Rapid City is where your South Dakota summer vacation comes alive with special events, ongoing seasonal celebrations and a host of ways to explore the Black Hills.
Summer in Downtown Rapid City is a season-long celebration, with special activities that welcome you to take part in the good times every week.
- Movies Under the Stars: From early June to late August, every Monday night Main Street Square hosts Movies Under The Stars, with family favorites projected on a big screen for a crowd of adoring fans. Whether you show up in costume or just your most comfortable vacation gear, the good times are always burning bright under the night sky. Movies begin around 8:30 p.m. and are free to the public.
- Rapid City Summer Nights & Main Street Square Summer Concert Series: Music literally fills the streets of Downtown Rapid City on Thursday nights from early June to late August, giving lovers of jazz, big band, country, pop, rock or bluegrass their choice of venues. Summer Nights is a free weekly celebration featuring a main stage along with food and beverage vendors in a three-block area. At the same time, nearby Main Street Square hosts it’s Summer Concert Series on a separate stage, along with a KidZone and popular teen activities. The result is a citywide party vibe that offers diverse musical options and plenty of ways to enjoy the local food and drink culture.
- Running through the Fountains at Main Street Square: You don’t have to be a kid to take advantage of the bubbling fountains of Main Street Square, but it helps to think like one. On the edge of the popular lawn and park area, and adjacent to the ongoing work of The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind & Water, the interactive fountains are a constant source of joy for kids of all ages.
- Dining: Many Rapid City restaurants specialize in outdoor dining, taking full advantage of Downtown Rapid City’s friendly sidewalk atmosphere and mild weather. You’ll find outdoor tables at a number of favorite restaurants, along with menus that are enhanced by the seasonal bounty of fresh ingredients that summer brings. Whether you’re sipping signature cocktails at a rooftop bar or sampling regional favorites in the comfort of an indoor booth, nightlife and dining are always stellar in Rapid City.
INSPIRING ARTS & CULTURE
Rapid City is proud of the artistic expression that thrives within and around the city. Summer is a prime time to take in the creative culture outdoors and the best part is you don’t have to wander too far from the comforts of Downtown.
- Art Alley: In the center of Downtown Rapid City, you can walk from Main Street into a world of pure imagination, stunningly expressed by the local creative community. Especially vibrant under the summer sun, Art Alley, spanning between 6th and 7th Streets, is a public art project of free-form graffiti murals featuring the work of fine and emerging artists with something to say. Feel free to wander any time – you’ll often find its home to performances, photo shoots and general open-mindedness.
- Native POP: People of the Plains - A Gathering of Arts and Culture: This free mid-summer celebration in Downtown Rapid City reveals the richness and meaning of Native American culture, sharing time-honored traditions and understanding with all who attend. Join the Fifth Annual Gathering, July 15, for demonstrations of traditional and contemporary arts, storytelling and more. Highlighted by an arts market featuring original works for sale by established and emerging Great Plains Native artists and a full day of performances on the stage of Main Street Square, The Gathering will open your eyes, ears, heart and spirit.
- Art Night Downtown: Become part of the art scene as Rapid City’s creative culture is celebrated throughout the summer with a surprising interactive experience taking place every second Friday, June through September. Downtown Rapid City becomes a gallery of pop-up happenings, giving visitors a new experience around every corner. Meet artists, browse their work, listen to music, enjoy refreshments and more.
- The Sculpture Project: In the heart of Rapid City, Main Street Square is home to the largest privately funded, public art commission in the United States. Master sculptor Masayuki Nagase is currently transforming 21 granite pieces into an exquisite work entitled The Passage of Wind and Water. The sculptor returns to Rapid City this June for his fifth and final summer of work. You can see the artist carve at Main Street Square most weekdays.
- Art & Wine Festival: This hip and happy maker's market makes tasting a variety of local wine samples easy. The Art & Wine Festival is a free event combining live music, a wine pull, wine auction, ticketed tastings and eclectic booths featuring handcrafted items, artisan designs and vintage treasures for creative souls.
EVEN BETTER ATTRACTIONS
Attractions, monuments, and memorials are bustling with activity this time of year. You’ll want to take in a few extra perks offered during the summer for a complete over-the-top experience.
- City View Trolley: Take a summer tour of Rapid City on the City View Trolley, with 15 stops to some of the area’s favorite attractions. Whether you’re learning about Black Hills paleontology finds at The Journey Museum & Learning Center, visiting cherished childhood characters at Storybook Island, discovering picturesque Stavkirke Chapel or learning the history of Downtown Rapid City, you’ll be guided to points of interest in style – turn of the 20th century cable car style, that is.
- Lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore: The familiar faces of Mount Rushmore seem even grander and more imposing the moment they are dramatically lit against the night sky. It happens nightly during an evening program and lighting ceremony at twilight from late May through the end of September, featuring a presentation by a park ranger and video history of Mount Rushmore.
