One of the world’s oldest and largest motorcycle gatherings worldwide started in 1938 by a group of Indian Motorcycle riders, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attracts between 500,000 to 700,000 people from all over the world generating over $800 million in annual revenue over 10 days. During the event, the town is overrun with motorcycles, parties, bike shows, live concerts, exhibitors, motorcycle shows, demo rides, racing and much more.
Listed one of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, this international phenomenon draws motorcycle legends, superstars and hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts to the Black Hills area each year.
In 1942, the Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with exceptions during World War II. The rally would not be held again until 1946, when the Black Hills Classic Reorganized and made plans to revive the motorcycle rally.
Originally the rally spanned 3 days, composed of two separate events, starting with a Gypsy tour, where riders would be guided through the Black Hills by an escort of Jackpine Gypsy club members. The following two days were filled with motorcycle and automobile races, parades, dances, and animal shows.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, many attendees camped in City Park until 1980 when a record 40,000 visitors arrived. Residents became concerned with the behavior of these attendees, and in 1982, restricted services, parking, eliminate downtown street vendors, law enforcement and camping in City Park City.
For many years after that, the rally was a 7-day event, starting the first week of August. In 2016, the dates expanded to 10 days starting on the first Friday in August.
The rally has something to offer everyone, whether you are a motorcycle rider or rally-goer. Here is a list of the top things to do:
Main Street is strictly motorcycles-only during the rally and a a very walkable downtown filled with vendors, souvenir shops, good restaurants and notorious saloons.
The history of motorcycling is showcased at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame with vintage bikes, memorabilia and recognizing individuals and groups who have made a long-term, positive impact on the motorcycle community.
Experience how it all began by attending the rally races, from Moto-X to PRO-AM hill climbs, there are all kinds of races to choose from any day of the rally.
A legendary Sturgis attraction is Buffalo Chip Campground located on the edge of the rally and includes a bike show, roller derby, vendors that will service your bike, live concerts and a huge swimming pool for its campers.
If you are looking for a break from the crowded streets, there is plenty to do surrounding Sturgis to monuments and national parks.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial 1 hour away near Keystone,S outh Dakota is a national monument attracting more than 2 million visitors a year. The memorial park covers 1,278 acres and 5725 ft above sea level. Carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore are 60 foot heads of 4 US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln representing nation’s birth, growth, development and preservation, respectively. Called Shrine of Democracy, was the idea of Doane Robinson, a historian for the state of South Dakota and completed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum from 1927 to 1941. Mount Rushmore was chosen due to the sun exposure facing southeast.
Crazy Horse Memorial just over an hour on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County, South Dakota has over 1 million visitors a year. Started in 1948 and is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress and is far from completion. Named after the Lakota leader, Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land. Crazy Horse was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. If completed, it come the world’s second tallest statue, after the Statue of Unity in India.
Deadwood, the wild west gold rush town discovered in 1876 by prospectors who came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold, leading to the Black Hills Gold Rush. At its height, the city had a population of 25,000 attracting figures such as Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok (who was killed there). The entire town has been designated as a National Historic Landmark for its well-preserved Gold Rush-era architecture.
Badlands National Park Scenic Byway (highway 240 loop) is 30 miles long and takes about an hour. The park’s 242,756 acres acres of rugged beauty showcases buttes, canyons and striking geologic deposits. One of the world’s richest fossil beds is located here with skeletons of three-toed ancient horses and saber-toothed cats which once roamed this area.