Located near Keystone, South Dakota, is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Originally commissioned as a way of encouraging more visitors to an area where the local economy needs tourists, the 18m sculpture was started in 1927 and completed in 1947. The memorial depicts facial likenesses of past Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, and is responsible for bringing around 2 million visitors to the Dakota area each year.
Although there doesn’t outwardly appear to be much to keep visitors at the area for a day, be prepared to spend a while there as Mount Rushmore is more than just a historical carving in the face of a mountain. During the day, take advantage of the beautiful area to do some hiking or biking. There’s plenty of wildlife in the Black Hills area to provide photograph opportunities and excite younger members of the family. If it’s a hot day, cool off a little in the Lincoln Borglum Museum which shows a 13 minute movie about Mount Rushmore. Afterwards take a stroll along the Presidential Trail which begins at the Grandview Terrace (above the theatre), which is one of the best viewing areas of the memorial, and ends at the Sculptor’s Studio. Here you can learn more about the process involved with creating a memorial on such a huge scale. If you have children in your party, there’s also a children’s program led by a ranger which lasts about a half an hour, but they must be accompanied by parents.
Once dusk falls the rangers lead a evening lighting ceremony. This is held in the amphitheatre and is more information about how the sculpture was created. Immediately following the presentation, Mount Rushmore is illuminated and remains lit for two hours.
If you only have a few hours to spend, then try to organize your visit so that you not only enjoy the memorial in sunlight, but also can experience the magic of seeing the huge sculpture illuminated against the dark evening sky.