It was Doris Day who first sang the lyrics “Take me back to the Black Hills, the Black Hills of Dakota.” Although those lyrics were penned for the 1953 musical “Calamity Jane,” visitors to Custer State Park Resort in Custer, South Dakota, have been singing those same charming sentiments since the early 1920s.
It was then that the State Game Lodge opened in the heart of South Dakota’s Black Hills with just seven rooms to house the State Game commissioners. The property was later transformed and expanded upon when Calvin Coolidge made it his “summer White House” in 1927. But today, the property is home to a collection of historic lodges and cabins: the State Game Lodge, the Sylvan Lake Lodge, the Blue Bell Lodge and the Legion Lake Lodge.
“The stories behind each of the four lodges varies in their own heartwarming way,” said Gina Konechn, regional director of sales and marketing for the Custer State Park Resort. “Over the years, each lodge has grown, and by summer 2016, we will have 228 sleeping units throughout the park, as we are adding some new luxury, 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bath units with lakeside, creekside and forest views this year.”
It’s not only the ample meeting space and dense boundaries of ponderosa pines and Black Hills spruce that make this resort feel like a luxurious wilderness hideaway for meetings and events. The resort has become famous for its free-roaming herd of buffalo that call the 71,000-acre wildlife preserve home, a natural feature that only adds to the authentic allure of this sanctuary.
“Planners expect more from their meetings these days,” said Konechn. “Companies want a true retreat that refreshes, inspires and produces results. Custer State Park steals your heart and takes you back to a place you never knew existed with the simplest of experiences. I get to share it with people and watch the weight of their everyday stresses fall off of their shoulders as they, too, fall in love with the park and everything it has to offer. It never grows old.”
From weddings and team-building retreats to adventurous meetings and formal events, the Custer State Park Resort offers a chance to slow down and be present, and it’s an experience that is not soon forgotten.
Custer State Park Resort comprises four distinct lodges, and each one offers a meeting space as different as the buildings they are housed in. The resort as a whole rents out more than 10 spaces for meetings and events: At the State Game Lodge, the Pavilion holds 350 guests; the Coolidge Room, 75 guests; the Norbeck Room, 60 guests; and Tatanka Crossing, 400 guests. At the Sylvan Lake Lodge, the Auditorium holds 280 guests; the Meeting Room, 25 guests; and the Veranda, 80 guests. At the Legion Lake Lodge, the Restaurant holds 50 guests. And at the Blue Bell Lodge, the White Buffalo Room holds 100 guests, and the Meeting Room holds 40 guests.
Eating in Nature
Food just tastes better when it’s enjoyed in the wilderness, but the catering team at the Custer State Park Resort goes beyond flavor with its culinary creations; its presentations are works of art. The team works with planners to create custom menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner — from soup and sandwich buffets to wild game sit-down dinners — and can even create homemade snacks, or dessert and beverages to go along with any event’s theme. No outside food and beverages are allowed at the resort, but the catering team does offer a full bar. Kegs are not allowed in the park.