As you drive into the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota heading towards the main attraction in this region, Mount Rushmore, it’s inevitable that you will stumble across another gem that you should take some time to explore. Keystone, South Dakota is a quirky town set in a valley of the Black Hills but is a great place to get out and explore before experiencing Mount Rushmore.
Where is Keystone, South Dakota?
Located about 25 minutes from Rapid City, Keystone is perfectly situated to capture all Mount Rushmore visitors. It’s feasible that you will pass through Keystone and just spend some time shopping, dining or simply wandering around exploring the quirkiness (more on all of these later).
However, perhaps you would prefer to use Keystone as your ‘base’ for taking day trips to other parts of the Black Hills. I can certainly see the benefit of using this as a place to stay overnight given the beauty of the natural surroundings you are in.
Day Trips from Keystone
Here are some of the trips you could easily take from Keystone. It’s plausible that you could combine several of these into the same day, for example, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park are all relatively close together.
- Mount Rushmore – Keystone is literally on the doorstep of Mount Rushmore and is only a short drive to this iconic monument. Distance – 3-4 miles (5-10 minutes)
- Custer State Park – There are various entrances to Custer State Park but if you are interested in taking the amazing Needles Highway which is the BEST way to introduce yourselves to Custer, this is only a short drive from Keystone. Distance – 14 miles (30 minutes)
- Crazy Horse Memorial – If you love Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse is another iconic monument you have to experience! Distance – 19-20 miles (30 minutes)
- Rapid City – The City of Presidents offers an amazing self-guided walking tour around the heart of downtown to learn about all 42 former presidents through amazing sculptures. Distance – 20 miles (25-30 minutes)
- Wall Drug Store – One of the most popular attractions throughout South Dakota is Wall Drug Store. If you have heard the story about a store starting by offering free ice water…that’s Wall Drug Store! It is situated perfectly for those interested in taking a tour of Badlands National Park. Distance – 74 miles (75 minutes)
- Badlands National Park – A great day trip from Keystone is to explore the Badlands. We strongly encourage you to take the Badlands Scenic Drive but just admiring the gorgeous geological formations around these landscapes is a rewarding experience. Distance – 80 miles (80-90 minutes)
Things to Do in Keystone
If you plan to spend some time in Keystone, which you most definitely should, here are some of the top attractions and reasons to explore this town in South Dakota.
1. Gutzon Borglum Historical Center
Regardless of your opinion on Mount Rushmore, if you are visiting this part of South Dakota, it is inevitable that pretty much everything you see and experience will be related to this iconic memorial. If you are interested in learning more about the history and story behind this creation, check out the Gutzon Borglum Historical Center in Keystone.
Borglum was the key architect behind the design of this memorial and for only $10, you can tour the museum learning about the history of Mount Rushmore along with Borglum’s life and family away from his most infamous work.
2. National Presidential Wax Museum
Another popular attraction in Keystone which is, of course, related to the popular presidential focus in this part of South Dakota, is the National Presidential Wax Museum. The history dates back to 1971 when this attraction was formerly known as the Parade of Presidents.
Visitors can explore the wax museum for only $10 ($7 for children) and since the turn of the century, the museum has undergone mass renovation to modernize the overall look and feel of this popular attraction.
Another popular nearby attraction for all the family to enjoy is the miniature golf course. The Holy Terror Mini Golf course is nestled on the side of a slope in Keystone, offering a challenging test for all skill levels. This is a great way to relax after an educational experience at the wax museum.
3. Souvenir Shopping
Need to grab a souvenir or two for your friends and family back home? Don’t worry, Keystone is the perfect place to find everything you may need! From souvenir magnets depicting those iconic four heads on Mount Rushmore to cuddly toys of your favorite South Dakotan wildlife, you can find it all here.
We wandered around the heart of downtown Keystone and checked out a couple of the souvenir stores. We always purchase a magnet and lapel pin from our travels so of course we were delighted by the selection available. We hoped that the prices were a little cheaper here than at Mount Rushmore but we found them to be pretty comparable.
4. Experience Local Cuisine
While you spend time exploring Keystone, it would be remiss of you to go without experiencing some of the local dining establishments. Whether you want to sample some of the finest pizza in South Dakota at Janes Boardwalk Pizza or perhaps appreciate the atmosphere and delicious food at Teddy’s Deli, there are plenty of options available to satisfy all appetites.
One of our regrets is that we didn’t have time to experience any dining options here because just walking by some of the restaurants, I have to admit the smell was pretty amazing and certainly captured our attention.
Grapes and Grinds is a popular spot to grab a pastry and a cup of coffee before heading out to Mount Rushmore or into Custer State Park for some outdoors adventure. Regardless of your taste, Keystone has plenty of choice for everyone!
Keystone South Dakota is a lively town that will immediately capture your attention as you approach either en route to Mount Rushmore or because you plan on spending some time here.
As you can see, Keystone is a feasible location to stay in the Black Hills of South Dakota if you plan on taking several day trips or perhaps you just want to get out and explore for a couple of hours before continuing on your journey around this part of the state.
Have you explored Keystone, South Dakota? Do you prefer to have a ‘home base’ when you are traveling and take day trips, or do you simply prefer to remain spontaneous and road trip around from one destination to another?