With no introduction needed, it’s time to start preparing for one of the most iconic motorcycle events of the year– the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally! From concerts and pub crawls to bike shows and beard contests, this annual gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts is an experience like no other.
Whether you’re riding across state lines, having your bike shipped, or hauling it yourself, having a game plan for when you arrive will help you get the most out of your trip.
And while the rally is enough to keep you busy, carving out a day or two for local attractions and day trips can be an excellent addition to your trip. Below you’ll find some of the most popular things to do in Sturgis, South Dakota, along with scenic road trip ideas to get you started.
Things to Do in Sturgis, South Dakota
Whether you’re coming in from the east coast, taking a trip from the beaches of the South, or heading in from out West, you’ll definitely want to check out some of the stunning attractions the Midwest has to offer!
#1 – Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is a non-profit dedicated to “preserving the history of motorcycling in an educational way that appeals to multiple generations.” The museum has interactive exhibits and an extensive collection of motorcycles and antiques dating back to around 1907.
#2 – Visit the “World’s Largest Biker Bar”
The Full Throttle Saloon is self-proclaimed as the World’s Largest Biker Bar. The saloon hosts events throughout the year and is popular amongst Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees. The property consists of 3 acres of land, and the building is 26,000 square feet. In addition to a lively bar, the property has a campground with cabins and allows RVs and tents.
#3 – Belle Joli’ Winery Sparkling House
If you are a fan of exploring local wineries and trying new wines, you’ll want to visit the Belle Joli’ Winery Sparkling House. Taking full advantage of the soil of the Black Hills, the winery takes pride in growing, harvesting, and bottling western South Dakota wine. The winery is owned and operated by a winemaker and his wife, a certified Sommelier.
#4 – Saab Heritage Car Museum
Initially owned by a Swedish aerospace and defense company, Saab was acquired by General Motors in 2000. The Saab Heritage Car Museum showcases 100 cars, including vintage Saabs from the General Motors Heritage Collection. The museum features cars from 1950 – 2011 and aims to preserve the history of the Saab.
#5 – Fort Meade Recreation Area
The Fort Meade Recreation Area is a former U.S. Army post of 6,700 acres of forests and grasslands. The grounds include the Fort Meade Cavalry Post, the Old Fort Meade Museum, Fort Meade Post Cemetery, and the Centennial Trail.
There are two areas where camping is allowed:
- Alkali Creek Trailhead
- Alkali Creek Horsecamp
There are also picnic areas and restroom facilities at the Fort Mead Reservoir. You can go hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.
#6 – Sturgis Buffalo Chip
In 1981, the city of Sturgis attempted to abolish the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally but failed to do so. Still, the mayor did not want the eventgoers partying in the City Park. The Buffalo Chip was born, giving cyclists a place to gather and camp. Today, you can sip drinks, watch sports, attend concerts, and go camping.
#7 – Bear Butte State Park
Bear Butte State Park consists of a geological rock formation known as Bear Mountain. There are three trails for you to enjoy: the Summit Trail, Lake Trail, and Centennial Trail. You can go hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, and fishing.
A sacred land to many American Indians, it is not uncommon to see those practicing religious ceremonies during your visit. The park asks that you please be respectful of these practices and do not photograph them. You may also see prayer cloths and tobacco ties hanging from trees.
#8 – Visit Deadwood, South Dakota
If you’re looking for a little bit of Old West or Wild Wild West history, Deadwood, SD, should be on your list of places to visit! The 1874 discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills attracted gold miners to the area.
And because the gulch where most people set up camp was filled with dead trees, the name Deadwood was born. The town was known for its rowdiness and lawlessness and has been featured in movies and an HBO series.
Take a stroll down Historic Main Street, where you’ll find reenactments, comedy shows, concerts, and active nightlife. Popular attractions include:
- Adams Museum – learn about the history of the Black Hills
- Broken Boot Gold Mine – take an underground mine tour
- Days of ‘76 Museum – learn about the first pioneers
- Black Hills Mining Museum – learn about the mining history
- 1880 Train – see the Black Hills by train
- Jacob’s Gallery – view art and vintage motorcycles
There’s a lot to do and learn in Deadwood! If you have time during your Sturgis Motorcycle Rally trip, visiting Deadwood is a must!
