15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in South Dakota

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Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

Located in the heart of the country, South Dakota has both cities and rural charm. Several destinations are offered by the badlands, such as the state’s NATIONAL MUSEUM SOUTH DAKOTA, which extends into the sky.

The beautiful countryside of South Dakota is what attracts the majority of visitors. On the western side of the state is where most adventures take place. Within these old-growth forest regions, one can find innumerable underground caves as well as overground mas well as significant monuments.

The landscapes of South Dakota come with a unique history that adds to the experience of visiting, as evidenced by the patriotic nature of monuments like Mount Rushmore. The history of the region can also be explored at other places like Deadwood, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Good Earth State Park.

Find your own story in our list of South Dakota’s top attractions.

1. Mount Rushmore National Monument

South Dakota’s most popular tourist attraction is this memorial. Majestically incised into the side of the mountain are the carved sculptures of the three American Presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Lincoln, and the Emperor, along with Theodore Roosevelt. the carving was designed by Gutzon Borglum in 1927, but stopped because of political controversy, which lasted for several decades, and was resolved in 1991

During its construction, the mountainside had blasted more than 400,000 tons of rock. It is illuminated and greeted by a patriotic ceremony in the evening. Admired by both for its panoramic views and history, the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center is an exciting part of any sightseeing expedition. visitors will have an excellent view of the monument via the 0.6-mile path

Though Mount Rushmore often identifies a South Dakota vacation, the majority of travelers only spend a day there. This scenic region surrounding Mount Rushmore offers many days for itinerary expansion.

2. Badlands National Park

The interesting, varied landscapes of Badlands National Park are sculpted by the erosion of clay and sand mixed together. the natural presence of an expansive herd of bison adds to the whole experience The setting is unusual and one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.

Including a great number of parking places and great views, the Badlands Loop tours the scenic area from the Bad River Entrance to the Ben Reifel visitor center. Appealing to the senses here is to discover how dramatically the landscape has changed is through rocky scenery and the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, one of the last surviving prairie ecosystems in North America.

The eight main trails in the park are located in the Cedar Pass area. Hiking into these tough-to-to-navigate locations is easier with well-mapped roads and marked trails such as the Door, Window, and the Notch Trails. You can get maps from the park administration or from tourist information centers.

3. Custer State Park

Custer State Park, one of South Dakota’s best state and national parks, encompasses a diverse range of terrain. The peaceful landscape is home to a large herd of bison, as well as a variety of other wildlife. Granite peaks dominate the landscape, towering over forests, lakes, and streams.

The Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, for example, provide easy access to the park while also providing spectacular views. Several campgrounds in the park also welcome visitors from all over the world. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails are available for the more adventurous.

The Sylvan Lake Shore Trail is a must-see attraction in Custer. This waterfront trail winds its way around the rock-lined reservoir, with numerous side trails to discover. Hikers will also find the difficult trailhead leading up to Black Elk Peak, formerly known as Harney Peak and the state’s highest peak, in the same area.

The 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road in the southeast corner of the park is another must-see attraction in Custer. Early morning or late evening are the best times to visit this scenic loop, as this is when the resident bison are most active.

4. Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest sculpture, is five miles north of Custer and seventeen miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

It all started in 1939 when Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear commissioned sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create a memorial to the Lakota leader Chief Crazy Horse’s spirit and culture.

The massive carving depicting Crazy Horse astride his charging steed began with the first blast on the mountain on June 3, 1948. Until Korczak’s death in 1982, he, his wife Ruth, and their ten children, as well as a few employees, worked on the memorial. Ruth went on to lead the privately funded project after that. Korczak was adamant that no federal or state funds be used to construct the memorial.

The sculpture will be 563 feet tall and 641 feet wide when completed. Crazy Horse’s head is 87 feet tall. By comparison, the four U.S. Presidents’ heads on Mount Rushmore stand 60 feet tall.
The project’s end date has yet to be determined. The Indian Museum of North America® and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center® are also located on the property.

