Western Adventure: Custer SD – Gold Dust and Ice Cream

1881 Courthouse – Custer SD

(June 3rd, 2022)

Custer SD is a charming western town thatis arguably the center of the tourism for The Black Hills.

I love the cultural heartbeat of downtown Custer with it’s quirky galleries and shops, outdoor apparel and guides, dozens of local restaurants and a handful of museums.

My mom and I spend three weeks in the Custer area in 2009 and began to feel a bit like locals – going to the Dakota Mart and historic post office. While many of the restaurants have changed menus and names – the city is still wild and charming.

I recommend you start your tour of Custer City in the 1881 Courthouse Museum. You will learn about the town’s rise from the initial gold rush of the 1870s. While gold can still be panned in the Black Hills – the real treasure that makes Custer City rich is it’s surrounding nature and central location to the Black Hills most popular attractions.

Custer City is a good home base for Black Hills adventures. You can stay in several hotels or VRBO/Air BNB or camp in CSP and area campgrounds.

To put Custer’s central location in perspective:

Custer is…(approximately)

8 miles from Custer State Park

13 miles from Jewel Cave National Monument

32 miles from Hot Springs, SD (Gorgeous small town, where The Black Hills collide with open prairie – natural bathing hot springs have attracted Native Americans and modern day tourists for centuries.

20 miles from Mt. Rushmore

8 miles from Crazy Horse

95 miles from the Badlands National Park/Wall SD


As the sun fell into dusk, I decided to stop for a spell in Custer following my tour of Crazy Horse.

My big weakness is homemade ice-cream. I parked my car at the local ‘cool-spot’ in town for frozen treats – Horatio’s. The name ‘Horatio’ comes from local legend Horatio Nelson Ross who was the first person to discover gold in the Black Hills in July 1874. Ross was partof General George Armstrong Custer’s Black Hills expedition. Ross’s discovery spurred a gold rush in The Black Hills. The population boomed in Custer City, but eventually waned when better prospects for gold emerged elsewhere. Yet, Ross remained and continued to be a resident of Custer City and an unofficial tour guide – showing visitors where he found the gold at French Creek. He died poor in wealth- but his spirit helped to create Custer City – a treasure in itself.

Housed in an historic building…Horatio’s serves delicious homemade ice-cream alongside of dozens of shakes and sweet options. Click here for the menu.

After much deliberation, I opted for Coffee flavor. The rich deliciousness was mouth watering and I savored each bite as I walked up and down Main Street.

From their website – delicious

With the sun lingering on the horizon for another hour, I decided to head back to Custer State Park and enjoy a bit more scenery before darkness settled in.

Check out my next post as we enjoy the solitude of Stockade an Legion Lakes at dusk

Custer Resources:



1881 Museum – recommend!

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