There are plenty of things to do in South Dakota, no matter what your interests may be.
If you’re a nature lover, there are plenty of parks and forests to explore, while history buffs can visit some of the oldest and most interesting museums in the country. And if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, there’s always whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking.
Ready to explore? Here are 23 things to do in South Dakota that we know you’re going to love.
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Badlands National Park was established in 1941 near the famous Wall Drug. The park is known for its steep-sided buttes and spires and its prairies and wildlife. The park is also home to many different animals, including bison, mountain lions, deer, and prairie dogs.
Some popular activities include hiking, biking, and camping. The park also has several visitor centers that offer exhibits and information about the park.
Badlands National Park is a beautiful and unique place to visit, and it is definitely worth a trip! Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, and it is open year-round.
Planning a National Parks road trip? The America the Beautiful Pass covers entrance for an entire year to all the US National Parks and over 2,000 federal recreation fee sites. Fees are covered for everyone in the car for per-vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites. This is a no-brainer, friends. While fees vary, you’ll likely break even after two visits. Plus, REI will donate 10% of pass sale proceeds to the NPS Foundation.
CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain carving in progress located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is the largest sculpture in the world, and when completed, it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long.
The memorial honors Crazy Horse, a Native American warrior who led the Sioux people in battle. Visitors can take a guided tour of the carving site or visit the museum and visitor center. There are also camping and hiking trails in the area.
The Needles Highway is a great place for a scenic drive. The highway winds its way through the Black Hills and offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. There are also several hiking trails along the highway, and the Needles Eye Tunnel is a popular attraction. The tunnel is just under a mile long and has a vertical opening of more than 100 feet.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous activity, the area surrounding Needles Highway is also a great place to go hiking. There are several trails to choose from, and they offer great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Black Elk Peak is the highest point in the Black Hills, and it’s a popular destination for hikers. The hike to the summit is about 10 miles round trip, but it’s well worth it once you reach the top.
CUSTER STATE PARK
Custer State Park is a 71,000 acre park that’s home to many animals, including bison, elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, and mountain goats. The Wildlife Loop Road is a great way to see the animals in their natural habitat.
The park also offers camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and biking trails. There are also several lodges and cabins available for visitors. The park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the warmer months when the animals are more active.
Be sure to check out the annual Buffalo Roundup in September, when a team of riders herd hundreds of bison into a corral for counting and marking. Custer State Park is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to see wildlife in its natural environment. With miles of scenic trails and plenty of animals to see, it’s a nature lover’s paradise!
Details: 13438 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730 | Website
MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved upon the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, United States. It features the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
The memorial was commissioned by the American sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. Work on the sculpture began in 1927 and ended in 1941. It was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 10, 1941.
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is managed by the National Park Service. The sculpture is 150 feet (46 m) high, and the heads are each about 60 feet (18 m) wide. It is part of the larger Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park.
Iron Mountain Road is a road that offers superb views of Mount Rushmore. It is about 9 miles long and climbs to an elevation of 7,242 feet. The road was constructed between 1914 and 1922 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It is a popular tourist destination and is open to vehicles from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Iron Mountain Road is one of the most heavily used roads in the Black Hills.
Also near Mount Rushmore is the Rushmore Cave. Rushmore Cave is a limestone cave located near Keystone, SD. It was discovered in 1881 by two brothers, David and William Rushmore. The cave was opened to the public in 1888. Rushmore Cave is about 2,500 feet long and has a vertical range of 260 feet. It is the longest cave in the Black Hills and one of the longest caves in South Dakota.
Details: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751 | Website
Downtown Deadwood is a historic district in the city of Deadwood, South Dakota. It was founded in 1876 following the discovery of gold in the area and became famous during the Gold Rush of 1876-1877.
Many notable people from that period are buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The Adams Museum, which is located in the district, features exhibits on the history of Deadwood and the Black Hills region.
Today, Downtown Deadwood is a popular tourist destination with many casinos and hotels. The city celebrates its history each year with the Days of ’76 celebration in July. Events include a parade, concerts, and a re-enactment of the Deadwood shootout.
FALLS PARK (SIOUX FALLS)
Sioux Falls’ Falls Park is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The park features a beautiful waterfall that flows over the rocks and into the river below. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll along the riverbank or take in the sights and sounds of the waterfall from the observation deck.
Falls Park is also home to a variety of native plants and wildlife, making it a great place for nature lovers to explore. The park is open year-round, and there is something to enjoy for everyone who visits. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax and take in the beauty of nature, or you’re looking for a fun family outing, Falls Park is definitely worth a visit.
MAMMOTH SITE OF HOT SPRINGS
The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs is a paleontological dig site located in South Dakota. It contains the remains of over 60 mammoths, as well as the bones of other prehistoric animals. The site was discovered in 1974 when a construction worker unearthed a mammoth tusk while digging a trench for a new building. Excavation at the site began soon thereafter and continues to this day.
The Mammoth Site is open to the public year-round. Visitors can watch paleontologists at work, as well as view the fossils and exhibits in the on-site museum. The site also offers educational programs for school groups and other visitors.
Details: 1800 US-18 BYP, Hot Springs, SD 57747 | Website
WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK
Wind Cave National Park was established on January 3, 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is one of the first national parks ever created.
The park gets its name from the fact that a lot of air comes out of the cave, which makes it very windy. Wind Cave National Park is a very popular park, with over half a million visitors each year.
The park has a lot to offer visitors, including miles of hiking trails, the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and of course, the chance to explore a cave.
