25 Best Things to Do in Deadwood (SD)

Source: Flickr / Amy Meredith | CC BY-ND 2.0

Spawned by an 1876 gold rush, the legend of Deadwood lives on in tales of the wild West.  Set in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, Deadwood offers visitors plenty of activities in its majestic outdoor scenery.  The city does an outstanding job of preserving and presenting its history.  Travelers also enjoy its roaring gambling scene and Native American connections.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Deadwood (SD)


deadwood map
Source: Map data @2020 Google

1. Deadwood Alive’s The Trial of Jack McCall


Deadwood Alives The Trial of Jack McCall
Source: Flickr / Robert Cutts | CC BY-SA 2.0

A local treasure, the Trial of Jack McCall has entertained visitors to Deadwood since the 1920s.  This makes it one of the longest running plays in the United States.  Based on the historic trial of Wild Bill Hickock’s killer, the family-friendly show brings audience members right into the action. 

Audience members will learn local history through the story of the trial, beginning with McCall’s famous shooting of Hickock in Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon.  This is the origin of the “Dead Man’s Hand” in poker, as Hickock was said to have been holding a pair of Aces and three eights.

2. Broken Boot Gold Mine


Broken Boot Gold Mine-1
Source: Flickr / trialsanderrors | CC BY 2.0

Deadwood tourists will be hard-pressed to find a more immersive Black Hills experience than a foray down into the Broken Boot Gold Mine.  Dating back to 1878, the Broken Boot produced over 15,000 ounces of gold from 1878 to 1904.  Ironically, it earned even more from iron pyrite, or fool’s gold, used at the time to produce sulfuric acid. 

The Broken Boot offers thirty-minute daytime and candlelight tours every day.  The tours trace the steps of the original Deadwood miners via cart paths and mineshafts dug into the rock.  Visitors can also try their hand at gold panning and can keep any gold they find.

3. Tatanka Story of the Bison


Tatanka Story of the Bison
Source: Flickr / NatalieMaynor | CC BY 2.0

Founded by movie star Kevin Costner, Tatanka: Story of the Bison provides Deadwood visitors with a distinctive Dakota experience.  The multimillion-dollar Northern Plains Peoples Educational Interpretive Center is dedicated to the millions of bison that once roamed the Great Plains.  A massive art installation depicting three Native American hunters chasing fourteen bison welcomes visitors to the grounds outside.

The facility is situated on a peaceful hillside just north of Deadwood.  An introductory video introduces visitors to the symbiotic relationship between the bison and the Lakota people.  The museum also showcases the history of the bison’s decline.  Memorabilia from Costner’s Dances with Wolves film is also on display.  A gift shop and restaurant round out the offerings.

4. Deadwood Gambling Halls


Deadwood Gambling Halls-1
Source: Flickr / Kimon Berlin | CC BY-SA 2.0

Deadwood stays true to its historic frontier legacy with gambling halls and casinos offering games of chance to interested visitors.  Try your luck in western-themed spots like the Tin Lizzie, Cadillac Jack’s, and the Deadwood Gulch Saloon.  Gamblers can even place their bets in the same spot where Wild Bill Hickock was shot in Nutall and Mann’s No. 10 Saloon. 

Deadwood allows betting limits of up to $1000 on table games such as blackjack and poker.  Many facilities also offer a variety of slot machines.  Try out the Gold Dust, 777 Casino, Midnight Star, and Deadwood Mountain Grand for additional options.

5. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials


Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials
Source: Flickr / Jim & Robin Kunze | CC BY 2.0

For an unforgettably iconic day trip, visitors can head south from Deadwood to the Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore memorials.  These two majestic mountain sculptures are set in dramatic Black Hills landscapes.  Mount Rushmore, as the most popular of the two, receives almost three million visitors each year.  The massive granite heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were carved by the father-son team of Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum.  Visit outside of summer months for smaller crowds. 

The Crazy Horse memorial is destined to be even larger than the Mount Rushmore sculptures.  Inspired by Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear, the privately commissioned project began in 1948.

6. 1876 Mystery Dinner Theater


1876 Mystery Dinner Theater
Source: 1876 Mystery Dinner Theater

Visitors can step off Deadwood’s Main Street and into the year 1876 at the Mystery Dinner Theater.  Located in the Holiday Inn Express and 777 Casino, the performance showcases a rowdy and comedic interactive murder mystery.  Guest can enjoy the show while partaking in a catered buffet dinner.  Live music accompanies the action.  

