Mount Rushmore National Memorial is South Dakota’s top attraction, with more than 2.5 million tourists visiting it in 2021. It is one of the most famous United States landmarks so people from many places and all walks of life converge here to be amazed as they check out the massive sculpture.

As expected, the place gets crowded but fret not, there are many non-touristy things to do in the park. It’s not about staying away from the masses, but learning more about the place and appreciating its rich history in a slow, calm journey. It’s a worthwhile experience here all day.

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First, Plan The Visit To Mount Rushmore

The National Park Service suggests visiting the "Shrine of Democracy" before 9:00 a.m. or after 3:30 p.m. to avoid the crowds. Here are things to remember before heading on to the place.

  • The park is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. until September 30, 2022, and until 5 p.m. beyond that date. The schedule is not fixed, so make sure to confirm it here.
  • The operational hours of the information center, visitor center, and other attractions vary so checking it beforehand is highly recommended.
  • Take note that the sculpture is not always illuminated but is most of the time lit from sunset to 11 p.m.
  • No reservation is needed, and there's no entrance fee.
  • The parking fee ranges from $10 to $50, depending on the vehicle.

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Then, Check Out These Non-Touristy Ways To Explore The Park

Fret not, though the crowds at Mount Rushmore can be intimidating for some, there are areas in the park to visit and activities to try if travelers want to be away for a while. Here are some enjoyable things to do without bumping elbows with others!

Memorial Team Ice Cream

It is believed that former president Thomas Jefferson popularized ice cream in the US when he served it at the President’s House. This founding father is even credited with the first known ice cream recipe from an American!

For those who want to try this dessert based on that historic recipe, the Memorial Team Ice Cream got them covered. Enjoy a rich vanilla ice cream and grab some more to enjoy the accompanying park views.

Self-Guided Tour

How about a self-guided tour instead? That way, travelers can really take their time, especially soloists who want to be far from groups so they can have an immersive experience in the park.

  • Audio Tour: This recorded guide is filled with lessons about the memorial, matched by music and sound effects. What's more, guests can listen to recordings of sculptors Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum, American Indians, and workers who were behind the majestic memorial.
  • Multimedia Tour: This 29-stop tour is packed with photos and videos, perfect for those who want to have visuals when they're learning about history. With this, guests can dig deeper about why the mountain was carved.
  • Rental fee: $6 for the audio tour and $8 for the multimedia tour.

Evening Lighting Ceremony

Not all guests have the energy to stay in the park until after sunset and those who do are in for a treat. The evening trip with a ranger will let guests see the nighttime beauty of the sculpture as it slowly illuminates.

  • The tour is free of charge and runs from May to September.
  • It starts with a ranger talk and is followed by a film showing of Freedom: America's Lasting Legacy.

It’s the start of a good night.

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Have A Sustainable Food Experience

Foodies will have a healthy dining experience at Mount Rushmore, thanks to sustainable options promoted here. Concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection made sure that when travelers eat here, they are also supporting the community. After all, the food offered in the park is locally sourced.

Carvers' Café is the only eatery in the park, and they serve a variety of foods for all types of guests. It is also the only four-star restaurant in the state. Sustainable cuisine has never been this good. One can take their time dining here as there’s always more coming in!

Take Up Geocaching At Mount Rushmore

Geocaching is an activity where travelers will need to hunt for a hidden object with the help of GPS coordinates posted online. It’s a fun-filled activity for friends and families as it keeps them engaged, all the while enjoying the scenery.

Since geocaching is not part of everyone’s agenda, guests can try their luck finding hidden gems at Mount Rushmore, Rapid City, Custer State Park, and the Black Hills. Start searching for trinkets and hide some for others. Experience the joy of this activity and test those scavenging skills. It might be the start of a new hobby.

Another hobby to try at the park is rockhounding or amateur geology. Rocks abound in the area, especially in the Black Hills, so expect to find various minerals. Rockhounds will surely go home with smiles on their faces knowing their collection will grow.

Some of the minerals that can be scored here are feldspar, copper, rose quartz, Fairburn agate (South Dakota's official gem), geodes, and many more. There’s always something new to try, and rock collecting might be the takeaway after a Mount Rushmore visit.

It’s time to get out there and enjoy the majestic sculpture featuring some of the nation’s greatest statesmen. Mount Rushmore is not one to be missed – it’s big – and it’s a testament to the American dream. It’s always a proud moment visiting this place, no wonder it’s a world-known landmark.

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