5 Scenic Motorcycle Rides from Sturgis
Before we jump right in, let’s talk about a few helpful road trip planning apps.
Check out the Roadtrippers app for route planning, which will help you add stops along your drive. The Gypsy Guide app is a personal tour guide that you can listen to on your road trip. You’ll learn about the area you are passing through and will be alerted to popular stops along the way. Finally, if you plan to go on a hike, the AllTrails app will help you along your trek.
#1 – Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is 52 miles from Sturgis, South Dakota, with a one-way ride time of about an hour and fifteen minutes. You’ll take a gorgeous ride on winding roads through the southern Black Hills of South Dakota, passing through small cities and unincorporated towns. About halfway through, make a pitstop in Rapid City and check out the city’s art project; 44 bronze life-size presidential statutes are scattered throughout downtown.
Once you’ve reached the national memorial in Keystone, SD, there are many options for things to do. Start your visit at the Information Center for information on the grounds. You can visit the sculptor’s studio, hike the presidential trail, or watch the evening illumination of the monument.
#2 – Crazy Horse Memorial
From Sturgis, the Crazy Horse Memorial is 67 miles through the southern Black Hills and takes around an hour and a half. If you’re looking to visit the memorial after exploring Mount Rushmore, it’s an additional 18 miles that will take you around 40 minutes.
Construction of the memorial began in 1948 and has yet to be completed. However, the monument is open to visitors. The memorial displays Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, on a horse pointing towards the direction of his tribal lands. If ever completed according to the original design, the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the second tallest statue in the world.
Of course, you’ll want to stop by the Welcome Center to learn more about the statue and things to do. You can visit the Indian Museum of North America, visit the mountain carving gallery, and take a face-to-face tour of the statue.
#3 – Badlands National Park
Park Headquarters: 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750
Badlands National Park is around 108 miles and an hour and forty minutes southeast of Sturgis. There are a few different entrances, which you can find here. The first leg of your ride will be similar to that of the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials, but you’ll head east once you hit Rapid City, SD.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center will help you find things to do at the park. You can check out what paleontologists are working on in the Fossil Preparation Lab, go camping, spot wildlife, go hiking, take a scenic drive, or watch a gorgeous sunset. Scenic rides include:
- Badlands Loop Road: Also known as Highway 240, this scenic loop showcases over ten different overlook stops and two picnic areas.
- Sage Creek Rim Road: This dirt road features the wilderness area of the park, where you’re sure to spot bison, prairie dogs, bighorn, and birds.
- South Unit: Enjoy beautiful views of table mesas, landscapes, and wildlife.
#4 – Devil’s Tower National Monument
Address: WY-110, Devils Tower, WY 82714
Devil’s Tower National Monument is northwest of Sturgis in Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. The ride is approximately 81 miles and an hour and twenty minutes from Sturgis. You’ll pass through small cities and towns such as Whitewood, Spearfish, Beulah, and Sundance.
The monument is a massive rock formation in the middle of the northern Black Hills. It is considered sacred to the American Indian culture. The Devil’s Tower was deemed the first national monument of the U.S. in 1906.
The Devil’s Tower features several things to do, including five trails and different park areas. You can go hiking and rock climbing, watch for wildlife, go camping, and enjoy beautiful landscapes.
#5 – Needles Highway
Address: SD-87, South Dakota 57730
Needles Highway is approximately 59 miles southwest of Sturgis and takes about an hour and ten minutes to reach. It’s a 14-mile road that takes you through Custer State Park, around an additional 40-minute drive from Mount Rushmore. The park features curvy roads, scenic views of formations, mountains, beautiful forests, and a Sylvan Lake overlook.
Even if you’ve experienced the fabulous Las Vegas Bike Week or Daytona’s beautiful beaches, you’ll still want to put Sturgis, South Dakota on your bucket list! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally event and venue in the midwest is genuinely historic and one of a kind.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur. Photo Credit: [@fiskness/DepositPhotos]
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfect vacation destination.