Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 4:00 p.m. Call-ahead hotel shuttle and Road Scholar motorcoach shuttle from the hotel to the airport will be included.
Afternoon: Program Registration 4:00-5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the atrium area of the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Once settled, feel free to join your fellow participants and program staff in the Black Hills Ballroom for a Welcome Reception and social hour before Orientation. Snacks and beverages will be included. Orientation: 5:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Lectures and field trips will be conducted by local experts including our knowledgeable Group Leaders. Each full day is an extensive field trip. Unless specified otherwise, transportation will be provided primarily via motorcoach, which requires ascending/descending a few steps when getting on/off. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a dinner buffet with salad, entrée, and side dish, plus water, coffee, and tea; other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.
Activity note: This is a representative schedule; the order of the elements each day will vary by group. Driving approximately 120 miles total; about 1 hour in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon. Walking up to 1/2 mile indoors and out; groomed paths; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums and historic buildings, some stairs.
Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast buffet including choices like fresh fruit, an egg dish, assorted breakfast pastries, breads, meats, and potatoes, hot and cold cereals with toppings, plus a variety of juices, milk, coffee, tea, water.
Morning: We'll begin the week of exploration by discovering the Black Hills and the surrounding area's rich Native American history and culture. Along the way, we’ll have expert interpretation amid the beautiful scenery. Our first stop will be at The High Plains Western Heritage Center for an expert-led field trip where we will see this Five-State Regional Museum which was founded as a way to honor pioneers of the Old West and their exploration of places like North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. The gallery space of over 20,000 square feet contains an impressive collection of Western art, artifacts, memorabilia, a turn-of-the-century kitchen, a saddle shop, and a blacksmith shop. In addition, the center also houses an original Spearfish to Deadwood Stagecoach and exhibits dedicated to the old forestry, mining, ranching and rodeo enterprises. Outside exhibits include a pasture of longhorn cattle, a furnished log cabin, a rural schoolhouse and antique farm equipment. After our exploration through this representation of an early western settlement in South Dakota, we'll move on to the theater for a presentation given by a local expert impersonator on one of South Dakota's early pioneers.
Lunch: At the Heritage Center, we’ll have a buffet meal with an entrée, sides, dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage.
Afternoon: Lead (pronounced LEED), sister city of historic Deadwood, has played a pivotal role in the history of the Black Hills. Home to the Homestake Gold Mine, the streets of Lead tell a tale as rich as the gold mined from its hills. The Homestake Gold Mine was one of the early enterprises associated with the Gold Rush of 1876. The mining of gold from Homestake ceased several years ago due to low gold prices but has begun a new life serving as a laboratory 4,850 feet underground. The lab is working towards a revolution in physics by studying neutrinos. We’ll meet and hear from the Deputy Director for Education and Outreach for Sanford Underground Research Facility. While in Lead we’ll also take the opportunity to visit the Homestake Opera House and go on an expert-led exploration. This incredible building was constructed in 1914 by the Homestake Mining Company for its employees. It boasted a theater that sat 1,000 people and housed a heated indoor swimming pool, billiard hall, library, bowling alley, a smoking room, social hall and more. This building was the heart of the mining town of Lead and the social and cultural heart of the northern Black Hills for 70 years. But in 1984, the theater portion of the building was nearly destroyed by fire and it sat empty for many years. Since then it has been purchased and a non-profit formed to ensure its full restoration. We’ll then return to the hotel.
Dinner: Hotel buffet.
Evening: We’ll be joined in a designated ballroom at the hotel by a local expert who will teach us more about the natural and human history of the Black Hills and the surrounding area.
Activity note: Driving approximately 50 miles total; about 1/2 hour each way. Walking up to 1/2 mile indoors and out; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums; groomed paths, some stairs.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Setting out via motorcoach for a field trip, we’ll travel to iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial where we’ll explore this Shrine of Democracy under the leadership of our expert Group. Its creator, Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, wrote: “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.” Borglum intended his monumental sculpture to be not only a memorial to four of our greatest Presidents, but a Shrine to Democracy. Why these four? Washington led the nascent United States to win independence from Great Britain. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Roosevelt the “trust buster” ensured the rights of working people and was instrumental in building the Panama Canal. Lincoln led the country through the Civil War. Borglum began work in 1927 and continued until his death in 1941, when his son, Lincoln Borglum, took it on and ended work later that year. Feel free to expand your exploration of Mount Rushmore with an additional self-led 1/2 mile walk on the Presidential Trail to Borglum’s studio. Along the way, one can learn more about the monument, its construction, and the artist whose vision produced one of America’s most recognizable symbols.
