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22 Best Places to Visit & Things to do in South Dakota

South Dakota’s state slogan – “Great Faces. Great Places” – tells you the most memorable state feature: Mount Rushmore National Monument. But the state also offers numerous natural and urban attractions including museum locations, national parks, wildlife sites, amusement centers, and more.

South Dakota Capital Building at Sunset
pabrady63 / Adobe Stock

South Dakota is often overshadowed by neighboring states such as Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do if you head over to “Mount Rushmore State.”

South Dakota has its fair share of attractions including some of the most unique things to see in the country. So that you can plan your perfect getaway, I have compiled a list of the best things to do when you travel to South Dakota.


  • Most significant landmark – Mount Rushmore National Monument
  • Best park – Badlands National Park
  • Best free activity – Dinosaur Park
  • Best activity for kids – Rush Mountain Adventure Park
  • Best activity for adults – Historic Deadwood
  • Best food – Black Hills Burger and Bun Co.
  • Best nightlife – Downtown Sioux Falls
  • Best all-around accommodation – Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City

Best & Fun Things to Do in South Dakota

1. Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota’s Black Hills. The name behind this popular destination is a tribute to the people living in the Badlands before it was a national park.

The Lakota name for this area is “Mako Sica,” which means “bad lands.” This name reflected the challenges the land posed to early travelers.

Now the Badlands area is famous worldwide for its bountiful fossil remains as well as for its natural beauty. You might see Badlands’ fossils on certain trails but note that picking them up is illegal.

The lack of water, extreme temperature, and bizarre topography have caused the land to be a dry area. Collecting anything in this park is prohibited because it creates more erosion.

Badlands National Park is situated in an area of mixed prairie and is the largest and most intact diverse grassland in the United States. To experience the big skies here at night, try a sunset and night-time tour.

A part of the park, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is owned by the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Under an agreement with the tribe, this area is managed by the National Park Service.

There are plenty of outdoor activities on offer here. You can hike, see animals like the bison, visit research labs where fossils are prepared, take awe-inspiring road trips and enjoy the beauty of the national park.

Kids can even earn a Badlands Junior Ranger badge. And to explore the more out-of-the-way regions, try a customized Badlands tour.

If you’re bringing a pet, note that dogs must stick to paved roads and developed areas, on a leash. And do remember to have plenty of water and sunscreen.

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2. The World’s Only Corn Palace

World's Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

Address: 604 N Main St, Mitchell, SD 57301

Corn Palace, also known as The World’s Only Corn Palace, is a multi-purpose arena situated in Mitchell, South Dakota. This one-of-a-kind facility, 70 miles east of Sioux Falls, has amazed visitors for almost a century. 

What makes the building so special is that it’s decorated with corn, grains, and natural grasses in specially-grown colors and shades. The artists use about 325,00 ears of corn, hammering them in with one and a half million nails.

The crop art mural changes yearly, meaning visitors can’t resist returning time after time. Sightseers – half a million every year – flock to Mitchell’s top tourist destination, eager to see the magnificent new artwork.

Corn Palace is also Mitchell’s community venue for concerts, exhibitions, and sports events. And every year, there’s the Corn Palace Festival, Mitchell’s most exciting event. This is usually held in late August and includes tons of musical entertainment, rides, food stalls, and specialty vendors. 

Corn Palace, with its pointed minarets and onion-shaped domes, is a fabulous subject for photographs. And you must get a selfie with Cornelius, the Palace’s six-foot-tall ear of corn mascot, too!

The magic of The World’s Only Corn Palace is not limited to daytime. Make sure you get to see it at night as well. This is when the palace becomes an illuminated wonderland, especially during special events.

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3. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls in South Dakota

Address: Spearfish Canyon Hwy, Spearfish, SD 57783

You’ll find South Dakota’s dramatic Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon, a deep narrow gorge carved out by Spearfish Creek. The waterfall is a little under six miles south of Spearfish Canyon’s north entrance. 

To access this, take the spectacular Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway, part of US Highway 14A. Bridal Veil Falls is the most accessible of the three waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon. Unlike two nearby waterfalls – Spearfish and Roughlock – it’s visible from the road.

The glamorous name comes from the water’s graceful appearance as it tumbles down the rocky hillside. The foaming streams of water, 60 feet in height, have the look of a long lacy veil rippling over the limestone layers.

The strength of the waterfall’s flow depends on the South Dakota seasons. In late summer and fall, there might be no more than a trickle.

