Deadwood, South Dakota is a monument to the lawless, savage old west. The town was named a National Historic Landmark because of the age and architecture of its buildings. Many of them were built before 1900 and are examples of "frontier-style" construction. When General Custer announced the discovery of gold there in 1874, between 15,000 and 25,000 people flocked to the nearly uninhabited site in fewer than ten years. Their presence there was illegal since the national government had promised the land to the Lakota tribe.
The local disregard for law and order didn't stop there. The opium market and prostitution thrived. The murder rate skyrocketed. The population continued to grow until the 1879 fire burnt down 300 buildings, leaving many of Deadwood's residents homeless. Today, it is smaller; the most recent census put the population at around 1200. The nearby Homestake Mine was the US's longest continuous producer of gold until it closed in 2002. Whether visitors are history buffs or just looking to have a fun weekend, they'll love Deadwood.
Vacationers will want to take it easy on Friday night and blow off the week's steam. That makes it the perfect time for a quick dinner and a taste of Deadwood's nightlife on Main Street. In the meantime, visitors will witness Deadwood Alive's complementary reenactment of a famous shootout.
Dinner At Mustang Sally's
Mustang Sally's is a top-rated restaurant right on Main Street in Deadwood. The pub and diner serve traditional American fare, and it won't cost guests a fortune. Mustang Sally's is the perfect place to get a burger and fries after the drive into town.
Anyone who gets into town before 6 PM should ask for outdoor seating. That way diners can watch the Boone May and Prescott Webb Affray reenactment just across the street in front of the Wild Bill Bar and Celebrity Hotel.
Fun At Buffalo Bodega Saloon
Visitors should take the opportunity to stroll up and down the town's historic center in the warm summer evening. It's an opportunity to see Deadwood's iconic frontier-style architecture before downing a few drinks.
People who find themselves in front of the nearby Saloon #10 at 7:35 PM can watch a second reenactment. This time they'll see the Capture of Jack McCall. If they follow the crowd to the Wild Bill Theater, guests can see McCall's trial at 8 PM.
Next, travelers in Deadwood can hang out at the Buffalo Bodega Saloon. Legend has it that this bar was one of Buffalo Bill Cody's favorite haunts. After 9 PM on Fridays, this Main Street bar offers karaoke.
Hopefully, visitors get a good night's sleep on Friday. There's plenty to see around Deadwood and that means a busy Saturday.
Adams Museum and the Historic Adams House
After sleeping in, guests can visit the Adams Museum. It opens every day during the summer at 9:00. As they take the entertaining tour, visitors will learn about the history of Deadwood and the Blackhills. They'll see incredible old west memorabilia like Potato Creek Johnny's original 7.346 troy ounce gold nugget. While the museum doesn't charge an entrance fee, the management suggests that people leave a five-dollar donation per visitor.
Next, tourists can visit the Historic Adams House. When a wealthy family built this home in 1892, it signaled that the town was changing, becoming more respectable and prosperous. The Adams family purchased the home and lived there until 1934 when W. E. Adams passed away. The house sat abandoned for 50 years with everything just as it was--sheet music on the piano and cookies in the cookie jar. In the 90s, the Deadwood Historic Preservation Society purchased and restored the home.
- Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for children between 6 and 12 years old
Lawman's Patrol Walking Tour
Most summer Saturdays at noon people can take a walking tour of the town with actors from Deadwood Alive. The experience lasts about an hour and costs $15. Interested parties must make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance.
After seeing the sights, it's time for a quick, affordable lunch at Marco's Pizza or one of the other downtown restaurants.
There are few places left in the world where passengers can ride on an authentic steam engine. Visitors will love doing just this on the 1880s Train. This restored engine travels over the steep terrain between Hill City and Keystone. The Hill City Depot is just an hour's drive from downtown Deadwood. At peak tourist season, the train makes the trek four times a day. The round-trip journey takes about two and a half hours, so jumping on the locomotive at the 2:30 PM departure will get tourists back in Hill City by 5 PM. They'll return to Deadwood just in time for dinner.
Visitors should enjoy dinner at a restaurant like Deadwood Legends Steakhouse. This top-rated joint serves delicious steaks, aged 21 days.
- Cost: $32 for adults and 16 for children under 12 years old. It's best to make a reservation ahead of time.
On visitors' last morning in Deadwood, they should make the trip to nearby Lead, South Dakota. There, they can take the tour of a gold mine to get more acquainted with the mineral that sparked Deadwood's birth.
Sanford Lab Homestake Gold Mine
The Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center is open from 9 Am, but the first guided tour starts at 10 AM. Guests can take this tour for a fee. Their guide will take them through downtown Lead, show them the astounding 1000 ft. Open Cut, and explain the mining equipment used at the site. Before heading out of town, travelers can grab Sunday lunch at one of Deadwood's or Lead's restaurants.
Deadwood makes for a fabulous weekend vacation. Visitors will leave South Dakota's most famous town knowing more about US history and having had a fantastic time.