The area surrounding Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial is full of classic scenery, Old West echoes and contemporary roadside kitsch, including the 19th century storefronts of downtown Rapid City and the rolling hills and granite mountains of Custer State Park and Harney Peak.

• Rapid City has a Main Street full of 100-year-old buildings, 63,000 residents and great one-stop shopping for regional art, crafts and books (Prairie Edge at 6th and Main streets; www.prairieedge.com) and, in a 21st century variation on the Rushmore theme, more than a dozen bronze statues of presidents, which stand on downtown street corners like conventioneers flagging down taxis.

• Custer, which rose up after the discovery of gold in the 1870s, is the oldest town in the region, with a handful of historic buildings on its main drag and several kid-friendly lodgings. The population is about 2,000. If I were planning a family trip, I'd make this my base. (From Custer, the Crazy Horse Memorial is six miles north, and Rushmore is 22 driving miles northeast.)

• Keystone, a mile from Rushmore, has more hotel rooms (about 800, mostly in chains such as Econo Lodge) than full-time residents. The town has a mining history and a gallery devoted to Rushmore's creator, Gutzon Borglum (www.rushmoreborglum.com), but its charms are obscured by a riot of blinking signs and faux Old West flourishes. (I stayed at the independent Roosevelt Inn, www.rosyinn.com, and though it was tidy and affordable at $87 a night, I'd stay away from Keystone next time.)

For those with more time to roam, the biker mecca of Sturgis is 30 miles north on Interstate 90, and the gambling haven of Deadwood is about 15 miles west of Sturgis. To the south, Wind Cave National Park is just beyond Custer State Park.


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