In winter, the falls freeze over, giving a stunning wintry effect, perfect for photos. Then in spring, thanks to the melting snow, there’s a good powerful flow. This is generally the best time of year to visit. 

As hiking in the Bridal Falls area is not permitted, you need to pull off the road in the designated area. An observation platform gives visitors year-round viewing opportunities. You have to stay on the platform or in the parking area, to limit environmental damage.

But there’ll be plenty of great photo opportunities. The falls are surrounded by soaring mountains and tall trees, providing a stunning visual experience.

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4. The Mammoth Site

Mammoth Fossil Site, Hot Springs, South Dakota

Address: 1800 US-18 BYP, Hot Springs, SD 57747

The Mammoth Site, also known as The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, is a wonderful South Dakota destination. The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is an active paleontological dig site, so it’s a must if you’re interested in fossils and prehistory.

This fascinating site is the world’s largest mammoth research facility. Since 1974, paleontologists have found over 60 mammoths here, together with many other late Ice Age animals. And more remains are being unearthed all the time!

A trip to The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is a one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll tour the dig site and see paleontology in action, as well as the unique collection of mammoth remains. There are also fabulous interactive activities, like the topographic sandbox and the stream table.

The Mammoth Site also offers summer classes for the whole family, and you can even hold a kids’ birthday party here. And don’t miss all the mammoth-themed goodies in the site’s shop.

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5. Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Memorial on a Cloudy Day

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a colossal unfinished sculpture in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota. It’s dedicated to Crazy Horse, a Lakota warrior who died in 1877. Positioned at the Black Hills’ highest point, the sculpture is visible for many miles.

Construction started in 1948, and when finished this should be the world’s second-largest sculpture. To be part of the project, and to speed it along, you can make contributions. Most donations grant free admission, with some levels entitling you to free personalized tours.

The Crazy Horse Memorial shares its site with The Indian Museum of North America. Here you can see art and artifacts from tribal nations across North America. You can also be hands-on with “make and take” activities.

The memorial is about 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore National Monument, so it’s possible to see both in a day. There are many whole-day tours available taking in both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, as well as Custer State Park.

You can access the memorial from US Highway 16A, also known as the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway. The memorial is also accessible from I-90, which is the main interstate highway in South Dakota.

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6. Thoen Stone

Fields of South Dakota

Address: 8 Thoen Stone Rd, Spearfish, SD 57783

If you love a mystery, then Thoen Stone is for you. This sandstone slab, measuring 10” x 8”, is still sparking debate over a century after its discovery.

The story goes that in 1887, the two Thoen brothers were quarrying for stone on Lookout Mountain near Spearfish city. They stumbled on a carved stone inscribed with details of a gold find that was dated 1834. If the story is true, the stone proves there were prospectors in the Black Hills decades before the 1870s Gold Rush.

But not everyone believes it’s for real. Were the Thoen brothers trying some sort of scam? Did they hope a sensational historical find would drum up business?

You can decide for yourself. You’ll find the original stone in the Adams Museum and House in the historic town of Deadwood, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota.

To see where the brothers found the stone, head 17 miles northwest, to Spearfish. Not far from the city, you’ll see a replica of the stone together with a plaque giving historical information. 

You’ll be crossing private land, so don’t stray from the path. There are some great views here of Lookout Mountain and the rolling hills surrounding it.

Many old Spearfish buildings contain sandstone blocks from the mountain. But whatever the truth of the Thoen Stone, you could say it’s now a kind of monument to those early gold prospectors.

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7. Downtown Rapid City

Downtown Rapid City South Dakota

Rapid City, known to locals as “Rapid,” is one of the best places to visit on any South Dakota vacation. It’s handy for both I-90 and Rapid City Regional Airport.

And for some top South Dakota attractions, be sure to head to Downtown Rapid City. This is a part of town that’s rich in restaurants, museums, shops, and hotels. Even better, everything’s walkable.

First, don’t miss the Journey Museum and Learning Center. This takes visitors on a unique journey through the history of the Black Hills and Native American culture.

There’s the beautiful Star Room, a Bigfoot diorama, and even a human hair wreath. There’s also a charming garden to stroll around.  

Then there’s the South Dakota Mines Museum of Geology. This is free and has fun exhibitions featuring fossils, gems, and crystals.

There’s also a gift shop full of cool dinosaur-themed gifts. Note that the museum is closed Sundays.

