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picking an area to stay

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Baltimore, MD
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picking an area to stay

I am a first timer and have read through some prior posts, but still am unsure of which area to stay. My husband and I are just starting to plan a trip, but we are unsure of which time of year to visit and where we should stay. We are looking possibly at May. We enjoy gambling and sight seeing (antiqueing, museums, caverns and parks, etc...) but after trying to do some research on Deadwood, I am unsure as to whether or not I would want to spend a week there. I would greatly appreciate any advice that could be given on diiferent areas to stay. Mt. Rushmore is the main reason for the visit, as we have not decided on other activites yet.

Rapid City, SD
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1. Re: picking an area to stay

If you're looking to stay in the area for a week and do enjoy gambling, I would recommend 3 nights in Deadwood and 3-4 nights in the Hill City/Custer/Custer State Park area.

I would say there is roughly a short day of things to see right in Deadwood. But then there is Spearfish Canyon and Devils Tower--a visit to both of those areas will be a full day. Combine a few other things like stops in Spearfish and Lead and mix in the Deadwood casinos at night and you'll find that there is quite a bit to do. I'd recommend a downtown Deadwood hotel as most of the casinos are downtown and it will make life easier if you don't have to ride the trolley everytime you want to leave the hotel room.

The rest of the common destinations like Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, a cave, Crazy Horse, etc., are closer to Hill City/Custer.

Badlands Nat'l Park will be a toss-up as far as distance from one of your lodging areas.

May is a pretty good time to visit. The later in May you'll be here, the better the weather will likely be. May can be a little cool and rainy so bring some warmer clothes.

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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2. Re: picking an area to stay

As Accomodator suggested, I would definitely split my time between the northern hills (Deadwood) and the central hills (Hill City/Custer). We did this trip last year and spent 10 days here. We began by staying in Lead, which joins Deadwood We were only here two nights and drove out to Devil's Tower and drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. We have a 9 year old daughter, so we didn't spend too much time in the casinos. I see you are an easterner like me, so I just wanted to let you know that Deadwood casinos aren't anything like Vegas or Atlantic City. They are old stores that have been converted into casinos. That being said, I'm not trying to discourage you from going at all. Some don't know what to expect and are a little surprised when they arrive. Deadwood is a great western town with not just casinos, but history as well. We spent 3 days, 2 nights here, and we found it plenty to see the sights. Check out the Adams House and Museum while in Deadwood.

For the rest of your time, you can stay in Hill City, Custer, or Keystone. We made Keystone our base and used the Roosevelt Inn. See my review on this site. We loved the hotel, and there is a wonderful pizzeria on sight. Keystone is very convenient to Mt Rushmore (about 3 miles away) and other Black Hills attractions. Many do not like Keystone, as they find it too touristy. We liked it, but we didn't spend a lot of time in the town itself. The town has many souvenir shops and reminds me of a mid-atlantic shore boardwalk without the ocean. To us, there were so many wonderful things to see that we didn't pay any mind to the town we stayed in. We were always out and about.

I would plan on spending 1-2 full days exploring Custer State Park and a full day to go out to the Badlands. There are many caves to explore, but the ones operated by NPS are the best (Wind & Jewel). If time permits, be sure to visit the town of Hot Springs and see the Mammoth site. Also near the site is the Wild Horse Sanctuary. If you enjoy wild mustangs, this is the place for you. It's a bit pricey, but the tours are at least 2 hours and very thorough. You feel like you really get your money's worth.

If you can, try to eat at the Alpine Inn in Hill City. If you go for dinner, they only serve filet mignon and they get busy early. You are better off not planning on arriving at 6 and expecting to get immediate seating. If you don't care for filet, their lunches are terrific German fare. Be sure to get dessert!! They are to die for!

Hope this helps,and if you have any more questions, please ask.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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3. Re: picking an area to stay

Great advice already given to you!

We liked Jewel Cave much better than Wind Cave, but in a few days visit, you can easily see both.

Also we went gold panning in Hill City at Wades Gold Mill. The people there were very friendly and helped my son learn how to pan for gold. He actually found a fairly big flake!

Mt Rushmore can be seen in a few visits, at least 1 during the day and hike around the trail at the base of the monument. And then make sure you see the nightime show/ceremony. Wonderful!

We stayed at a small motel in Custer, there was a good pizza place in that town.

Baltimore, MD
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4. Re: picking an area to stay

thanks for all the advice. I did find out the rainy season is considered May and June. I was wondering if September would be a better idea?

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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5. Re: picking an area to stay

I would think early September would be nice. Accomodator can give you the local perspective on that time of year. We visited in late August, and we found the crowds to be very manageable! We had no issues whatsoever. I'm sure you would find fewer people than in the peak of summer. We found that some of the hotels dropped their rates around mid August, as many areas are back in school.

Interestingly, we lucked out and had cool weather. On some of the days, it didn't get out of the high 50's, low 60's in late August. There were also some rainy days, but we made the best of it. I think our weather was a little unusual, however.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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6. Re: picking an area to stay

We were there the week after 4th of July a few years ago, and I did not feel it was very busy at all. I would think September would be beautiful, leaves changing and much fewer people.

Have a great trip!

Rapid City, SD
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7. Re: picking an area to stay

Statistically, May is a little wetter than September. Either month (and June) can give you long, dreary rainy days whereas July and most of August are pretty dry other than thunderstorms. All that said, this is still a semi-arid climate where there are way more dry days than wet days at any time of the year.

Enter Custer, SD and your dates into this link and you'll see what you're in for:

www.wunderground.com/tripplanner/index.asp

Fall colors are good in mid to late-September but vegetation is green and fresh in May. One thing I do like better about May is that you'll get an hour to an hour and a half more daylight in the evenings.

The only really crowded time of year is just before and during the Sturgis Rally in early August. June through August is "tourist season" but it's not like New Years in Vegas or anything like that.

Quincy...
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for Boston
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8. Re: picking an area to stay

Hi,

Having visited in the first week of October, I can say that the late Sept time period has good and bad points. The good points are that the crowds are generally gone, and the weather has usually cooled off and is quite pleasant.

The bad is that it seems that many of the tourist locations close for the "season" shortly after Labor Day. The available tourist services seemed to be greatly curtailed when we visited. Many places had limited hours, or were closed entirely.

Overall though, I thought it was a great time to visit and I'd probably recommend it, rather than the height of the tourist season.

9. Re: picking an area to stay

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