South Dakota South Dakota

Exploring South Dakota: A Comprehensive List of Must-Do Activities

When planning an adventure-filled escape, South Dakota may not be the first destination that comes to mind. However, Heartland State offers a fantastic array of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and exhilarating activities that will leave you thrilled and dreaming of more.

South Dakota invites travellers of all ages to embark on a remarkable journey through its rugged landscapes and charming communities, from the impressive Black Hills to the mighty Badlands wilderness.

1. Marvels At Mount Rushmore

Ultimate One-Day Mount Rushmore Travel Guide | Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Witness the remarkable greatness of Mount Rushmore, a witness of American creativity and masterfulness. Cut into the stone substance of the Dark Slopes, this famous landmark includes the transcending appearances of four previous U.S. presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Take in the stunning perspectives, walk around the Official Path, and discover the captivating history behind this irreplaceable asset.

1.1. Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial - Best Things to Do in South Dakota
Screenshot from official Site: Crazy Horse Memorial

A fantastic figure that will leave you in amazement is the Crazy Horse Memorial. This aggressive venture, still underway, praises the incredible Lakota pioneer, crazy horse.

When finished, it will be the world’s most extensive mountain cutting, portraying the notable Local American fighter riding a horse. Watch as gifted specialists continue to form this gigantic recognition for a genuine American legend.

1.2. Jewel Cave National Monument

EXPLORING JEWEL CAVE | A South Dakota Hidden Gem

Dive into the profundities of Jewel Cave, the third-longest cave framework on the planet, and wonder about its multifaceted paths enhanced with shining calcite precious stones.

Set out on directed visits that feature the cavern’s shocking arrangements, from fragile curtains to transcending underground rock formations. Over the ground, investigate climbing trails and absorb the magnificence of the encompassing Dark Slopes.

1.3. Wounded Knee Massacre Monument

Take a look back at a frosty moment in U.S. history at the Wounded Knee Massacre Site, where soldiers faced the real bullets from the Native American civilians’ guns in 1890.

Show your respect to those people who lost their lives in this inevitable disaster and reveal its effect on the Lakota nation. The Wounded Knee Tragedy Place marks a significant point in history to remember that Native American society has suffered injustices and kept fighting for justice and reconciliation.

2. Places to Have Fun with Family and Friends

2.1. Custer State Park


Get the front-line action of the American West at Custer State Park, where you can see many types of wild animals and gorgeous scenery. Traveling along Wildlife Loop Road allows one to come face-to-face with bold and majestic icons, including bison herds, elk, and bighorn sheep, in their natural environment.

Take a day hike through the forested pines, drop a line in glassy lakes, and camp under the star-studded sky for an experience you will never forget.

2.2. Badlands National Park


Be ready to join the magic when visiting Badlands National Park; you will irresistibly want to return. These are some out-of-this-world terrains with a mixture of rugged and striped rock formations completely resembling a foreign planet set off by a sci-fi movie.

Feel the park’s uniqueness by taking picturesque rides or hikes on different mountains. Don’t forget to look around to spot the varied species, like buffaloes, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

2.3. Black Hills National Forest

BLACK HILLS National Forest 8K South Dakota (Visually Stunning 3min Tour)

The Black Hills National Forest is a green reading in the middle of South Dakota. It is a beautiful forest loaded with uncountable excitement and exhilaration.

Stroll its breathtakingly covered mountain ranges and valleys on foot, visit the granite formations ideal for climbing, or drive along and enjoy the view.

2.4. Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon
Screenshot from the official website: Spearfish Canyon

Dive into the natural beauty of Spearfish Canyon, a majestic scene created when Spearfish Creek’s water eroded the rocks for hundreds of years.

A real adventure is travelling along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, looking up at the towering limestone cliffs and cascading waterfalls that make a beautiful background while admiring the bright forests in the riot. Hike towards famous locations, such as Rockhowl Falls and Veil Bride, for a memory that will last forever.

2.5. Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park
Screenshot from Government Maintained website: National Park Foundation

Venture underneath the earth’s outer layer at Wind Cave National Park, home to one of the world’s longest and most complex caverns.

Investigate twisted entries decorated with extraordinary box work developments, enjoyable cavern popcorn, and frostwork. Over the ground, climb through moving grasslands, spot buffalo and pronghorn, and wonder about the recreation area’s different environment.

2.6. Bear Country, USA

Bear Country USA
Screenshot from the official website: Bear Country USA

Reconnect with bears, wolves, and other wild animals using a drive-through park in Bear Country, USA, which is entirely different from the others and built near Rapid City.

