Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Sturgis, SD

  • Published 2022/10/26

For good reasons, the prospect of an overdrive of the male XY chromosomes looms large on a trip to Sturgis.

Firstly, Fort Meade, a historic US Army post active between 1878 and 1944, helped shape Sturgis in its early years.

Scooptown was this city’s original name when it was founded in 1878, as many of its residents “scooped up” their living from Fort Meade.

The Sturgis name was adopted later to honor Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, a Civil War Union officer who served as commander of the Fort Meade Cavalry Post.

When Meade County was founded in 1889, its county seat designation was awarded to Sturgis.

As the county seat, Sturgis grew to become a trade and commercial center for the largely agricultural region of South Dakota.

This status enabled the city to organize annually each August the popular Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which was first held in 1938.

A slew of outdoor activities can also be pursued in a visit to Sturgis, as this city is wedged between the Badlands National Park and the Black Hills National Forest.

To help ensure that you won’t miss out on any of the prime offerings of this city, here are the top 20 things to do in Sturgis:

Camp and Picnic at the Fort Meade Recreation Area

Landscape at Fort Meade Recreation area.

Cheri Alguire /

Accessible via Old Stone Rd., the Fort Meade Recreation Area covers about 6,700 acres of grasslands and forest.

Its Alkali Creek Trailhead is one of the two spots here where you can camp, which is preferable as this trailhead provides picnic facilities.

The other option for camping at the Fort Meade Recreation Area is the Alkali Creek Horsecamp.

Stone arch at Fort Meade Recreation area.

Cheri Alguire /

Outdoor delights can also be enjoyed at the 50-acre Fort Meade Reservoir, with its two picnic tables, a restroom, and a lagoon stocked with rainbow trout.

Picnic facilities with water and restrooms are likewise available at the recreation area’s day-use Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Chapel.

For hiking, this recreation area provides the 11-mile Centennial Trail accessible from the Fort Meade Trailhead.

Sign at Fort Meade Recreation area.

Cheri Alguire /

Have a Lively Summer Day at the Music on Main

Pick a date in June or July to visit Sturgis, as during these summer months the city holds the Music on Main.

During the summer months every Wednesday, this event features fun-filled activities for all family members.

Kids’ games are among the activities during these days, as well as a mountain bike series for various ages.

This event’s centerpiece is a summer concert series bannered by local bands and singers at the Rally Point Stage on Harley Davidson Way.

There are also vendor booths and food trucks, in addition to the nearby restaurants of the city center.

Visit Old Fort Meade Museum

This museum is located on Sheridan Street at the eastern edge of Sturgis, occupying the former headquarters of Fort Meade.

This fort, named after Civil War General George Meade, was designated a National Historic District in 1973 in recognition of its role in US history.

In the Old Fort Meade Museum, you will find mementos depicting how the fort contributed to maintaining peace in western Dakota during its frontier years.

Details about the history of the Dakota gold rush era and the legendary US 7th Cavalry can also be found in the Old Fort Meade Museum.

One fun fact about Fort Meade is about the heroic 7thCavalry horse, Comanche.

This lone 7th Cavalry survivor in General Custer’s last stand in Little Big Horn was brought to the fort after that tragic battle.

Dine at the Historic Knuckle Saloon

Exterior of the Historic Knuckle Saloon.

Cheri Alguire /

Have a unique dining experience at the Knuckle Saloon, which also houses the Knuckle Brewery.

Located on Harley Davidson Way, these two are on a property once owned by the prominent US Civil War figure that Sturgis was named after.

With such a background, Knuckle Saloon is a restaurant with a bar and a museum brimming with Sturgis memorabilia and antiques.

The gastric delights in the Knuckle Saloon and Knuckle Brewery are as many.

These include steak tips, burgers, and salads, as well as baskets of chicken, shrimp, and fish, plus a chance to build your own pizza.

Knuckle Saloon boasts the longest bar in South Dakota, offering the finest selection of cocktails, craft beer, and wine.

Various events, such as bar bull riding and concerts, are also hosted by the Knuckle Saloon.

Get Pumped Up in the Sturgis Mustang Rally

Reserve end-August for the annual Sturgis Mustang Rally held each year at the Thunderdome on South Dakota Highway 34.

This is a week-long, much-anticipated adventure for Mustang lovers and kindred car aficionados.

The Sturgis Mustang Rally features racing in several formats, including autocross and drag racing and barrel racing and rodeo.

In addition to a BF Goodrich Driving Class, there is also a car show in this event to help participants improve their skills behind the wheel.

Fun runs and poker runs are also part of the activities in the Sturgis Mustang Rally.

Be Charmed by the Jambonz Grill & Pub

This restaurant on Junction Avenue corner Ballpark Road is popular for its authentic Cajun cuisine and Southern menu.

