by Ketki Hanamshet Updated on 15 Oct 2018
Custer is a very small town one of the oldest towns in South Dakota, USA. It was named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who found gold there during his Black Hills Expedition in the year 1874. If you want to explore the Black Hills National Forest, the best place to stay is without any doubt, Custer. There are some great hotels and a lot of nice places to see like the Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. You can also visit Mount Rushmore from there as it is just at a driving distance of 30 minutes from Custer. There are some other attractions too which are worth your visit to Custer like the Old West Town and the 1881 Courthouse Museum. They are less popular but very interesting. But before you visit, you must check out the tourist attractions in Custer.
Let's explore Custer points of interest and 15 best things to do in Custer:
1. View the Jewels of Jewels Cave National Monument
The Jewels Cave National Monument is located at a distance of 13 miles from Custer. This is one of the major tourist attractions of the place. The cave there is full of crystals. You will think of them as jewels for their sparkle. The cave is also known to be the world’s longest caving system. The passages of the cave cover a big distance of 195 miles. The gypsum and calcite crystals look extraordinary while they glitter. You can’t take anything with you in the cave other than a camera. Don’t forget to take a flashlight to watch the beautiful formation of the cave clearly. There are a total of 750 stairs but you can use the hand rails beside them if you find difficulties in climbing.
2. Feel the craziness of the Crazy Horse Memorial
This mountain carving can be seen on the northern sides of Custer. It is said that the Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest mountain carving in the world. The carvings are done in a style quite similar to that of Mount Rushmore. The size of the rock sculpture in 606 foot. A Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski had started working on it, way back in 1947. After his death, his family members continued the work. Till now, only the upper body and the head of the carving is finished but still, it attracts a huge number of tourists.
3. Experience the nature in Custer State Park
One of the nicest places in Custer where you will be witnessing various species of animals is the Custer State Park. Usually, the tourists visit this place at the summer but try visiting there at the end of September as there are fewer tourists so the animals come out to roam freely and you can easily watch them while driving through Wildlife Loop Road too. In the park, you will find a very cool place in Game Lodge. There is an amazing restaurant too. The quality of food id awesome. You can rent the rooms there but for that, you have to do the booking in advance. The animals which you can find there are pronghorn, buffalo, mule deer, antelope, mountain goats, white-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, etc. The best thing about the Custer State Park is that you can do camping there. Another great feature of the park is the Harney Peak.
4. Hiking Around the Sylvan Lake
The lake is just at a 15 minutes drive from the city of Custer. The surrounding of rock enhances the beauty of the lake. You can hike all around the lake to see the reflection of its beauty from every side. You can swim in the lake but the water is very cold. Boating is another thing, which you can do here. If you have a South Dakota fishing license, you can do fishing here. There is the Sylvan Lake Lodge near the lake, which provides a comfortable and warm stay.
5. Relieve the History at the 1881 Courthouse Museum
The 1881 Courthouse Museum was established in the year 1976 and is situated at the center of the city. The Custer County Historical Society is in charge of the operation here. Once a courtroom is now loaded with antiques of different eras. A total of 10 to 12 rooms are there and each feature a different theme. Just across the street from the museum, you will find a log cabin, which was very much in use till earlier parts of 1900.
6. The Heaven like the beauty of Needles Highway
While running through the Needles Highway, you will come across the magnificent landscapes of central Black Hills. The road is 14 miles long. On the way, you can see the legendary Needle’s eye. There are several narrow shoulders and tunnels, which you will find while driving through the roads. Other than the Needle’s eye, the major stop while your journey at the Needles Highway is the Sylvan Lake. You can even see some wild animals roaming on the sides of the road like prairie dogs, buffalos, eagles, burros, and pronghorns.
7. Feel the 1800s in Four Mile Old West Town
There are a total of 50 old buildings of the 1800s here. The Four Mile Old West Town can be visited by taking the Mt. Rushmore Road. This is a nice tourist attraction, which will help you spend an afternoon in the lap of history. A lot of historical artifacts are here for your liking. There are old bars, banks, stores, and even an ancient piano where you can play or hear some music. The place will be inspirational for the kids and they will enjoy a lot too. The facility of a guided tour is present there too. After spending a couple of hours here, you will fell in love of the place.
8. The Wildlife Loop Road
The amazing road is in the southern parts of Custer. This 18 mile road will guarantee some wildlife for you. Animals like antelope, sheep, prairie dogs, deer, buffalos, wild turkey, marmot, and pronghorn can be seen roaming on the sides of the road. By the side of the road, you will find some nice places to stop and good restaurants to have some fries on the way.
9. Wind Cave National Park
This park is on the southern parts of Custer. For reaching there, you have to drive for 20 minutes. The boxwork formations here are very rare and there are only a few places I the world where it can be found. There are also guided tours for visiting the place but you have to book them in advance.
10. Touch the clouds with Black Hills Aerial Adventures
While your drive to Mount Rushmore, you will find this amazing place. You can book a copter ride here for you. There are different prices, for a 6 minutes ride they charge $49, for a 15 minutes ride, they charge $149, and for an hour ride they charge $399 per person. The staff is very efficient, they will answer all your questions and that will make your trip even more enjoyable. Flying over the Needles Highway and the Crazy Horse is a real treat.
11. Enjoy the Calmness of Stockade Lake
One of calmest place in Custer will refresh you and bring your inner peace. You can enjoy the sights of Black Hill from here. Other than that, you can do fishing, boating, picnic, or bird watching. Sitting at the side of the lake with your partner will bring out the romanticism in you for sure. This is a nice place for camping and hanging out with friends overnight.
12. An Evening of Entertainment with Family at the Buffalo Ridge Theater
The theatre is nice and clean with a big stage. Different shows and music are performed there. Especially the Potter family is a must watch of the place. Other than the Potter Family, you will love the Grand Jamboree and the Grand Magic Show.
13. Famous Balloon Rides of Custer
It will be a nice experience for you when you will be gliding over the Black Hills. Please don’t go if you are scared of heights. Otherwise it will be an experience to cherish for your lifetime. The staff is great and you will feel safe with them. The landing is usually gentle with them so you will not feel a thing.
14. Visit the Kids favorite Custer County Candy Company
This place is certainly a heaven for the kids. The name of the owner is Phil Lampert. You will find here different flavors of ice creams and sodas. But as the name suggests a huge collection of local as well as imported candies.
15. Like to Have a Drink, Visit Gold Pan Saloon
One of the nicest and oldest bars in Custer. The place is nice to cherish a glass of wine along with some snacks. You can relax here as the place is very cozy. You can find some local people and know about their lifestyles while talking with them over a drink.