Lunch: At a local lodge, enjoy a buffet with choices of soup or salad, sandwiches, dessert and beverage; other beverages available for purchase.
Afternoon: Next, we’ll travel to visit the Journey Museum led by our Group Leader and museum experts. With its four major collections, the Journey Museum provides a metaphorical journey into the past of more than just this part of western South Dakota. The Journey brings into focus a cogent story of billions of years of eruption, exploration, evolution, conflict and change. Created by tectonic movement 2.5 billion years ago, the Black Hills are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Having been eroded over time, the worn-down surfaces exposed the fine granite suitable for mountain carving. The Black Hills have supported life for millions of years including the dinosaurs, Native Americans who came during the Ice Age, and settlers during westward expansion who came looking for gold. The remainder of the afternoon will be open for you to see and do what you wish. You may choose to hop aboard the motorcoach and go back to the hotel to relax or travel to downtown Rapid City for personal, independent exploration. The City of Presidents, named for a 20-square-block section of historic downtown with life-size bronze statues of all past presidents along streets and sidewalks, is an iconic landmark. Begun in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency, each sculpture was privately funded, and the pattern of placement was chosen to maintain a coherent structure and eliminate any sense of favoritism or political gain.
Dinner: Returning to the Journey Museum, we’ll have a buffet dinner with salad, entrée, and side dish, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: At the Journey Museum, an author and photographer will present to us some of the colorful past illustrating those who blazed the trail expanding the western frontier. Afterwards, we’ll return to the hotel.
Activity note: Driving approximately 125 miles; about 2 hours total, with stops for field trips. Chairs provided at the Roundup. A warm jacket for the cool morning and evening activities is recommended.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Witnessing one of the last great events of the West, we’ll transfer to attend the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Round Up. Feel the thunder of roughly 1,400 buffalo rumble by as park personnel, cowboys and cowgirls do their best to drive the Park’s herd into the Buffalo Corrals, passing two designated viewing areas along the way. The roundup gives park officials the opportunity to vaccinate and maintain a health management plan for the herd.
Lunch: At Custer State Park, we’ll enjoy an outdoor western-themed lunch buffet with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.
Afternoon: There will then be time to independently explore Custer State Park's Arts Festival on the lawn across from the historic Peter Norbeck Educational Center, as well as the newly built Visitor Center. Later this afternoon, after meeting at a predetermined time and place, we'll return to the hotel in Rapid City for some free time before departing to Mount Rushmore for dinner and the Lighting Ceremony.
Dinner: At Mount Rushmore’s Carver’s Café, we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner with choice of entrée, sides, dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage.
Evening: At Mount Rushmore, as a salute to some of our nation's most iconic leaders, we will attend the impressive Lighting Ceremony. This patriotic program will be presented by a Park Ranger in the open outdoor auditorium. We’ll then return to the hotel.
Activity note: Driving approximately 130 miles total; about 1 hour each way. Walking up to 1/2 mile indoors and out, groomed paths; standing up to 1 hour at a time in museums, some stairs; more walking depending on personal preference.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Transferring from the hotel, we’ll go to the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, an active paleontological dig site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world! With expert on-site instructors, we’ll learn about a time when Ice Age mammoths, camels, and giant short-faced bears roamed the Great Plains of North America. More than 26,000 years ago a sinkhole, with a warm spring percolating from the bottom, created an ideal watering hole for animals. Unfortunately, the sinkhole proved to be too slippery and steep for the animals to retreat, thus creating a death trap for large Columbian and Woolly Mammoth and many other species. We'll also go behind the scenes and receive a special presentation from the museum curator in the lab room.
Lunch: We'll walk a short distance next door to a popular restaurant for a salad and sandwich buffet with dessert and choice of beverage.
Afternoon: On our return trip from Hot Springs we'll stop in the quaint town of Hill City where we will have the choice to visit either the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research – the leader in paleontological excavations and preparation since 1974 – or the South Dakota State Train Museum. Each location is within walking distance. A local paleontological expert will lead our exploration at the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research, which has been involved with the excavation of eight Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons since 1990, five of which are among the most complete yet discovered. The Institute also helps supply museums and collectors with the finest in professionally prepared fossils and cast replicas. If you are more into trains, you can choose to visit the South Dakota State Train Museum – a museum that brings to life the financial and political intrigue, the machinery, the people, the mythology and the pure joy of perhaps the most romantic mode of transportation ever built. This is a self-led exploration of the museum with expert docents ready to answer any questions you may have. Lastly, Hill City boasts numerous art galleries and unique shops along its main street, should you wish to explore there also. Following our time in Hill City, regroup at a predetermined time and place to head back to the hotel in Rapid City. Before dinner from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. there will be a staffed Road Scholar table in the hotel lobby where you will have the opportunity to sign up for the complimentary Road Scholar airport shuttle at the conclusion of the program.