5. Wind Cave National Park

The National Park Wind Cave, located north of Hot Springs, houses a huge karstic cave system, which is believed to be among the world’s largest. A hunter discovered it in 1881 when he noticed a draft coming from a crack in the rock. The cave has a rare and delicate cave structure known as “boxwork,” which can only be found in a few places on the planet.

Wind Cave can only be explored on one of the many Park Ranger-led sightseeing tours that take place almost every day of the year. The majority of the tours follow lighted and cement pathways installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, with different routes available for different ability levels.

The park’s above-ground area, with rolling hills and roaming bison, is also very beautiful for those who do not want to take an underground tour. The national park’s Elk Mountain Campground is located among these above-ground surroundings and offers a less crowded experience than other nearby campgrounds.

6. Mammoth Site

A large number of Columbian mammoth bones can be found at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. More than 60 of these mammoth species have been discovered at this location, including three of the woolly mammoth variety. Visitors can view exposed, temperature-controlled bones in an uncovered location.

Guided tours are offered to give the public a close-up view of the excavation process. Anyone who wants to experience hands-on instruction can participate in the popular and in-depth paleontology classes. Some of the fossils that have been discovered under the ground are on display in the on-site exhibit.

7. Deadwood

Deadwood is surrounded by dense black hills scenery. It’s no surprise that this locale is famous for its gold rush history.

Everything about Deadwood’s wild westward origins is open for viewing and ready to be experienced in the city’s downtown area. Historic Main Street contains various conflicts, like reenactments of shootouts, as well as the Adams Museum and the historic gold panning scene.

Mount Moriah is a unique spot in Deadwood; it contains many notable persons from the American Old West, such as Wild Bill Hickok, who met his death in a Deadwood establishment.

8. Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon is a stunning natural area with plenty of ponderosa and spruce pine trees, as well as stunning waterfalls and cliff walls. Bridal Veil and Rough Lock Falls, as well as Spearfish Peak and Little Crow Peak, are popular roadside attractions and hikes in Spearfish Canyon.

While the 22-mile route offers beautiful natural scenery at any time of year, the entire area is especially beautiful in the fall, when the foliage begins to change color.

The geographic center of the United States lies just north of Spearfish. The city of Spearfish, which serves as the northern terminus of the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, is an excellent basecamp, with a vibrant community and a variety of lodging options.

9. National Music Museum

The National Music Museum & Cultural Center at the University of South Dakota contains thousands of instruments from all over the world. In addition, the museum covers a wide range of historical time periods.

A small admission fee grants the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of musical instruments, such as electric guitars or a German zither.

There are over 15,000 instruments on display in the museum. In 2021, additional floor space will be added to accommodate the growing collection.

10. Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

Good Earth Park has a deep history even though it was only created as a state park within the last few years. The Good Earth State Park is part of the Blood River National Historic Landmark, an area once a primary gathering and trading place for the Oneota tribe.

It is generally regarded as one of the country’s most important historical sites. The region’s culture and history can be explored with a recently built visitor center that is 11,000 square feet.

The park is also home to 650 acres of native wildlife habitat, such as guided trails that lead to the Big Sioux River. This project allows visitors to be immersed in the environment that has been home to these Native Americans for thousands of years.

11. Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove

There are over two hundred different species of butterflies in the Sertoma Butterfly House in Sioux Falls, SD. The primary attraction is the butterfly garden, but the Marine Cove is home to a wide variety of marine life in tanks and pools.

Several of the popular exhibits include the Pacific Tide Pool and Shark & Stingray pool and the 3,600-square-foot tropical butterfly house. Participants are also welcome to enroll in Sertoma butterfly classes and events, including gardening, yoga, and tai chi-kicks in the backyard.

12. Old Courthouse Museum

The Old Courthouse is an 1800s-era building with a three-story quartzite structure. It has several interesting features, such as wall murals showing life in an earlier time period of South Dakota. All the exhibits in the museum relate to the history of the state and the town.

Entrance is completely free of charge, although donations are accepted. Some of the more prominent permanent exhibits at the Old State House include a 19th-century classroom and a gallery dedicated to the first World War.

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