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South Dakota

12 Best Things to Do in South Dakota

Suny Errot

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Discover the best of nature, the quiet country escapes, and even the bustling cities. The best things to do in South Dakota are just waiting to be explored. Be inspired in your next adventure. Take your pick and prepare to be amazed:

1. Visit the Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Source: Badlands National Park | Share The Experience/Andreas Eckert

This tops the list for one reason: visiting this place is one of the best things to do in South Dakota. The Badlands National Park is a 244,000-acre of art made by nature that features impressive landscapes of layered rock formations and towering spires and amazing fossils. You’ll also find a variety of wildlife (bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs), and wonderful skyscapes.

2. Conquer a Challenging Mountain Hike and Reach Black Elk Peak

If you’re all about getting a rewarding view at the end of a challenging hike, then this activity is perfect for you. The Black Elk Peak is the highest point in South Dakota and is known as the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. Just imagine, this granite mountain towers at 7,242 ft in elevation. You’ll most definitely enjoy the trail as it gives you the view of granite towers rising out of the hills.

Trail Details:

  • Distance: 7.9 miles (starting point: Sylvan Lake)
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1100ft – 2200ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate (slow incline, long distance)

Don’t forget to take photos to capture the beauty of this place!

3. Discover Ice Age Fossils at The Mammoth Site

Tour the indoor active dig site and discover the Ice Age fossils. The Mammoth Site is home to the largest concentration of Columbian mammoths in the world. This place is proof you don’t have to be into Paleontology to appreciate the ancient wonders. The Mammoth Site also offers an amazing educational experience with their gaming app and summer educational programs. If you’re in the area, feel free to join a guided tour. This place is open all year round.

General Admission:

  • Children 3 & Under – Free
  • Guests Ages 4-12 $7.37 + Tax
  • Active & Retired Military $7.37 + Tax
  • Guests Ages 13 to 59 $10.14 + Tax
  • Guests Ages 60 and Over $8.29 + Tax

4. Take Your Kids to Storybook Island

Storybook Island is a 7-acre park with playground attractions based on famous characters & locations featured in children’s books. There are playsets, a free-range play area, a carousel, and a train. You can find Peter Pumpkin’s Pumpkin, Jack and Jill, Winnie the Pooh, and Cat in the Hat among many others. This place runs on donations and proceeds from the gift shop. Although not explicitly stated, a $1 donation is the suggested admission.

Address: Westside of Rapid City, at 1301 Sheridan Lake Road, Rapid City, SD 57702

5. Find Serenity at Bear Butte State Park

The Bear Butte State Park has “Bear Mountain” as its Lakota name. It features a beautiful geological formation of the igneous rock in the Black Hills said to be formed millions of years ago. This place, particularly the mountain, is a sacred site to early American Indian tribes who hold religious ceremonies. To this day, the Cheyenne and Lakota people have maintained the spiritual connection to this mountain. Find serenity at The Bear Butte State Park which is open year-round for day use.

Address: 6 miles northeast of Sturgis off SD Hwy. 79

6. Ride the Zipline at Rushmore Tramway Adventures

A trip to South Dakota won’t be complete without trying an exciting Mount Rushmore attraction in the Black Hills! Ride the 800-ft. zipline and race your family or friends to the bottom. You’ll be zipping through the Black Hills at almost 40 miles per hour. If you’re worried about having to slow down, don’t worry. The Rushmore Tramway Adventures uses a magnetic braking system called the ZipStop that does all the work for you!

Prices:

  • Ages 7 – 12 $20
  • Ages 13+ $20
  • All ticket packages subject to age and weight restrictions (guests must be 50 lbs. to 250 lbs. only) for each attraction.
  • All prices are pre-tax.

7. Explore the Rushmore Cave

Are you ready to visit the original attraction at Rush Mountain Adventure Park? Embrace your inner adventure seeker and explore the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites. The sight is awe-inspiring and simply humbling. There are different tours you can try: the scenic walking tour, flashlight tour, or adventure tour.

Cave Details:

  • Distance: 1/2 mile or .8 km
  • Duration: Approximately 1 hour
  • Cave Temp: 14 C.
  • Elevation at Entrance: 3,930 ft. above sea level
  • Lowest Elevation on Tour: 3,896 ft. above sea level
  • Highest Elevation on Tour:3,969 ft. above sea level

8. Pray at the Chapel in the Hills

Go on a quiet retreat and pray at the Chapel in the Hills. This is a good place for both locals and vacationers to experience God’s peace in their lives. The 50-year old chapel is the replica of the famous Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway. There are worship services during the summer months and are conducted at 7:30 in the evening. Everyone is invited.

9. Join a Broken Boot Gold Mine Tour

Embark on an underground mine adventure and return to a time when the miners were on their quest to find the richest veins of gold on Earth. You can follow the path of ore cars in the century-old shafts and have a feel of what it’s like to be in the dark and explosive atmosphere of black powder and candlelight.

Address: Upper Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota

10. Camp out at Sheridan Lake

The beautiful Sheridan Lake is located in the Black Hills National Forest.
Camp out and experience a relaxing weekend while being treated to beautiful lake views, and comfort of the ponderosa pine forest. The campground can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers.

Campsite Facilities:

  • Picnic tables
  • Campfire rings
  • Vault toilets
  • Drinking water is also available, but electrical hook-ups are not
  • A boat ramp is available on-site should a guest wish to access the lake

11. Experience the Throwback of a Drive-In Theater

There was a time when the automobile wasn’t just a means of transport, but also part of the whole movie experience. Rediscover that era and visit a drive-in theater.

Check out these spots for the whole cinematic experience:

  • Winner Drive-In
  • Roy’s Black Hills Twin Drive-In
  • Pheasant Drive-In
  • Midway Drive-In
  • Hilltop Drive-In
  • Pheasant City Drive-In

12. Check Out the Termesphere Gallery

Imagine standing in a museum with celestial artworks slowly circulating above your head. What word would you use to describe that experience? Well, the only know to find out is by visiting the unusual art space that is the Termesphere Gallery. It features spherical canvasses that are both an optical illusion and a visual treasure.

Now let us ask you, what’s the first activity would you like to include in your itinerary?

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