As a child in the early 1970s in Watertown, vacations to the Black Hills always included a trip to Deadwood. That meant seeing the Trial of Jack McCall, visiting Mount Moriah Cemetery to see the tombstones of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and spending some of my allowance on a cowboy hat or a toy bow and arrow set at one of the many souvenir shops.
Today, as a Rapid City resident, trips to Deadwood have the same excitement, thanks to the dozens of casinos that line Main Street and all roads leading into or out of town.
It's been more than 20 years since gambling was made legal in Deadwood, a move that transformed the town. Although the town has more slot machines than residents - about 3,500 one-armed bandits and about 1,200 two-armed types - it features plenty of high-end restaurants, luxury hotels, bars and lots of other things to keep you happy when your gambling allowance runs out.
Gambling options are plentiful. Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort, Cadillac Jack's Gaming Resort and The Lodge at Deadwood are a few of my favorite places outside of downtown. All offer convenient parking, which is often not the case at Main Street locations.
To try your luck downtown, park in the city's parking garage and you'll be able to stroll up and down Main Street and duck into a casino every few steps. Or, park in the lot just as you enter town on U.S. Highway 85 and either walk downtown or hop on the famed Deadwood shuttle. This green monster can get you anywhere you want to go on the cheap.
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On Main Street, stop by the Saloon No. 10 to see the chair Jack McCall was sitting in when he was shot. There are plenty of slot machines there to take your mind off the tragedy. You'll also want to check out the historic Franklin Hotel, a beautifully restored gem with an outdoor veranda, a great place to watch all the tourists milling about. Naturally, there's also a casino on site.
Deadwood gambling establishments have a $100 per-bet limit for table games, and slot machines ranging from $25 for high rollers down to 1 cent for civil servants and journalists. But don't let the penny machines fool you: Many can be played for up to $5 a turn or more.
Whatever your gambling pleasure, a trip to Deadwood will satisfy it. And when you're done for the day but still not ready to go home, hop over to Lewie's Burgers and Brew in Lead for the best burger on the planet.
Roger Whittle is a Journal copy editor. Contact him at 394-8425 or email@example.com