Did you ever wish there was a holiday for bikers that was a week-long celebration with music and food… oh wait, there is! The City Of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in its 81st year and happens annually (with the exception of 1942) in Sturgis, South Dakota. Consider us your guides for what to expect at the 81st City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (spoiler alert: you are in for a WILD ride.)
Things to do at the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
What to Expect
If this is your first time at Sturgis Rally, here are some quick facts for you to know.
- The Sturgis rally is one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world, with attendance regularly over 500,000 people.
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was originally put on by Indian Motorcycle riders and was originally held for stunts and races, even though it is widely recognized as a Harley-Davidson event now.
- Food, drinks, and vendors galore!
- Live music every night with main concerts and local concerts at various saloons in town.
- Daily contests, rides, tournaments, showcases, and more!
During the Day
The Sturgis Rally during the day is full of energy and movement from all the rally-goers, vendors, and activities that are going on. You’ll have no problem finding a good time during the day with planned rides through the Black Hills, shopping the hundreds of vendors, or the other planned events like a poker tournament, or motorcycle shows.
As one of the official sponsors of Sturgis®, it’s only right we enrich your rally-going experience with $3 beers (the cheapest you’ll find at the rally) and a life-sized Plinko game that’ll earn you daily cash prizes. The Rumble Rally girls will be there to show you our instant win wall where you can get daily cash prizes and a live DJ and food trucks will make sure the party never stops, until 6 p.m. that is. We’ll have over 100 bikes on-site to either buy or trade for. You’ll find us at the corner of 6th and Lazelle! Don’t forget to get your picture taken at the RumbleOn Mount Rushmore display and tag us!
A good rule of thumb is to pack light and keep extra room in your bags for the things you pick up in Sturgis from the vendors because there is no shortage of them. The rows and rows of tents is a rider’s dream.
Ride with a local - Whether you are a Sturgis bike rally first-timer or just want to learn some info about the area, a ride with a local is a great option. You’ll go on an extremely scenic 4 - 5 hour ride through the Black Hills with a guide who will take you to some of the most spectacular sights. The ride concludes with lunch in Sturgis.
Mayor’s Ride - On Saturday, August 17th the city of Sturgis will host its 19th Mayor’s Ride through the Black Hills. This scenic ride stops at Mount Rushmore for a group photo and concludes at the State Game Lodge for lunch. You can feel good knowing all the proceeds go towards supporting the local emergency services in the town.
Director’s Sunrise Ride - Enjoy a 3 - 5 hour ride with Director Jerry Cole and the Colorado Captain through the beautiful Black Hills and help fight against pediatric cancer. This ride has sightseeing stops along the way and includes a breakfast snack and a lunch.
Medicine Wheel Ride - This escorted ride starts at Bear Butte State Park and goes through Sturgis, the Black Hills, and then to Crazy Horse for lunch and a program. 100% of this registration fee goes towards local Native American initiatives in the Black Hills area.
Veterans Honoring Ride - for a donation you can follow along on this 40-mile ride through the Black Hills. Proceeds benefit homeless veterans.
Opening Ceremony - The opening ceremony for the City of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally kicks off at 12 p.m. on Friday, August 6th, and will feature the Budweiser Clydesdales, a parade, and more.
Mayor’s Pub Crawl - On Saturday, August 7th the Sturgis Mayor will lead this motley crew of rally goers to 5 iconic Sturgis bars: One Eyed Jacks, The Loud American Roadhouse, The Oasis, The Knuckle Saloon, and the Iron Horse Saloon.
Mayor's Golf Tournament - A tournament with 2 person teams. Price includes fees and a post-tournament meal. Tournament fees go towards first responders in the Sturgis area.
Legendary Sturgis 5K - Walk, run, or jog this 5k and enjoy a great breakfast after. This run benefits a local charity.
Mayor’s Charity Poker Tournament - Join in this No-limit, Texas Hold’em game with a $55 buy-in, happening at 12 p.m. on August 12th at Cadillac Jack’s.
Tattoo Tuesday Contest - Do you have the coolest tattoo? Show it off on Tuesday, August 10th at 5 p.m. to win prizes. Enter in different categories and win bragging rights for your ink.
