23 Best & Fun Things to Do in Custer (SD)

Custer is a gorgeous tourist city located in the State of South Dakota in Custer County, United States.

This is a small but beautiful city with a population of one thousand, nine hundred and nineteen according to the 2020 census.

Black Hills is widely recognized as the oldest town in South Dakota, it offers a diverse selection of fun facilities and activities.

Custer city is one of those cities that will blow your mind with the sort of natural preserve and historic landmarks in boasts.

Some of the best places to visit in this city include Black Hills Playhouse, Jewel Cave National Monument, Iron Mountain Road, the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center, Black Hills National Forest, and many more.

Do well to check out this list of top things to do in Custer, SD, for more credible facts about the city.

Things to Do in Custer, SD

1. Custer State Park

Custer State Park
Credits: Jess Kraft / Shutterstock
Custer State Park

On the top of your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD, add a visit to Custer State Park, one of the most visited parks in the State.

Custer State Park is a state park that extends for seventy-one thousand acres, fully packed with a wide variety of nature life.

This is home to varieties of animal species, including bison, birds, elks, and many more, and you will be opportune to see many of them around the area.

The park is a place for the entire family, irrespective of their ages, and it is a perfect place for snowshoeing, fishing, swimming, and boating.

Custer State Park features several trails with interpretive signs ideal for hiking, horseback riding, walking, and hiking, so if you’re in for some adventure, make sure you visit.

The park also features a visitor center, and several educational programs are available here during the summer months for both young and old.

This is a Buffalo Roundup and Art festival venue, where people enjoy local foods, exciting performances, and more.

Address: 13438 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

2. Stockade Lake

Stockade Lake
Credits: Tami Freed / Shutterstock
Stockade Lake

Are you ready to go out and have fun? Then, add a visit to Stockade Lake to your bucket list of the best things to do in Custer, SD.

Stockade Lake is one of the five parks in Custer State Park and the largest of them all, offering a good number of amenities.

There are three campsites available for campers to reside, and they could contain any kind of camping comforts like a tent, nice RV, and camping cabin.

The lake features a beautiful swimming beach and a fishing area, and this is the only one of the five lakes open to all kinds of boats.

Stockade Lake also features a large gathering area, a well-paved hiking trail, and a playground that is fully equipped

Address: Stockade Lake Dr, Custer, SD 57730 United States

3. Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest
Credits: Jess Kraft / Shutterstock
Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills National Forest extends for a whopping 1.2 million acres with many forested Mountains and hills of about 70 miles vast and 110 miles long.

The National Forest is decorated with pine forests, beautiful rock formations, and a variety of wildlife, offering many recreational opportunities.

The forest is visited by thousands of people who want to experience the immense history of the Black Hills. The name of the forest “Black Hills’ originates from Paha Sapa, Lakota words implying black hills.

Black Hills National Forest is a great place for bird watching, swimming, hiking, camping, boating, and many more.

4. Needles Highway

Needles Highway
Credits: trent mayer / Shutterstock
Needles Highway

Needles Highway is one of the outstanding attractions in the city of Custer, also located in Custer State Park.

This is a highway of over 14 miles and a highly recommended route for visitors to drive through and explore.

The highway travels through maple trees, spruce woods, uneven granite peaks, pines, and meadows, offering scenic views of the environment.

The natural resources available here attract visitors from different parts of the world who want to explore nature.

Its name, Needles Highway, was given to it due to the distinct rock formation which sits here, and it is known as the Needle’s Eye.

You can hike from the Custer State Park to the highway or drive through Needle’s Eye Tunnel.

5. Center Lake

Center Lake
Credits: U.S. Department of the Interior / Flickr
Center Lake

The magnificence of Center Lake is usually underrated due to the proximity of Stockade and Sylvan lake; they usually draw visitors’ attention.

If you visit Center Lake, you will be opportune to see a beautiful Mountain lake that you never knew existed.

The lake is found in Custer State Park within the Ponderosa pines, right in the middle of Iron Mountain and Needles Highway.

The Center Lake features a large swimming beach and is an excellent location for fishing and boating; all you have to do is relax and have fun.

There is a beautiful picnic area where you can enjoy snacks and drinks with your family and friends.

For the little ones, there is a gigantic playground for them to run around and have fun with other children until they are satisfied.

6. Big Rock Park

Big Rock Park
Credits: wellphoto / Shutterstock

Are you ready to have fun? Then, add a visit to Big Rock Park to your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD, and be sure to have an amazing time.