For entertainment, there’s Black Hills Community Theater, the Dahl Arts Center, and Elks Movie Theater. And from June through August, you can catch the free City View Trolley. This cute little trolley bus gives visitors a narrated tour of the city’s main sights.

There’s one attraction you must stray from the center of town for. This is the Chapel in the Hills, in the southwest of the city.

Here you’ll find a stunning replica of a medieval Norwegian stave church. There’s also a museum and a grass-roofed visitor center.

Downtown Rapid City has plenty of hotels to choose from. The Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza and the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Rapid City are two more modern accommodations. For a more historic vibe, try the Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City, which has been host to many a celebrity, including a couple of presidents.

8. Wind Cave National Park

Prairie Dog and Bison at Wind Cave National Park
Steevven1 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0

Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, 10 miles from the town of Hot Springs. Established in 1903, it was the first national park anywhere whose main focus was a cave.

And what a cave. It’s the densest cave system in the world and includes the third-longest cave in the United States.

Altogether there are 154 miles of explored cave passageways. It’s also home to the world’s largest volume of honeycomb-like “boxwork” mineral formations.

You can take a guided tour to explore the caves yourself but be aware of some important dos and don’ts. It’s a good idea to book in advance, as there are long waits for in-person sales during the summer months. 

Cave tours are not recommended for anyone not fit and well. Note: there are no restrooms in the caves. Wear sensible footwear, and also long sleeves, as the temperature won’t get above 54° Fahrenheit.

Back up on the surface, Wind Cave National Park is home to bison, elk, raccoons, and black-footed ferrets. The park has over 30 miles of hiking trails, including some pet-friendly ones. 

Bring your tent and camp in the park’s forest or prairie. Or just inhale healthy lungfuls of the same South Dakota air that gave the cave its name.

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9. Geographic Center of the Nation Monument

Geographic Center of the Nation Monument, South Dakota
Image from TripAdvisor

Address: 415 5th Ave, Belle Fourche, SD 57717

At Belle Fourche, 50 miles north of Rapid City, you’ll find a monument marking the Geographic Center of the Nation. After Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union in 1959, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic survey moved the nation’s center up here from Lebanon, Kansas, some 550 miles southwest.  

Now there’s an imposing granite and bronze compass marking the location – or very nearly. The actual geographic center is some miles away. But Belle Fourche, on I-85, is well worth a stop.

The marker is surrounded by flags and is a great spot for photos. There’s also the free Tri-State Museum, with an interesting mix of exhibits, including a dressing-up box for kids. The site is home to an authentic 19th-century log cabin, and there’s a useful souvenir shop.

If you want to tick the real thing off your list of must-sees, the actual center of the nation is 20 miles north on old U.S. Highway 85. It’s on private property but the owner does allow access. 

Be warned that part of the way is just a dirt track, and there’s not a whole lot to see when you get there. Except, of course, the dramatic South Dakota landscape! Whichever spot you choose, the Geographic Center of the Nation is a great destination for a road trip.

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10. Cosmos Mystery Area

Entrance to Cosmos Mystery Area in Rapid CIty, South Dakota
Source: Tripadvisor

Address: 24040 Cosmos Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702

Billed as South Dakota’s biggest mystery, Cosmos Mystery Area is one of the best places to visit for families in the Rapid City area. Cosmos delivers a unique and bizarre experience that appears to defy the laws of nature.

The Cosmos Mystery Area was first discovered in 1952 by two college boys looking for a place to build a summer cabin. They noticed some intriguing things about the site and decided to open it to the public.

Now visitors can experience a topsy-turvy world where nothing seems to be in the right place. Water flows uphill and you can appear to shrink or even walk up a wall. The mind-boggling tours last about 40 minutes and appeal to all ages. 

It’s best to book in advance as the site gets very crowded in the summer months. As well as the crazy cabin, there is the chance to mine for geodes, making Cosmos a great place for a family day out. 

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11. Black Hills Caverns

Scenic Highway in Black Hills, South Dakota

Address: 2600 Cavern Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702

Black Hills Caverns is one of the best places to visit if you’re a fan of rocks and geology. The Lakota Indians have known about this impressive limestone cave system for many centuries. Then, in the late 19th century, Gold Rush miners explored it.

Today the Caverns form a breathtaking tourist attraction. There are now steps, handrails, and lighting in the caves, but the tours still give a sense of what early explorers experienced.

There are two tours for visitors to choose from. First is the Crystal Tour, an easy 1500 ft tour lasting 30 minutes.

