Cowboy hats and boots are more than a fashion statement in western South Dakota, otherwise known as God's country. South Dakota's cowboy and western culture is rooted deep with the hard work, independence and love of the land set forth by the pioneers who settled here and whose traditions still exist today.
Start your day off in Rapid City by visiting The Journey Museum & Learning Center where you will take an incredible trek along a 200+ year timeline. Watch the epic story of the first South Dakota human inhabitants, the paleo-Indians, then the Lakota Sioux nation unfold, followed by the early settlers that established homesteads here, some of which still exist today. Pioneers in western South Dakota exemplified the qualities of perseverance, courage, ingenuity, self-reliance, faith and community spirit that allowed this region to prosper under adverse and sometimes cruel conditions. True Grit.
Continue your journey in Downtown Rapid City to Prairie Edge Trading Company & Galleries. Step into a world of meaning, tradition and exquisitely crafted beauty in this gallery with museum-quality items on display for purchase.
While downtown, also enjoy a self-guided tour of our nation's past leaders cast in bronze touring The City of Presidents. Be sure to snap a photo with Presidential pioneers and cowboys —T. Roosevelt, Coolidge and Reagan. A guided walking tour is also available for your group from Rapid City Walking Tours. Advanced reservations required.
Just south of Rapid City, take a tour through one of America's largest state parks — Custer State Park — with wildlife encounters including a herd of American Bison numbering over 1,000. Buffalo Safari Jeep Rides* are available for closer encounters or enjoy the Park's free roaming buffalo, pronghorn antelope, deer, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and the famous begging burros on your coach via Wildlife Loop Road.
Enjoy lunch at State Game Lodge & Resort. The Game Lodge restaurant features local game and has a long-standing tradition of excellence in the Black Hills. Officially known as the "Summer White House" for President Coolidge, much of the restaurant's decor is true to its original form.
Alternate Option: Visit the 777 Ranch, a real-working buffalo ranch where select scenes were filmed for Dances with Wolves. Tours are available for private groups upon request.
In true western spirit, enjoy the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, home to hundreds of wild American, Spanish, and Sulphur mustangs roaming free across wind sweapt prairies and the Cheyenne River canyon. Your guided tour includes Native American ceremonial sites, ancient petroglyphs, weathered early pioneer homesteads and a restored one-room school house.
Don't forget, everything is larger than life in the West — especially Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota's Black Hills. See Native American warrior Crazy Horse being carved into the world's largest sculpture or view our Shrine of Democracy, where the faces of four former presidents are sculpted in stone.
Returning to Rapid City, end your day with a true western chuckwagon dinner! With three great chuckwagons located in the greater Rapid City area, your group will enjoy toe-tappin', boot-scootin', cowboy food and fun! Each chuckwagon dinner offers its own unique cuisine and entertainment.
IT'S RODEO TIME
For groups wishing to experience more of our cowboy culture, consider attending area rodeos or livestock shows held throughout the year — after all, rodeo is designated as South Dakota's state sport!
The Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo held in January is the largest agriculture and western event in the state of South Dakota. Experience a true western cultural event with professional rodeo performances, livestock and equine auctions and competitive events, ranch rodeo, over 300 vendors, featuring western tack, leatherwork, agricultural supplies, art, western wear and more.
After a long day of exploring Rapid City and the Black Hills, make sure your group unsaddles and hangs their hat at one of many Rapid City accommodations — several with a western theme!
*Denotes a seasonal attraction.
Note to tour planner: This is just a small offering of the western heritage we have in the Rapid City & Black Hills area. Contact the Tourism team at the Convention & Visitors Bureau for additional suggestions to build your tour.