Rapid City, South Dakota: City of Presidents Self-Guided Walking Tour

FlourishAnyway welcomes the opportunity to travel both stateside and abroad and especially enjoys documenting her fun through photography.

Come explore the City of Presidents with your family. Visit the life-sized bronze statues on street corners and enjoy the fun scavenger hunt.

Come explore the City of Presidents with your family. Visit the life-sized bronze statues on street corners and enjoy the fun scavenger hunt.

Just Half an Hour from Mount Rushmore

Chiseled into the side of a mountain only 25 miles away from Rapid City, South Dakota, is Mount Rushmore. If you've never visited, put this on your bucket list.

The faces of four American Presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln—gaze out over the Black Hills and the Badlands. The heads of the Presidents tower 60 feet (18.3 m) high, carved of granite and true grit, a testament to what the American Spirit can achieve. We Americans dream big, stop at nothing.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial was launched in 1927 with the vision of promoting tourism in South Dakota. Now a manmade shrine to democracy, over 3 million visitors flock to the memorial annually.

But wait. What about the other Presidents? Is it right to pay tribute to only these four?

Come Meet the Rest of the Family of Presidents in Rapid City, SD

Faced with the challenge of keeping tourists engaged and in the area, nearby Rapid City launched an ingenious plan in 1999. Local businessman Don Perdue led an initiative to jumpstart the local economy. The city has since placed lifesized brass sculptures of each American President on its street corners. The effect is utterly delightful.

Over $2 million was raised through private donations to fund the project, and the talents of South Dakota artists were summoned. Each artist carefully studied the personality and achievements of the President they sculpted. They attempted to capture the spirit of their subject. The sculptors for the Clinton statue, Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby, even visited personally with the former President for inspiration.

This ambitious project took 10 years. Rapid City is the now the only location in the world where all of the U.S. Presidents can be seen in life-sized bronze statues. It demands that you come see for yourself.

From the mountain to Main Street, you have seen four presidents at Mount Rushmore. Now, come to Rapid City and see the rest of the family.

— City of Presidents Visitors Guide

Go Ahead! Take Some Selfies with Your Favorite President

Get acquainted with the 42 life-sized statues that dot Rapid City's street corners. (President Obama's statue will soon take its place among them.) The brass statues of the American Presidents sit, stand and stroll in candid poses that reflect not the sterile historical facts but rather their habits, passions, and inner souls.

While my teenage daughter was in a STEM camp at the nearby South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, I spent several hours roaming downtown Rapid City. I was so happy that I invested my time this way. Not only was I entertained but I was also inspired and educated about these leaders.

One of my favorite statues was Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States. He was an honest and capable President but preferred the company of nature to that of people. In brass, he sits by himself on a bench hand feeding birds.

I couldn't resist the opportunity to snuggle up close to him and take a selfie. What a kind man. I know we would have been friends.

Concentrating On the Positive

Each sculptor had artistic freedom in portraying his or her presidential subject.

  • Would Nixon's statue focus on Watergate?
  • Would George W. Bush's statue reflect the Iraq War?
  • Would FDR appear in a wheelchair or would his statue conceal his disability?

Most chose to concentrate on the positive. Many of the artists' choices present interesting conversation points if you're navigating the city with family. Ask your family, "Is this how you would have portrayed him?"

The statues also bring out little known facts that are skipped over in history books. For example, McKinley was the first known President to use a telephone during his campaign (so blame him for telemarketing).And on the way to his inauguration, Franklin Pierce experienced personal tragedy when his 11-year-old son was killed in a train accident. Pierce and his wife survived but the couple experienced deep depression that profoundly impacted Pierce's performance as President and his wife, Jane's, service as first lady. One month later, Pierce's Vice President died.

Where to Start: Drop by the Visitors Bureau

To get the full experience of this walking tour, it's essential to have the official map for this walking tour. Stop by the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 444 Mt. Rushmore Rd. N. for your FREE map featuring

  • a brief history of the City of Presidents project
  • street locations for each President
  • identity of scavenger hunt items
  • and interesting facts about each President's life.

Using the map, you can then plan your route and check off who you've already visited.

Rapid City is the only location in the world where all of the United States Presidents can be seen in life-sized bronze statues.

— The City of Presidents Visitors Guide

The Father of Our Country Stands Guard Outside of a Starbucks

George Washington, first President of the United States, believed divergent views were a healthy part of government.  What would he think now?

George Washington, first President of the United States, believed divergent views were a healthy part of government. What would he think now?

Surprises Along the Way

Along the way, you may find surprises and ironic twists. George Washington, the Father of our great nation, stands guard outside of a Starbucks. Lyndon Johnson leans against his desk, perched outside of a First Stop Guns store. Bill Clinton grins outside of a dry cleaner's shop, the infamous blue dress nowhere in sight. (NO, sorry, I made that one up!)

Some Presidents seemed to have better billing than others. You know what they say in real estate: "Location, location, location."

