Deadwood, South Dakota, might ring a bell if you’ve seen the HBO show of the same name. Deadwood is a town for those who want to relive the Wild West, gold mining, rootin’ tootin’ days of yore. Days when everything was a little more simple and a lot more exciting. It’s a town where you feel like you’ve stepped into the past.
Deadwood is in Western South Dakota in the Midwest United States. It’s conveniently situated less than a day’s trip to multiple noteworthy sites like Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and Rapid City, the second largest city in South Dakota. It’s also close to the Wyoming border, making trips to nearby Devils Tower and other attractions easy. So if you want a trip full of rowdy fun, historic attractions and outdoor recreation, Deadwood is just the place to plan your next vacation. Here are the best things to do in Deadwood.
- Deadwood, South Dakota
- 20 Things To Do In Deadwood
- Top Tours
- 1- Walk Through Historic Old Town
- 2- Experience Live Reenactments
- 3- Attend a Rowdy Halloween Festival
- 4- Enjoy Winter Fun
- 5- Let Out Some Adrenaline On the Nearby Trails
- 6- Be A Rebel At The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
- 7- Witness Cheeky History At The Brothel Museum
- 8- Get Spooky At Mount Moriah Cemetery
- 9- Visit Mount Rushmore
- 10- Learn About Native American History
- 12- Gamble The Night Away At A Casino
- 13- Visit Devils Tower
- 14- Experience A Gold Mine
- 15- Bike Mickelson Trail
- 16- Ride A Horse Through The Scenic Hills
- 17- Pub Crawl On St. Patrick’s Day
- 18- Discover Haunted History
- 19- Visit The Mount Theodore Roosevelt Monument
- 20- Channel Your Inner Cowboy At The Rodeo
- 21- See The Historic Adams House
Deadwood, South Dakota
20 Things To Do In Deadwood
1- Walk Through Historic Old Town
Picture this: it’s the late 1800s, and you’re a gold miner who’s travelled to Deadwood during the gold rush.
The town began as a gold mining camp and flourished into a town full of wealth-seekers and troublemakers.
The legends of Old West outlaws like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane live on in Deadwood.
Explore the best of the city in Historic Old Town, where Main Street features saloons, antique stores, and casinos to test your luck.
You’re right in the middle of the Black Hills, so admire the towering peaks around you as you do some shopping and gambling. This self-guided smart phone app is a great way to explore.
2- Experience Live Reenactments
One of the many things that sets Deadwood apart from other tourist towns is the reenactors that stroll the streets and play out scenes from the city’s past.
These street performances are realistic and lively; experience rowdy shows, including shootouts and old-school travelling medicine shows, no matter when you visit.
The “shooting” of the infamous Wild Bill Hickock occurs multiple times daily.
3- Attend a Rowdy Halloween Festival
There should be nowhere higher on your Halloween list than Deadwood, which hosts a spooky and riotous celebration called Deadweird for the hooligans amongst us.
Bring a group of friends and bar hop through downtown, visiting local casinos as you go.
There’s live music and prizes throughout the weekend, including a $10,000 cash prize for the winner of the annual costume contest.
Music and dancing at Outlaw Square make for a fun night for all!
4- Enjoy Winter Fun
Deadwood is in the heart of the Black Hills, a beautiful mountainous area of Western South Dakota.
This part of the country is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors, with everything from skiing to snow tubing, snowmobiling, fat biking and snowshoeing.
If skiing or snowboarding is more your thing, check out Terry Peak: it’s a local favourite with both difficult and easy paths, so it’s an excellent option for the whole family.
The Black Hills National Forest has 350 miles of trails groomed by the South Dakota Snowmobile Program, making the area surrounding Deadwood ideal for snowmobiling and fat biking and snowshoeing.
5- Let Out Some Adrenaline On the Nearby Trails
Don’t let the abundance of winter activities trick you into thinking Deadwood is only fun to visit in the winter – in fact, it’s just the opposite!
Deadwood and the surrounding area is full of activities year-round.
One local favourite is Pactola Lake, which is 37 minutes by car (27 miles / 43 km) from town.
Pactola Lake is the Black Hills’ largest and deepest reservoir.
Here, you can swim, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or sunbathe on the beaches. This guided paddle boarding tour is great fun.
Like Deadwood, Pactola Lake hides haunted and historical stories of its own.
