Because of iconic staples like the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and outdoor beauty, millions of tourists find their way to the Black Hills of South Dakota each year. While taking the touristy route is one way to travel, the Black Hills have just as much to offer the wanderer who prefers to go as local as possible. From local wineries to unique hikes, if you look into a few of these local-approved suggestions you’ll find a unique side of South Dakota that you didn’t know existed.
Stroll Through Art Alley
Whether you’re en route to Mount Rushmore or roaming the streets of Rapid City to check out the presidents that dot the corners , taking a walk through Art Alley is a must for anyone spending time in or passing through this city. It showcases the creative culture of Rapid City in a way that nothing else can—some of it is simply beautiful, some of it is funny, and all of it is great.
Soak Up the Season at Summer Nights
If you love the outdoors and also enjoy some good tunes now and then (um, who doesn’t?) then Rapid City’s Summer Nights is perfect for you. Located on West St. Joseph's Street and 7th Street, the festivities are completely free, family friendly, and feature local musicians. Also, it’s entirely run by volunteers, so at the very least it’s a great place to go to source local advice on what to check out next.
Catch an Outdoor Flick at Roy’s
Just outside Hermosa you’ll find Roy’s Black Hills Twin, a drive-in movie theater that just so happens to be the first completely digital movie theater in the country. For a few bucks you can enjoy the fabulously retro drive-in experience with updated amenities and killer food offerings like pizza, walking tacos (a midwestern staple), and corn dogs, along with traditional movie offerings like candy and buttered popcorn. On the road date night, anyone?
Watch the Sunrise from Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak is the highest point in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the highest point east of the Rockies. The vista is accessible via a 3.5-mile (one way) hike from Custer State Park's Sylvan Lake and culminates at 7,242 feet above sea level with a stone lookout tower. It is a magical place to take in the transitions of the sun. Black Elk, a famous medicine man of the Lakota tribe, is said to have experienced a vision there.
Feast at the Alpine Inn (with your pup!)
Once you’ve wrapped up a hike to Black Elk Peak, refuel with some delicious eats at Alpine Inn, a beautiful spot nestled away in Hill City. For those new to the Midwest, the German menu is simply not to be missed. If you’re looking for local cuisine, you’ve found it. The best part is that their patio is pup-friendly, so you don’t have to leave Fido at home.
Enjoy Some Local Vino
If you like to eat and drink your way through a new location, Prairie Berry Winery and Kitchen is a must-stop. With two locations in Hill City and Sioux Falls and featuring wine made in the Black Hills, their wine selection offers a hyperlocal way to wet your whistle. The locals go wild for their rhubarb wine and you will too.
Run Buzzard’s Roost Trail
If you’re a runner, Black Hills Runners Club has all the info you need to get your mileage in like a local. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the choices (maybe you’ll just have to stay and try them all?), give Buzzard’s Roost Trail a go—it’s got more than eight miles of trail and the view from the lookout point at the top is definitely not to be missed.
Originally written for South Dakota Tourism.