Travellers Worldwide is reader-supported. If you buy a product we link to, we may earn a commission.
Skip to Content

The 16 Best Places to Visit in South Dakota in 2023

The 16 Best Places to Visit in South Dakota in 2023

South Dakota is a sparsely populated state with a lot of open space. Due to this, it’s also home to many natural wonders and historical and cultural sites worth visiting.

16 of the Best Places to Visit in South Dakota

South Dakota offers a beautiful rolling landscape across much of the state with small mountains known as the Black Hills at the western border.

The sparse population of the state means that visitors can get more in touch with nature and some of its natural wonders. Even the man-made attractions of the state are often made from natural elements.

You’ll find both sculptures carved into mountainsides and palaces covered with corn. If you’re looking to escape all the concrete, metal, and lights of the city, South Dakota is a great place to visit. We’ll show you why below.

1. Mount Rushmore

Iconic view of Mount Rushmore, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota, pictured on a clear summer day against a blue sky

Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

Located southwest of Rapid City, Mount Rushmore is probably what most people think of first when they think of the best places to visit in South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is definitely worth a stop, and it attracts more than 3 million visitors each year.

The 60-foot-tall sculpture features the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved into the side of a mountain. More than 400 workers were involved in the sculpture from 1927 to 1941.

The park includes many viewing areas, hiking trails, a visitor center, a gift shop, and a café. You can choose either a ranger-led or self-guided tour. To occupy the kids, there is a Junior Ranger quest with 16 challenges spread around the park.

Read Next: The Best & Worst Times to Visit Mount Rushmore in 2023

2. Badlands

For a roundup of the best places to visit in South Dakota, a giant red rock formation juts upward from the yellow grassy plain


Badlands National Park is another iconic South Dakota destination. It is located in the southwest part of the state and encompasses 244,000 acres.

The main feature is the layered multi-colored rock formations, including spires and canyons. The Badlands were named by the Lakota people because the terrain, lack of water, and extreme weather made it difficult to cross.

Due to its expanse, park rangers recommend spending two days in the park to fully experience it, but if you have less time, drive through and stop at as many of the many overlook and hiking areas as you have time for.

3. Falls Park

Idyllic view of the breathtaking natural beauty of Falls Park, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota, as seen during the summer with murky water flowing over the rocks


Falls Park is a 128-acre park in the heart of Sioux Falls along the Big Sioux River. Every second, an average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet in a series of dramatic waterfalls.

The park surrounding the falls includes numerous trails and a five-story viewing tower. You can get up close and personal with the falls as there are few guard railings, and people commonly walk out onto the rocks close to the falls.

4. Mitchell Corn Palace

Mitchell Corn Palace pictured from the front on a clear day in South Dakota

Mitchell, South Dakota / USA – September 20 2019: The Corn Palace in Mitchell South Dakota, USA. Every year a new mural of a different theme is constructed of corn and other grains/Johnnie Laws/Shutterstock

Located along I-90 west of Sioux Falls is Mitchell, S.D., where you can find the World’s Only Corn Palace. Started in 1892 to show the world South Dakota’s healthy agricultural climate, the Corn Palace now amazes more than half a million visitors each year.

The building is decorated annually with various colors of corn and other native grasses and grains. The murals are always changing with a new theme each year, and the decorating process runs from May to September.

5. Custer State Park

White expedition pictured parked next to some bison between green grass and trees

Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA – Aug 26, 2019: Cars driving though the herd of bison/Alex Cimbal/Shutterstock

South of Rapid City, Custer State Park is a wildlife preserve covering over 70,000 acres. In the park are many scenic drives, campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, and other outdoor opportunities.

Every November, Custer State Park features a buffalo roundup, after which some of the animals are sold at auction.

6. Crazy Horse Memorial

Iconic view of the Crazy Horse Memorial carved into a rock face on a clear summer day

James Dalrymple/Shutterstock

Crazy Horse Memorial is located near Mount Rushmore and offers a similar experience of a piece of history carved into the side of a mountain. Crazy Horse is still in progress, so you can see how a mountain looks as it is being sculpted.

When complete, the memorial will be 560 feet tall, the largest mountain carving in the world. It depicts the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse astride a horse.

The area features the Indian Museum of North America, dining, a gift shop, and tours. During the summer, nightly laser shows light up the monument.

7. Redlin Art Center

Art in a contemporary white gallery


The Redlin Art Center celebrates the life and work of renowned wildlife artist Terry Redlin. The center is located in Watertown, in northeastern South Dakota, where Redlin grew up and graduated from high school.

The museum features 150 of his original wildlife paintings, and every year of his career is represented. The grounds around the museum are equally beautiful, with walking trails, ponds full of Canadian geese, and gazebos.

8. Wind Cave

Path between the rocks in the Wind Cave in South Dakota, one of the best places to visit in the state


Wind Cave National Park, located south of Rapid City, is one of the world’s longest, most complex caves. The cave features boxwork, an unusual formation that resembles a honeycomb.

This lets the wind flow into or out of the cave, depending on differing atmospheric pressure from the cave to the surface. You can also take a tour of the cave or hike, bike, or watch bison, antelope, and other wildlife in the native prairie aboveground.

9. Wall Drug

Little shops inside the Wall Drug store, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota

Wall, South Dakota. U.S.A. Sept. 16, 2018. Hustead’s drug store Wall, South Dakota, began in 1931 with free ice water. Wall Drugs offers visitors gifts shop, cafeteria, fresh donuts, museum, & lore/Paul R. Jones/Shutterstock

You can’t drive anywhere in South Dakota without seeing billboards for Wall Drug. Though Wall, S.D., has a population of under 1,000 people, more than 2 million visitors come through each year to see Wall Drug.