Audience members who can correctly guess the murderer earn a chance to win a prize.  Funny, historic, and tasty, the performance showcases some of Deadwood’s most enjoyable elements.  Guests can stick around after the show for gambling or spend the night onsite.

7. Adams House Museum


Adams House Museum-1
Source: Wikimedia / Magicpiano | CC BY-SA 4.0

Situated inside the 1892 home of Deadwood businessman W. E. Adams, the Adams House Museum still contains the furnishings from Adams’ lifetime.  It also displays an impressive array of local memorabilia collected by Adams.  The treasures include a 7.35-ounce gold nugget, dinosaur skeletons, and an N.C. Wyeth sketch of legendary gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock. 

Check out the Legends Gallery to peruse personal belongings of local heroes like Hickock, Marshall Seth Bullock, and Calamity Jane.  A second exhibit showcases the illicit side of historic Deadwood, with information on the town’s criminal underworld of prostitution and gambling.

8. Mount Moriah Cemetery


Mount Moriah Cemetery
Source: Flickr / John Donges | CC BY-ND 2.0

As the resting place of many of Deadwood’s most memorable residents, Mount Moriah Cemetery draws many sightseers each year.  Join them on a pilgrimage to the graves of celebrities like Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, and Marshall Seth Bullock. 

Visitors to Mount Moriah can also discover lesser-known Deadwood inhabitants from times past, such as Harry Weston “Preacher” Smith and “Potato Creek” Johnny.  Separate sections also contain the remains of Chinese laborers and members of the town’s Jewish community.  Established in the late 1870s, Mount Moriah also includes a Masonic section, featuring some of the more elaborative gravestones in the cemetery. 

9. 1880 Train


1880 Train
Source: Flickr / Chris Favero | CC BY-SA 2.0

Take a ride into the Old West on the Black Hills Central Railroad.  Their vintage 1880 Train carries tourists from Hill City to Keystone via the original nineteenth-century route.  On the way passengers will pass by mining camps, and Black Elk Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. 

The round-trip, two-hour ride includes narration, and snacks are served onboard.  Kids will enjoy the opportunity to meet with Chug, the bison mascot of the railroad, who stops by for photo opportunities and shares his knowledge with passengers.  Travelers can access the train from the Hill City station, less than an hour’s drive from Deadwood.

10. Days of ’76 Museum


Days of ’76 Museum
Source: Flickr / Amy Meredith | CC BY-ND 2.0

Since 1924 Deadwood has held an annual celebration to remember the town’s pioneer days.  The Days of ’76 event includes a parade and rodeo.  Participants dress in period costumes and demonstrate equipment from the late eighteenth century. 

Visitors do not have to wait for the annual event to enjoy this historic atmosphere, as the Days of ’76 Museum houses all of the best memorabilia that the annual event has produced over the years.  Over fifty historic buggies, carriages, and stagecoachs are displayed in the 7,000 square foot exhibit.  The museum also includes a firearms exhibit with around 120 famous guns. 

11. Bear Country, USA


Bear Country USA
Source: Flickr / dconvertini | CC BY-SA 2.0

Twenty different North American mammal species live in Bear Country USA, a wildlife park one hour south of Deadwood. Visitors can drive their own vehicles slowly through the park’s 250 acres, where they are bound to spot numerous wolves, bighorn sheep, and elk.  Mountain lions, bobcats, Canadian lynx, and badgers also make the park their home. 

Over two hundred black bears have been featured at the park since it opened in 1972.  Bear Country also houses smaller creatures such as the porcupine, beaver, otter, raccoon, and red fox.  Mighty bison and elegant reindeer are also on display.

12. Black Hills Mining Museum


Black Hills Mining Museum
Source: Black Hills Mining Museum

Travelers will find the Black Hills Mining Museum just four miles from Deadwood in the neighboring town of Lead, South Dakota.  The non-profit museum works to preserve the Black Hills’ gold mining heritage.  Exhibits display historic artifacts and memorabilia from the booming days of Deadwoods gold rush.

Visitors can also head underground to explore a simulated gold mine. The site also allows guests to pan for real samples of placer gold.  The advertise the most generous samples in the Black Hills, and guarantee that every participant will take a real sample home.

