The popular Rapid City attraction—City of Presidents—has just gotten more interactive.

A new Mobile Tour and Audio Tour of the life-size bronze statues launched this winter so participants can navigate the experience with ease and also read or hear detailed stories of the past.

“It’s been a real hit for visitors and locals alike that stroll downtown streets,” said Visit Rapid City director of marketing Dani Benne. “After our initial launch during Presidents’ Day, we’ve seen just shy of 4,000 visitors access the Audio Tour.”

The 43 presidents are sprinkled throughout downtown Rapid City up to modern day former President Barack Obama.

“Each is posed in a manner that depicts a significant moment during their presidency or a loved hobby,” described Benne. “As future presidents leave office, statues are created and added to this trail of history.”

“the scavenger hunt can take a real eye for detail, like which president has a carnation on their lapel or a baseball behind his back?” -Dani Benne

The idea of the City of Presidents was pitched to the City of Rapid City in 1999 by a local man named Don Purdue.

“Purdue had noticed visitors flocking to a temporary statue of former President Abraham Lincoln when sitting on the patio of downtown’s Paddy O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Grill, and the idea was born,” said Benne.

With the help of Dallerie Davis, and South Dakota artists John Lopez, Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby, James Michael Maher, and Edward Hlavka, the first four statues were placed downtown in 2000 and included former President George Washington, John Adams, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

“Over the next 10 years, this group of local artists and an artist by the name of John Van Nuys worked to create and place the remaining 39,” said Benne.

Visitors and locals are encouraged to begin the tour by grabbing the City of Presidents Guide at the Rapid City Visitor Center.

“This guide includes a map of the president locations and two interactive experiences: a Scavenger Hunt you can complete and take back to the Visitor Center for a ‘presidential prize,’ and an Audio Tour that gives visitors the chance to fully dive into presidential history,” explained Benne.

A QR code is placed in the City of Presidents Guide and is also on the plaque of each president to scan for the “all-in-one toolkit for presidential exploration.”

“The audio narration for each president provides a two to three-minute history of their life and their time in office from their perspective,” said Benne. “The narration leverages various A.I. voices, matched as close as possible to the president.”


The City of Presidents Guide is available at the Rapid City Visitor Center at 613 Main Street.

One of Benne’s favorite parts of the Audio Tour is listening to the reason behind each president’s pose.

“Why is Benjamin Harrison sitting on a bench feeding birds? Or Rutherford B. Hayes frozen in a brisk walk?”

Benne continued, “There’s also a chance to learn some rather shocking facts, like the president who kept an alligator in The White House bathtub.”

“for families, it’s a great way to excite kids about learning, and better than any history lesson you would find in a textbook.”
-Dani Benne

Each president is privately funded and then gifted to the city. The process of creating a statue doesn’t start until after the president has left office, and once the artist is selected, the research starts.

“Each artist learns about the president and how they can best create a statue that highlights their passions, hobbies, and presidency,” described Benne. “Once the concept is approved, it can take up to nine months for the statue to be created.”

In example, former President Donald Trump is complete, but will not be placed until he is no longer politically active. President Joe Biden will also be placed when he is no longer in office and/or politically active as well.

During winter months, the presidents can be found sporting cozy gear. The community initiative aims to provide winter apparel to those who may need it—hats, gloves, scarves, even winter coats are hung from the statues.

The tour aims to make even more updates, as Visit Rapid City is working on recreating the voices of presidents using an A.I. voice cloning technology. But as it currently stands, Benne says the City of Presidents is a great way to bookend a trip to the Black Hills.

She stated, “It’s the perfect complement to a trip to Mount Rushmore [National Memorial], expanding on the founding four by diving into the history of the rest of our nation’s leaders.”

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