Hop on the Chuckwagon

The Black Hills of South Dakota is a destination like no other. It is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers and families looking for adventure. While you can choose to drive along the mountains, fields and national parks for a self guided tour, a fun alternative is a day long Southern Black Hills Tour and Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Music Show with Mount Rushmore Tour Company.

They pick you up from your hotel in the morning and bring you to their base camp, the Fort Hays Chuckwagon, which was a set for the movie, Dances with Wolves. Here you have an hour to check in, eat a Cowboy style breakfast of biscuits and gravy and look around the neat little re-enacted country village. Kids and adults can watch as the staff demonstrates how to  make sturdy ropes, weld your own tin plates or stamp your coins. The whole display is pretty quaint as you become a spectator of the 18th century.

Once we hit the road, the first stop is at Mount Rushmore, one of the historic sites in the United States and a symbols of hope and freedom. The colossal carvings will leave you breathless so plan to spend a half hour soaking in the sights. Take a hike along the base as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt watch over you. Then go inside and watch the movie about making of Mount Rushmore.

Did you know? Mount Rushmore is named after New York City attorney Charles E. Rushmore, who came to the Black Hills in 1884-85 to check legal titles on properties. On returning to Pine Camp he asked Bill Challis the name of this mountain. Bill replied, “Never had a name but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore.”

From there you will head on the famous Iron Mountain Road where you wind over the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway  through scenic tunnels and pigtail bridges. The guide will make frequent stops to show you glimpses of Mount Rushmore through the tunnels and trees as you drive through the curvy Black Hills. Some of the tunnels are so small that you wouldn’t image a bus passing through but sure enough, you manage with no elbow room to spare!

Next stop is at the State Game Lodge at Custer State Park. On the way, you will definitely be able to spot some wildlife (buffalo, burros, antelope, elk, and rocky mountain bighorn sheep) as you go around the 18-mile Wildlife Loop so be on the lookout. The State Game lodge offers some of the best beef and buffalo on the menu. Try the buffalo soup or a cheeseburger and you won’t be disappointed!

Note: Lunch is not included with the tour ticket. Make sure to pack your snacks for the long ride. 

After lunch, you  continue through Custer State Park up Needles Highway passing through  scenic overlooks and making your way to the famous, Sylvan Lake.  Sylvan Lake was  featured in the movie National Treasures 2 and is a backdrop for brochures on South Dakota.

Did you know? There are no natural lakes in South Dakota. All lakes includeing, Sylvan Lake are man made. 

The last spot for sightseeing is the Crazy Horse Mountain and Memorial the largest mountain carving in the world,  a memorial of Lakota leader Crazy Horse. The sculptor Korzak Ziolkowski started working on Crazy Horse in 1948 with the mission to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians. His family and the foundation are still continuing to use precise engineering to shape the mountain.

Korczak Ziolkowski left behind many quotations on dreaming big, aiming high and living life. One of them was ” Don’t forget your dreams.”

The tour ends back at the Fort Hays Chuckwagon where you will have some more time to look around the shops and perhaps get your souvenirs before entering the dinner theater.  Once the supper bell rings, everyone takes their seats and is ready for a cowboys style dinner on tin plates and tin cups. The menu is customized to give you the authentic experience of eating like a Cowboy after a hard day’s work. You have BBQ beef,  grilled chicken, baked potatoes in foil, baked beans, homemade biscuits, applesauce and old-fashion spice cake  for dessert. 

The day ends on a high note when the Fort Hays Wranglers take the stage for over an hour of music and comedy.  The Cowboy Music Variety Show includes stand up comedy, country singing, bluegrass, 80’s hits, fiddle playing and even Elvis! Good clean fun is suitable for all ages and you will find everyone singing and dancing along to the music. The Fort Hays Wrangles are one of the best performing groups and you can buy tickets to just the dinner and the show if you don’t want to do the whole day tour.

Here’s a video to give you a glimpse of the show.

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to over 90 countries across 7 continents. She is also the founder and editor of 'Go Eat Give' and author of 'Beato Goes To' series of children's books on travel.

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