Sturgis Military Appreciation Day - On Tuesday, August 10th at 2 p.m. join veterans, servicemen, and families as they say “Thank you” to all military members. There will be a program, a flyover, and the unveiling of the Gold Star Memorial.
Xtreem Flat Track - Xtreem Flattrack presents 7 races in 9 days at 3 different venues with a race happening each day. Top Pros and Amateurs from across the country will compete in a week-long Championship series.
Beard & Mustache Contest - Do you rock an epic handlebar mustache or a beard to your knees? Let the people of Sturgis decide if it’s the best! There are 5 different categories to choose from and even a special category for the women of Sturgis. Happening Wednesday, August 11th at 5 p.m.
Cole Freeman Jump - Watch daredevil, emergency responder, and American hero Cole Freeman on Saturday, August 14th do a jump over Main Street. Stay for the Daredevil Block Party and event to win a custom-built motorcycle by Cole himself. Money will go towards the non-profit Responder Rescue group.
The night heats up when the sun goes down in Sturgis with legendary bars in town hosting their own events and a huge lineup of big artists and local bands. There’s never a shortage of things to get into after dark.
The nightlife in Sturgis is legendary and if it’s your first or 10th time, you are always in for a good time … maybe too good. Some of the most famous bars in Sturgis will be:
- Full Throttle Saloon holds the title of the largest biker bar in the world.
- The Knuckle Saloon has some of the best burgers in town.
- The Dungeon Bar promises cheap drinks and a wild time… I mean they staple panties to the wall.
- One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon which serves up the best steaks, but get there early because they run out!
- Loud American Roadhouse where you can always find live music and good food.
Concerts and Live Music
There’s live music everywhere you look in Sturgis. Seriously, it’s hard to find a place that doesn’t have a musical act in town. From big names like Kid Rock, ZZ Top, and Stone Temple Pilots (just to name a few) to up-and-coming artists at saloons and bars in town, you’ll be able to find a live event that will kick the party mode into high gear.
The full list of musical acts happening throughout the whole rally is available for download here.
Places to Stay
When attending Sturgis, one of the most famous places to stay is Pappy Hoel Campground, which is named after the legend who started it all back in 1938, J.C. “Pappy” Hoel. Pappy Hoel has 600 acres of tent camping, RV spots, and cabins in their campground and includes a pool, stores, and a restaurant. The stage to The Knuckle Saloon backs up to the campground and admission to the concerts there are included with your Pappy Hoel wristband. Prices vary depending on what your campsite is.
Another huge campground is Buffalo Chip, which is also where the big-name musical acts perform. Like Pappy Hoel, they offer tent camping, RV spots, and cabins in their 600-acre campground and include a biker beach, stores, and restaurants. Your reservation includes access to the live shows and amenities that the campground offers.
While there are hotels, motels, and private houses in Sturgis and the surrounding areas, they fill up very fast and the chances that you’ll find something lessens the closer you get to the start of the rally. If you are looking for rooms in the city, make sure you start your search early for this popular event.
Places to Ride
The beauty of South Dakota, and the surrounding areas, are unmatched. There are countless places to ride to, and a great way to see the sight is to go on one of the Sturgis certified guided rides, but if you choose to go on your own here are some popular sites.
Take a look at our best riding routes in South Dakota for more route inspiration.
Mount Rushmore - We all know what this monument looks like, but seeing it in person is another story. Mount Rushmore is located near Custer State Park, which will give you all the views you can imagine.
Black Hills - The Black Hills are a mountain range that extends into Wyoming which appear “black” from a distance. Riding through the black hills will give you breathtaking sights.
Devil’s Tower - Over the border over Wyoming at the end of the Black Hills you’ll find a huge rock tower, which was also the first US national Monument, given the title in 1906.
Needles Highway - Needles Eye Tunnel is one of three tunnels located along the Needles Highway (South Dakota Highway 87.) Driving through the “eye” or the tunnel’s opening is often referred to as “threading the needle.”
With 10 days of events, shows, riding, and more, it’s extremely hard to be bored while at The City Of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Whether it’s your first or 20th rally, you’ll meet new people, have new experiences, and come home with new memories and stories to tell for years. Remember to keep and the rally spirit alive, don’t drink and drive, and have fun!