Gambling and Deadwood seem to go together. The town's most famous moment occurred in 1876, when Wild Bill Hickok was shot down in a Deadwood saloon as he played poker. (The cards Hickok held during his final game became known as the infamous dead man's hand—aces and eights.)
Today, gambling halls are back in Deadwood (having been reintroduced in 1989), and more than 80 establishments are in operation. They draw big crowds: Make your reservations for accommodations well in advance. Many of the casinos are housed in vintage buildings that have been restored to appear as they did in the late 1800s when Deadwood was a gold-mining boomtown. There are five blocks of historically preserved buildings in Deadwood's gaming district including hotels, saloons and storefronts. Brick paving stones, old-fashioned streetlights and actors playing out the street shootout scenes of the past help re-create the period atmosphere. The town's location in a narrow canyon also adds to the frontier feel.
And having been to Deadwood, we have to admit it: Losing money in a historic gambling casino is more fun than losing it in a glitzy, modern one. The polished woodwork and swinging saloon doors make it easier to imagine that you're a Wild West cardsharp rather than a traveler wagering your souvenir money.
More evidence of Deadwood's illustrious past can be found at Mount Moriah Cemetery. Some of the West's most colorful figures are buried there—Calamity Jane and Wild Bill, to name just two. Many others are buried on Boot Hill.
The Days of '76, a rodeo and celebration of Deadwood's Western heritage, takes place each July.
Kevin Costner's Tatanka—Story of the Bison is a bronze artwork situated on a hill overlooking the Black Hills. The sculpture features 14 larger-than-life bison pursued by three American Indians on horseback. 45 mi/70 km northwest of Rapid City.
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