While George W. provides a "thumbs up" outside of a Hardee's, scowling Herbert Hoover lives it up outside of a Mexican cantina. If you know anything about Herbert Hoover's immigration policies and his deportation of Mexicans during his administration, then you understand just how ironic the placement of this statue is! (Talk amongst yourselves.)

It thus should be evident that the statues are conversation pieces, not just photo props.

Here's How the Scavenger Hunt Works

To keep the kid in all of us occupied, Rapid City has added a unique feature to the self-guided walking tour: a Presidential scavenger hunt. Even though I was alone on my tour, this was my favorite part.

In the back of the self-guided tour map there are photographs of 10 items from the Presidential statues (see below). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to match each item with its respective President and submit your written answers to the President's Information Center. Your reward is a free Presidential soda (one per family).

I won't give the answers away (what would be the fun of that?), but let's just say I enjoyed the experience so much I have included several bonus scavenger items for you in the photos below. This is truly an experience that appeals to all ages.

A Worthwhile Trip

If I Could Change Anything About the Experience ...

What a pleasant surprise this experience was — a definite thumbs-up! If I could, I'd award the City of Presidents self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt 4 1/2 stars.

I found the walking tour map and the Presidential biographies both fascinating and essential to a fulfilling self-guided tour experience. The biographies brought out facts that aren't typically highlighted in history books.

The statues were tasteful and provided wonderful photo and conversation opportunities. Some inspired empathy and admiration for their Presidential subjects. Rapid City locals were warm and welcoming.

My only criticism pertains to the jumbled and confusing assignment of numbers to Presidential statues. This numerical randomness added a layer of confusion to map reading. For example, George Washington was the first President of the United States. However, he was assigned #24. John Adams was our second President but was assigned #42. There must be an easier approach.

Overall, however, this was a worthy side trip not to be missed.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I get a map for the City of Presidents Self-Guided Walking Tour?

Answer: To get the full experience of the walking tour, it's essential to have the official map for the walking tour. Stop by the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau at 444 Mt. Rushmore Rd. N. in Rapid City, South Dakota for your FREE map.

© 2015 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 21, 2019:

Lora - It was a fun place to visit that I recommend to anyone who is visiting the area.

Lora Hollings on August 20, 2019:

What an incredible job you did, Flourish, on this article! This will definitely be put on my bucket list. A great way to learn history! Rapid City sounds like a real fun place to visit and to learn from with its presidents self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt. I enjoyed your presidential quote quiz too. Quite challenging! I really enjoyed this article and learned something too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 29, 2016:

Rajan - Thank you so much for your compliments. I enjoyed the visit and can't wait to return when they have Barrack Obama's statue up.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 29, 2016:

Flourish, this tour is something I possibly have no chance of making so thanks for these lovely pictures and a great tour.

I'd say this is an excellent thought to put up these statues of leaders who have been at the helm of affairs of the country at one place and inform of lesser known facts about them via the free map.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 06, 2016:

ezzly - Thanks for your kind words!

ezzly on March 06, 2016:

Wonderful article and very pretty in your pics !

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on March 05, 2016:

Peggy W - Thank you for sharing! I hope you're able to make it back there. It was a fun trip with lots of neat local places to see and things to do.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2016:

When I went through that part of South Dakota with my family in the 1950s this obviously did not exist. I think it is fabulous!!! Thanks for all the photos and descriptions. It would be great to see in person someday. Sharing, pinning and tweeting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 01, 2015:

Poetryman - I hope you do get the chance to visit. I've been to SD before but really it just wasn't enough time. Wild and peaceful, really different from home. I would love to go back and see if I could go hunt down a bunch of SD ghost towns.

poetryman6969 on November 01, 2015:

When the wife and I do some traveling it looks like this would be a good place to visit.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 28, 2015:

RJ - The best thing is it's all free to go see. Just wander around town.

Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on October 28, 2015:

Hi FB-- Well now!!!!! I collected collector bronze a few decades ago and can appreciate these life size statues. All of this was new to me!!! And I loved what Rapid City has to offer. Wonderful HUB and now I must go purchase a ticket.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 24, 2015:

Heidi - So glad you checked in with us! I've missed you! I've been a bit scarce myself because of a lot of volunteer work I've been doing with my daughter's Engineering high school program. Thanks for reading my South Dakota hub and for your kind comment. Have a terrific week ahead!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 24, 2015:

Love the pics of you with the Presidents! You're right, this was an innovative attraction to add to the area. Hope all is good with you these days. I've been a bit scarce here on HP due to a slew of business and personal stuff going on. Hope to get back into it soon. Have a great weekend!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 16, 2015:

Rabadi - Glad you found it intriguing. Hope you can visit Rapid City for yourself. Thanks for reading.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 15, 2015:

Sha - We could've had an awesome time together. I'm sure of that! There are other places to go, ya know!

O from New York on October 15, 2015:

Very interesting I like this article it's different, check out my articles by the way I just hit the follow button :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 15, 2015:

Flourish, I would have loved to have accompanied you on this walking tour. Your photo captions taught me so many things I didn't know about our presidents. In fact, many of the earlier ones I didn't even know were presidents! Shame on me, huh?

