Deadwood in Autumn: Wild West Songwriters Festival

When guests ask for recommendations planning a repeat visit, they usually ask what time of year is best for traveling to the Black Hills. For us, it's an easy answer: the autumn. Fall is the perfect time to see western South Dakota. There are less people, and even popular places like Mount Rushmore seem uncrowded. The weather is typically warm - but not hot - sunny, and dry, with little chance of rain showers to spoil the day. The leaves change colors, making the forest extra beautiful. 

And although some places shut down after Labor Day (we're looking at you, Broken Boot Gold Mine), there are still a lot of things to do in and around Deadwood. September's biggest event is probably the Deadwood Jam music festival, and Oktoberfest - with its wiener dog races and German cook-off - has gotten pretty popular. 

But the fastest-growing event in the Black Hills might be the Wild West Songwriters Festival in the early part of the month (in 2015, it starts on October 8th). It's maybe Deadwood's most under-rated weekend. In a nutshell: successful musicians, songwriters, and music publishers from around the country descend on Deadwood for a few days to talk about their craft, teach people what they know, and perform in super intimate and informal jam sessions. The performers tend to get the most attention (Michelle Branch and Old Dominion are the big names this year), but the writers and publishing folks are legendary in the music industry. They aren't exactly household names, but chances are you've heard their lyrics before (probably coming out of the mouths of Keith Urban, George Strait, Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Martina McBride... well, you get the idea). I don't know of another way to meet people like this in such a low-key setting. It's not uncommon to attend a panel, then take a break at the Saloon #10 and run into a couple musicians at the bar. 

Some of the events are free (like the writers rounds), but you'll need a ticket for others. You can buy them through TicketMaster (yeah, sorry about that) by hitting their website or calling 800-745-3000.