A fascinating piece of history about this reservoir is that at its bottom lies a town.
That’s right, there’s a city underneath the lake – Camp Crook.
Camp Crook started as an illegal gold mining camp that had turned into a thriving town by the 1950s.
Eventually, the decline of the gold trade in the area led to people moving out.
The Pactola Dam was constructed in 1952, and the town and surrounding area were flooded to make Pactola Lake.
Today, you wouldn’t know there was a city underneath you, but it’s a fun piece of history when you visit.
You can book a self-guided paddleboarding adventure here.
6- Be A Rebel At The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Just a 20-minute drive (13.6 miles / 22 km) from Deadwood is the town of Sturgis, the world-renowned home of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
This event takes place in August over 10 days and has been celebrated annually for over 80 years, with the 2022 Rally seeing half a million attendees.
Ride into this rough-and-tumble event and check out the Harleys and other motorcycles from riders all over the country.
Here, you can witness one-of-a-kind events like beard and moustache contests, tattoo contests and pub crawls.
Spend the day riding through the Black Hills and surrounding countryside and your nights getting rowdy in Sturgis with your fellow riders.
Many attendees make this a huge event by road-tripping from elsewhere in the country, meaning the entire state of South Dakota sees riders streaming through for weeks.
7- Witness Cheeky History At The Brothel Museum
Yep, you read that right – you can tour a brothel.
While a real, operational brothel isn’t legal in South Dakota, you still can see a brothel from the past while in Deadwood.
Brothels were alive and well in Deadwood from the town’s inception in 1896 until the last of the houses were raided and closed down in 1980.
The Brothel Museum is housed in the original Shasta Rooms Brothel site on Main Street.
This guided tour will take you back to a part of history that many don’t experience.
While the tour is for those over 16 years old, it is not graphic.
The Brothel Museum is at 610 Main Street, Deadwood.
8- Get Spooky At Mount Moriah Cemetery
If you want to see where Deadwood’s legendary gun-slingers rest, stop by Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Western legends Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane are buried here, as well as madams of brothel houses and other exciting characters.
Mount Moriah Cemetery is at 1 Mount Moriah Drive, Deadwood.
9- Visit Mount Rushmore
One of America’s most famous national monuments is just an hour’s drive (49 miles / 79 km) from Deadwood.
Mount Rushmore is an easy trip away and worth the travel time. Or explore Rapid City, Mount Rushmore and Deadwood on this private VIP tour.
Situated in the heart of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore consists of the faces of four presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson – carved into the mountain.
It’s a gargantuan tribute to the four men and the development of America in the West.
More recently, the site has been controversial due to its location on Native American tribal lands.
10- Learn About Native American History
The Black Hills of South Dakota is rich in Native American history.
While you’re in Deadwood, it’s important to acknowledge the native peoples who lived here before the cowboys and gold miners moved in and who continue to contribute their culture to the area today.
One excellent way to experience Native American culture is to visit Tatanka: Story of the Bison.
This exhibit consists of 17 bronze sculptures depicting Native American people hunting bison.
Bison are a huge part of Native American culture in this part of the country, and 30 to 60 million of the animals once roamed the Great Plains.
Bison can still be found throughout Western South Dakota today.
The exhibit is funded by actor Kevin Costner, who was inspired by the Lakota tribe while in South Dakota filming the movie Dances with Wolves.
Tatanka: Story of the Bison is at 100 Tatanka Drive, Deadwood.
12- Gamble The Night Away At A Casino
It’s not a trip to Deadwood unless you win – or lose – some money at one of the many local casinos.
Gambling is a key part of the rowdy cowboy town’s history and continues to thrive today.
Visit Deadwood’s largest casino, Cadillac Jack’s, or check out the Deadwood Mountain Grand, which sits close to Main Street and is easily walkable to area shops and bars.
The Tin Lizzie and Gold Dust casinos are two more local favourites, where you can grab a bite to eat, stay the night and test your luck!
13- Visit Devils Tower
In nearby Wyoming, a famous national monument is just about a one-hour (73 miles / 117 km) drive from Deadwood – Devils Tower.
Devils Tower National Monument is a geological feature that towers high above the surrounding prairie, making it visible for miles.
The rock of Devils Tower is famous for the many vertical cracks that run up the rock.
The name is an evolution of the original Native American name for the site, which translates to “bad god’s tower.”
