The grand finale to our trip to the Mount Rushmore area was the Mount Rushmore National Memorial itself. Originally I had planned on making it the first stop on our vacation but decided to make it the icing on the cake and saved it for last. Knowing that it had rained every afternoon of our trip, we knew we had to be there by early afternoon before it rained.
We arrived around 3 and paid $10 to park in the parking garage. The garage was not crowded and we were able to park on the first level giving us an easy, short walk to the memorial. The stone gateway greeted us and focused our attention down the Avenue of Flags to the granite portraits of the four presidents. After all the excursions we had made the last few days, I was very happy and relieved that we had finally made it to our primary destination.
The crowds were light and we quickly walked up to the railing right in front of the monument. Snapshots were taken, cameras exchanged with another couple for full member pictures. Different languages were heard, different people, cultures were represented at the memorial.
After admiring the monument for a while, we decided to walk the Presidential Trail.
The Presidential Trail is a 0.6-mile trail that takes visitors to the base of the memorial for a closer look. We started on the west side and enjoyed the shady, smooth walkway that led us to the first stop. The path then changed into a nice even Trex walkway. Where we luckily came across a Ranger Walk that had stopped so the park ranger could give more information about the presidents, the sculptor, and the memorial. We followed along for two stops where the Ranger Walk ended.
Along the trail there are four Trex landing areas, each had a display board about one of the four presidents. At each stop, you focused on one of the presidential faces and read a short biography.
After the four landing areas, the nice Trex pathway turned into steps. Actually a bazillion steps. But at least they were going down. A sign stated that the path was strenuous and they aren’t kidding. The steps lead down to the Sculptor’s Studio, the onsite studio of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Here you can catch a Studio Talk about how the memorial was made and an explanation of the working tools of the time.
Coming out of the Sculptor’s Studio, there was another bajillion steps, this time up. Personally, I thought there should have been a concession stand here. A place to eat Washington shaped or Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat shaped ice cream on a stick, etc before marching up the neverending steps leading back to the main memorial viewing area.
After making it back up we headed down another set of steps to the visitor center. The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center explains the building of the memorial with pictures, artifacts, and film. History of all four Presidents is explained and displayed. We learned a lot here. The air-conditioned visitor center and theater were a nice way to cool down after the Presidential Trail path and learn more about the memorial.
A few miscellaneous details: The gift shop is big and all employees were friendly. All restrooms had baby changing areas. Parents with smaller kids may consider a baby carrier because of all the steps on the Presidential trail.
The kiddos’ favorite parts of the memorial:
The Boy enjoyed the park ranger walk and documentary. He would recommend it to friends.
Peanut also enjoyed the ranger walk and liked the four Presidental Trail landing areas that focused on each president with views of that president’s stone face. She said she would recommend it to friends.
Princess enjoyed the Presidental Trail and the Sculptor’s Studio. She too gives the Memorial a thumbs up.
Baby Momo thought it was fantastic. She thought it was interesting that they blasted Jefferson’s face off and redid it. She too would recommend it to friends.
I’m glad we made the trip. I recommend the whole Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Rapid City area to families looking for a fun, educational vacation.