Big Rock Park is a beautiful park of exactly seventy-three acres of land featuring Pagent Hills, which was once part of the initial township obtained and donated to the community for tourism purposes.

The pagent hills occupied a space of fifteen acres; for seventy-eight years, it has been the home of the Gold Discovery Days Pagent.

The park features disc golf which offers you lots of thrills and challenges as you play, making it ideal for golf players of all skill levels.

Big Rock Park also features a custer sign, one of the park’s major highlights, offering beautiful lighting in the evenings.

Address: 38 Mt Rushmore Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

7. Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument
Credits: Wayne Hsieh / Flickr
Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument was discovered in the 1900s by the Michauds, and it is a favorite destination for thrill-seekers.

The cave was purchased by the government in 1908 from the Michauds, and it was later proclaimed a National Monument.

Today, it is recognized as one of the longest cave systems in the World, featuring over 195-miles passageways.

Jewel Cave National Monument features gypsum, calcite crystals, and several other rock formations, plus the unique crystals that glow like diamonds when lighted up by a lantern.

The monument is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, but it is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays.

You can join a docent-guided tour through the Jewel Cave National Monument as you get to learn more about the cave.

Address: 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

8. Mount Coolidge

Mount Coolidge
Credits: Tom Franks / Shutterstock
Mount Coolidge

Mount Coolidge is situated in Custer State Park, and it was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937.

It is easier described as the fire tower located on the Summit, and it is usually active from the middle of May to the middle of October.

It was initially known as the Sheep mountain, and over the years, it went through series of tragedies. In 1923, its name was altered to Lookout Mountain before being named Mount Coolidge in 1927.

Mount Coolidge is approximately 6, 023 feet tall, proclaimed as the tallest peak in the middle of Custer State Park.

From the top of the summit, visitors enjoy amazing views of the entire surrounding, including the Elsworth airforce base, crazy house, Mount Rushmore, and more.

Visitors also get to learn more about the 1988 Galena Fire, which destroyed about sixteen acres of the park, through interpretive exhibits at the summit.

9. Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake
Credits: vagabond54 / Shutterstock
Sylvan Lake

Are you a nature lover? Then, add a stop to Sylvan Lake to your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD, especially with your family and friends.

Sylvan Lake is a picturesque location and a great place for photographers to explore as well as painters and tourists.

It is one of the five lakes within the Custer State Park, featuring many exciting and essential amenities.

Sylvan Lake is the best place for those who would like to go fishing in a beautiful environment.

Kayaks are available at the lake for rentals; the lake is also open for boating. Sylvan Lake is surrounded by a beautiful hiking trail with benches scattered around where you can sit and take a break.

Sylvan Lake features a climbing rock and boulders that will wow you, plus conducive restrooms and a general store with a gift store just close to the lake.

You will also find a nice restaurant near the Sylvan Lake with outdoor seating where you can enjoy a delicious meal.

10. 1881 Courthouse Museum

1881 Courthouse Museum
Credits: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
1881 Courthouse Museum

For those who want to know more about the history of the city of Custer, the 1881 Courthouse Museum is the number one place.

1881 Courthouse Museum has existed as a museum for forty-seven years since it was founded in 1976.

Although it was originally used as a courthouse before a new one was built after a mandate was given by the Custer County Board of Commissioners in 1973 for the old one to be transformed into a museum.

It took two years for the new courthouse to be completed before the old one was evacuated in 1975 and converted into a museum.

1881 Courthouse Museum showcases a wide collection of exhibits that offers deep insight into what living in Custer was like right from the early days.

 Guided tours are offered at the museum, where you can fully explore the whole building, including ancient carriage grounds, a historic prison, a schoolhouse, and more.

Address: 411 Mt. Rushmore Rd. Custer, South Dakota, United States

11. Blue Bell Lodge Stables

Blue Bell Lodge Stables
Credits: Flamingo Images / Shutterstock

Blue Bell Lodge Stables offers visitors an opportunity to fully explore the Custer State Park of seventy-one thousand acres.

They offer different horseback rides, from one hour to all-day rides, which lead towards the charming wildlife preserve.

It is open to all ages, including children from as low as five years; the trails are less tasking and easily passable, so the children are allowed to ride alone.

Blue Bell Lodge Stables is open from mid-May to late September, offering gentle rides through hills, lakes, and more.

There are pony rides for the little ones, and reservations are highly recommended before you visit the stables.

