Sturgis SD sits near the iconic Black Hills, historic towns and attractions of western South Dakota. It’s a great destination for a family vacation, unless you’re planning to travel during the first two weeks of August. That’s when you’ll share the road — and restaurants and hotels and attractions — with tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Don’t cancel your trip yet. Instead, learn about the rally and read our 7 tips for surviving Sturgis SD During the Massive Motorcycle Rally.
What is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?
A “rally” is the name given to a gathering of enthusiasts.
One of the largest rallies in the world, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is also known as Sturgis Bike Week. It is a 10-day motorcycle rally held annually in Sturgis SD, extending into the Black Hills, Rapid City, Mount Rushmore and beyond.
The August rally offers motorcyclists, who ride Harley Davidson, Indian Motorcycle and BMW motorcycles (really all types of motorcycles) a chance to get together, share their love of riding and experience the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota.
When is the Sturgis Bike Rally This Year?
The 2024 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally dates are Friday, August 2 – Sunday, August 11. Hundreds of thousands of rally-goers attend each year, 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 Black Hills offers plenty of open spaces for everyone.
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 thing: a chance to add a trip to legendary Sturgis to their motorcycle travel bucket list.
2. Don’t let a motorcycle rally frighten you
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. 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
If you plan to visit Sturgis SD 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 a last-minute tent or RV campsite with hookups? Um, 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 always 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. Or you may have to stay farther north or south of the breathtaking attractions of western South Dakota.
If you choose to stay north, we recommend the Hotel by Gold Dust in Deadwood. This spanking new boutique hotel is housed in a renovated historic building, giving it the best of both worlds — the historic feel you want in Deadwood with all of the modern amenities you want anywhere you stay.
Or head even farther away and stay near Devil’s Tower just over the state line in Wyoming.
4. Be prepared to pay a premium for everything
During the Sturgis SD motorcycle rally, 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, avoiding the first two weeks of August.
5. Safety first
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.
Instead look at 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.
SheBuysTravel 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 the 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.
SheBuysTravel 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 in 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.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Motorcycle enthusiasts usually are quite friendly and respectful to families. Just like us, they also have kids, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Treat them with respect, and they’ll treat you with respect. And, just as you wouldn’t touch a stranger’s car without asking, don’t touch the bikes!
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?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: When is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?
A: The rally takes place during the first two weeks of August every year.
Q: How many people attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?
A: The rally attracts tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world.
Q: Are there any age restrictions for attending the rally?
A: No, there are no age restrictions for attending the rally. However, some events may have age restrictions.
Q: Do I need a motorcycle to attend the rally?
A: No, you don’t need a motorcycle to attend the rally. You can drive or fly to Sturgis and enjoy the festivities.
Q: What kind of events and activities can I expect at the rally?
A: The rally features a wide range of events and activities, including live music, motorcycle shows, stunt shows, charity rides, and more.
Q: Is it safe to attend the rally?
A: While the rally can be crowded and chaotic, it is generally safe as long as you take common-sense precautions and follow the rules of the road.
Q: Where can I find more information about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?
A: You can visit the official rally website at www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com for more information.