Location: Keystone, SD
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, in the main gift shop
We arrived at Mount Rushmore around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was crazy busy when we first arrived. We did the customary pictures of everyone in front of the monument with the Avenue of Flags behind you (and probably 200 people accidentally photobombing you).
We then went to the visitor’s center museum to collect JR Ranger booklets. These were by far one of the hardest JR Ranger books we had ever worked on (you really had to explore the exhibits to find the answers). Some of our group watched the film about the carving of the monument and they really enjoyed that.
The weather had started to cool off a bit by this point (or maybe it just seemed cooler than Badlands) so we took the rangers advise and walked the President’s Trail. The Trail from the visitor’s center to the base of the monument is paved and a very easy walk. We took the stroller on it with no problems. You really get an idea of how big the carvings really are once you are right under them. Make sure that you take the small dead-end spur trail just off of the President’s Trail. It gives a really cool framing of Washington through the rocks. At this point the President’s Trail continues on and loops back to the visitor’s center after passing Sculptor’s Studio. Most of our group decided to continue on. Because there are over 400 stairs on that part of the path, I turned around with the stroller.
The site has a restaurant on site called Carvers’ Marketplace. Our group wasn’t really hungry for a full meal after our amazing Sioux Tacos in the Badlands so we opted to get ice cream as a treat. The ice cream parlor sales a vanilla ice cream using Thomas Jefferson’s recipe. I’m normally not a plain vanilla ice cream person but this was really good. I highly recommend it. It was also neat to sit on the patio and take in the monument.
The best part about being at Mount Rushmore a little later in the day was after we finished our ice cream the crowds had basically disappeared. So we took all of the pictures again, this time with a lot fewer people in the background.
Overall impression: Mount Rushmore is a must do if you are in the area. Depending on if you want to watch the film or take a small hike, an hour or two should be plenty of time to really enjoy the monument.