Address: 13389 Lame Johhny Rd, Custer, SD 57730, United States

12. Four Mile Old West Town

Four Mile Old West Town
Credits: Matthew Paulson / Flickr
Four Mile Old West Town

A visit to Four Mile Old West Town should be at the top of your list of best things to do in Custer, SD, especially if you want to travel back in time.

Four Mile Old West Town was formerly used as a stagecoach station where travelers stopped for their horses to rest before continuing their journey.

Aside from being a resting point, it also offered travelers all the recent information about the routes they are about to take.

The station is strategically located along Mt. Rushmore road, which makes it easily accessible. Later in the 1800s, the region evolved into a thriving small town with great religious and economic value.

Four Mile Old West Town features about fifty historical buildings open to the public as they take them on a historical journey.

The buildings feature an extensive collection of artifacts, antiques, and other items, which shows visitors what life was like in the city before WWII.

Address: 11921 US-16, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

13. Legion Lake

Legion Lake
Credits: Pbd1950 / Shutterstock
Legion Lake

 For an amazing experience, add a visit to Legion Lake to your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD; it is a popular place that hundreds of tourists visit yearly.

Legion Lake is situated on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway with many fun facilities and amenities to keep the thrill on.

There are several campsites and camping cabins for those who would like to stay overnight for some exciting adventure.

The lake also features a good number of hiking trails open to tourists and visitors, offering beautiful views of the environment.

Legion Lake features a beach open for swimming, where you can relax and enjoy the coolness of the water.

There is a fishing dock making it a great place for fishing, plus a restaurant and general store which caters to the needs of every visitor.

14. Custer State Park Resort

Custer State Park Resort
Credits: J. Stephen Conn / Flickr
Custer State Park Resort

If you have ever wished to live in a nature-filled environment, add a visit to Custer State Park Resort to your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD.

Custer State Park Resort features four separate and unlike ancient houses, spaning approximately seventy-one thousand acres.

The resort is nestled in the south region of the Black Hills of South Dakota; what makes it special is the wildlife refuges within the property.

15. Sunday Gulch

Sunday Gulch
Credits: AR Nature Gal / Flickr
Sunday Gulch

Sunday Gulch is a trail of almost three miles which can be mainly tagged as a difficult and rough trail to navigate.

The gulch features a very tasking terrain right at the starting point, with huge slippery boulders, which you must navigate before getting to the gulch.

You are highly advised to use the handrails because the rocks are quite slick, due to the water from Sylvan lake; the trail is usually wet during spring and summer, so hiking sandals or shoes are necessary.

If you get into the gulch, you will need to climb out, and it is always calm, mossy, and green at this part of the trail.

Sunday Gulch is open to all but with an entry fee, although it is closed from November to April during the winter season.

Address: Custer, SD 57730, United States

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16. Black Hills Playhouse

Black Hills Playhouse
Credits: Capn2000 [CC BY-SA 3.0], Wikimedia Commons
Black Hills Playhouse
Black Hills Playhouse is a large and exciting entertainment center in Custer that offers locals an opportunity to have fun.

The entertainment center was founded in 1946 with affiliation to South Dakota University as a summer theater, and it is recognized as one of the oldest and still active summer stock theatres in the United States.

The theatre provides nothing but the highest quality and entertaining theatre productions, offering different kinds of art professionals and students opportunities to perform.

Black Hills Playhouse has welcomed thousands of visitors since its innovation and has continuously offered students a wide variety of programs.

The theatre showcases several comedy, musical concerts, dramas, and more which helps facilitate the community’s cultural, civic, and educational sectors.

There is a lovely picnic area with concessions where you can spread your picnic blanket and have a great time with your loved ones.

Address: 24834 S Playhouse Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

17. The Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center

Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center
Credits: Acroterion [CC BY-SA 3.0], Wikimedia Commons
Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center
For a more innovative experience, visiting the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center is one of the best things to do in Custer, SD.

The Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center is located in the center of the Park office and the visitor center.

 The educational center offers a wide variety of educational programs, allowing adults and children to come in and explore.

The inner part of the facility was decorated in such a way that it easily attracts lots of families, especially children, to visit and have a great time with the incredible ecosystems in the park.

The Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center also educates visitors about the city’s history, offering lots of educational materials.

Address: 13329 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730-8351 United States

18. Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center

Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center
Credits: Custer Chamber / Facebook
Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center

If you want a breakdown of what to expect, add a visit to the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center to your Custer things-to-do list.

Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center offers visitors all the necessary information and brochures about the region.

The center offers hints about the best places to visit in the city, including restaurants, galleries, event centers, parks, markets, and more.

