Mount Rushmore is one of the iconic places in America to visit.
The grand faces of the USA stare at you boldly out of a mountain.
But are there fun things to do with kids after you’re done taking in the monument?
There are actually so many fun things to do near Mount Rushmore with kids!
Mount Rushmore makes a great family vacation.
What may seem like a simple visit to a monument can easily turn into days of fun and adventure.
If you’re looking for a fun family vacation, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do near Mount Rushmore for the whole family.
Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area isn’t just fun.
It’s educational. It’s adventurous. It is beautiful!
What to do at Mount Rushmore with Kids
1. See the Monument
First and foremost, make plans to see Mount Rushmore up close. The creators of the monument wanted it to be accessible to all people for free. So, there is no entrance fee to go see Mount Rushmore.
HOWEVER, there is a fee to park.
It’s only $10 for the whole car to enter and park.
And it is good for a year, so you can come at night to see Mount Rushmore lit up, and then come back in the morning to see it in the daylight.
There are pictures all over the internet of Mount Rushmore. You’ve probably seen a million, but in person it is majestic! It is huge, and detailed, and beautiful.
The inspiring monument took about 14 years to create. While it may not compare to Rocky Mountain National Park’s 14,000 foot mountains, Mount Rushmore sits just under 6,000 feet (5,725 to be exact), making it an easy adjustment to visit from lower elevations.
2. Visit the Creator’s Studio
The Creator’s Studio is a fun, interactive place to learn about the monument. This is full of fun information on the creation of Mount Rushmore as well as displays and lesser known facts (did you know there are hidden vaults in the monument?!)
3. Go up the Presidential Trail at Mount Rushmore
Looking for an alternate view of the monument? The standard spot is right in front, but you can also take the Presidential Trail which takes you a bit closer and farther up.
There are quite a few stairs, but it’s not too bad and kids can handle it fine.
Things to do Near Mount Rushmore with Kids
4. Wildlife Loop and Black Hills
Custer State Park
One of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore is to drive the scenic Wildlife Loop.
Find it by going through the Black Hills Forest (a few miles from Mount Rushmore) and take a scenic ride through nature to access the Wildlife Loop. It’s basically driving through a national forest for an hour, and it is gorgeous! Once you actually get to Wildlife Loop, it’s about another hour.
The great thing about Wildlife Loop Road is…you guessed it…all the wildlife. There are herds and herds of buffalo!
There are also donkeys, which have been brought over domestically to the area way back when, but now are roaming wild. The donkeys WILL come right up to your car and up to you if you have food. So don’t stand behind them or you risk getting kicked.
5. Paddle on Legion Lake with the Kids
12967 US-16A, Custer
This is one of the most relaxing, scenic, and fun things to in the Black Hills with kids. You can find Legion Lake just off interstate 16A, not far from the south entrance to Needles Highway.
Everyone talks about Sylvan Lake, but no one mentions Legion Lake. This makes it one of the greatest little gems of the Mount Rushmore area.
The main building here has a shop, bathrooms, food, and non-motorized rentals. Make sure to take the opportunity to coast along the waters of the lake. You can rent a kayak, canoe, or SUP. It is around $20 per person per hour of rental.
The lake was beautiful to go around; tall rock mountainsides on one end and a nice beach on the other (plus a park for the kids). The kids will have a blast canoeing, perhaps for the first time. This is a must do activity near Mount Rushmore.
6. Jewel Cave
11149 US-16, Custer
Once you’ve enjoyed the lake, take the short drive over to Jewel Cave. Jewel Cave is one of the best attractions near Mount Rushmore.
The Discovery Tour is the best choice for those traveling with little ones. This tour takes you to the main cavern where you stay and learn about the cave system.
If you have older kids, you may opt for a different tour which takes you deeper into the cave and other rooms. These tours require more mobility as there are stairs to access the different areas.
The youngest guests can enter for just a dollar, and the price increases up to $16 for adults.
After paying, you’ll take an elevator down in to the depths of Jewel Cave.
A guide shares some knowledge of the cave system (only a small fraction of this giant system has been explored) and allows the kids to hold different pieces of limestone, stalagmite, and other rocks.
It’s a great, unique, and educational activity to bring the kids on that everyone will enjoy.
Note that it is a little chilly in the cave. Most people will be wearing sweatshirts, even in the summertime.