In your car-confirms, you can watch tremendous animals make their habitat your place of appointment, which will become an unforgettable experience for all animal lovers of any age.

2.7. Watiki Water Park

Watiki Water Park
Screenshot from the official website: Watiki Water Park

Escape the summer heat at Watiki Water Park in Sioux Falls, a one-of-a-kind place featuring waterslides, canyon rides, lazy rivers and a playground with splash zones galore. If you’re looking for adrenaline-fueling adventures or a day in the sun to relax, this place is for you, with activities for every family member.

2.8. Storybook Island

Storybook Island
Screenshot from the official website: Storybook Island

Step into fantasy at Storybook Island in Quick City, where darling kids’ accounts become completely awake through different attractions, rides, and shows. This capricious amusement park guarantees a day loaded with magic and miracles, making enduring recollections for the whole family.

2.9. Reptile Gardens

See Learn, & Explore at Reptile Gardens

Be ready to bask in its natural vibe as you visit the world-class Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, where you’ll be fascinated by the wide variety of reptiles worldwide.

This will help you get acquainted with the giant tortoises, venomous snakes, and the most extensive collection of crocodilians—all within our safe and educational area that will thrill kids and adults alike.

3. Cultural Experiences

3.1. Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
Screenshot from the official website: AKTA LAKOTA

Take a historical ride through the 500-year-long habits and traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes in the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. Finally, reach a varied gallery of items, such as artwork and displays that illustrate the ancient history, art and spirituality of the First Nations.

3.2. Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns

Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns

Find the spiritual spaces inside Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns, where crystals, stalactites, and stalagmites form a jewellery-like mosaic adorning the underground rooms.

Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns presents an incredibly fascinating exploration of the striking wonders and historical relevance that lie deep within the Black Hills area. Visitors are stunned by the satisfying expedition below the ground.

3.3. Sioux Indian Museum

Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center - Chamberlain, South Dakota

Learn more about the thousands of years of history and cultural diversity of the Lakota and Dakota nations at the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City, which stands tall. This museum takes visitors through the colorful world of Northern California native communities using a vast collection of artefacts and educational exhibits.

3.4. Deadwood

Screenshot from the official website: Deadwood

Feel drawn to the Old West in Deadwood’s historical town (known for its copper rush history, enduring characters, and western-town vibes). Take a trip where you and the Old West Legacy Bandit Footsteps are popular, visit the historic saloons and casinos, and spend time in a town where everything is related to its history.

The town channels the colorful history of the Wild West era, transporting visitors back in time to witness the madness of the gold fever days and the characters that made this place world-famous.

3.5. Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village Museum Video

Walk into the past at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village site, where visitors and non-visitors learn how people used to live in that area. It will be possible to explore reconstructed earth lodges and live in the cultural heritage with the Native Americans of this earth who once lived in that territory.

4. Culinary Delights

4.1. Kuchen Trail

Kuchen, the South Dakota State Dessert | Dakota Life

Take the authentic Kuchen Trail as a unique journey through South Dakota’s Mattheisen Prairie Grass Museum, where residents can taste the dessert, the region’s signature sweet – kuchen.

A gastronomical sensation, this custard-filled pastry is taking the city by storm, with each bakery offering its own version of taste. Dessert lovers, you are in for some special treats that have been tested for centuries and gained this reputation.

4.2. Bison Burgers

Source: Pexels

Cultivate the real essence of living in the Great Plains by taking a bite of a delicious bison burger, a typical treat in Iowa’s restaurants.

Native Americans have a culture that centresund this delicious cut of meat; therefore, this cut should be on the top list when these visitors visit South Dakota.

4.3. South Dakota Wine Trail

South Dakota: Southeast Winery Trail

Discover the fast, fast-blossoming scene of South Dakota through the South Dakota Wine Trail, which runs across scenic vineyards and wine-tasting rooms. Explore the local producers, and you will learn about the passionate winemakers’ unique qualities and hidden grape speeches.

5. Outdoor Activities To Do

5.1. Fishing and Boating on the Missouri River

Drift Boat Fishing on the Missouri River, Montana

Whether a novice or an experienced angler, this can be the perfect catch the next time you place your line into the mighty Missouri River, often acclaimed for fishing in South Dakota.

Festivities and recreation on the Missouri River may become a thing of the past as noise and altercations contribute to an unforgettable memory of temperance on the water.

5.2. Hot Air Ballooning

Hot Air Ballooning in the "Black Hills" of South Dakota

Fly a hot air balloon over the awe-inspiring South Dakota scenery to get a unique, breathtaking bird’ s-eye view that is so far beyond!

