Rushmore is the Presidential Trail!
The Presidential Trail is only 0.6 miles long but does consist of over 400 stairs to reach the tip of the trail! The Trail was one of the best things we did on our visit to Mount Rushmore! Not only because it is a great way to get close to the faces but also because we got to see some of the Mount Rushmore Wildlife up close and personal!
As the day got busier we noticed that many people didn’t leave the Grand View Terrace so if you are there during Peak Season I am sure this would be a good way to escape some of the crowds!
Please note there is construction in the monument currently. This means that a small section of the trail will be unavailable! You can check all the up to date information here!
Visit the Lincoln Borglum Museum
This is a great starting point to learn about the monument! There is another short film here which is a perfect introduction to the monument! The video here is almost 15 minutes long which might test younger audiences like ours and is shown in 125 seater theatre! There may be a wait to watch the video during peak season!
Visit the Sculpture Studio
The Sculpture Studio is a great way to learn more about the monument and its architect and sculptors Gutzon Borglum! There is a short video in this space where you can find out more about the vision and process behind the monument!
At dusk there is a 30 minute programme that is a prequel to the two hour nightly illumination of the site!
Watch the Mt Rushmore Evening Lighting Ceremony
Full disclosure – we didn’t attend the Mount Rushmore Evening Lighting ceremony! The combination of jet lag, toddler bed time and a hectic day meant we were back in our hotel and asleep by the time the light ceremony started! This was probably one of the biggest disappoints for us during our trip but it does at least give us good reason to return!
Please note this is a summer event!
Please note: there is a lot of construction around the memorial in 2019! Therefore there will only be a 20 minute lighting ceremony for the 2019 summer season! This will include a ranger talk, playing of the national anthem, flag folding demonstration and lighting of the memorial!
Eat the famous Mount Rushmore Ice Cream
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson created a recipe for ice cream in the 1780s?
No me either! But one of the must do things to do at Mount Rushmore is to try this ice cream based on Jeffersons original recipe!
Though there are lots of ice creams on offer at the Memorial Team Ice Cream station the most popular is The Monumental Scoop!
Do the Junior Ranger Program
If you are travelling with kids then definitely be sure to grab and join the Mount Rushmore Junior Ranger Program! This is one of the best things to do at any USA National Park with kids in my opinion! My daughter is still a bit young for the program but when she is a bit older we will be doing this at every park we visit!
Where to Stay Near Mount Rushmore
The closest town to Mount Rushmore is Keystone! I personally was not a big fan of Keystone as it was very touristy but it is undoubtedly the closest place.
Click here for Keystone Lodging!
However if you are looking for a quirky place to stay near Mount Rushmore then you might want to consider the glamping site – Mount Rushmore Under Canvas! As we did our South Dakota – Yellowstone trip last minute we were unable to get in here but it is on my list for our next visit!
Click here for current prices and availability!
Another nearby option is to stay at the underrated Custer State Park! We went to drive the Custer State Park Wildlife loop but really we should have allocated 2 days in our itinerary for Custer State Park! There are lodges and camping sites here which are very close to the monument and set within the beautiful park grounds!
We stayed in Rapid City for the duration of our time in South Dakota! If you don’t want to move locations on your South Dakota road trip then I think Rapid City is the perfect place to stay as it has easy access to the Rushmore and Black Hills area as well as being a good place for visiting the Badlands National Park!
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites during out trip and we found this to be more than adequate for our needs!
Top Ten Best things to do near Mount Rushmore
While I don’t agree that Mount Rushmore is a place just for taking obligatory photos then leaving, I would say it is probably only a half a day activity! Below are the other best things to do near Mount Rushmore to help you plan your South Dakota itinerary!
- Custer State Park
- Crazy Horse Memorial
- Black Hills Winery
- Wind Cave National Park
- Badland National Park
- Reptile Garden
- Devils Tower
- Dinosaur Park
- Storybook Island
For what to do in Rapid City with kids please check out this post!
Admission and Parking at Mount Rushmore National Monument
There are no entrance fees to enter the Mount Rushmore National Monument however there is car parking fees on site! Cars cost 10USD to park!
FAQS and Facts about Mount Rushmore for Kids
- Who are the four faces on Mount Rushmore?
The faces are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln!
- How many people died building Mount Rushmore?
No one died during the blasting and carving stage of building. Though some workers later died of lung related diseases.
- How much did it cost to build Mount Rushmore?
In todays money – it cost almost 20 million to build Mount Rushmore!