Famous for its dramatic Black Hills, expansive rolling plains, Old West history, and the iconic Mount Rushmore, South Dakota has been drawing visitors for generations.
Both well-known yet feeling off the beaten path at the same time, South Dakota is full of unique must-sees.
If you’re planning to travel to South Dakota, then check out our list of 11 interesting and beautiful places to visit before you go!
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Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
One of the most iconic landmarks of the United States, Mount Rushmore draws visitors from around the world every year to South Dakota. It’s so beloved that South Dakota proudly carries the nickname “The Mount Rushmore State.”
A place that nearly every American visits at some point in their life, a trip to see Mount Rushmore is worthwhile any time of the year. Plus, with its location in the Black Hills, there are several other wonderful sights and things to do nearby.
After soaking in the impressive monument, make sure to explore its fascinating museum to learn the intriguing story of how Mount Rushmore was created.
2. Wall Drug – Wall, SD
Travel about an hour from the Black Hills, and you’ll find the hallowed roadside attraction of Wall Drug. Of course, if you’ve been driving this whole time, you’ll already have noticed a small billboard for Wall Drug every mile along the way!
With 76,000 square feet of souvenirs, western art, spirited photo-ops, and tasty food, Wall Drug is a tourist haven, unique cultural experience, and a local institution all combined. During your South Dakota vacation, a stop at Wall Drug is a must-see activity.
If you’re seeking South Dakota souvenirs, Wall Drug will provide more than enough to satisfy. The buzzing, lively atmosphere will give you a South Dakota experience you’ll remember for years to come (as well as the family photo in front of the giant jackalope).
Be sure to take a moment from all the sensory overload and grab a cup of Wall Drug’s famous 5-cent coffee or free ice water!
3. The World’s Only Corn Palace – Mitchell, SD
Built to highlight the state’s agriculture in 1919, the Corn Palace in Mitchell is a unique oddity and folk-art wonder worth experiencing during your South Dakota trip.
As a local venue hosting dances, shows, and other events, most visitors come to see the ever-changing murals covering the outside of the Corn Palace.
These large-scale murals are made entirely of different-colored corn, native grasses, and other grains, making the artwork uniquely impressive. Have your cameras ready to capture this colorful and quirky South Dakota attraction!
4. The Geographical Center of the Entire United States – Belle Fourche, SD
Located north of Belle Fourche, the official geographical center of the entire United States (factoring in Alaska and Hawaii) sits modestly marked in an isolated prairie off a rarely-traveled dirt road.
With an official survey marker and nearby flag pole (plus a tiny logbook to sign), you’ll want to make the drive so you can say you’ve been to the center of the entire United States. While there, you’ll experience the vastness (and solitude) of South Dakota’s sweeping landscape.
Travel tip – don’t get confused by Belle Fourche’s Geographic Center of the Nation Monument in town. While a nice monument, it’s not the actual center of the US.
5. Wind Cave National Park
One of the USA’s earliest national parks, Wind Cave National Park is impressive for what it offers both above and below ground.
When you’re there, it’s worthwhile to take a cave tour of Wind Cave to see its impressive collection of rare boxwork formations, something you can’t find in many other caves.
Then, take the park’s scenic drives and admire the rolling hills and prairies of the park—an area that just feels like quintessential South Dakota.
The park provides a great place to see wild buffalo, an icon of the Dakotas. I also highly recommend a hike on the Rankin Ridge Trail for some impressive views!
6. City of Presidents – Rapid City, SD
One of the state’s largest cities, Rapid City provides a great jumping off point for accessing all of the nearby attractions of the Black Hills. Yet Rapid City itself shouldn’t be missed on your South Dakota vacation.
When you visit downtown Rapid City, you’ll want to make time to see the City of Presidents, a collection of life-size statues of every US President in history spread throughout the neighborhood’s streets and sidewalks.
The city provides a free self-guided walking tour so you can enjoy finding each president, as well as explore the shops and restaurants downtown has to offer. Have your cameras ready—each statue makes for a great selfie or family photo!
7. Sylvan Lake
Located in popular Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake is a picturesque jewel of South Dakota. This small, yet highly recognizable lake provides spectacular outdoor beauty you can’t miss during your South Dakota visit.
While you’re admiring this impressive lake, there’s an excellent hiking trail encircling it, allowing you to get unique views from every angle. You’ll even get close to some of the lake’s surrounding rock formations.
If you’re still feeling adventurous, you can also rent a canoe, paddle board, or kayak and venture out onto the lake’s serene, reflective waters.
8. Crazy Horse Memorial – Crazy Horse, SD
Unlike Mount Rushmore, South Dakota’s Crazy Horse Memorial is still an active, ongoing project. When you go today, you’ll see scaffolding, construction equipment, and artists slowly chipping away at the world’s largest mountain carving.
Yet if you go decades from now, it’ll likely look very different, which makes it so intriguing. Since 1948, one family (and staff) has been incrementally carving a massive monument to Crazy Horse, one of history’s most famous Native Americans.
In addition to the fascinating carving, the memorial provides an interesting educational center full of Native American exhibits and a documentary on the history of the monument. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal events and nightly laser shows in the summer.
9. Badlands National Park
When you visit South Dakota, spending time at Badlands National Park should be one of your top priorities. Here you’ll encounter otherworldly landscapes of colorful, rugged rock formations that will make you feel like you’re on a distant planet.
In some places stretching as far as the eye can see, you can enjoy great hiking (and climb on the formations yourself!), several scenic drives, sightings of resilient wildlife, and some amazing views of the changing desert landscape at sunset.
If you can, I highly recommend staying overnight at one of the few cabins in the park at Cedar Pass Lodge. Then, make time to attend a nearby ranger-led night sky talk and gaze upon some of the most amazing stars you’ll ever witness.
10. Wild Bill & Calamity Jane’s Graves – Deadwood, SD
The legendary Wild West town of Deadwood still maintains its outlaw reputation even today. If you go, a visit wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the town’s most legendary residents, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
Buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery on the outskirts of town, travelers from all over stop to see the final resting places of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane, with both graves right next to each other. You’ll even get some scenic views of Deadwood from above while you’re there.
If you want to walk in the footsteps of these famous Wild West characters yourself, stroll down to Main Street and visit Saloon No. 10, where Wild Bill was famously killed while playing poker.
11. Falls Park – Sioux Falls, SD
Located in the heart of South Dakota’s largest city, Falls Park in Sioux Falls provides a scenic backdrop of beautifully cascading waterfalls that provide the city’s namesake.
While enjoying scenic views of the falls from the observation tower, you can experience a slice of history by seeing the city’s oldest buildings nearby as well. The park also provides great access to recreation, with over 34 miles of hiking and biking trails.
If you’re there at Christmastime, you’ll want to check out the park’s famous Winter Wonderland holiday setting, with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights aglow.
Did we miss any of your favorite places in South Dakota?
Let us know in the comments if there are any more places in South Dakota that you would add to our list!