- Legends in Light Laser Light Show at Crazy Horse Memorial: From late May through early October, you’ll see the future come to life as Legends in Light® is displayed nightly across the massive mountain carving underway at Crazy Horse Memorial. The laser light show and multimedia presentation tells a story of cultural diversity honoring Native Americans using animation to envision the finished carving.
Storybook Island: Open for the season Memorial through Labor Day weekend, Storybook Island holds a special meaning for the young and young at heart. Take a walk through this magical theme park for a unique experience that will expand your imagination. Enjoy exploring the park on your own, jump on tour by train or enjoy a show during the summer season at the Children’s Theater. Whichever you choose, this free admission park provides enough fun for the whole family.
Reptile Gardens: Reptile Gardens has been a favorite Black Hills attraction for eight decades. Walk through the botanical gardens in the sky dome, catch a gator show and don't miss their newest, and cutest, exhibit the baby gator aquarium. In the past 80 years, Reptile Gardens has grown into the biggest Black Hills attraction and the world's largest collection of Reptiles according to the Guinness Book of World Records! Take a walk on the wild side and experience 80 years of greatness in the making.
Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Home of Rushmore Cave: Home to ziplines, zombies, mountain coasters and a 90-year-old cave! Get ready for thrilling attractions and a fantastic journey through history at Rush Mountain Adventure Park. The Soaring Eagle Zipline takes you on a flight so exciting you won't want it to end. Speaking of excitement we dare you to control yourself when you fight zombies, evil robots, or aliens in the 7D Gunslinger, see who's the best shot and battle for the highest score! Don't miss the chance to ride the Mountain Coaster, like an alpine slide but, safer, faster and way more fun! Buckle your seatbelts and prepare for the ride of your life!
THRILLING OUTDOOR RECREATION
The possibilities for outdoor summertime adventure in the Black Hills are almost limitless. Check out a few favorites:
- Rock Climbing: Rock climbing opportunities in the Black Hills are fantastic with a handful of summits and a miniature mountain range. Whether you’re in to the steep edges and overhanging walls of Falling Rock or want to hang out with the four guys at Mount Rushmore for breathtaking views, rock climbing areas around Rapid City won’t disappoint.
- Hiking and cycling: Wide-open spaces are plentiful in and around Rapid City. Whether you are hiking or cycling, these two activities are a favorite amongst visitors and locals alike. Be sure to check out a list of hiking and cycling trails for the best trails and views in and around the city.
- Watersports: With an abundance of man-made lakes and creeks, access to watersports couldn’t get any easier. Take a kayak or tube ride down Rapid Creek that will give you a different perspective of Rapid City, canoe with the ducks at Canyon Lake, enjoy the peace and serenity at Deerfield Lake or test your water skiing skills at Angostura Recreation Area.
Plan your trip around these outdoor recreation events and activities to make the most of your time in Rapid City:
- Crazy Horse Volksmarch – When was the last time you stood eye-to-chin with a legend? It could happen for you this June 3-4 at the 32nd Annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch, where you can join in the most popular organized hike in the United States. You’ll follow a 10K round-trip woodland ramble to hike up the World’s Largest Mountain Carving in progress and reach the pinnacle experience of standing on the outstretched arm of the great Lakota leader. It’s an unforgettable way to explore Crazy Horse Memorial in all its awe-inspiring glory.
- National Park Service: Fee Free Day – When the National Park Service celebrates its birthday on August 25th, the gift is all yours - free admission! Rapid City is blessed with multiple National Parks and Monuments nearby. Free entrance or cave tours at Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Devils Tower National Monument or Jewel Cave National Monument make for a perfect way to celebrate America’s Best Idea.
STELLAR SEASONAL EVENTS
Events in and around Rapid City are happening year-round, but these three events top the list for the summer season.
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: When bikers from across the globe want to get together, this is the event that tops their list. Now in its 77th year, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a bucket list experience whether you ride or just appreciate the culture. The rumble never disappoints as motorcycle enthusiasts fill the streets of nearby Sturgis to check out the latest from exhibitors, cruise the Black Hills’ spectacular highways and enjoy an epic welcome. Rapid City offers the perfect way to experience the big event, with choice accommodations, great food and plenty of rally spirit to spare.
- Central States Fair: Funnel cakes, corndogs, midway rides and grandstand shows – classic summer fun just doesn’t get any better than the Annual Central States Fair & Rodeo in Rapid City. With everything from motocross to barrel races, livestock shows to live concerts and more food-on-a-stick than you can imagine, it’s a 10-day extravaganza with everything you love about life in South Dakota.
- Hills Alive: Back for its 32nd year, the Hills Alive free summer music festival kicks off July 14 at Main Street Square. The remainder of the festival takes place July 15-16 at Memorial Park minutes from Downtown Rapid City. With more than two dozen bands from all over the country, this is one of the biggest and best free family events of the summer.