The Adventure Tour takes about an hour and explores all levels of the cavern. Here you’ll see a huge range of mineral formations, including cave flowers and popcorn crystals.

Whichever tour you choose, you’ll need to be able to walk unassisted. And note that the caves will be chilly, with temperatures between 48 and 50 degrees. 

Aside from cave tours, you can also pan for gemstones. There’s also a free sandpit for under-5s to do their own crystal hunting. And check out the gift and rock shops where you’ll find stones, fossils, crystals, and other cavern collectibles. 

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12. Broken Boot Gold Mine

Broken Boot Gold Mine in South Dakota

Address: 1200 Pioneer Way, Deadwood, SD 57732

On the hillside over historic Deadwood, South Dakota, you’ll find Broken Boot Gold Mine. This old gold mine, established in 1878, is one of America’s last great gold mines.

Today it’s one of South Dakota’s most popular tourist destinations. Here visitors get a taste of the prospector’s life in a guided tour of the mine.

Tours run on the hour during the summer season and last 30 minutes. If you’re over 12, you can go on a super-atmospheric candlelight mine tour.

You can also prospect for gold yourself. Guides give you tips on the best panning techniques, and you can even buy your own gold pan to take home.

And if you manage to find any gold – you can keep it. Not only that, every visitor goes away with a souvenir “share” of stock in Broken Boot.

Be advised that the tunnels are low and narrow, but you can borrow a hard hat.

See Related: Best Destinations in the Southwest United States

13. Downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

One of the best places to visit in South Dakota, and the state’s largest city, is Sioux Falls. This lies on either side of the Big Sioux River and is just south of the intersection between I-29 and I-90.

As the name suggests, what makes Sioux Falls famous is its series of picturesque cascades. These were formed about 14,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, and are a must-see.

Head over to Falls Park for a beautiful walk by the Big Sioux River where you can get up close to the foaming rapids. The best views are from the top of the observation tower  – and don’t worry, there is an elevator. The visitor center, tower, and plentiful parking are free, and there are lots of perfect picnic spots throughout Falls Park.

Besides Falls Park, some of the best places to visit for kids in Sioux Falls are the Butterfly House and nearby Sertoma Park. Then there are the bears and giraffes at the Great Plains Zoo, or the wave pool, slide tower, and bumper boats at Wild Water West.  

For something a bit calmer, take in the Sculpture Walk in Downtown Sioux Falls or visit the Old Courthouse Museum. Why not check out all these other great places to visit in Sioux Falls?

There are plenty of accommodations in Sioux Falls to choose from. A good mid-price hotel close to the center of town is Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. This has the benefit of a lovely terrace overlooking the Big Sioux River at its Falls Landing restaurant – worth a visit even if you’re staying elsewhere. 

For a more inexpensive stay, try AmericInn by Wyndham Sioux Falls North. And if you’re after more luxury, there’s Hotel On Phillips

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14. Black Hills National Forest

Black Hills South Dakota

The Black Hills National Forest is an area of protected land in western South Dakota. The forest stretches 100 miles from Spearfish in the north to Hot Springs in the south and can be accessed from I-90.

Black Hills National Forest includes many stunning South Dakota attractions. The 1.25 million acres of rugged mountains, lakes, and forested valleys are home to the must-see locations Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and Wind Cave.

There are also some cool places to visit if you’re interested in history. You can sit in an old mining truck at Big Thunder Gold Mine or feel the pioneer spirit at the Gordon Stockade, a replica of an 1874 fort. And there’s an immersive taste of the Wild West at Four Mile West Old Town Museum.

Another fabulous attraction is Jewel Cave National Monument. Here you’ll find over 200 miles of tunnels studded with sparkling spar crystals. It’s best to book a cave tour in advance and bring a sweater – the temperature stays at around 49 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Black Hills National Forest is also perfect for hiking, biking, staying, and wilderness camping. As well as the 30 campgrounds there are over 400 miles of hiking trails. 

To truly get away from it all, visit Black Elk Wilderness. This takes its name from the Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk and is sacred to many American Indians.

In this 13,000-acre area, there are no cars and visitors must follow Leave No Trace principles. If you’re lucky, you might spot elk, moose, bears, and even cougars.

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15. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Address: 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751

At Mount Rushmore National Memorial, it’s no lie to say you’re face to face with American history. With over 2 million visitors yearly, this is South Dakota’s most visited tourist attraction.

