South Dakota is known as “the land of infinite variety” or “land of the plenty.” The variety bases on its ever-changing climate, and the plentifulness derives from its richness in its sceneries and abundance in its economy. These are the best things to do in South Dakota.
The word “Dakota” originated from a Native American Sioux word that means roughly “friendly” or “allies.”
A quick look at its location: North Dakota borders South Dakota in the north, Minnesota and Iowa in the east, Nebraska in the south, and Wyoming and Montana in the west.
One of Dakota’s highlights is that it has the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
It’s a range of mountains that includes the 7,242-foot Black Elk Peak, the state’s highest point. It’s found on the “Black Hills” and is on the southwest of the state.
South Dakota’s sceneries involve vast prairies and productive farmlands. Hence, ranchlands are a common thing.
Simultaneously, in eastern South Dakota, you can find mostly are icy lakes as the area has more humidity than the western half of the state.
Missouri River runs through the central and southeastern parts of the state, dividing it.
Even with its division on its climate, South Dakota has four seasons: spring with rain showers, summer with momentary humidity, falls with cool evenings, and winters varying from mild to extreme.
But its ever-changing seasons don’t hamper the state’s economy. South Dakota has a solid agricultural base and one of the largest in the industry.
From time to time, South Dakota ranks among the top 10 states to produce hay, sunflowers, rye, honey, soybeans, corn, wheat, and cattle.
Mining is one of the important economic factors in South Dakota. The state was one of the country’s top spots for gold until 2001. Nowadays, construction materials such as limestone, granite, sand, and gravel are now its most-mined resources.
South Dakota’s tourism is also a considerable contributor to its booming economy, bringing about $2 billion annually.
Table of Contents
Map of Top Attractions in South Dakota
Before we hop into the descriptions of each place. Check out our interactive map of the best attractions in South Dakota.
Best Things to do in South Dakota
Let’s get into the best attractions and things to do in South Dakota.
Badlands National Park
Address: South Dakota, United States
Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Badlands National park is located in South Dakota’s Black Hills. The name behind this popular South Dakota destination derives from Lakota, first called “Mako Sica,” which means “Land that is bad.”
It is a great destination that known world wild from its bountiful fossil remains found.
The Badland’s fossils can be seen along on some trails but picking up fossils and collecting anything from the park is illegal. The lack of water, extreme temperature, and the land’s bizarre topography were the reason behind its name. The Badlands, as its modern term, simply means an area filled with soft rock that is heavily eroded in a dry climate.
Badlands National park is situated in an ecological area with a mixed prairie from the east’s tall grass and west’s short prairies. This is the largest and intact diverse grassland in the United States is protected by the beautiful national park of Badlands.
A part of the park, which is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which is adjacent to and within Badlands, is managed under the care of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
There are outdoor activities that every visitor can do, including hiking, spotting wildlife such as Bison or commonly known as Buffalo, visiting fossil preparation laboratories, taking road trips, and enjoying the beauty of the national park.
The World’s Only Corn Palace
Address: 604 N Main St, Mitchell, SD 57301, United States
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Corn Palace, commonly known as The World’s Only Corn Palace, is a multi-purpose arena situated in Mitchell, South Dakota. It is a one-of-a-kind facility that has amazed visitors for almost a century. The building is made of corn, grains, and natural grasses in different colors and shades. From the World?s Only Corn Palace decoration, crop art, murals, and overall building design is made out of corn, a spectacular sight to behold.
The World’s Only Corn Palace serves as Mitchell’s community’s venue for various events, including concerts, exhibits, sports events, and other joyful community events. Each year, the Corn Palace Festival is the most festive city-wide event celebrated in Corn Palace.
Mitchell’s top tourist destination is drowned with visitors eager to see its magnificent design and beauty.
Taking photos in the palace is very common. Even taking pictures with Cornelius, the six-foot-tall ear of corn from across the street, is common and popular too!
