Sunday, September 23, 2012

The National Parks
Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Location:  Southwestern South Dakota
Established:  March 3, 1925
Visited:  August 11, 2010 (Patrick Neal, John Neal & Ken Neal)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (4 out of 5):

Mount Rushmore National Memorial...the money shot.

Driving home after visiting Yellowstone National Park, we visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that basically takes over this part of South Dakota in August. Our first clue that something was going on was when we had to pay $350 to stay at a Hampton Inn. We checked-in late in the afternoon in Rapid City, S.D. and proceeded to drive out to Mount Rushmore. At arrival we had a very cranky 4 year old on our hands so we proceeded to have some food at the newly-renovated cafeteria/visitor center/gift shop/museum.  The food was pretty sub-par even by national park standards, however, the museum and gift shop were very good.  We took a hike on the Presidential Trail that leads to the bottom of the mountain and to the Sculpture's Studio (which was one of two studios used by Gutzon Borglum to sculpt the mountain). After the hike, we headed back to watch the Evening Program and get John some ice cream.

The Evening Program has seating for about 2,000 people and has the sculpted presidents as a backdrop. A short film entitled America’s Lasting Legacy is shown and the program includes the singing of the national anthem, a flag ceremony honoring military personnel past and present, and the lighting of the monument. I found the film to be somewhat disappointed, particularly in comparison to recent films I had seen at other national parks and the entire program took way too long.  John barely made it through the whole program. This is one of the few times I have found the National Park Service Ranger (who had a major role in the program) to be boring.  A large part of the program included presidential trivia which of course included a question about President Obama that had portions of the audience booing.  Very classy.

The monument itself is everything you would expect, very scenic and is truly an amazing achievement. Mount Rushmore National Memorial gets an overall rating of 4 out of 5 National Park Arrowheads due to national importance, renovated facilities, disappointing evening program and fantastic scenery.

Additional pictures after the jump...

On the way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial...the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in full swing.
Mr. Cranky Pants.
Ken and John having dinner. Mr. Cranky Pants would not eat his french fries after insisting that he wanted them.
The Presidential Trail.
A scene from the evening program.

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