Four colossal faces stare out from the granite peaks of Mount Rushmore across the Black Hills. These are U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, and they represent 150 momentous years of American heritage. Each head is 60 feet high, with the monument standing at over 5,700 feet above sea level. 

You can discover more about the astonishing creative process at the Sculptor’s Studio and the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. There are also hiking trails to enjoy. The memorial is some 25 miles from Rapid City, with Rapid City Airport 35 miles away, on South Dakota Highway 44.

If you don’t want to drive, there are many coach tours of Mount Rushmore available. Or you could add some cowboy chow and a trip to Sylvan Lake in the Mount Rushmore plus Meals and Variety Show tour. 

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16. Rush Mountain Adventure Park

Rush Mountain Adventure Park in Keystone, SD
Source: Tripadvisor

Address: 13622 SD-40, Keystone, SD 57751

Rush Mountain Adventure Park is a unique amusement park, and one of the very best places for families to visit in South Dakota. Located near Mount Rushmore, the park is a one-stop shop for family fun. It offers a cave tour, gemstone mining, rides, and a zipline – all in one place. 

First, there’s Rushmore Cave. Guided tours last 45-60 minutes and as they leave every 20 minutes, you don’t need to make reservations. At 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the cave isn’t the chilliest around but you’ll definitely want sturdy shoes.   

You’ll be inspired to try your own mining and kids in particular love searching for gems, fossils, and arrowheads. And whatever you dig up, you can keep!

Then there’s the white-knuckle Rushmore Mountain Coaster where you reach speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. If that’s not hair-raising enough, try the Soaring Eagle Zipride.

Here you plunge 630 feet down the mountainside on a seat suspended from a cable. And for those with a serious head for heights, there’s the Wingwalker Challenge Course.

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17. Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur sculpture at Dinosaur Park, Rapid City
Cti613 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 940 Skyline Dr, Rapid City, SD 57701

Little kids love the retro stone dinos at Rapid City’s Dinosaur Park. Older folks come for the stunning views at the aptly-named Skyline Drive location. And everyone loves the ice cream!

First built in 1936, the park is now undergoing a multi-phase renovation. This is due to continue until late 2023 and will provide a new and improved visitor experience. 

While the steps are being refurbished, you can still access the dinosaurs via the Skyline Wilderness Trail. You can reach this from several different Rapid City trailheads, including Quincy Street on the north and Tower Road from the south.

The improvements to this quaint old South Dakota attraction will include new accessibility and safety features, and better visitor amenities. 

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18. Custer State Park

Bison at Custer State Park

Address: 13400 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730

On the eastern edge of the Black Hills National Forest, you’ll find Custer State Park. The 71,000-acre park is crammed with opportunities for adventure, offering a whole range of outdoorsy activities.

The list is almost endless. There are tons of hiking trails to suit all tastes, including Creekside Trail, Prairie Trail, and Lovers Leap. All these are suitable for both walkers and trail bikes. 

There are horse trails, too. You can swim, fish, or go boating on Sylvan Lake.

And in the wintertime, there’s snowshoeing. Or just enjoy the sights from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle.

The park also has a program of seasonal activities, such as building boxes for bluebirds, or the Halloween Night Hike. And one of Custer State Park’s most famous events has to be the spectacular Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival each autumn. 

As well as buffalo, you might see coyotes, prairie dogs, and mountain lions in the park. And watch out for the famous “begging burros,” donkeys who hassle visitors for food. Whatever you do, don’t feed them!

Custer State Park even has its own general store and chapel, plus an amphitheater that puts on a range of productions every summer. To make sure you don’t miss out, you can stay at one of the park’s many lodges or campgrounds.

For all visits, long or short, you’ll need a state park entrance license. You can use this at over 60 South Dakota recreation areas.

Looking for more activities? Check out these other top things to do in Custer State Park.

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19. Historic Deadwood

Main Street of Deadwood, South Dakota

To get a sense of life in the Gold Rush, head to Historic Deadwood. It’s not just the 19th-century buildings that make this National Historic Landmark District a popular tourist attraction. The town also aims to recreate some of the sights and sensations of the Old Wild West.

So you can take a Deadwood stagecoach ride, or watch a gunfight re-enactment. Other more adult attractions include the many saloons and gambling dens, and the brothel museum!

In its prospecting heyday as the home of 25,000 people, Deadwood has shrunk, giving the feel of a ghost town. This eerie vibe continues in Mount Moriah Cemetery, the final resting place of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Note that accessing the cemetery does mean a steep climb. 