The World’s Only Corn Palace beauty cannot be only seen in broad daylight. At night, the palace dome has a variety of lights shining, and its three-color changing domes often occur, especially when there’s an event held in the palace. A one-of-a-kind tourist destination and attraction that welcomes over 500,000 visitors to the lovely town of Mitchell.
Bridal Veil Falls
Address: Spearfish Canyon Hwy, Spearfish, SD 57783, United States
Rating: 4.7 out of 5
Bridal Veil Fall is the most accessible among the three waterfalls in South Dakota’s Spearfish Canyon.
From the North entrance of the canyon, Bridal Veil Fall, it is approximately 5.8 miles south, and it takes 10-15 minutes to reach the falls. The waterfalls that flow in these 60 ft waterfalls depend on the seasons of South Dakota; the water flows slowly in late summer and fall, while in Spring, it intensely flows.
The waterfalls named are derived from the water’s shape and form as it falls like a Bridal Veil and Victorian lace that thinly travels and veils the limestone and other rock slayers beneath the falls.
As the water in Bridal Veil Fall flows strongly in Spring, it is the best time to visit and admire its beauty up-close or from a distance.
It is a convenient roadside waterfall where there is a pull-off or look-out platform to admire it or cross on the designated pedestrian crosswalk to see Bridal Veil Fall up close or take photos. Due to its ease of access spot, it became popular falls in Spearfish Canyon. The falls are also surrounded by towering mountains and tall lush trees, a sight that to enjoy and appreciate.
The Mammoth Site
Address: 1800 US-18 BYP, Hot Springs, SD 57747, United States
Rating: 4.7 out of 5
The Mammoth Site, commonly known as the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, is a wonderful destination to visits in South Dakota. It is a place for history, and fossil lovers, the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is an active paleontological dig site.
The Community of Hot Springs in South Dakota keeps one of the most valuable fossils. It is known that the site holds the largest concentration and collection of mammoth remains not only in the United States but in the world.
A trip to The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is a one-of-a-kind experience, especially seeing a set of valuable fossils that you can only find in Hot Springs and learn about mammoths.
It is a unique National Natural Landmark to tour around, for it has over 61 mammoth fossils: 3 from Woolly mammoths and 58 Columbian mammoths in the site’s current mammoth counts. The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs has an Exhibit Hall that features full-size mammoth replicas and other ice age replicas.
The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is open to all ages, and kids can play and take part in the site’s activities and watch people behind the mammoth site worth on fossils. Various activities can be done inside the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.
They offer a tour, exhibits, summer class, and accepts volunteers.
Geographic Center of the Nation Monument
Address: 415 5th Ave, Belle Fourche, SD 57717, United States
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Geographic Center of the Nation Monument is a beautiful destination located on private property in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
It is built into a monument and celebrates Belle Fourche as the Geographic Center in the United States. It is 20 miles away from the actual center of the United States, where a small shiny plaque and plinth mark it in Kansas.
The National Geodetic Survey determines the Belle Fourche as the geographic center. The monument is installed with a large 21-foot diameter structure of a beautiful granite compass with a 12 -inch bronze marker that is dubbed “Center of the Nation.”
Even the monument is founded on private property, and the owner allows visitors to experience this great site. Taking road trips and joining day trips is a way to reach and explore the Geographic Center of the Nation Monument.
The Geographic Center of the Nation Monument has a metal disc in the center with an official geographic marker that travelers and locals can stand on and take photos. Its location is near the Visitor Center and Tri-State Museum, where you can take a side trip after you enjoy the beauty of the Geographic Center of the Nation Monument.
Cosmos Mystery Area
Address: 24040 Cosmos Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cosmos Mystery Area is a bizarre tourist destination because it is South Dakota’s biggest mystery. All the laws of nature and even physics are suspended inside the Cosmos Mystery Area, the reason behind its name. It is a beautiful destination that every traveler should visit on their stay in South Dakota.
