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Detailing the Dakotas

The Dakotas have long been known for their far-reaching history, rooted in the stories of their native cultures, and the westward settlers who made this rugged landscape their home.

Groups will enjoy visiting the many archaeological and historic sites featuring the area’s heritage, as well as hearing the stories of famous figures like Sacagawea and Col. George Armstrong Custer or the modern sculptors Gutzon Borglum and Korczak Ziolkowski.

These six sites are iconic destinations that draw groups from across the continent with their rich history. With three top attractions each in North  Dakota and South Dakota, your group will have plenty of options to enjoy.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse, South Dakota

The Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is on pace to be the largest rock sculpture in the world. Reaching 641 feet long and 563 feet high, the monument is already an impressive site, despite still being under construction. Groups visiting the memorial will be in awe at the size of the carving and the story of Korczak Ziolkowski and his family, who worked to make the project a reality.

Groups can take part in the Volksmarch, an organized 10-kilometer hike up the mountain sculpture that has now become the most popular organized hike in the United States. In 2017, the spring event will be the first weekend in June, and the fall date will correspond with the weekend of the Custer State Park Buffalo Round-Up, scheduled for October 1.

Another popular time to visit the monument is for the two night blasts held each year in honor of Korczak and his wife, Ruth, who began the project with Chief Standing Bear. For each night blast, fireballs and pyrotechnics spectacularly light the monument and a ceremonial blast is detonated on the sculpture. The first night blast of 2017 will take place June 26, and the second will be September 6. Groups visiting during the summer season can also see the nightly light displays on the mountain.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Keystone, South Dakota

What began as a project to honor local Western heroes has since become an international attraction in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial honors four notable U.S. presidents carved onto the granite cliff face.

Groups should make sure to stop in at the Sculptor’s Studio near the base of the Presidential Trail. Here groups can see the space where Borglum planned and led the work on the monument for the duration of the project. Among the notable items on display are the models and tools Borglum used.

During the summer, groups can enjoy the many ranger talks offered about the history of the site or stop in at the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village to learn more about the tribes and their histories in the Black Hills. Groups will not want to miss the Evening Lighting Program, which offers views of the sculpture as it is highlighted against the night sky. The Needles Highway is also popular with groups for its stunning views created by the road’s twists and turns through the mountains around Mount Rushmore.

Groups interested in including Mount Rushmore in their Black Hills itineraries will find Rapid City to be a great home base for exploring. Rapid City is close to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and many of the other popular attractions of the Black Hills.