An old legend tells that the cracks came from a giant bear climbing up the side of the tower, leaving claw marks as it went. Check out this tour to Devils Tower, Spearfish Canyon and the Northern Black Hills.
14- Experience A Gold Mine
The Broken Boot Gold Mine was built in 1878 during the gold rush happening in Deadwood.
Originally known as Seim’s mine, this attraction was an actual working mine for many years.
It was then closed off and on throughout the 20th century, reopening in 1954 as a tourist attraction.
Tour the mine to experience what it was like to mine gold back in the good ol’ days.
You can try out gold panning just like the prospectors did and even go into the underground mines.
Every visitor goes home with a souvenir.
You can find the Broken Boot Gold Mine at 1200 Pioneer Way in Deadwood.
15- Bike Mickelson Trail
While there are many biking and hiking trails surrounding Deadwood, one of the most popular is the George S. Mickelson Trail.
This trail has 15 trailheads to allow plenty of access and is considered highly accessible for people of all abilities and ages.
The Mickelson trail is named after former Governor George S. Mickelson, who died in a tragic plane crash in the early 1990s.
The trail was originally a train route, but the train route stopped in the 1980s, and the tracks were removed.
Outdoor enthusiasts recognized the abandoned trail’s potential and turned it into a path for walkers, horseback riders, and cyclists alike.
Now, you can meander along this path and witness some of the most beautiful scenery you could ask for – along the trail.
You’ll see meadows, forests, and hills.
This trail is especially great in the autumn when you can witness striking fall foliage.
Want a guided cycling tour on the trail? Book one here.
16- Ride A Horse Through The Scenic Hills
Have you ever ridden a horse? If not, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in and around Deadwood.
There are many trails in the Black Hills surrounding the town, and a guide can take you through the paths to explore the area.
Is horseback riding not your thing?
In the winter, local guides also offer sleigh rides, so you can sit in the comfort of a sleigh with horses pulling you through the gorgeous winter countryside. Explore the Black Hills on this tour.
17- Pub Crawl On St. Patrick’s Day
Deadwood is a great time to celebrate holidays.
If you’re visiting in March, you can’t miss the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl.
Locals and visitors travel to Deadwood for this event, which includes green beers and rowdy fun as you wind your way through Main Street with other partygoers.
There is no place like Deadwood for a good time!
18- Discover Haunted History
Deadwood is a place to discover all kinds of legends and events of the past. Locals say these legends live on today, and you can experience them for yourself with a tour of the town’s haunted history.
Legend Seth Bullock died in 1919, and legend says he still keeps an eye on his Bullock Hotel to this day.
Another haunted location is the Fairmont Hotel and Oyster Bay Bar, where owner Ron Russo died of a heart attack; it’s said that the ghost of an angry man caused his death.
Many of these hotels and attractions offer their ghost tours, or you can book a haunted tour of multiple sites through attractions like the Haunted History Walking Tour.
The Haunted History Walking Tour is at 657 Main Street, Deadwood.
19- Visit The Mount Theodore Roosevelt Monument
This monument is 2.5 miles (4 km) from downtown Deadwood.
Opened in 1919, the monument is also called the Friendship Tower.
It was constructed by Seth Bullock to celebrate his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt and allows for a beautiful view of the surrounding Black Hills.
20- Channel Your Inner Cowboy At The Rodeo
It wouldn’t be right to visit the Wild West and not attend a rodeo, so put your cowboy boots on and scoot your boot over to the Days of ’76 Rodeo!
The Days of ’76 began as a tribute to Deadwood’s first pioneers, who founded the town in 1876.
First celebrated in 1924, this rodeo is now an annual event that features horse riding, bulls, and a parade.
The event also includes a beauty pageant, and the Days of ’76 Museum allows you to explore cowboy culture of days gone by.
If you’ve never gone to a rodeo, you won’t want to miss this one.
21- See The Historic Adams House
One of the most popular attractions in Deadwood is the Historic Adams House.
This Queen Anne-style home was built in 1892 and is furnished with original furniture from the time period.
The owner of this home was W.E. Adams, whose wife left the home completely intact after he passed; she left everything from the furniture to cookies in the cookie jar!
It was purchased by the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission in 1992 and restored as a museum in 2000.
Like many of the buildings in Deadwood, hauntings are rumoured to be frequent here, so watch your step!
The Adams House is at 22 Van Buren Street, Deadwood.
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