This experience is probably a great memory for everyone. It will be like you are gliding across the skies, gazing at the mirror-fit landscapes where your sight can range from hills, mountains, and rivers to every detail from a fresh point of view.

5.3. ATV and Off-Road Adventures

ATV and Off-Road Adventures
Source: Unsplash

The rough terrains of South Dakota’s hinterlands can be explored by attacking an ATV or an off-road experience. Explore the adrenaline-fueled adventure. Wind your way high along the twisty tracks, conquer the difficulty level to test your skills, and feel like an absolute off-road master driving through the heart of nature.

5.4. Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding
Source: Unsplash

Put your hands into a saddle and witness the Wild West as a real cowboy by going on a horseback ride with a trail on the prairies, canyons and the vast territories of the State.

Join a group led by guides with whom you can share your experience, enjoy the stunning nature, and establish a more intimate acquaintance with the land in better ways than just on foot.

5.5. Kayaking and Canoeing

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Source: Unsplash

With its lakes and waterways perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and paddling, South Dakota can be seen as the best for an adventure. Feel yourself join in on the State’s nature’s beauty by hovering above the water’s surface.

6. Quirky and Unique Attractions

6.1. Wall Drug Store

Wall Drug Store
Screenshot from the official site: Wall Drug Store

Experience the kitschy appeal of Wall Drug, an incredible side-of-the-road fascination drawing guests since around 1931.

Investigate the rambling complex, which is loaded with shops, cafés, and Western-themed shows, and remember to test their renowned natively constructed doughnuts. Wall Drug offers an eccentric mix of sentimentality, History of the U.S., and distinctive attractions, making it a must-visit objective for voyagers investigating South Dakota.

6.2. Corn Palace

Corn Palace
Screenshot from the official website: Corn Palace

I was amazed at the half-walls with the impressive murals directly installed on the outer walls of the Corn Palace, an exceptional cultural place in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Watch out for the magnificent arts made of different corn and grain kinds that show the local culture, agriculture, and history scenes. The Corn Palace is proof positive of South Dakota’s important agricultural history and unique artistic craftsmanship, with many tourists from the surrounding areas and faraway places visiting to see the fascinating place.

6.3. 1880 Train

1880 Train

Jump on the 1880 Train, an old sketched locomotive that carries you from one settling point to another in the beautiful Black Hills terrain. Friendly your holidays in an old manner, like a train, across beautiful mountains, meadows and historical villages.

The 1880 Train, which combines a unique blend of learning historical pieces and enjoying the splendors of nature, will drive visitors wild. South Dakota’s Black Hills area will be available for people to see from an unconventional angle.

6.4. Cosmos Mystery Area

Cosmos Mystery Area
Screenshot from the official website: Cosmos Mystery Area

Get ready to have your understanding of the laws of physics reversed and wrecked at the Cosmos Mystery Area, where gravity plays a different role and causes things to ‘appear’ abnormal. As you journey into this mysterious area, consider the fascinating perplexities that might confuse your mind and give you much food for thought and your worldview.

6.5. Dignity Sculpture

Dignity: of Earth & Sky Statue - South Dakota, USA

The Dignity sculpture of earth and sky, situated in the vicinity of Chamberlain, is one of the masterpieces of contemporary art because its inspiration is from the Native American spirit.

Measuring over forty feet in length, this giant metal sculpture shows the portrait of a Native woman who embodies strength; it endures forever against the background of the American Great Plains. Spark your imagination with the stunning pieces of artisanship, and you will have a tremendous opportunity to revel in the land and its people.

6.6. Porter Sculpture Park

Porter Sculpture Park
Screenshot from official Website: Porter Sculpture Park

Explore the cultural treasures of natural settings at the Porter Art Park in Sioux Falls, dedicated to Sculpture Park. This enchanting combination of talent and nature makes you walk through the figures greater than life-size, each piece delivering a specific message to discuss the human story with anyone around.

7. Conclusion

South Dakota is an exciting destination that offers a variety of experiences for travelers. From famous landmarks like Mount Rushmore to exploring picturesque tourist spots such as Wall Drug, there are plenty of things to do and see. Whether you’re a nature lover, a fan of hiking, or interested in Native American culture and spirituality, there’s something for everyone.

The state also boasts a diverse culinary scene, with options ranging from Korean barbecue and sushi to breakfast burritos. With vivid descriptions of water holes, historical sites, and intriguing hidden gems waiting to be discovered, South Dakota is the perfect place to create unforgettable memories. So, when are you planning to start your adventure?

Last Updated on March 14, 2024 by Khushahal Malakar