A Visit to Mount Rushmore: It’s even more spectacular than you imagined


Empty Nesters visit Mount Rushmore

A Visit to Mount Rushmore

Tomorrow is our nation’s birthday and besides slicing the watermelon and wearing red, white and blue, I will be thinking of how awestruck we were standing below the Four Presidents of Mount Rushmore, the friendly soldiers we met there and the Thomas Jefferson ice cream. Read on, it’s a great story. 

To find adventure is our personal mantra and therefore our travel plans are eclectic by choice. In just the first six months of 2019, we have been to Maui, Iceland, Seattle, Italy, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming! Pretty cool! But lately my curiosity for exploring more of our nation has intensified. I have visited 40 states thus far, so with ten left to go, traveling in the US is on my mind a great deal.

sunset at Mount Rushmore
Sunset on Mount Rushmore – Nearly 3 million people from all over the world visit and some become citizens here.

A North Dakota Adventure – Why?

Two travel writers and good friends, Sara Broers of Travel With Sara and Lisa Trudell of The Walking Tourists have created the Midwest Travel Network where destinations, CVB’s (Convention Visitor Bureau) and travel writers can connect, fostewr relationships and create partnerships.

The 2019 Midwest Travel Conference was in Medora, North Dakota. I know, I have never heard of this town either, but let me tell you something, I am smitten with this adorable western town. You will learn more about our fantastic experience in Medora in an upcoming post. As a sneak North Dakota peek: the vast landscape stretches as far as you can see, the area’s history and charm is palpable and we felt so welcome. I also bought adorable cowboy boots, of course!


Traveling with friends

a visit to Mount Rushmore
Standing with Brad and Troy in front of Mount Rushmore


This is our third trip with two childhood friends (trip #1 Montana & trip #2 Oahu) and we have fun discussing possible destinations and create itineraries where we want to find adventure next!  When Troy, part of our fearless travel foursome, learned I was going to North Dakota he exclaimed “I have always wanted to see Mount Rushmore in South Dakota!” Therefore attending the conference in North Dakota was the catalyst for our South Dakota and Wyoming road trip. Hmmmm…. A plan was formulating.

Empty Nester road trip through South Dakota

After the conference, Craig and I met Troy and Brad at the Rapid City, South Dakota airport. (Nope, never been there either!) This large city sits by itself with not too much around but wide open space (except for Mt Rushmore). You will find a historic and charming downtown with eclectic shops and tasty diners. After a quick lunch and with no time to waste, we headed straight for our visit to Mount Rushmore. We had a monument to see!

a visit to Mount Rushmore

Oh, Mount Rushmore

As you drive around the final bend in the highway before the exit, you see in distance the magnificent presidential faces so suddenly, it was like they dropped from the sky. So impressive! We had no idea what to expect, how large the sculpture would be, how far away we would be able to stand or how crowded it would be.

a visit to Mount Rushmore
In this lighting it was a challenge to get a good photo. Each of those flags represents every state and the date that it became a state.


We wanted to experience Mount Rushmore in the sunshine as well as in the evening when the four faces are lit. Arriving at 6 o’clock, we explored the monument, hiked a little, and enjoyed an enormous scoop of Thomas Jefferson ice cream! The entire experience was delightful from beginning to end. Crowds were small and the monument was spectacular.


ice cream at Mount Rushmore
Enjoying my cone while looking up at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. (Pecan Praline was the flavor if you wondered.)


Fun Fact: Did you know that Thomas Jefferson is the first person in the US to have created a recipe for ice cream?

a visit to Mount Rushmore
These soldiers were from Missouri and enjoying their ice cream too. They couldn’t believe I wanted to take their photo. It was my honor.


Fun Facts about Mount Rushmore:

a visit to Mount Rushmore



We stood in awe of the engineering marvels! You should know that construction began in 1927 by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and the dedication of the Washington head was three years later. Considering the equipment was nothing like what we have today, it makes Mount Rushmore even more remarkable. Approximately 400 laborers, mostly unemployed, worked on it, there were few injuries and no deaths. The hourly pay range was from 35 cents to $1.50.

About 450,000 tons of rock were blasted from the mountain and the granite sculpture is a buff and cement-colored stone and from a distance looks one color. However as you move closer and hike underneath these great sculptures you can see the multi-striated stone. The stone is actually layered with different variations of the same hue.

a visit to Mount Rushmore
You can hike up underneath the monument to get a closer look.


The Lighting Ceremony

After consuming the enormous ice cream cones, standing under the noses of the presidents, talking with fellow tourists and soldiers, we waited for the lighting ceremony of Mount Rushmore. There is a dynamic, pre-recorded message that plays and explains why Borglum chose these presidents, significant historic references to their presidencies as well as other interesting facts.

At the conclusion of the message, we were asked to “Please rise and sing the National Anthem”. Every person stood, hats came off, hands covered hearts and we sang. When we finished, you could have heard a pin drop and many of us were wiping away a tear. It was so moving. I expected to enjoy seeing the enormous monument, but I did not expect to be so taken by it. I have read the stories of other writers and talked with fellow travelers and without exception, each of us felt the same way.


“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away” Gutzon Borglum – Sculptor


Final thoughts on our visit to Mount Rushmore

I may have been a little sassy when I wrote earlier about visiting the Dakotas, but I will not make that mistake again. Wondrous North Dakota blew me away and I look forward to going back. I already have a plan in mind! South Dakota is not an easy place to get to if you live far away like we do. It doesn’t always seem to fit in to many road trips, but I think everyone should visit, it is quite remarkable!

Stay tuned, I have so much more to report from our trip to Medora, ND and our road trip through South Dakota and Wyoming.

Happy Fourth of July!


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a visit to Mount Rushmore


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7 thoughts on “A Visit to Mount Rushmore: It’s even more spectacular than you imagined”

  1. Happy Fourth, Suzanne!

    Thank you for bringing to life the “tried and true” sites that most of us take for granted. Love how you breathe new life into what sometimes we take for granted.

    ….and here’s to ice cream cones, fireworks and the great USA

    • Oh thank you Linda – South Dakota is not usually at the top of everyone’s travel itineraries and we were blown away by our entire visit. Ice cream cones, fireworks and the great USA! <3 Thanks for your comments!

  2. What a wonderful trip, Suzanne! So glad you got to experience Mt Rushmore …thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m adding this to my list!!! Happy Fourth of July!

  3. Great post. I went to Mt. Rushmore back in 2016. Incredible. South Dakota is an underrated state. Did you make a trip to the Badlands by any chance?


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