The staff is highly knowledgeable and helpful when dealing with visitors and while answering all the questions asked.

If you are still searching for a nice lodge to reside in during the time you will spend in the city, the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center offers you the best suggestions.

Address: 615 Washington St, Custer, SD 57730-2028 United States

19. Skogen Kitchen

Skogen Kitchen
Credits: Skogen Kitchen / Facebook
Skogen Kitchen

 Are you in need of a place that serves delicious meals? Then, add a visiting Skogen Kitchen to your list of things to do in Custer. SD.

Skogen Kitchen was founded by Joseph Raney and Eliza Raney, who were based in South Carolina before relocating to South Dakota.

Due to the beautiful surroundings, the restaurant was named ” Skogen,” a Norwegian word for “The Forest.”

The restaurant offers a wide variety of food options on its menu with unique twists which showcases creativity and cultures.

Skogen Kitchen serves meals like Braised Beef Cheeks, avocado toast, Salted Caramel Pudding, Shishito Peppers, Endive Caesar Salad, Lobster Cavatelli, Eggs Benedict, and more.

They also offer a large collection of beers and wines, which includes Chardonnay, Veneto, Italy 2015, Champagne, Veuve Clicquot, Lindemans Framboise, Raspberry Beer, and others.

Address: 29 N 5th St, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

20. Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Add a visit to Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway to your list of fun things to do in Custer, SD, a place rated one of the top ten best Byways in America.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is an actualization of the hard work of a visionary politician, the late Peter Norbeck.

Even when he was discouraged and advised that it wouldn’t be possible to form this byway, Peter continued and made sure it was created.

The Byway is a road work that extends for 70-mile which showcases the amazing job of engineers featuring hairpin bends, curving bridges, and granite tunnels.

Peter Norbeck’s Scenic Byway is a result of the combination of four different highways, and you get to enjoy amazing views of peaks and hills.

You also get the opportunity to see the Mount Rushmore National Monument as well as several wildlife such as Mountain goats and deers.

21. Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road
Credits: Jess Kraft / Shutterstock
Iron Mountain Road

Iron Mountain Road is popularly known as 16A and a route that offers visitors an amazing experience because of the uniqueness of the road and how spotless the journey is.

This is a 17-mile road that always sticks to the memories of its users; there is always something distinct to remember here.

This road is considered a historical artwork designed for people to learn and appreciate the beautiful display of nature.

Iron Mountain Road is a path that always forces its users to drive slow, enjoy the gorgeous views, and feel the solace of the atmosphere.

The road is built with numerous curves plus switchbacks which restrict the drivers’ speed to 35 miles/per hour.

There are amazing features on the road, such as pigtail bridges and tunnels which were placed to promote Mt. Rushmore, the Patriotic symbol of America.

Iron Mountain Road visitor center & store is a must-visit; you get to shop for memorabilia related to the road as well as delightful drinks and coffees to enjoy.

22. Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room & Lounge

Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room & Lounge
Credits: Kenneth Cole Schneider / Flickr
Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room & Lounge

A combination of a dining room and lounge, Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room & Lounge is an exceptional destination and should be added to your list of things to do in Custer, SD.

Blue Bell Lodge Dining Room & Lounge offers classic meals using the original Western flavor including chicken, bison, fish, and beef.

You also get to explore an ancient hayride and enjoy an amazing entertaining session in an outdoor patio that directly overlooks the French Creeks.

For those planning a special event, there is a meeting room and a banquet for several kinds of private events.

23. Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company

Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company
Credits: UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock

If you truly want to know the authentic South Dakota taste, visiting Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company should be on your list of top things to do in Custer, SD.

Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company is the number one location for lovers of good beers, offering them a wide variety of handcrafted drinks.

This is a family-owned and operated brewery that specializes in producing the best porter, ales, and other classes of beers.

They also offer a wide variety of drinks sourced from several local breweries and brewers within and outside the state.

Mt. Rushmore Brewing Company features a full-time bar where all the drinking happens and a dining section upstairs that serves delicious meals.

There is a spacious event center available for rentals for different kinds of events, including birthday parties, corporate events, and more.

Address: 140 Mt Rushmore Rd, Custer, SD 57730, Amurka, United States

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Plan a Trip to Custer

When most tourists plan a trip to South Dakota State, Custer city is usually the last place to come to mind.

But notwithstanding, the city is beautiful and isn’t given the number of commendations it deserves. 

What are you waiting for? Start planning a trip to this city to see and enjoy all it has to offer.