A popular roadside stop while traveling in western South Dakota, Wall Drug features dining, shopping, activities, souvenirs, and more, all in an old-west setting. With over 50,000 square feet of shopping, you can find anything from travel necessities to cowboy attire to “fool’s gold” souvenirs.

10. Needles Highway

Giant rock formations on either side of the Needles Highway, a top place to visit in South Dakota

Trent Mayer/Shutterstock

Needles Highway is a 14-mile drive through mountains, evergreen forests, and meadows. It includes needle-like rock formations, the most well-known of which is Needle’s Eye.

The highway features tunnels and switchbacks and has several areas to pull off and view the spires of rock. Needles Highway is located southwest of Rapid City and north of Custer State Park. It is closed in the winter months.

11. Mammoth Site

Bones of the Wooly Mammoth dig site in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hot Springs, South Dakota, USA 12-27-20 Mammoth Fossil Dig Site/Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock

The world’s largest mammoth research facility can be found near Hot Springs, S.D. Fossils of more than 60 mammoths and 87 other animals have been unearthed at the site.

When you visit, you can observe the active indoor fossil dig site and view fossils from the Ice Age. Self-guided tours and various learning activities are available.

12. Deadwood

Old-time car driving down the street of one of the best places to visit in South Dakota, Deadwood

Deadwood, South Dakota, 07/10/2013 vintage car approaching on main street in Deadwood/Michael Kaercher/Shutterstock

The entire town of Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark. Located northwest of Rapid City, Deadwood features many buildings preserved from its gold rush origins in 1876.

While visiting Deadwood, you can view reenactments of shootouts between famous wild west figures, pan for gold, or gamble.

13. Spearfish Canyon

Still water surrounded by a giant forest and rolling hills in Spearfish Canyon, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota

Vivian Fung/Shutterstock

Spearfish Canyon, northwest of Rapid City, offers some of the most impressive scenery in the Black Hills. Thousand-foot-tall walls frame the narrow canyon, which provides a home for an array of wildlife.

Visitors can rock climb, fish, hike, or bike in the canyon. Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most popular and accessible waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon. An observation platform overlooks these 60-foot falls.

14. National Music Museum

Vintage piano seen in a close-up with yellowed keys

Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

Located almost as far southeast as you can go in South Dakota is Vermillion, home to the National Music Museum. The University of South Dakota houses this museum, which keeps more than 15,000 musical instruments spanning hundreds of years of musical history.

The collection of instruments features guitars played by celebrities to organs to historic instruments you have probably never heard of. The National Music Museum is also the only place in North America to offer a graduate degree in musical instruments.

15. Fort Sisseton

Native Americans dancing in Sisseton, one of the best places to visit in South Dakota

Sisseton, South Dakota / United States – July 6 2019: 152nd Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Powwow. Native Americans dancing in regalia on ceremonial grounds/Terrance HT Ip/Shutterstock

Fort Sisseton Historic State Park is in the far northeast of the state near Lake City. The 1864 frontier army outpost was originally named Fort Wadsworth and built atop the “Coteau des Prairies,” or “hills of the prairies,” due to the natural defense and abundant supplies of the surrounding area.

You can take a guided tour, check out the visitor center and gift shop, or visit during their annual historical festival to witness a military encampment of infantry units and cavalry troops.

16. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman missile silo building and visitor center pictured outside Badlands National Park

PHILIP, SOUTH DAKOTA, USA – OCTOBER 22, 2021: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center outside of Badlands National Park/Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Hidden under the surface of the South Dakota plains are remnants of the Cold War. Across the Great Plains, missiles were kept ready to respond to any threat against America.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of only two locations in the U.S. where the public can see a missile silo from the Cold War era. Located along I-90 just north of the Badlands, this is a fun stop if you’re traveling between the Black Hills and Badlands.

Things to Consider

The bulk of the best places to visit in South Dakota are in the western portion of the state, so if you are planning a visit and want to see the most sites in a limited time, it’s best to plan to visit the west.

South Dakota is generally not a place to visit in the winter. Temperatures often reach below 0 between December and February.

Unless you plan to snowmobile or cross-country ski, you may not find as much to do in the winter. South Dakota has two interstates crossing its expanse.

I-90 runs east-west in the southern portion of the state, and I-29 runs north-south in the far eastern part of the state. If traveling other roads, make sure to plan ahead since amenities like gas stations and bathrooms can be few and far between.

Frequently Asked Questions

Serene scene as viewed from the rocks overlooking the water in Custer State Park, one of South Dakota's best places to visit

Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

Do you have questions about visiting South Dakota? The answers to some of the most commonly asked questions are below:

What is the most beautiful part of South Dakota?

The Black Hills or the Badlands are probably the most beautiful areas in South Dakota. Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills is considered one of the most scenic spots in the state.

What is the number one attraction in South Dakota?

With three million visitors annually, Mount Rushmore is the most popular attraction in South Dakota. Wall Drug and Badlands National Park also have visitor counts of over a million.

What are three things South Dakota is famous for?

The Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands are three well-known attractions. They are widely known by people across the country.

Where else should you visit on a trip to South Dakota?

If you are visiting the Black Hills, Devils Tower is another attraction you may like to see. Located just over the border into Wyoming, this unusual rock formation rises more than 800 feet above the surrounding landscape.

What is the best month to visit South Dakota?

June is perhaps the best month to visit South Dakota. You can enjoy the summer weather, but the temperatures and humidity are generally not too high.

So, Where Will You Visit in South Dakota?

South Dakota has a lot to offer anyone interested in the outdoors, history, and Native American culture. From faces carved into mountains to incredible waterfalls to museums of wildlife art and musical instruments, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you’re making South Dakota your next vacation destination or just passing through, consider stopping at some of the sights we’ve listed above. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!