History Buff Haven
There’s no denying that Keystone’s history is varied and captivating. While Mount Rushmore is the biggest game in town — literally — we have more to offer here in town that will keep your vacation packed with amazing new discoveries. This itinerary can be done in one fairly jam-packed day, or spread out over 2 or 3 days for a more leisurely pace.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial & Xanterra The Gift shop at Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a bucket list stop for many Americans, for good reason! This marvel of modern engineering and determination is an awesome sight to behold. From the history of the first inhabitants of the Black Hills to the diversity of Americans today, the memorial immerses visitors in the rich heritage of our nation.
If you have the time, you can spend all day at Mount Rushmore. If not, check out the Sculptor’s Studio for exhibits on the carving of the mountain. The Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village is a fantastic place to explore the history of the Native American tribes that call this region home. Finally, try and catch a ranger walk and talk. They’re around 30 minutes long, and give visitors a hands-on experience of the memorial. Before you leave, make sure to stop in the gift shop and find the perfect souvenir of your visit to the Shrine of Democracy.
National Presidential Wax Museum
Continue your presidential history lesson at the National Presidential Wax Museum. You’ll get up close and personal with all of our nation’s presidents from George Washington through present day. Presidents are displayed within a visual recreation of iconic moments in our nation’s history. There are also exhibits on our nation’s flags, oil paintings by illustrator Harvey Dunn, and original voting booths from the 2000 presidential election. If you have kids in your group, be sure to ask about the scavenger hunt at ticket sales. If they find the answer to 20 questions throughout the museum they can receive a free prize.
Big Thunder Gold Mine and Big Thunder Family Bar & Grill
For lunch, check out the Big Thunder Family Bar & Grill. They specialize in wild game, including elk, buffalo, duck and rattlesnake. Enjoy a miner’s pastie or an Indian Taco, both local favorites here in the hills, and rest up for the afternoon’s adventures!
After lunch, get ready to head underground and experience the industry that put Keystone on the map: gold mining. The Big Thunder Gold Mine museum is a replica of the Tycoon Gold Mill built in 1895. They have thousands of artifacts taken from mines in the Black Hills as they were closed, and expert guides that will walk you through the process of extracting gold from the ground. After the museum and tour, be sure to try your hand at gold panning — you just might strike it rich!
Keystone Historical Museum
Round out your history tour at the Keystone Historical Museum. Once a Victorian schoolhouse that taught the children of Keystone, the museum is now home to artifacts of the people who made our town great. Highlights include Carrie Ingalls, who was the younger sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder; David Swanzey, gold prospector and the man who named Mount Rushmore; Peter Norbeck, South Dakota Congressman who championed Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway; and displays on the gold rush and tin boom that were the backbone of Keystone’s economy in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Ruby House Restaurant
After a full day, head downtown for dinner at the Ruby House. Their dining room has elegant turn-of-the-century decor that will whisk you back to the early 1900s. The establishment itself is a testament to the hardiness of Keystone residents, as it has been rebuilt several times after a flood in 1972 and fire in 2003. History buffs and art lovers alike will appreciate the original buffalo hide paintings done by local artist Paha Ska, not to mention antiques and artifacts as old as Keystone.