Rev up to these freebies in Black Hills

Steve McEnroe/Associated Press file photo

Hundreds of thousands of bikers will congregate Aug. 5-11 for the annual Sturgis Rally.

Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Mount Rushmore National Memorial may be the most famous landmark in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but it’s not the only one.

Covering about 8,000 square miles, the Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range with a big Native American influence. The Lakota took over the mountains from the Cheyenne in the 1700s and named it Paha Sapa (translated to Black Hills). The Lakota signed a treaty with the U.S. government in 1868 exempting the hills from white settlers. But when gold was discovered in the mountains, the U.S. government broke the treaty and moved the tribes to reservation lands in other areas of the state.

The Lakota influence can be seen not far from Mount Rushmore in the still-unfinished mountain carving of Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. Farther south, visitors can see buffalo up close as they roam the prairie in Custer State Park.

Here are five free things to do in the Black Hills:

Walk through historic Deadwood

Established during the Black Hills’ gold rush in the 1870s, Deadwood is known for gambling, prostitution and lawlessness. Only the gambling remains today, but street shows and memorabilia at stores lining the brick streets evoke the town’s wilder days. Deadwood’s history is so unique that it’s the only city in the United States to be named a National Historic Landmark.

Spend a day at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Hundreds of thousands of people descend on the town of Sturgis (population 6,600) every August for this annual gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. Alcohol, leather, bare skin and ramped-up engines take over during the weeklong event. Many riders will drive their motorcycles from all over the country for the event, and children and families are invited. This year’s rally is scheduled for Aug. 5-11.

Stop by Wall Drug

On the cusp of the Black Hills along Interstate 90 in the tiny town of Wall is this sprawling tourist attraction consisting of a drug store, gift shop, restaurants, a chapel and several other stores. Pharmacist Ted Hustead bought the drugstore in 1931. Business was slow until his wife, Dorothy, came up with the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travelers. Today, signs dot Interstate 90 enticing travelers to stop at the famed drug store. And the water remains free.

Take a peek at Mount Rushmore

There is no entrance fee to see Mount Rushmore National Memorial, but parking will set you back $11. Instead, stop on a nearby side road with a scenic view area to snap a photo of the faces of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson.

The monument may be farther away, but the views still can be just as breathtaking. Head to U.S. Highway 16A for a good view.

Gaze at Rapid City’s Art Alley

Located in downtown Rapid City near the historic Hotel Alex Johnson, Art Alley is a place where artists can showcase their talent through graffiti, paintings and sculpture. Stroll between Sixth and Seventh streets to see how creativity can take hold along a city block.

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