13. Old Baldy Trail


Old Baldy Trail
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Deadwood’s location in the Black Hills enables visitors to easily access breathtaking landscapes.  Head up to the Old Baldy Trail to access some of these views.  The six-mile loop trail connects to a 0.7-mile spur that leads to the summit of the 5,605-foot tall Old Baldy Mountain.  The slope is moderate, and also permits access to bicycles and horse-back riders. 

Along the way hikers will move through aspen, birch, and ponderosa pine forest.  This makes for an especially gorgeous view in the autumn.  It is very common to catch a glimpse of elk in the area.

14. Deadwood Historic Tours


Deadwood Historic Tours-1
Source: Wikimedia / Stan Kucera | CC BY-SA 4.0

Deadwood offers a host of historic tours for visitors to enjoy.  The Original Deadwood Tour sets off from the Midnight Star Casino, providing narration about the history of the Black Hills and stopping by key sites in town including the Mount Moriah Cemetery and the Homestake Gold Mine. 

You can also take on the role of a western deputy as a part of the Lawman’s Patrol, a walking tour operated by members of the Deadwood Alive cast.  The multi-stop itinerary covers mining, brothels, bars, and architecture.  Another option is Booth Hill Tours.  Their itinerary includes information on local legends and key personalities from Deadwood’s heyday.

15. Belle Joli Winery


Belle Joli Winery
Source: Pexels / Luiz M. Santos | CC BY 2.0

Belle Joli Winery produces unique wines in the Black Hills region.  Belle Joli offers a tasting room on Deadwood’s Main Street with a nice selection of local vintages to sample on their pleasant patio. 

If that piques your interest, more viticultural fun awaits just outside of Sturgis, South Dakota, a twenty-five-minute drive east from Deadwood.  That is the site of Belle Joli’s vineyard and Sparkling House.  The Jackson family uses traditional champagne methods to create local sparkling wine.  Enjoy the lovely views of the surrounding Black Hills landscape as you try out the varieties from the Sparkling House patio.

16. George S. Mickelson Trail


George S. Mickelson Trail
Source: Flickr / Doug Letterman | CC BY 2.0

Experience the Black Hills landscape in person along the 109-mile George S. Mickelson Trail.  Completed in 1998, the trail is open to hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders.  As the northernmost point on the trail, Deadwood is a great place to begin your journey through the scenic hills.  Note that horses have the right-of-way, with pedestrians second.  Bicyclists should yield to both of the former.

The majority of the trail is designed with gentle slopes to make it accessible to travelers of all skill levels.  Interpretive signs inform passersby of notable sights along the way.  Four hard rock tunnels and around 100 railroad trestles form part of the trail. 

17. Homestake Opera House


Homestake Opera House
Source: Flickr / NatalieMaynor | CC BY 2.0

Proudly presenting itself as the “theater built by a gold mine,” Homestake Opera House originated in 1914 as the brainchild of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, widow of Homestake Mining Company owner George Hearst.  For the next seven decades the Opera House hosted social and cultural events for the local community.  The extravagant structure held room for 1000 people and included a heated swimming pool, billiard hall, and bowling alley. 

In 1984 a fire devasted the building.  In 1995 reconstruction began, and the current non-profit organization that runs the facility raised money to modernize it.  Since 2008 live performances have once again graced the opera house’s ornate theater.

18. Deadwood Archaeology Tour


Deadwood Archaeology Tour
Source: Pixabay / JamesDeMers | CC BY 2.0

The entire city of Deadwood is designated as a National Historical Landmark and archaeology site.  The 1876 gold rush brought an explosion of human activity to the region that has left its mark under the ground.  Over ninety archaeological sites have been found in the city limits.  Visitors who take the Deadwood Archaelogy Tour can inspect some of the 400,000 artifacts that have been found, including firearms, Asian coins, mining tools, and more.  Participants will be able to check out some of the digs in person, including the remains of Deadwood’s Chinatown and the many artifacts found at Deadwood Gulch.

19. Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center


Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center
Source: Unsplash / Macau Photo Agency | CC BY 2.0

For visitors in search of live entertainment, the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center serves as a top venue for major performances.  Situated on the former site of the evocatively named Homestake Slime Plant, the center holds up to 3,000 spectators.  Top acts grace its stage.  Musical legends like Willie Nelson and Foreigner have played at the Grand, as have comedy greats like Cheech and Chong. 

