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15 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Keystone, South Dakota

keystone town in summer

An often underrated but charming little town is Keystone, South Dakota.  Are you visiting Mount Rushmore and wondering what else there is to do near it?  Look no further, because I’m going to share in detail all of the family-friendly activities to do or see while visiting one of the country’s most famous monuments!

Keystone, South Dakota is home to many family-friendly recreation and tourist experiences including art, adventure parks, train rides, museums, shopping, goldmines, cycling, water recreation, and restaurants. This article will be a quick guided journey through many of these activities so anyone can alter their itinerary to fit in as many or as few as they would like. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy!

I’m Brandi and I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can’t wait to give you some helpful information on one of my favorite towns. Keep reading as I highlight some of the best things to see and do!

Some activities in Keystone are more unique than others. Although everyone has their own opinion, I will rank them based on my experiences and will factor in uniqueness and value. I will base my ratings on a scale from 1-4. 1 will mean you can potentially skip this activity or save it for another trip while 4 will mean this is something you definitely don’t want to skip!

ActivityTime NeededCostRatingYear-round
1880 Train3 hours (minimum)$$$3May-Oct
Big Thunder Goldmine1-4 hours$-$$$2Mar-Oct
Rushmore Borglum Story1-2 hours$1May-Oct
Dahl Chainsaw Artless than an hourFree4Year round
Helicopter Tours10 min to 1 hour$$$$3May-Oct
Holy Terror Mini Golf2 hours$2May-Sept
Horsethief Lake1-6 hoursFree2Year-round
Keystone Historical Museum1-2 hoursFree1May-Sept
Mount Rushmore1-6 hoursFree4Year-round
National Presidential Wax Museum30 min to 2 hours$2Apr-Oct
Old Time Photos1 hour$$2May-Oct
Rush Mountain Adventure Park1-4 hours$$$2May-Oct
Rushmore Tramway Adventures1-3 hours$-$$$3May-Sept
Shopping1-3 Hours$-$$$4May-Oct
Sprockets Fun Foundry1-2 Hours$$-$$$$Year-roundYear-round

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore and Thomas Jefferson recipe vanilla ice cream

Of course, everyone coming to Keystone on vacation is usually planning on checking out Mount Rushmore. This world-famous monument housing the faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt draws in millions per year and is a must-see attraction

My favorite thing to do at the Monument is to hike the Presidential Trail. The trail takes you up to the closest view possible, right under their faces, and has other optimal photo spots along the way! Grab a scoop of Thomas Jefferson’s famous vanilla ice cream. Ok, he didn’t personally make it but it is his original recipe.

Mount Rushmore has lots to offer and tons to do, so give yourself up to 3 hours’ time just to be sure you can do everything you want, especially in the summer. You can hike, watch a movie, tour the museum, bookstore, and gift shop, and have a great meal. If you have the time, I highly recommend the nighttime lighting ceremony. That’s my favorite time to visit and it’s only during the summer months.

There is no admission fee to get in but there is a small parking fee on the way out. Be sure to pay before you try to exit the monument to save yourself time and hassle.

1880 Train

Keystone is home to one of the coolest train attractions I’ve ever experienced!  You’ll jump aboard an authentically restored steam engine train from the late 1800s that will transport you back in time.  Enjoy a round-trip excursion from Keystone to Hill City and back for some historical commentary and a glimpse into some of the beauty of the Black Hills.

I took this round-trip excursion in the fall and was blown away by the scenery along the way. Sitting on the opposite side on the way back is a great way to see both sides. Once the train whistle blew, I felt like a little kid visiting Disneyland. Such a great time for families and train enthusiasts!

For more information, you can check out my article, “The 1880 Train in South Dakota: Should You Ride It?

keystone 1880 train depot

Helicopter Tours

What better way to view the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore than an adventurous Helicopter tour?  Keystone has two different places to hop on a chopper and get an exciting tour.  There are multiple packages to choose from ranging from about $60 to almost $300. If ever you want to experience a scenic helicopter tour then this is the one you should book.

Though it’s something I have yet to do, the family members I know who went said nothing but great things. The reviews are all glowing and it looks like you can’t go wrong on where you book it. When I have my turn I’ll be giving a fun (and honest) review!  I get motion sickness so it will be interesting!

Places to Book Include:

Rushmore Tramway Adventures

Rushmore Tramway Adventures is located in the very heart of downtown Keystone, wedged between shopping and hotels.  Here you can zip line, ride an alpine slide, go down a steep tubing hill, ride a scenic chairlift, do a ropes course, and more!  

For a scenic lunch, hop on the chairlift up to George’s Grill and have lunch while enjoying the view of Mount Rushmore from afar.  The views are incredible!  I’ve never eaten here but I have been to the top and it was worth the ticket up.  The menu includes staples like hamburgers, buffalo burgers, chicken sandwiches, and other traditional items.  You can even enjoy a beer or glass of wine. 