The Cosmos Mystery Area of the black hills was first discovered by two college boys in 1952, looking for a place to build and establish a summer cabin. Upon entering the site, they noticed an odd phenomenon and decided that it could become of great interest to the general public. Today, Cosmos Mystery Area is flocked by visitors local and internationals that want to see and experience this great mystery.
In Cosmos Mystery Area, lots of surprising and amazing things happen. Walking up a wall, tall people appear smaller, water flows up to the hill, and other mind-blowing mysteries happen in this fantastic destination.
The Cosmos Mystery Area is crowded during summer because of the excellent weather and the large number of travelers who take this opportunity to try the physical experience that they won’t forget. Mystery house and geode mining were some of the fun, family-friendly activities to do in Cosmos Mystery Area.
Black Hills Caverns
Address: 2600 Cavern Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702, United States
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
The Black Hills Caverns is a tourist attraction and a great destination to explore in South Dakota. Gold seekers discovered it in 1882; however, the Lakota Indians have already located the caverns centuries before. Today the Black Hills Caverns is actively explored and visited by tourists, whether local and international, to see the beauty of the underground landscape.
The cave is formed by the Paha Sapa Limestones, a band of limestones that is approximately formed 340 million years ago on the bottom of the sea.
These limestones encircle the beautiful central granite of South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Black Hills Caverns have two tours to choose from: the adventure tour and the crystal tour. The adventure offers a complete tour of the cave, which takes approximately 1 hour. This type of Black Hills Caverns tour includes the three levels of the cave where various rock and cave formations are can be seen.
The crystal tour takes you up 1500 ft and is an hour tour, which is much easier than the adventure tour package. Millions of shining and spectacular calcite crystals can be seen in this Black Hills Caverns tour.
Aside from cave tours, the Black Hills Caverns also have gift and rock shops where rare stones, fossils, crystals, and other cavern collectibles are can be found. To visit Black Hills Caverns is to experience a unique travel and adventure to remember.
Broken Boot Gold Mine
Address: 1200 Pioneer Way, Deadwood, SD 57732, United States
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Broken Boot Gold Mine is a beautiful tourist attraction in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota. The Broken Boot Gold Mine is an old gold mine and considered one of America’s last great gold mines established in 1878. Today it is one of South Dakota’s popular tourist destinations where touring inside the mine is what you do.
The tours in the Broken Boot Gold Mine are every 30 minutes. Tourists can choose whether to join a mine tour or try gold planning lessons or try both. In Broken Boot Gold Mine, learning how to mine by entering gold planning lessons is an exciting activity to try. The gold planning lessons are fun, old mining techniques will be present, when lucky and managed to mine gold, the visitor can keep it!
At the Broken Boot Gold Mine, it is an adventure, with its underground tours of what an authentic gold mine looked like where the miners pursued gold following the path where ore cars travel with only black powder and candlelight as a guide.
Broken Boot Gold Mine is a tourist spot where it gives an adventure walking back in the past and the adventure of feeling insides a miner’s shoes. It’s thrilling undergrounds show an incredible tale of learning about the gold mine and on-going search for gold.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751, United States
Rating: 4.7 out of 5
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is one of South Dakota’s popular and most visited tourist attractions. It is a destination where American history is alive in Mount Rushmore’s stone. The memorial is approximately 30 miles away from Rapid City.
This majestic national memorial park is a large-scale sculpture created by the well-known artist Gutzon Borglum. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located near the Keystone in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
The four faces of America’s prominent presidents’ towers over the height of 5,725 feet above sea level.
The faces sculptured by Borglum on the mountain walls were the most prominent president in the United States. These presidents representing the 150 years of outstanding American history were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
About three million local and international tourists visit the patriotic and magnificent site of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Looking at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is not what you can only do in this popular tourist spots.
