This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series
Looking for things to do at Mount Rushmore other than just standing there, looking at the monument and doing your best Owen Wilson impression?
Don’t worry, y’all. I got you. Mount Rushmore is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been and I’ll give you the tools you need to have a great time.
My Top 10 Things To Do at Mount Rushmore
Make Friends with the Goats
When my sister and I first arrived at Mount Rushmore, the mountain goats standing outside the entrance were realllly still. Their fur was blowing softy in the wind, but their lack of overall movement made me think they were fake. As I moved closer to investigate, I kept bracing myself, thinking at any moment this goat was going to lunge at me, or at least blink.
But it didn’t.
So I walked closer and closer until this woman, let’s call her Karen from Nebraska, walked past and laughed, “Girls, those are statues! You don’t need to act so scared.”
Jokes on you Karen from Nebraska. A statue doesn’t try to bite your hand when you reach out to touch it. Way to go Mount Rushmore staff, your seemingly innocuous attack goats are working as intended.
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Eat at Carver’s Café
I usually don’t eat at National Parks, or other major tourist attractions, because you usually just end up with overpriced, nasty airport-quality food. But I knew I wanted to eat at Mount Rushmore because an iconic scene from North by Northwest was filmed in the Mount Rushmore cafeteria so it was one of the things to do at Mount Rushmore that I couldn’t miss.
Give me the opportunity to walk where Cary Grant once walked or give me death tbh.
My sister and I were actually in for a nice surprise because the food ended up being delicious (tasted home-cooked, really) and reasonably priced. You also can’t beat the views of the boys from the amazing floor-to-ceiling windows.
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Buy a Kitschy Souvenir
Y’all. Mount Rushmore has a wealth of souvenirs to pick from. T-shirts? Check. Shot glasses? In stock. Ridiculous magnets? Ready to go.
If you’re going to visit a place as well-known and commercial as Mount Rushmore National Monument, then you might as well invest in a fun souvenir to remember your all-American presidential vacation.
“Hike” the Presidential Trail
I put hike in quotations here because this trail is a fully paved, .6 mile leisurely stroll, but calling it a hike just makes it sound a lot more exciting. If you’d like to do some real hiking, then you can head to nearby Badlands National Park, but if strolling along a nicely-wooded path under the watchful eye of four former presidents carved into stone sounds like a fun way to kill 20 minutes, then this is the activity for you.
It was actually fun y’all. When I went during the spring, there was hardly anyone else there, so it felt like I was getting a private tour.
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Reenact National Treasure or North by Northwest
In college, I took a class on Alfred Hitchcock’s films and my favorite one was North by Northwest. I loved the capers, the soundtrack, and of course, Cary Grant.
I actually ended up writing my final paper on the infamous “Crop Duster Scene” and how the lack of music in the moment contributes to the terror of being exposed, so standing at the base of the monument was one of my favorite things to do at Mount Rushmore because I got to imagine the movie’s final chase unfolding right in front of me.
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Take a Selfie with the Boys
They are already posing for you, so it seems like a waste of a trip if you don’t get a couple of good shots of you and the Presidents on Mount Rushmore cheesing for the camera.
Extra points if you pick their noses because let’s be honest, we are all children here.
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Literally just Stand There and Stare at the Mountain
I tend to do this with all famous landmarks. Catching me staring at Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and now Mount Rushmore with my mouth open for a good five minutes before speaking.
I’ll probably do this when I visit the Grand Canyon later this year as well. It’s a cool moment, when you’ve grown up seeing something in pictures and on TV and then suddenly it’s right there in front of you.
There’s plenty of spots on the Mount Rushmore grounds to pause for a good look. Make sure to soak these moments in.
Tour the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center
The center teaches you how to actually pronounce Borglum (it’s a mouthful), the history of Mount Rushmore’s construction, why the area was picked, and what the monument was actually supposed to look like.
I always like to learn about the “what ifs” and “almosts” of major events in American History, so this all was a real treat. If you breeze through, you could spend about 30 minutes in the center, but if you’d like to take your time you could spend well over an hour taking everything in.
Watch the 14-Minute Movie about Mount Rushmore’s History
One of the best things to do at Mount Rushmore. Whether you watch the movie about Mount Rushmore to actually learn about how it came to be, or you’d just like to get some quick shut eye in a dark room is totally up to you.
I may or may not have stayed in the theater for 28 minutes and “watched” the film twice through so that I could experience both of these options.
Take in the Sculpture’s Studio
The Sculpture’s Studio is only open seasonally, so when I went in early spring it hadn’t geared up for the new season yet, but if you are there when it’s ready for tours, be sure to stop in to learn more about the techniques and history behind carving giant presidential faces into the side of a mountain.
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