Famous as the state of great faces—Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials, to be precise—South Dakota is also the state of great places. It’s a land of infinite variety, with something for everyone, from outdoor adventure and Old West history to American Indian culture and plentiful wildlife. And the locals are friendly; visitors will notice that many people wave as they pass by on the highway.
South Dakota Highlights
Don't leave without tasting...
Kuchen (COO-gun), the official state dessert. Several restaurants in the state serve the cake, or you can purchase it to take away at the Kuchen Factory in the town of Eureka.
Put these events on your calendar
- Buffalo Roundup (September): watch as the park’s 1,300 buffalo are rounded up, branded and vaccinated
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (August): in addition to races and ramp jumps, the Rally plays host to a dozen outdoor concerts from well-known rock and country musical artists
- Christmas at the Capitol (November/December): the state Capitol building, in Pierre, is filled with real Christmas trees donated and decorated by clubs and organisations throughout the state
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant (July): a theatrical pageant based on one of the writer’s books
- Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo (January/February): rodeo events, indoor livestock shows and competitions, and free entertainment
- Oglala Lakota Nation Annual Pow Wow (August): you’ll be amazed by the colour, movement, dancing, music and overall cultural experience.
Top photo opportunities
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial
- Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down during a poker game. The chair he was sitting in is on display
- Standing in front of the Corn Palace in Mitchell
- Crazy Horse Memorial, with the finished scale model in the foreground and the mountain carving in progress in the background.
Your child will always remember...
- Seeing all of the reptiles at Reptile Gardens near Rapid City
- Seeing the baby bears at Bear Country USA near Rapid City
- Riding the 1880 Train in Keystone.
Classic road trip
The Oyate Trail winds east to west through the southern edge of South Dakota. There’s diverse geography along the way, from farmland to ranchland, past the Badlands to the foothills of the Black Hills themselves. And you’ll find cultural and historical sights representing Lakota Sioux Indian and European immigrant cultures.
- Wall Drug (in the town of Wall)
- World’s Only Corn Palace (Mitchell)
- Pioneer Auto Show (Murdo)
- 1880 Town (on Exit 170 along I-90).
Don't overlook this...
Custer State Park in South Dakota’s Black Hills encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife. A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The herd is one of the largest publicly owned herds in the world. Visitors driving on the Wildlife Loop will also discover whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, ‘begging’ burros, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk and other native animals. The state park is also home to five lodges.
Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries in Rapid City features traditional and contemporary Native American art, books, tribal music and gifts. Prairie Star Gallery in Sioux Falls, meanwhile, is filled with handmade indigenous American art, displayed in a century-old building. Note: Throughout the state, items made here will feature a sticker that says ‘Made in South Dakota’.
History happened here
- Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down during a poker game by Jack McCall at the Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood
- Author Laura Ingalls Wilder had a homestead in De Smet with her family, basing several of her books on the area
- Lewis and Clark travelled through the state while exploring the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 and 1806.
- Go boating, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, sailing and more on the Missouri River—which runs through the middle of the state—and in the reservoirs created by four dams along the way
- The Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile Rails-to-Trails project running through the heart of the Black Hills. You’ll walk over more than 100 converted railway bridges and through four rock tunnels.