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 14, 2015:

MsDora - I'm so happy this was right up your alley. It was well worth the trip!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 14, 2015:

Audrey - Thanks for taking a look! Hope you can visit some time!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 14, 2015:

Flourish, you offered us some great educational facts about the city and about the presidents. Thanks for taking us on this glorious tour. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Audrey Howitt from California on October 13, 2015:

Well this is very cool! I never realized there was so much in Rapid City!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 12, 2015:

Bill - Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you have a chance to return someday soon. Summer is great in Rapid City.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 12, 2015:

Hi Flourish. What an absolutely great idea. I visited Mount Rushmore in the late 80's before the presidential statues so I'll have to go back someday. I love the idea of a scavenger hunt, right up my alley. Great hub, really enjoyed this.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 12, 2015:

Nell - When I got the international travel bug I was surprised that it was cheaper to fly than I realized. You may want to just start saving up. I bet you could cover a lot of ground in the US with your Hub Family. I'm located 2 hours outside of DC and near Colonial Williamsburg. I would be glad to host you in this area and cart you around to some awesome places, give you some prime hotel points in DC so you could see the historic sights for yourself.

Nell Rose from England on October 12, 2015:

Well I never knew that! its when I read and see something like this that I think, oh I wish I had the money to hop on a plane and come over to visit! so amazing! great hub! nell

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 12, 2015:

Martie - How sad that people are destroying history. We have seen people doing the same thing here to statues of Confederate war generals. They are part of how we got to where we are today and shouldn't be defaced. We have lessons to learn from the past rather than trying to erase it. Thanks for taking a look at my little travel hub.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 12, 2015:

Larry - What a great choice! Have a great week! Thanks for reading.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 12, 2015:

agusfanani - I hope one day you can visit! Have a wonderful week!

agusfanani from Indonesia on October 11, 2015:

It's very interesting to know those ex presidents from your hub. It really is enriching my knowledge and I agree that visiting this city is educative, entertaining and very recommended.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 11, 2015:

Looks like a wonderful excursion. Personally my favorite president is FDR.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 11, 2015:

Erecting monuments of all president and challenge tourists with a Scavenger Hunt are brilliant ideas.

Sadly, activist down here are busy destroying all monuments that remind them of colonialism and apartheid, so, we can not follow suit.

Excellent hub, FlourishAlways!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 11, 2015:

Frank - Glad you enjoyed it. Have a great week.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on October 11, 2015:

what an educational experience, and glad that it is funded, and the donations are substantial.. bless you for sharing :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 10, 2015:

Suhail - Glad you found this interesting. Best of luck in your travels.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on October 10, 2015:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

Thanks for writing a hub that is of immense interest to me.

I would love to do this self-guided hiking trip. I have already done similar hikes in other smaller cities of North America. I loved this concept. And you described the trip beautifully.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 10, 2015:

randomcreative - It's well worth the time and fun for the whole family. Thanks for stopping by!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 10, 2015:

What a fabulous exhibit! I would love to see it if I ever get back out to that area of the country. Thanks for sharing!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

Shyron - Glad you liked this. It was a fun trip. Have a great weekend!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

BlossomSB - Thanks for stopping by! Have a lovely weekend.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 09, 2015:

Thank you for the interesting visit.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on October 09, 2015:

Awesome pictures. and fun read. I do not remember much of this but that was a long time ago.

Thank you for the refresher tour.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

Devika - It's every bit as lovely as it looks. Thanks for taking a look.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

Bill - Thank you. It was a fun time and South Dakota was beautiful in a rustic way, much different from where I'm from. Although I've been there before, I enjoyed returning and would definitely go back.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

purl3agony - Glad you found it interesting. Mount Rushmore was beautiful but didn't take quite as long to visit as I imagined. Also, I'd skip Crazy Horse; it's way too expensive and you can see it better from the road. Thanks for pinning and commenting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on October 09, 2015:

firstcookbooklady - Oh, no! You may have missed the downtown area, a thriving cute little area with lots to do. It's sleepy in the morning and really starts pumping up in the late afternoon and evening. Kids can run under this outdoor water fountain, you can shop, get ice cream, a sandwich/beer/Mexican or whatever. It's a great place to relax between time at Rushmore and other daily trips. So sorry you didn't catch it.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 09, 2015:

Beautiful! I like the photos and looks a lovely place.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 09, 2015:

I've made fun of North Dakota many times in my writings...but I don't make fun of South Dakota....I love that state and I especially love the area around Rapid City...so many things to do and see....and on this trip I got to see a couple photos of you, so this was a great trip indeed. :)

Donna Herron from USA on October 09, 2015:

Great hub with a lot of fun information! Mount Rushmore is on my bucket list, so I'm pinning your hub for my future visit. Thanks for posting!

Char Milbrett from Minnesota on October 09, 2015:

Really? I was just in Rapid City, South Dakota September 14 through the 18th. We drove 604 miles on our motorcycles and I never saw one sculpture in Rapid City. Go figure. We stayed at Comfort Inn on LaCrosse. Oh, well. Next time...

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