You can see Wild Bill himself – in bronze, that is. The life-size statue is outside Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort at the entrance of Main Street. Close by is Wild Bill’s Trading Post, where for a small fee, you can see where Wild Bill met his gory end. 

Close to Deadwood is the trailhead of the Mickelson Trail, 109 miles of good-quality easy access cycling. And for more fun activities, check out these best things to do in Deadwood, South Dakota.

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20. Needles Highway

Needles Highway Tunnel
Little Mountain 5 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Needles Highway is a scenic drive through Custer State Park. What makes it a must-do activity is the spectacular beauty of the surrounding countryside. You’ll be driving through pine and spruce forests, picturesque meadows, and striking rock formations. 

The route’s name comes from the dramatic, pointed granite columns along the highway. There’s also a unique rock called the Needle’s Eye, with a hole caused by centuries of erosion. 

It’s an exciting 14-mile drive, with hairpin bends and one-way tunnels. Cars mustn’t exceed a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit – but you’ll see so much more anyway if you slow down.

Because of the narrow, winding roads, Needles Highway is closed to motor vehicles in the winter months. It does, though, stay open for hikers, walkers, bikers, and skiers. Note that the route is not suitable for RVs at any time of the year. 

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21. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Stream in the Black Hill National Forest

The Lewis and Clark Expedition set off from St. Louis, Missouri, in 1804, reaching the Pacific Ocean in Oregon two years later. The return journey came through what is now the South Dakota Badlands.

Now around a quarter of a million people follow in the explorers’ footsteps each year on the Lewis and Clark Expedition National Historic Trail. The whole trail covers 4,900 miles, 60 tribal nations, and 16 states. 

In South Dakota, the trail mainly follows the Missouri River, from Yankton in the south to Mobridge in the north. Along the way are some fascinating spots for both nature lovers and history buffs.

You can get a taste of old-time homesteading at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City. As well as the historical buildings, this has nature trails and cross-country ski rentals in winter. 

Further north at Vermillion, off State Highway 19, you can absorb the tranquil atmosphere of Spirit Mound. Then at Chamberlain, off I-90, there’s Aktá Lakota Museum, giving a unique insight into the heritage of the Lakota people. East along the I-90, halfway between Chamberlain and Sioux Falls, you’ll find the Dakota Discovery Museum with its focus on pioneer life.

And at Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, there’s Fort Pierre, the scene of the historic Bad River Gathering. Here you can visit the Log Cabin Visitor Center and the neighboring Old Jailhouse.  There’s also the Lewis and Clark Cycle Trail which includes a range of surfaces, in both urban and rural settings. 

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22. Roughlock Falls

Roughlock Falls, South Dakota

West of the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway in the Black Hills National Forest is Roughlock Falls. This is a series of attractive cascades and rapids in a stunning canyon setting. You’ll see them looking at their most dramatic in the spring when they’re charged with rushing meltwater.  

There’s a car park a short way from the falls with a picnic spot and observation point. Or you could try the Roughlock Falls Trail which follows Little Spearfish Creek to the falls. There’s plenty to enjoy along the way, though watch your step – one part of the trail is called Breakneck Gulch.

It’s easy to see all three local waterfalls in one day. Bridal Veil Falls are only 8 miles away, while Spearfish Falls are just over a mile, along State Highway 14A. But if you want to stay longer, there are chalets to rent as well as several campgrounds close by, with access to tons of amazing hiking trails. 

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What is South Dakota known for?

The word “Dakota” originated from a Native American Sioux word that means roughly “friendly” or “allies.” South Dakota is also known as “the land of the plenty” or “the land of infinite variety.” 

The plentifulness derives from the richness of the South Dakota sceneries and the abundance of its economy. The variety is based on its ever-changing climate –  South Dakota has four distinct seasons. Spring has rain showers, hot summers come with humidity, falls have cool evenings, and winters vary from mild to extreme.

What are some fun things to do in South Dakota?

South Dakota is a place with many things to do all year long. Some of the many fun things to do in South Dakota are at Custer State Park, The Mammoth Site, and Rush Mountain Adventure Park.

What else is there to do in South Dakota besides Mount Rushmore?

South Dakota is absolutely breathtaking and has a lot of things to offer. To name a few things, Crazy Horse Memorial, Sylvan Lake, Wall Drug (you’ll understand what this means once you visit), Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Spotted Bear Casino…and the list goes on. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also head out to the Badlands for some off-roading.

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