Throughout the summer, road trippers and families choose South Dakota for its iconic Black Hills, historic towns and iconic parks and attractions for their vacation. When your South Dakota family vacation lands in the month of August, you might share the road with tens of thousands motorcycle enthusiasts in Sturgis SD. These are the seven things you need to know when traveling with family during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Perhaps you’ve been planning to visit South Dakota Black Hills for months, or perhaps you’re one of those last-minute travelers. But now, you’re committed to a week in August. Vacation submitted and approved. The whole family is excited. This could even be your first road trip in months, or years.
What is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?
One of the largest rallies in the world, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is also known as Sturgis Bike Week. It is a week-long motorcycle rally held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota, extending into the Black Hills. A “rally” is the name given to a gathering of enthusiasts. The August rally offers motorcyclists, who ride Harley Davidson, Indian Motorcycle, and BMW motorcycles a chance to get together, share their love of riding and experience the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota.
After much debate by the Sturgis City Council and city residents, the 80th annual rally will move forward in 2020. With CDC guidelines in mind, the rally will include many modifications to provide for the safety of visitors and town residents. The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally dates are Friday, August 7 – Saturday, August 16, 2020.
Hundreds of thousands of rallygoers are expected to attend, with celebrity appearances throughout the week-long festival. All of these motorcycle enthusiasts hit the open road for a motorcycle ride or two or three or dozens. But don’t let this massive gathering of motorcyclists change your plans. South Dakota’s the Black Hills offers plenty of open spaces for everyone.
TravelingMom Tip: In these unpredictable times, events, hours and other details are subject to change without warning. Events may be changed or canceled at the last minute.
Family Friendly Survival Tips for Sturgis Bike Week
Here are 7 things you need to know about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
1. Motorcyclist enthusiasts are everyday people.
These men and women are passionate about riding. They hail from all walks of life and from all over the world: lawyers, accountants, factory workers, restaurant servers, cashiers, doctors, nurses, dads, stay-at-home moms — and grandmoms like me, who also write about travel AND ride my Harley Davidson. All are after the same things: a chance to add a trip to legendary Sturgis to their motorcycle travel bucket list.
2. Don’t let Sturgis Bike Week or any other motorcycle rally intimidate you or make you afraid.
Don’t automatically stereotype motorcycle enthusiasts as involved with motorcycle clubs or gangs. During the Sturgis Bike Rally, you will run into all types of enthusiasts; chances are you are just as safe as anywhere.
In fact, during the rally, Sturgis and neighboring communities step up their police patrols, simply due to the increased volume of traffic and visitors, so you actually may feel and be safer. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendance ranges from 400,000 to more than 850,000, all wanting to experience what this area offers — some of the best scenic rides in the United States.
3. Summer is the busiest time of the year to travel. In Sturgis, SD. Or anywhere. Period.
If you plan to visit Sturgis and the Black Hills region, you’ll need to book a hotel room at least a year in advance if you want to stay near any of the major attractions, such as Mount Rushmore or Custer State Park.
Want to rent last-minute tent or RV campsite with hookups? Um, without advance reservations, not likely. If you’re thinking you’ll just pull up at the last minute and pitch a tent or drive your RV and hook up, think again. Camping space is also scarce during the rally, so book well in advance. If you travel-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, well, you may still score a room or campsite, but it might take more effort than usual.
4. Be prepared to pay a premium in Sturgis, SD for everything from hotel rooms to food.
During Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the local business owners bank on covering most of their expenses for the entire year. During the rally, the prices go up, and travelers pay premium prices for everything, from hotel rooms to food.
If you’re on a budget, consider visiting the Rapid City, Black Hills and Badlands region early in the summer or in the fall.
5. Safety first. Use kid-friendly caution.
Although the region is a top family vacation destination, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally can have a more adult theme, especially in the evening when the adults park their motorcycles and kick back. Get your sightseeing done by day and hunker down at night with your family. I’d suggest avoiding hotel rooms or camping in Sturgis where the heart of the rally takes place.
Consider hotel rooms in Rapid City, such as the Rushmore Hotel & Suites, where families will find plenty of things to do within walking distance. If you plan on camping, pick a campground off the beaten path. (Typically those within the city of Sturgis, such as Buffalo Chip Campground, are completely booked months in advance.)
Traveling Mom Tip: When booking during Sturgis Bike Week, ask how many motorcyclists stay at the campground. This is not because they aren’t friendly, but because their Harley-Davidson motorcycles tend to have loud pipes, and the adult motorcyclist-campers like to hang out late. If you want to sleep through the night, choose to stay farther away from the action.
6. From Custer State Park to Spearfish Canyon, Scenic Byways that make you go wow — and stop and go traffic.
Summer is busy, and with the increased motorcycle traffic during Sturgis Bike Week, you’ll likely experience more delays than usual. But take it in stride, and really LOOK at the passing scenery.
To get the most eye-catching scenery, drive the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, a 70-mile loop, that winds through pigtail bridges and granite tunnels of Iron Mountain Road, into Custer State Park, past the Needle’s Eye and Cathedral Spires of the Needle’s Highway, Harney Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial. And be sure to include a stop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Traveling Mom Tip: Order a yummy buffalo stew or bison chili for lunch in Carver’s Cafe at Mt. Rushmore.
7. From Deadwood to Keystone, with limited parking.
The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is surrounded on three sides by the historic mining communities of Deadwood, Custer, Hill City, and Keystone. Each offers a host of unique shops, excellent dining, and attractions.
Step back into time with these Old West towns in the Black Hills and its surrounding areas, but be aware that the parking may be limited during the Sturgis Rally. We love visiting Deadwood and walking its Main Street to check out the long line of parked motorcycles But remember, no matter how tempting, do not touch or get on any of the motorcycles.
TravelingMom Tip: Motorcycle enthusiasts usually are quite friendly and respectful to families. Just like us, they also have families, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. Treat them with respect, and they’ll treat you with respect.
Be friendly, yet still as cautious as you would be around any other strangers. Don’t be intimidated when a group of motorcyclists rides near you, sits at a table in a restaurant where you’re dining, or walks by you. Really, we are regular people who love road trips and exploring the beautiful scenery of Sturgis, the Black Hills, Badlands, and nearby attractions.
Finally…Have fun! Make sure you buy a T-shirt as this may well be the best people-watching road trip ever.