Dinner: Hotel buffet.
Evening: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a cultural treasure as we witness a special native powwow featuring dancers and singers in traditional regalia. An expert in Native American culture will teach us what the dances represent and how they are significant to regional indigenous tribes.
Activity note: Driving approximately100 miles; about 3 hours total. The Volksmarch is an elective 6.2 mile (roundtrip) hike; up to 4.5 hours; uneven, rocky terrain with a few steep inclines. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots recommended.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: A fifth granite face is emerging in the Black Hills. Since 1948, the colossal Crazy Horse Memorial has been under construction at Thunderhead Mountain. When it is completed, it may be the world’s largest sculpture, towering 563 feet high and 641 feet long. Upon arrival, our instructor will provide background on the life of Crazy Horse as we witness history in the making with drilling and blasting on the still-incomplete sculpture. The Crazy Horse Volksmarch is one of the most popular organized hikes in the United States. This event is sponsored by the Black Hills Chapter of the American Volkssport Association (AVA) and hosted by Crazy Horse Memorial. It is a 10K (6.2-mile) roundtrip woodlands ramble to the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. This is the only time each year the public is permitted to hike to the top of the mountain carving. For those who wish to venture on the hike, it will be self-led and at your own pace. If hiking the Volksmarch isn't for you, Crazy Horse Memorial has plenty to explore including the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Education and Cultural Center and numerous art exhibits. Those not hiking will meet at a predetermined location after exploring the museums independently and head to the Mountain View Room for a special presentation on native culture.
Lunch: At a nearby restaurant, we’ll enjoy a traditional Native American meal with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage.
Afternoon: We'll then board the motorcoach and traverse the Needles Highway where slender granite formations called "Needles" dominate the skyline. Deemed impossible to construct by critics, the Needles Highway — a National Scenic Byway — was completed in 1922. The spectacular drive through forested mountains includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels, and impressive granite spires. One of the most impressive features, the Needle’s Eye, has been formed by countless years of rain, ice, and wind. Our expert group leader will narrate about historical and geological features along the drive en route to the hotel in Rapid City.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Rapid City. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Driving approximately 232 total miles; about 3.5 hours with numerous stops. Walking up to 1/2 mile on boardwalks and groomed paths.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: En route to the Black Hills, many settlers and gold seekers of the early days dared to traverse what is now known as Badlands National Park and often struggled just to stay alive. This morning, on the edge of the Badlands, we'll travel to an original sod house on the prairie still owned by the descendants of hardy settlers. The Prairie Homestead Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, along with interpretation by our Group Leader, gives a true sense of the rough life of homesteaders of this by-gone era. Next, under the leadership of our expert Group Leader, we’ll explore the rugged beauty of Badlands National Park on designated park trails. The Lakota gave this land its name, “mako sica,” meaning “land bad.” An inland sea covered this area 74 million years ago and has been eroded over the years revealing sedimentary layers of vivid colors. Today, the 244,000 acres of spires and pinnacles surrounded by a sea of grass are inhabited by buffalo, deer, antelope, prairie dogs, and much more.
Lunch: In the town of Wall, just outside of Badlands National Park, we’ll enjoy a vintage cafeteria-style lunch with choice of non-alcoholic beverage at the famous Wall Drug Store.
Afternoon: The Wall Drug Store got its start during the Depression years by offering free ice water to thirsty travelers. Wall Drug features the largest privately owned western and illustration art collection in the country and we’ll have time to independently explore the gallery before returning via motorcoach to Rapid City. Back at the hotel, please stop by the Road Scholar table located in the lobby to check in your listening device before taking a few minutes to freshen up before loading back on the motorcoach for a short ride to our final banquet destination.
Dinner: At the Dahl Fine Arts Center in Rapid City, we’ll celebrate a program full of adventure and learning with a casual farewell dinner together. Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine while you stroll through local art exhibits before joining together for a delicious buffet meal with an entrée, sides, and dessert, plus lemonade, coffee, water.
Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.
Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. Call-ahead hotel shuttle and Road Scholar motorcoach shuttle from the hotel to the airport will be included.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet. Boxed breakfasts will be provided for those with flights before 8:30 a.m. This concludes our program.
Morning: If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!