Your choices of seating are either at the well-stocked bar of this restaurant or in its casual dining room.

Weather permitting, you can also choose to dine and drink at the covered patio of Jambonz Grill & Pub.

But whatever your seating choice is, you will experience the trademark charm of Midwest both in food and service.

Jambonz serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and one of its specialties is the Indian taco featured in the Secret Eats of Travel Channel.

Join the Fun of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Hundreds of motorcycles lined up at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Photostravellers /

Visit Sturgis during the first week of August when the city is most revved up, hosting the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, America’s largest.

You need not nail this exact week, though, as this event unofficially extends for more than three weeks.

During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, you can watch track racing, hill climbing, and various motorbike stunts, like intentional head-on collisions with cars and wall crashes.

Motorcycle riders at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Photostravellers /

Sturgis vendors pep up their shops even weeks before the rally, and the city’s extensive network of campgrounds get busy welcoming hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists.

These rally campgrounds accommodate RVs and tent campers, with many also offering cabins or unique accommodations.

One big campground, the 600-acre Glencoe, even provides two stages for free live concerts.

Motorcycle riders at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Photostravellers /

Tour the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum

Besides the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, the city offers a museum where you can appreciate motorbikes.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum is located on the downtown corner of Main St. and Junction Ave.

This museum pays tribute to the proud heritage of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally through its educational exhibits.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum also has a Hall of Fame, recognizing the personalities who contributed to the development and growth of the motorcycle industry and the lifestyle motorbikes have created.

In addition, the museum features a Freedom Fighters Hall of Fame, honoring those who worked to protect the freedoms and rights of motorcyclists.

Join the Fun Run of the Sturgis Camaro Rally

This annual event in Sturgis June each year is not only about revving up Chevrolet’s pony car.

Registering for a basic package for the Sturgis Camaro Rally also includes an exciting evening footrace winding through the Black Hills.

The fun runners’ finish line is at the Sturgis Brewing Company for a round of craft beer and slices of pizza.

Besides this fun run, the Sturgis Camaro Rally also features a parade at the historic grounds of Fort Meade.

The main attractions of this rally are its car shows and races, followed by their awards and socials.

Watch a Bison Herd at Bear Butte State Park

Landscape and mountain at Bear Butte State Park.

Richard345 /

Designated as a state park in 1961, Bear Butte has been a sacred place to the Northern Plains Indians for thousands of years.

Its prominent feature is the 4,426-foot high Bear Butte Mountain, where you can observe a herd of bison from the vantage point of its peak.

Bear Butte spreads on the northeastern side of Sturgis and is the site of various Native American religious ceremonies throughout the year.

A trail at Bear Butte State Park.

Richard345 /

The Bear Butte State Park includes a lakeside campsite west of South Dakota Highway 79.

At this campsite, you can enjoy boating, fishing, and horse riding.

There are also several commercial campgrounds, situated south of the Bear Butte State Park, including Ride N Rest, Iron Horse, and Creekside Campground.

Trees and wooden fences at Bear Butte State Park.

Richard345 /

Shop Organic at Bear Butte Gardens

This is a USDA-certified organic farm on Highway 79, just south of the Bear Butte State Park.

A family-run business, Bear Butte Gardens brings to the market the freshest produce not only from its farm.

It also carries the products of 40 other local farmers, gardeners, and ranchers.

Vegetables, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, and honey are among the items sold in this shop.

Bear Butte Gardens also operates a commercial kitchen to prepare and preserve a wide variety of delectable food items.

It likewise offers a cottage year-round as lodging for visitors in Sturgis.

Inspect Swedish Autos at the SAAB Heritage Car Museum USA

This unique museum is located on Dickson Drive, with more than 100 Swedish-built SAAB cars on display, including the oldest in the US.

This extensive collection of Iowa couple Tom and Patti Donney includes race cars and 13 automobiles that came from the General Motors Heritage Collection.

The Donneys established the SAAB Heritage Car Museum USA in 2015 and picked Sturgis among several other locations.

They chose Sturgis because of the low humidity environment of the city at its 3,500 feet elevation, helping preserve the cars.

Each August, this museum serves a must-see sideshow of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that draws motorcycling enthusiasts nearly half a million annually.

Have a Drink at Belle Joli Winery

Exterior of Belle Joli Winery.

RaksyBH /

This winery on Vanocker Canyon Road has won over many Sturgis visitors not only because of its many choices of award-winning wines.

The family-owned Joli Winery also impresses its guests with its Black Hills vineyard stretching across the northern Black Hills, Sturgis, and neighboring Deadwood.

From the get-go, this shows the production of great wines from grapes grown and harvested in South Dakota.

Joli Winery also produces sparkling wine via traditional champagne methods but using a new state-of-the-art facility.

