Throughout the summer, road trippers and families choose the Black Hills, historic towns and iconic parks and attractions for their vacation. When your South Dakota travels coincide with the first week of August, you’ll be sharing the road with tens of thousands motorcycle enthusiasts. These are the 7 things you need to know when traveling with family during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Sturgis SD During Bike Week

Sturgis SD Motorcycle Rally

Tens of thousands motorcycle enthusiasts gather at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Photo Diana Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

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The legendary Black Hills are a popular destination for families, with must-see stops, scenic byways and highways, and attractions, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial Park, Custer State Park, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, the Badlands, and Rapid City. Summer travels spike the population and traffic to this area, which can be frustrating to travelers, especially if your visit coincides with the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

What is the Sturgic Motorcycle Rally?

One of the largest rallies in the world, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an American motorcycle rally held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota, extending into the Black Hills, celebrating its 75th annual year in 2015, August 3-9. The rally offers motorcyclists a chance to experience the beauty of the Black Hills region. Hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts are expected to attend, with celebrity appearances throughout the week-long festival. But don’t let this massive gathering of motorcyclists change your plans. Instead, consider these 7 things you need to know about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

  1. Motorcyclist enthusiasts are everyday people. They are passionate about riding, and 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, the Harley-riding Traveling Grandmom).

    Bison roam free at Custer State Park--and they don't mind the tourist paparazzi who stop to snap their photos.

    Bison roam free at Custer State Park–and they don’t mind the tourist paparazzi who stop to snap their photos.

  2. Don’t let a motorcycle rally intimidate you or make you afraid. Be aware. Don’t automatically stereotype motorcycle enthusiasts as involved with motorcycle clubs or gangs. Although during the Sturgis Motorcycle 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 (in 2015, anticipated rally attendance is 1. 2 million!), so you actually may feel and be safer.
  3. Summer is the busiest time of the year to travel. 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’re thinking you’ll just pull up at the last minute and pitch a tent; think again. Camping space is also scarce during the rally, so again book ahead, well in advance.
  4. Be prepared to pay a premium 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 Black Hills and Badlands region early in the summer or in the fall.
  5. 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 in 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 Adoba Eco Hotel, where families will find plenty of things to do within walking distance.  If you plan on camping, pick a campground off the beaten path. When booking, ask how many motorcyclists stay at the campground.

    Bikers visit the Badlands during Sturgis SD motorcycle rally.

    When visiting the Black Hills, one of our favorite places to ride is the Badlands. Photo courtesy of Diana Rowe/ Traveling Grandmom

  6. Scenic Byways that make you go wow — and stop and go traffic. Summer is busy, and with the increased motorcycle traffic, 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 Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
  7. Historic mining towns and limited parking. The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is surrounded on three sides by the historic mining communities of Custer, Hill City, and Keystone; all of which offer a host of unique shops, excellent dining, and attractions along the way. 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 rally. Stroll the streets and take a look — but remember, no matter how tempting, do not touch or get on any of the motorcycles.

    During the Sturgis SD Motorcycle Rally, motorcycles also line the streets of the historic downtown of Deadwood, South Dakota.

    During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, motorcycles also line the streets of the historic downtown of Deadwood, South Dakota. Photo by Diana Rowe/Traveling Grandmom

A reminder…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.

Dogs are also motorcycle enthusiasts especially during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Dogs are also motorcycle enthusiasts especially during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Photo by Diana Rowe/ Traveling Grandmom

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.

Have you been to Sturgis? What advice would you add to our list? 

7 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT sturgis Motorcycle Rally