Discover the Christmas Spirit in Hill City | Black Hills Travel Blog
  • Discover the Christmas Spirit in Hill City
    Discover the Christmas Spirit in Hill City

The storage space in my basement is filled to the brim with Rubbermaid totes and cardboard boxes; carefully stacked and aligned in perfect position like a game of Tetris. Each one is proudly labeled by the holiday decorations packed tightly within: "4th of July," "Valentines Day," "St. Patrick's Day," and so on... Not surprisingly, the largest and most numerous of totes hold my most treasured décor: Thanksgiving & Christmas! (I have my mom and grandma to thank for my holiday decorating obsession.)

It's in my blood. Celebrating the winter holidays is one of my favorite pastimes.

Growing up in rural South Dakota, my family, like most, celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday by gathering extended family members into one house, grazing through appetizers, organizing the smorgasbord of salads, side dishes, and crock-pots, and eating to our heart's content (and then some).  After a short break, we begin the hefty task of perusing the dessert trays for the perfect sweet selection. A few hours later, we enter round two of turkey and potatoes, whilst planning our Black Friday shopping strategies. The finale of the holiday festivities concludes late (or early) in the wee hours of the morning when our arms are heavy and our wallets are light, and everyone is desperate to sleep.

That is, until a couple of years ago when I discovered the encore Black Friday event to perfectly transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas: "Olde Tyme Hill City Christmas."

Now, my small-town roots are appeased each Black Friday evening when the community of Hill City comes together to hold its annual "Olde Tyme Hill City Christmas" celebration. I've learned to secure a parking spot blocks away from the crowd, allowing for a pleasant stroll down Main Street. You're sure to pass families and friends huddled together in blankets, lined all the way down both sides of the street. Near the school, you'll probably spot the beginning lineup of brightly lit parade entries. In years past, children have teased the crowd as they rode up and down the city street on bikes decorated with glow sticks. When I picture the event, I can vividly hear all of the laughter and chatter that fills the seasonally quiet walkways, desolate in the absence of summer tourists. A few art galleries are usually open and encouraging guests to browse their exhibits with wine and cheese trays. There is definitely a sense of holiday spirit in the air... an extra sparkle that makes the whole town come to life.

You'll find that the crowd tends to thicken near the Alpine Inn veranda, where volunteers distribute roasted chestnuts, cookies, hot cocoa, and cider. Then the parade kicks off with the lighting of the city Christmas tree. Some years, intertwined throughout the parade, members of the Hill City Volunteer Fire Department will push grocery carts and collect non-perishable items and monetary gifts for a local food drive. Once each float makes its way down the city street, the fun continues as families line up near the 1880 Train trainyard for yet another tree lighting, and the chance for little ones to meet Santa Claus.

Following the parade, the SD State Railroad Museum also opens its doors for free admission to the Trees & Trains exhibit (on display through the end of the year), showcasing beautifully decorated trees and toy train sets for all to enjoy. After winding your way through the museum, the best way to top off the evening is to sit down to a favorite meal in the Black Hills: salad, steak, and bread pudding (à la mode, of course) at the Alpine Inn. I couldn't ask for a better way to extend the holiday weekend and kick-off the Christmas season. It might be called the "Olde Tyme Hill City Christmas," but it has certainly become a new tradition for my family.

Olde Tyme Hill City Christmas kicks off this Friday, November 24, with treats in front of the Alpine Inn at 5 p.m., and the parade beginning at 6 p.m. sharp!

If you're looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city atmosphere, set aside some time to visit the smaller towns dotting the Black Hills and Badlands. Wonderful shopping, dining, and small town charm awaits you, and you're sure to discover the warmth of the holiday season.

About the Author

Alicia is a South Dakota native with family roots in Beresford. She attended Augustana University in Sioux Falls—a year of which she spent studying in Norway and traveling throughout Europe. She acquired her degree in Sociology and International Studies. Despite her love of travel, she and her husband have thoroughly enjoyed making Rapid City their home. She satisfies her wanderlust by soaking up the beautiful scenery and historic treasures that the Hills have to offer. She is the Communications Director for Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association.

Contact | More articles by the author