Pedal the Sturgis Mountain Biking Trails

Mountain bikers love to visit Sturgis because of its rugged and challenging trails along a scenic natural environment.

There are several trailheads within city limits through which mountain bikers can access these routes.

Epic mountain biking terrain can also be accessed at the Fort Meade Recreation Area.

These routes include the South Dakota Centennial Trail, challenging mountain bikers in its single-track path covering more than 100 miles.

Around the outskirts of the city, there are also many off-road vehicle trails and Forest Service roads to test the skills of mountain bikers.

Play at the Boulder Canyon Country Club

The Boulder Canyon Country Club is a public 18-hole golf course offering daily-fee play on its layout on US Highway 14-A.

Opened in 1959, the golf course was laid out upward the Boulder Canyon, thus offering players spectacular views from every hole.

With this outstanding feature, Boulder Canyon Country Club was voted “Best of the Northern Hills” in 2020.

The country club’s course offers par 72 play over 6,361 yards from the longest tees.

It has a 73.8-course rating and a 138 slope rating on Bluegrass.

After a round, golfers can enjoy food and drinks at the country club’s sports bar and grill.

Have a Scenic Ride through Needles Highway

A tunnel along Needles Highway

James Dalrymple /

One of the best things to do when going to Sturgis is a scenic ride along Needles Highway in the Black Hills National Forest.

It stretches over three mountain ranges and 1.25 million acres of woodland and grassland plains.

Although the majority of the National Forest is in South Dakota, you may find a small portion of it in eastern Wyoming.

Scenic view from Needles Highway

Zack Frank /

Take Interstate 90 west toward Sturgis from Rapid City and exit onto Spearfish Canyon Road.

Various forms of outdoor activity, such as camping, hiking, and fishing, are available there.

You may also pass through Mount Rushmore National Memorial and several other national and state parks.

Rock formations along Needles Highway

James Kieckbusch /

Paint Ceramics at White Canvas Studio

White Canvas Studio is a multifaceted art space in the middle of historic downtown Sturgis.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but your mind will start racing with possibilities as you step inside.

Guests of all ages, especially kids, are welcome.

While it’s not a conventional gallery, it has a gallery wall and some areas where it sells locally manufactured arts and crafts.

A husband-and-wife team deeply passionate about their chosen craft runs the studio.

Paint-your-own-pottery is one of its many offerings.

Drop by whenever you like and create something beautiful! Feel free to remain and paint after purchasing an item from our shop; the cost of paint and usage of all other supplies is part of the item’s price.

It’s a fun activity to do when the skies are grey.

The studio molds and fires everything in-house, so there’s always something new to paint, including seasonal items.

Expand Your Antique Collection with Prairie Emporium

If you’re into vintage items, you should check out this fantastic antique shop in Sturgis.

If you’re looking for the kind of unusual antiques at home in the Black Hills, here is the place to look.

Prairie Emporium is a treasure trove of unique curiosities, vintage furnishings, and fine art.

Neil Diamond on Vinyl is akin to an eccentric art gallery filled with one-of-a-kind pieces.

Come in excited, and leave inspired with the stories of each item!

Relax in a Stunning Setting at Akela Spa of Deadwood

The spa professionals at Akela Spa have created a one-of-a-kind spa experience.

Located one mile east of Deadwood, Akela Spa of Deadwood is the only luxury day spa in the breathtaking Black Hills.

Come to Abla Kela, which means “calm” in Lakota, for treatments based on local traditions.

Relax at the Akela Garden, an outdoor space backdropped by the dessert and Bear Butte Mountain views.

Unwind in the infrared sauna, steam room, fire pit lounge, and hot tubs.

It also offers South Dakota wines, beers, and non-alcoholic beverages for a completely relaxing experience.

Buy Unique Fabric for Quilting at Fabric Junction

If you’re looking for high-quality fabric for an upcoming project, go no further than Fabric Junction.

It has material for any sewing project, from its Sturgis Motorcycle Rally fabrics to collections by Quilting Treasures, Henry Glass, and Northcott.

It provides a wide variety of books, quilt kits, embroidery software, finished quilts, fun projects for sewers of all skill levels, and patterns (like Crown Royal designs).

Shop confidently, knowing it’ll help you choose the suitable machine for your sewing, embroidery, or serging needs.

Visit this Sturgis shop any time to take advantage of its extensive inventory, guaranteed quality, quick response to your requests, and friendly staff!

Final Thoughts

Sturgis is a small city yet with a tremendous appeal to visitors, especially those who like adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities.

The city’s natural setting and remarkable history have melded perfectly to help mold these magnets for venturesome spirits.

This city, moreover, has deftly created events spread throughout most of the year, such that it comes easy to gear up and partake of the exciting things to do in Sturgis.

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