Cool small town — Deadwood, South Dakota

  • Tom Dell
  • May 2, 2018
  • You don’t have to be a biker to love Deadwood . . . but it helps. Especially in summer.

    I really like Deadwood.   It seems to be a lot of things to a lot of people and an attractive road trip destination to just about everyone.  First, let me apologize for the delay caused by my 11-day hospital stay. I’m hopeful of being back on track going forward.

    Back to Deadwood. I think you’ll like it, too.   Let’s put it through the checklist:

    Downtown shopping. PHOTO: Tom Dell

    All this and gambling, too

    Scenic setting? Check. Easy access from a major interstate Highway? Check. Authentic Gold Rush vibe? Check. Gorgeous 19th-century architecture? Check. Very good shops and galleries? Check.  Lots of festivals and special events? Check. Mock gunfights in the streets? Check. Good choice of accommodations and restaurants? Check. Old time saloons? Check. A compact downtown that’s good for walking? Check.

    Oh, and let’s not forget full-on casino gambling available 24/7 – check.  Ski area nearby?  Check. World’s biggest motorcycle rally just a few miles away? Check.  To give this a California comparison, Deadwood offers all this in a town roughly the size of Julian.

    During the week of the Sturgis rally each August, bikers pretty much take over the town. PHOTO: Tom Dell
    Gunfights are held at three locations along Main St. Just follow the crowd. PHOTO: Trip Advisor

    Bottom line: This is one of the best, coolest U.S. small towns for a road trip visit.  You’ll like it here, too.

    Gambling is available 24/7, but it doesn’t draw huge crowds.  PHOTO:

    Deadwood’s history reflects much of how mining began in the west.  First, miners with picks and shovels, followed by corporate-owned mines, and mushrooming development slowed by destructive fires.  The many 1870s-era stone structures saved the town and kept it a minor tourist attraction.  Through it all. this was the violent place you see on HBO.  But Deadwood was becoming deadwood.  There were too many other Black Hills enticements competing for tourists’ dollars.  Then someone suggested gambling.  It’s saved the town, and it’s managed to do that by making Deadwood cool and not tacky.

    Directions and parking

    Deadwood is a long drive from major cities, but it’s easy to find, at the junction of US 14A and US85.  From Interstate 90, westbound, take the Sturgis exit (Exit 39), then drive 14 miles west on US14A.  If you’re eastbound, take Exit 17, then go 9 miles south on US 85.  If you’re flying in, you’ll find a few expensive flights on regional jets into Rapid City, but your best bet is probably Denver (1/2-day drive).

    PHOTO: Enjoy Deadwood

    In checking visitor comments on Trip Advisor, I found several complaining that it’s hard to find parking in Deadwood.  But that has not been my experience.  All major parking lots and visitor attractions are linked by the Deadwood Trolley, which costs a buck a ride. So you only need to find a space near the trolley stop to get just about anywhere in town.  And remember:  The town is only a few square blocks.  Here’s the city’s parking link:  

    A stroll down Main St.

    Can you take photos like this with a pink cellphone?  Probably not.  PHOTO: True West

    Within the small town’s confines are several attractions that might interest you.  Those might include the Days of ’76 Museum, Mt. Moriah Cemetery (graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane), Adams House and Tatanka Museum.  But I’m letting you do your own web research on those.  Why?  The web resources on Deadwood are almost uniformly opaque, poorly constructed and hard to use.  

    Evening entertainment is another story.  Wander down Main St. and check out the bar action.  Chances are, you’ll find some live music and dancing, along with casino games.  Live acts are usually promoted on posters, too.  Restaurant choices are great, too, as long as you like steakhouses.  I think, for most people, an afternoon and evening of shopping, followed by dinner, some drinks, music and dancing, is the ideal Deadwood mini-vacation. 

    I haven’t decided on the topic for next week’s post.  But it’ll be on time.  Thanks for joining me. 









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