The adventures are open seasonally from May through September and weekends only in October. I like this place because it offers individual tickets for attractions that are affordable for families!

Rush Mountain Adventure Park

People riding Alpine Coaster at Rush Mountain in Keystone South Dakota

Similar to the previous place I just mentioned is Rush Mountain Adventure Park.  Located between Hermosa and downtown Keystone on Highway 40 is another extreme experience park that has additional attractions. Hop on rides like the mountain coaster, the Soaring Eagle zip ride, and the Gunslinger 7-D interactive ride. Other things to do include gemstone mining, a ropes course, a cave tour, and even a little tyke’s adventure ropes course.

Attractions can be purchased individually or you can buy wristbands that give you unlimited access to everything for the day. They have snacks and food as well such as burgers and pizza. 

Rush Mountain is open on weekends in March, April, and October and 4 days a week in September. Open daily from May to August.

We did this as a family and got the wristbands which were very pricey and the attractions were fun but not quite worth the money spent. The zipline was a little anti-climactic, and the coaster was also a little slow and dull but I really enjoyed the 7-D gunslinger ride. Though the graphics were not great, the interactive part was fun! We also did the cave, but since the Black Hills has tons of caves and tours, this was probably one of the smaller ones and there are caves that are far better.

Matt and Cheryl disagree with me and really enjoy taking their family here. Their kids (7-15) especially loved the ropes course and mountain coaster. They also think it’s a good value when you consider that a single ride on a mountain coaster can cost up to $40.

Cave tour in Rush Mountain in Keystone South Dakota

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Holy Terror Mini Golf

Holy Terror Mini Golf was a really fun time for my family!  The course goes up a pine-covered mountain which is something I’ve never done before. We had a blast and even saw some deer and an elk while golfing on this mining-themed 18-hole course.

I’d advise staying on the path of the course and not venturing off into the woods. My husband decided to climb the mountain a bit to get a good look at some wildlife and almost stepped on a rattlesnake sunning himself on a rock. Anytime you are hiking or wandering around the Black Hills, you can encounter wildlife; some dangerous. So be careful and be smart!

The National Presidential Wax Museum

I have yet to visit this wax museum but I am a sucker for wax museums and heard this one is exceptional. Not only does it house the U.S. Presidents but it has other exhibits and artwork. It even showcases the original voting booths from the 2000 presidential election and some silver-screen movie stars. 

This museum is self-guided with audio tracks to listen to along the way. Guests with children can participate in a “scavenger hunt” which is a series of questions that they can gather the answers to through the audio tracks. If they finish the hunt, they get a free National Presidential Wax Museum button!

Visit the National Presidential Wax Museum website for tickets and more information.

Borglum Museum

model of Mount Rushmore

On the downtown strip of Keystone is the Rushmore Borglum Story Museum. Borglum was the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. This is a great place to learn more about the history of the sculptor who, at age 60, began his historical journey when most people are stepping back in life.

Borglum started with painting and then went into sculpting before venturing into mountain carving. Much of his life is also on display at Mount Rushmore so if you are limited in time or just don’t want to hit another museum then you can skip this attraction. The parking lot does offer free parking and it’s right next to Dahl Chainsaw Art and many shops.

Sprockets Fun Foundry

If your family wants to beat the heat or tuck away in one of our unpredictable thunderstorms then Sprockets Fun Foundry is the perfect place! Sprockets features a virtual reality experience, a HUGE arcade, duckpin bowling, and a taproom and food. My daughter recently went here and said the food was delicious and the games were a blast.  

Sprockets is open year-round because it’s an indoor restaurant and gaming facility. The fun that could be had here is probably awesome, but for a Black Hills adventure, I’d probably save this for another trip or something to do in the winter to hide out from the cold and snow. This is just a little bit pricey and with a family, there are much better activities to be had that will cost you much less!

Keystone Historical Museum

The Keystone Historical Museum is an old 1899 schoolhouse turned museum with early life exhibits and Carrie Ingalls memorabilia. From the museum, you can get a map of the 19-station walking tour which includes a ton of historic stops such as Holy Terror Mine, the cemetery, the church, and more.  

You can dress up and experience what school in the late 1800s was like. You can even ring the old-school bell on your way out. Some things I discovered were that it is very short-staffed and may not always be open when it is supposed to be. This free museum is also closed on Sundays and has limited hours. This is something I would skip if I had an already full itinerary.

Dahl Chainsaw Art

You can’t miss the world’s largest Bigfoot when you drive through the town of Keystone.
But that’s not the only impressive sculpture! Spend some time walking through the impressive wooden carvings the Dahl brothers have decorated the Hills with. All are available for purchase OR just take a picture of some of the many creations. You can sit on a wooden Harley Davidson motorcycle and snap a pic if you don’t have one of your own.