Aside from the big sculpture of 4 Faces of America, there are various amenities to visit on the site, including the Presidential Trail, Mount Rushmore Audio Tour, Sculptor’s Studio, Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center & Museum, Youth Exploration Area, and more.
Rush Mountain Adventure Park
Address: 13622 SD-40, Keystone, SD 57751, United States
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Rush Mountain Adventure Park is a fun-filled tourist destination in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is a destination for travelers who are seeking for unforgettable adventures. At Rush Mountain Adventure Park, thereís a lot of adventures and activities to try.
The South Dakota Tourism awarded and recognized the Rush Mountain Adventure Park the 2020 Peter Norbeck Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award.
The park is always on the list of every yearís award inceptions. The award represents how great and wonderful the park is, a reason why thousands of tourists are eager to visit Rush Mountain Adventure Park.
Rush Mountain Adventure Park provides lots of family-friendly journeys and explorations, including the four exciting attractions that can be found in one location.
It is a wonderful adventure park because it has various exciting rides and attractions to see.
One of its main attractions is the scenic tour of Rushmore Cave which is the closest cave to the park. They also offer Mountain coasters, gunslinger 7-D rides, Sky Tykes, Gemstone mining, Soaring eagle zipline, and more.
The Rush Mountain Adventure Park is a fun destination on all levels, which opens the gate of endless fun, exciting quests and a memorable South Dakota experience.
Address: 940 Skyline Dr, Rapid City, SD 57701, United States
Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Dinosaur Park is a spectacular tourist destination in Rapid City, South Dakota. It is one of the Black Hills’ popular and original tourist attractions.
The Dinosaur Park has been open to the public since 1936, and it is located on the ridge of sandstone encloses at the Black Hills. Various sculptures and replicas of the late Jurassic and the early Cretaceous dinosaurs can be seen in the park.
It is a perfect place for families to have fun, especially kids you adore and are fascinated by dinosaurs. There are over seven life-sized dinosaursí replicas was established in the park.
Some of these gigantic dinosaurs were the Brontosaurus and T-rex.
Aside from the enormous replicas of dinosaur views to behold, Dinosaur Park has a visitor center, cafes and gift shops to check out after checking out each of the dinosaurs in the park.
Dinosaur Park is free for everyone; locals and tourists worldwide are gathering in the park. Taking pictures with the dinosaurs as a commemorative is common too. Day trips and road trips are ideal for reaching the delightful Dinosaur Park.
The park is not only family-friendly but pet-friendly too! It is easy to access because it is within the proximity of Rapid City.
Custer State Park
Address: 13400 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730, United States
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Custer State Park is one of South Dakotaís tourist destinations packed with fun and exciting adventures. It is a park where herds of famous bison and other fascinating, diverse wildlife can be found.
At Custer State Park, historical sites, visitor centers, resorts, campgrounds, road trips, and other adventure varieties are offered.
Its 71,000 acres of land in the Black Hills is an excellent haven for a great adventure, a place perfect for tourists looking for pleasing and amusing explorations.
Custer State Park is, in fact, one of the world’s top ten Wildlife Destinations for the array and diversity of wildlife within its borders.
The Custer State Park is one of South Dakotaís largest state parks; visitors can do a lot of outdoor and indoor activities in the park, including biking (on park roads), biking (on trails), birdwatching, boating, fishing, checking out visitor’s center, and more.
Warms days and cool night weather standards are standard in the Custer State Park, especially in Summer. In winter, the temperature is moderate to extremely low temperature.
In Custer State Park, you won’t get bored because of its generous amount of recreation to try. The park is packed with spectacular facilities and amenities such as ADA/accessible features, biking trails, boat ramps, campgrounds, camping cabins, etc.
South Dakota lives up to its name up until today because of its landmark through the perseverance of its people in maintaining its beauty and the strength of its economy.
If you’re traveling and have a chance to go here, don’t miss out on the experience and enjoy the diverse sights in “the land of infinite variety”.