7. Cool off at Sylvan Lake
24571 SD-87, Custer
Here is the lake you have probably heard of. It’s a hot spot of fun in the Black Hills area.
This lake is gorgeous, but is Sylvan Lake swimmable?
This lake is gorgeous! In the second National Treasure movie, the camera quickly pans over this lake. It is beautiful from the road, and even more gorgeous when you are close and experiencing it.
To Hike Around Sylvan Lake:
For a longer route to enjoy, take a little hike by parking and heading clockwise around the lake to arrive at the beach area.
This isn’t recommended if you have a stroller as there are a few areas you’ll have to lift and carry the stroller over. But if you have older ones who can walk on their own, this is a fun way to explore the area a little, and is not very long of a hike.
But if you do have a stroller (or just don’t want the longer hike around), park and head counterclockwise to take you quickly and easily to the beach area.
The water here is chilly, but not freezing. It is shallow for a bit, and then suddenly drops. The setting is spectacular.
The lake is beautiful in and of itself, but then you are greeted tall rock formations jetting tall out of the water really adding that “wow” factor. The landscape was gorgeous and makes for a peaceful way to end the day.
There are so many other places to see while near Mount Rushmore! You might initially think there will be nothing to do, but there is actually SO much to do that you won’t have time for everything!
9. Big Thunder Gold Mine
604 Blair St, Keystone
This great attraction is located right in Keystone, not far from the great monument. It’s a great, family-friendly place to learn about history, take a mine tour, and even grab some lunch.
Learn about the Gold Rush in 1876, witness a large display of mining equipment, and pan for gold!
10. Drive Needles Highway
Begin at US-16 and SD-87
This iconic highway was completed just about a hundred years ago in 1922. The family will love winding through narrow roads surrounded by tall, sharp rock formations.
The highway is part of Custer State Park and consists of 14 miles along SD Highway 87.
Kids will love winding through tunnels, viewing spire, and drooling over scenic landscapes.
11. Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse SD
About 40 minutes from Mount Rushmore is another inspiring carved face within the mountain.
Crazy Horse memorial celebrates a leader of the Lakota tribe with its own monument.
Crazy Horse was born about 40 miles from the monument. During his time, cultures were clashing. He was a leader among his Oglala Dakota tribe and set off to defend them. He was killed in Fort Robinson, Nebraska in 1877.
The monument was originally planned to be created in Nebraska. But when the project leader was approached by Standing Bear, the cousin of Crazy Horse, he agreed that the monument should be near his biological family. Even more, he agreed the monument should be in the sacred land of the Black Hills.
When you visit Crazy Horse, you will not only gain education and inspiring stories of local tribes, but you will be supporting the preservation of its culture.
12. Bear Country
13820 US-16, Rapid City
This is quite a drive up to Rapid City, but sounds amazing. As this is a few hours from Mt. Rushmore, this will require the whole day to visit Bear Country.
But once you’re there, you could experience wolves, bears, buffalo, badgers, beavers, bobcats, and more in this wildlife park where the animals roam free.
As long as you’ve made the drive, be sure to stop at…
13. Reptile Gardens
8955 US-16, Rapid City
Reptile Gardens is also in Rapid City. Here you can experience flowers and plants, but also crocodiles, eagles, turtles. Reptile gardens hosts more venomous species of reptiles than any zoo in the world!
14. Explore Badlands National Park
Pinnacles Entrance: 24240 SD-240, Wall
This national park doesn’t get the attention it should. The landscapes of eroded rock formations in this land of stone and light are breathtaking.
Badlands is about 1-1/2 hours away from Mount Rushmore. It’s worth the drive to see some of the world’s richest fossil beds among stunning landscapes. You could even combine it with Wind Cave to make a little National Parks road trip with the kids.
And if you’re able to go at night, you can witness up to 7,500 stars in the glowing night sky. Talk about a postcard in real life!
Fun Things to do Near Mount Rushmore with Kids
With so many things to do near Mount Rushmore with kids, it makes the perfect family getaway. Whether you have a weekend or a week, you’ll have plenty of options for making memories.
Drive up to Bear Country or along Wildlife Loop for a chance to see animals in their natural habitat. Or take an educational trip back in time on a Mine Tour or to Crazy Horse Monument,.
The main attraction, of course, is seeing Mount Rushmore. But after you’ve taken in the majesty of this monument, spend a few days exploring the many things to do nearby in the Black Hills with the kids to make it a memorable vacation.
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