Dating back to the prosperous days of the Gold Rush, Western culture is still very much alive here. Here, you’ll find the perfect blend of small town charm and big city amenities. Add to that a wide variety of year-round accommodations and activities, and you’ve got the recipe for a fun-filled family getaway. This cultural history is celebrated through festivals and events throughout the year.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
Since 1897, Cheyenne has celebrated its Old West roots with this eye-popping festival. The centrepiece of this Western celebration is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, which draws top professionals who compete for more than $1 million in cash and prizes. Complementing the daily rodeo action are behind-the-chutes tours, trick riding, and a wild-horse race. A Native American Village, an Old West town called “Wild Horse Gulch,” a saloon, square dancing, a chuck wagon cook-off, pancake breakfasts, and an art show carry through the frontier theme. Rounding out the program are a carnival midway, an air show, top-name entertainment, professional bull riding shows, and several parades that include antique carriages and automobiles.
Native American Heritage
The story of the West is the tale of more than one people, and no visit to The Real America would be complete without experiencing the culture and heritage of America’s native tribes. Journey through the heart of the Great Sioux Nation on South Dakota’s Native American Scenic Byway. Explore the ancient traditions of the Blackfeet tribe at Montana’s annual North American Indian Days. Attend an authentic Native American powwow in North Dakota’s capital of Bismarck. Or immerse yourself in the customs of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes at Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation. More…
Norsk Høstfest is a nonprofit Scandinavian Festival held annually in the fall in the N.D. State Fair Centre on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot, N.D. The late Chester Reiten and a group of friends who shared his interest in celebrating their Nordic heritage founded the festival in 1978. The festival has grown into North America’s largest Scandinavian festival with tens of thousands of people attending from all over the world.
The festival features world-class entertainment, authentic Scandinavian cuisine, Scandinavian culture on display, handcrafted Norsk merchandise, plus a fine dining establishment lead by guest chefs. Norsk Høstfest celebrates Scandinavian culture from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup
Custer State Park in the beautiful Black Hills of western South Dakota is full of lush forests, quiet and serene meadows, and majestic mountains. This 71,000-acre state park is also home to one of the world’s largest publicly-owned bison herds, nearly 1,300 strong. Each fall, the ground rumbles and the dust flies as cowboys, cowgirls and park crews saddle up to bring in the thundering herd. The annual roundup, held on a Monday in late September or early October, is open to the public.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Rich in both military and early Native American history, Fort Abraham Lincoln was once an important infantry and cavalry post. It was from this fort that Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh cavalry rode out on their ill-fated expedition against the Sioux at the Little Big Horn. Portions of the military post, including the Custer House, have been reconstructed. Popular with visitors is On-A-Slant Indian Village. Reconstructed earthlodges depict the lifestyle of the Mandan Indians, who occupied this site from about 1575-1781.
Frontier Village and World’s Largest Buffalo
Take a step back in time at this re-created prairie town. Original buildings from the frontier villages of North Dakota have been moved to this site and filled with antiques and artefacts that bring the world of the prairie pioneers to life.
The Village also features several shops selling handmade goods and souvenirs, light lunch and snacks at the General Store, an outdoor amphitheatre with regular live entertainment, and stagecoach and pony rides. Cowboys hold Wild West-style shootouts every other Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The World’s Largest Buffalo Monument, National Buffalo Museum and live herd of Buffalo are also on site.
During the summer months the World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD offers free-guided tours led by friendly guides full of a-maize-ing facts (like how many nails and staples are used in the decoration process). The tour also features an outstanding video explaining the Corn Palace story. After the tour you can view displays about the Corn Palace, watch murals being created, learn how the different colours of corn are grown, and shop for souvenirs in our large gift shop.
International Peace Garden
The International Peace Garden is a 2,339-acre botanical garden commemorating peace between the United States and Canada along the world’s longest unfortified border. It blooms annually with more than 150,000 varieties of flowers and showcases the Peace Chapel. It is also home to the International Music Camp, Friday night concerts in June and July, and interpretive centre, floral clock and souvenir shop. RV-friendly campground.
United Tribes International Powwow
The Powwow is held annually in the Lone Star Arena at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota and has become one of the premier cultural events of North Dakota, receiving numerous awards over the years. Representing over 70 tribes, featuring over 1500 dancers and drummers, and drawing over 20,000 spectators the Powwow has become a must-see event!
Crazy Horse Memorial
“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too.”
These are the words Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1939 urging him to visit the Black Hills and carve a mountain sculpture honouring American Indians. Fifty-five years after Ziolkowski began carving Crazy Horse Memorial, his family continues the dream and work progresses on the world’s largest mountain sculpture. When finished, Crazy Horse will stand 641 feet long and 563 feet high.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
A trip to De Smet, takes visitors to the homestead of famed author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The area was featured in several of her Little House on the Prairie books, including “By the Shores of Silver Lake,” “The Long Winter,” “Little Town on the Prairie,” “These Happy Golden Years” and “The First Four Years”.
Virginia City / Nevada City
Virginia City and Nevada City was born with the discovery of gold in Alder Gulch in 1863. A boomtown of the post-Civil War era, Virginia City served as the Montana Territorial Capital for 10 years, until the gold ran out. Just a mile away lies Nevada City, a western town created from a collection of buildings from other ghost towns. Both towns have been largely restored and preserved as they once stood living examples of the real Old West. The Montana Historical Society has certified 150 authentic buildings.
In Nevada City and Virginia City, shop, dine and sleep without leaving the atmosphere of the 1890s. You will find fascinating nuggets of history and memories to treasure. The restoration of these towns began decades ago, and the state of Montana purchased much of Virginia City and all of Nevada City so that the preservation can continue.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
It’s Biker Heaven…Each year, Sturgis’ Main Street becomes a sea of motorcycles, leather and denim, not to mention, people. Since 1938, Sturgis has welcomed motorcycle enthusiasts from across the United States and around the world to the annual Motorcycle Rally. Based out of this small community in the northern Black Hills, the Rally is annual held the first full week of August.