Cinephiles who come to South Dakota to hunt down one of film’s most recognizable homes, the Vandamm House of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, might have trouble finding it. In fact, it doesn’t really exist. Though the house appears to perch atop Mount Rushmore, geographic realities dictated that it instead be built in California and inserted into South Dakota’s landscape with the help of special effects. This is not a surprising turn of events, given South Dakota’s reputation for remoteness. The state even lays claim to one of Earth’s few continental poles of inaccessibility, which are defined by extreme isolation from accessible waterways.
Of course, Mount Rushmore itself is real, as anyone who has gazed upon its 60-foot presidential profiles can attest. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum designed the monument, calling upon the assistance of nearly 400 men to shape it with dynamite. One of these men, Korczak Ziolkowski, went on to carve the Crazy Horse Memorial out of a butte in the Black Hills. Though he died before completing it, his family continues to oversee the project’s continuation. During the second weekend of June, a 10-mile hike up the rocky hillside affords an up-close view of the memorial’s progress.
Late summer brings more things to do in South Dakota, including the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, which temporarily adds half a million people to the town’s modest population of 6,000. The rumble of the festival’s motorized herd probably seems tame to most South Dakotans, as the state is home to one of the country’s few remaining bison populations. Some can be found roaming the plains above Wind Cave National Park, one of the longest caves on the planet.
Though mostly rural, South Dakota has its share of urban pockets. With a population of more than 150,000, Sioux Falls boasts an active downtown scene with gallery walks, boutique shopping, and a diverse collection of restaurants.