As with many downtown Deadwood facilities, the Grand includes an onsite casino and multiple restaurant options.  The flexible-use Event Center also hosts large-scale meetings, weddings, and corporate parties.

20. Jacobs Gallery


Jacobs Gallery
Source: Jacobs Gallery

Deadwood’s Jacobs Gallery offers the unusual combination of a motorcycle museum and fine arts gallery. The originator of this intriguing syncretism is Scott Jacobs, Harley-Davidson’s first official motorcycle artist. Jacobs opened the Deadwood gallery in 2016 with his wife Sharon. On display are many of his original paintings, alongside the work of other local artists including his daughter Alexa and vintage automobile painter Daniel James Stuckenschneider.

Visitors to the gallery learn about Jacobs’ unique career path and have the opportunity to check out his collection of vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A vibrant reflection of the local art scene, Jacobs Gallery attracts visitors from around the world

21. Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center


Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center-1
Source: Flickr / David Brossard | CC BY-SA 2.0

Located on the site of the famous Homestake Mine, Sanford Lab invites visitors to explore an underground research facility in the city of Lead, just a few miles down the road from Deadwood. 

The exhibit hall relates the site’s history from the booming days of the Homestake Mine to the modern scientific research done at the laboratory.  Along with historic photographs and artifacts, a complete 3-D model of the underground tunnels orients guests to the layout of the mine.  Take a tour underground and gain a view of the Open Cut, a 1,250-foot deep surface mine.

22. Andy’s Trail Rides


Andy’s Trail Rides
Source: Pexels / Brett Sayles | CC BY 2.0

Many travelers to Deadwood seek to experience the natural landscape of the Black Hills to the fullest.  A horseback experience with Andy’s Trail Rides puts you in the saddle for a memorable trek through the countryside.  Follow peaceful elk trails up to hidden viewpoints.  Explore mining paths that wind their way up to secluded peaks.  Riders frequently spot local wildlife, including deer and coyote. 

Andy welcomes riders of all skill levels.  Note that Andy’s rides do not simply walk the entire way, and you will have the opportunity to pick up some speed if you are comfortable with that. Andy also offers the opportunity to participate in a horse drive and summon your inner cowboy.

23. Spearfish Canyon


Spearfish Canyon-1
Source: Flickr / Lars Plougmann | CC BY-SA 2.0

Just a short drive west of Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon invites outdoor enthusiasts to play in its impressive scenery.  Spearfish’s limestone gorge is older than the Grand Canyon.  A broad array of wildlife can be found here, including mountain goats and bobcats.  Visitors can engage in rock-climbing and fishing, in addition to the amazing hikes that can be found in the canyon. 

The 19-mile gorge can be accessed via Highway 14A, making for a spectacular afternoon’s drive.  Birdwatchers will find plenty of action here.  Try not to miss the three waterfalls and keep an eye out for the local wildlife.

24. Deadwood Dick’s Antique Mall


Deadwood Dick’s Antique Mall
Source: Pexels / Giallo | CC BY 2.0

Deadwood delivers ample opportunity for shopping enthusiasts.  Deadwood Dick’s Antique Mall occupies a 12,000 square foot early twentieth century warehouse.  Over twenty-five antiques dealers display their wares onsite.  Deadwood Dick’s places a special emphasis on South Dakota artifacts, but also offers up jewelry, collectible dolls, and western memorabilia.  Mining items such as lunch pails, gold pans, lamps, and helmets are on sale, as are books on the Homestake Mining Company. 

For a more tourist-focused array of souvenirs and gear check out the Broken Arrow Trading Company on Main Street.  They sell t-shirts, animal furs, moccasins, and a variety of locally produced handicrafts.

25. Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower Monument


Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower Monument
Source: Wikimedia / Pantunflo | CC BY-SA 4.0

Friendship Tower marks the long-term friendship of President Theodore Roosevelt and legendary Deadwood Marshall Seth Bullock.  The two outdoorsmen first met in 1884, when Bullock brought in a local horse thief.  Roosevelt later appointed Bullock as a U.S. Marshall for South Dakota.  Bullock constructed the tower after Roosevelt’s death in 1919. 

The monument sits atop Mount Roosevelt just a couple of miles from downtown.  The United States Forest Service has managed it since 1966.  Visitors can follow a short path from a picnic area to the tower.  Its observation deck offers panoramic views of the surrounding Black Hills landscape.