Details: South Dakota | Website
STURGIS MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM & HALL OF FAME
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame are dedicated to the preservation of the history and heritage of the motorcycle. The museum features a collection of rare and vintage motorcycles, as well as exhibits on the history of motorcycling. The hall of fame recognizes the achievements of motorcyclists from all over the world.
The museum is open year-round, and admission is free. It is located at the corner of Junction Avenue and Main Street in downtown Sturgis.
Details: 999 Main St, Sturgis, SD 57785 | Website
SOUTH DAKOTA AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is a museum in Sioux Falls. It celebrates the history of aviation and space exploration.
The museum has a variety of exhibits on display, including a replica of the Wright brothers’ airplane, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and a Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The museum also has a number of interactive exhibits, including a flight simulator and a planetarium.
Details: 2890 Davis Dr., Ellsworth AFB, SD 57706 | Website
Located in the eastern part of the state, Spearfish Canyon is a popular tourist destination that offers visitors plenty of scenic views and outdoor recreational activities. The canyon was formed over millions of years as the result of erosion and is now home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, and black bears.
Visitors can enjoy hiking and biking trails, as well as fishing and boating in the many rivers and lakes that make up the canyon. There are also a number of campsites and RV parks located in the area, making it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. In the winter, visitors can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at nearby ski resorts.
Details: 10605 Wildlife Lane, Lead, SD 57754 | Website
GEORGE S MICKELSON TRAIL
The George S. Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile long-distance trail located in the Black Hills. The trail was constructed between 1993 and 1996 at the cost of $4.5 million, most of which was raised through private donations.
Named for former Governor of South Dakota George S. Mickelson, the trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.
DOWNTOWN RAPID CITY
Downtown Rapid City is the heart of the city. It’s home to many businesses, restaurants, and attractions.
Rapid City’s downtown has something for everyone. You’ll find art galleries, museums, and theaters, as well as shopping and dining options. There are also plenty of parks and open spaces to enjoy.
Details: 512 Main St Suite 980, Rapid City, SD 57701 | Website
JEWEL CAVE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Jewel Cave National Monument is a United States National Monument located in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. It preserves the cave system discovered by brothers Tom and Jesse Bingham in 1885.
The monument encompasses 193 acres and includes Jewel Cave, which at 204 miles is the world’s third longest cave.
Details: 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730 | Website
Sylvan Lake is a small town located in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest. The town is home to around 1,000 people and is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its proximity to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and other famous attractions in the area.
Sylvan Lake has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s, and today the town is known for its small-town charm and friendly residents.
Visitors to Sylvan Lake can enjoy fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities, as well as a variety of restaurants and shops. Sylvan Lake is also home to the Sylvan Lake State Park, which offers additional recreation opportunities.
The 1880 Train is a historic train that runs through the Black Hills of South Dakota. The train takes passengers on a scenic journey through the hills and valleys and offers a unique glimpse into the history and culture of the area.
The 1880 Train was originally built in 1978 as a replica of the original 1880 train that traveled through the Black Hills. The train offers several different types of rides, including a regular excursion ride, a dinner train, and a holiday train.
Details: 222 Railroad Ave, Hill City, SD 57745 | Website
BEAR COUNTRY USA
Just a few miles from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is Bear Country USA, home to over 50 black bears.
This drive-through wildlife park offers visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing animals in their natural habitat. In addition to the bears, you’ll also see elk, mountain lions, buffalo, and reindeer.
Details: 13820 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702 | Website
NATIONAL MUSIC MUSEUM
The National Music Museum is located in Vermillion, SD on the University of South Dakota’s campus, and is the perfect stop for music lovers.
The museum has a collection of more than 15,000 instruments from all over the world. The museum also has a large collection of sheet music and photographs.
Details: 414 E Clark St, Vermillion, SD 57069 | Website
The Dignity sculpture is a Native American landmark in South Dakota. The sculpture was created by Native American artist Allan Houser, and it represents the spirit of Native Americans.
The sculpture is made from red sandstone, and it stands nearly 60 feet tall. It is one of the largest Native American sculptures in the world.
The sculpture is a symbol of hope and pride for Native Americans, and it attracts visitors from all over the world. The Dignity sculpture is a must-see attraction in South Dakota.
Details: Chamberlain, SD 57325 | Website
The Corn Palace is a tourist attraction and a prominent landmark in the city of Mitchell. It was built in 1892 as a way to promote the area’s agricultural industry.
The building is made completely out of corn, with each year’s harvest being used to add new designs and colors to the palace. Would you believe that this is the world’s only corn palace? Crazy, huh?!
Details: 604 N Main St, Mitchell, SD 57301 | Website
If you’re looking for a summertime road trip destination, consider heading to South Dakota to see the state’s sensational sunflowers. The bloom time is mid to late August, and the flowers can be seen along both Hwys 90 and 29.
Make sure to book a tour with Beth from HydeOutBnB – she knows all the best spots to see these magnificent blooms!
DANCES WITH WOLVES FILMING LOCATIONS
Many visitors to the Badlands National Park are struck by how much it resembles the landscapes seen in the film Dances with Wolves. While it’s not difficult to see why the filmmakers chose this location, it’s still pretty amazing to see the actual spots where they filmed some of the most iconic scenes in the movie.
If you’re interested in seeing where Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell filmed their epic love story, here are the best places to check out:
- The White River Valley
- Mount Rushmore National Monument
- The Badlands National Park
- Buffalo Gap National Grass
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH DAKOTA
- YOUR SOUTH DAKOTA VACATION
- SIOUX FALLS: 17 Best Things To Do In Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- RAPID CITY: 16 Things To Do In Rapid City SD You Can’t Miss
- DEADWOOD: 11 Best Things To Do In Deadwood SD You’ll Love
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