Dahl’s Chainsaw art is something I visit every time I go to Keystone because they are always adding new pieces of art and the craftsmanship is out of this world. You can catch them in many of our other towns in the Hills as they have set up shop in Hill City, and Deadwood. Look for the giant jackalope in Wall, SD, or the giant bison in Custer!

dahl brothers art
dahl brothers buffalo

Old Time Photos

Take advantage of the Wild West atmosphere and submerge your family in old-time photos. There are multiple locations to dress up like a cowboy or a southern belle and transport your family back in time, in one of these nostalgic black and white souvenirs. Professor Samuels Old Time Photos is the shop I often see as we walk the wooden boardwalk of Winter Street in downtown Keystone.

Shopping

Downtown Keystone has a variety of novelty and souvenir shops to meet every tourist’s needs.  Some specialty shops will even house items like Christmas ornaments, leather jackets, and of course Black Hills Gold!

keystone

Big Thunder Gold Mine

Want to tour a historic gold mine or try your hand at panning for gold yourself? Then don’t miss the Black Hills’ safest gold mine, Big Thunder Gold Mine! You will learn the history of the 1876 gold rush and see the largest display of mining equipment the Black Hills has. You can buy tickets online or walk in and start your adventure. The 45-minute tour starts when you arrive! This family-friendly place keeps its prices extremely reasonable.

What sets this place apart from the rest is that you can do commercial panning on-site with no time limit and guides that show you what to do and guarantee you will find gold. They also offer claim panning directly out of their creek 4 miles down the road. This takes place in 4-hour trips.

Big Thunder Gold Mine opens the second weekend in March (Thursday through Sunday) and daily 9-5 during the summer. November through February they are open for reservations only. Group rates for 15 or more exist.

Horsethief Lake

Horsethief Lake got its name because a gang of horse thieves operated there! It is a stunning lake about 2 miles from Mount Rushmore. This lake has a campground and plenty of hiking in the area as well. This is a great place if you are interested in photography. The lake is surrounded by trees and rocks and beautiful skies that create a reflection on a clear, calm day. Fishing, swimming or kayaking are also fun to do, as it’s not too crowded.

You can visit Horsethief Lake all year and even do some ice fishing in the winter. The lake contains largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, bullheads, and an occasional walleye. I recently had crappie for the first time when my husband caught it and it was delicious! Very mild like the popular walleye we have up here in South Dakota.

horsethief lake

I think this has covered the top 15 family fun things to do in Keystone. I’d like to just add my favorite places to eat as I wrap this up!

Ruby House Restaurant

The Ruby House is a place to eat that has its own vibe. It’s like you stepped into the past with the decor and theme of the dining room. The food is exceptional and not terribly pricey. Plus it has several options on the menu. 

You can get traditional items like burgers or try something more decadent like their bourbon ribeye, smoked ribs, Indian taco, or smothered burrito. Definitely good old American comfort foods but trust me when I say they do a great job in the kitchen.

You can sit outside if you enjoy people-watching on the wooden plank porch, or inside dining under a vast array of antiques and paintings from the 1800s. I’ve done both and I recommend sitting inside to get the whole experience.

Cruizzers Pizza

This is my favorite pizza place thus far in the Black Hills. As I write this, I’m scheming to get my husband to take me there for dinner this weekend. If you love pizza, then please check out Cruizzers. My favorite is their Ranchero pizza with chicken, bbq sauce, red onion, and black olives. My husband gets their huge calzone and says, “This will be the best calzone you’ve ever had.”

This small pizza shop is located upstairs on the Keystone boardwalk at the very end. Walk up and order your pizza and then select a table outside overlooking downtown or sit inside in the cool air-conditioned building. I prefer sitting outside, especially if it’s during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes! There are so many amazing things to do in the Black Hills. The Black Hills can be confusing because it is a HUGE area.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites, yet still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to all the best places at the right times!

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving, with over 2 hours of stories about the park!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE BLACK HILLS

BLACK HILLS TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about the Grand Canyon, check out our Black Hills Homepage

AREAS: The Black Hills is home to some amazing national parks and monuments: Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave National Parks, Badlands, and Crazy Horse.  Plus, the amazing Custer State Park

THINGS TO DO: There is much more to do than hike and look at Mt. Rushmore.  Explore the 1880 train, Reptile Gardens, slip down a natural waterslide, or go on a scenic drive

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Explore some amazing mountain towns including Deadwood, Keystone, Hill City, and Rapid City.

GET QUIRKY: Want something REALLY different? Check out Devil’s Tower and Wall Drug

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat in and around Mt. Rushmore plus where to eat in each city

WATCH: Enjoy videos of the amazing Black Hills while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Black Hills YouTube Playlist

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