If you want to explore the country’s heartland, what better place to go than South Dakota? However, you should know about the best time to visit South Dakota. That way, you can make the most of your time there.
You can see all of the famous attractions and the lesser-known museums and other sights. Keep reading to learn when and why you should go to South Dakota.
Why You Should Visit South Dakota
You should visit South Dakota if you want to explore the outdoors. There are lots of different things you can do, from visiting Mount Rushmore and the Badlands to checking out multiple lakes throughout the state.
The state is home to state parks and public parks as well, so you can spend more time outdoors on your trip. If you prefer to stay indoors, South Dakota has a waterpark resort and a geology museum as well as an air and space museum, all in Rapid City.
Mitchell, South Dakota, is home to the Corn Palace, made famous recently by a young boy who went viral for his love of corn. Sioux Falls has a zoo, and you can cross the border to nearby Iowa to visit a casino. There’s also a marker where South Dakota borders both Iowa and Minnesota.
South Dakota has multiple Native American reservations throughout the state. You can also tour the state capital in Pierre. Back west, there’s the Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park. That means you can explore all of the state and still have more to see.
While you may encounter crowds, there won’t be as many as you’d find in major cities. You can still get a bit of the city experience in Sioux Falls and even Rapid City. However, the smaller population of South Dakota can make it an amazing place to escape.
And if you want to visit the geographical center of the US, you can head to Belle Fourche. Take Interstate 90 to Highway 85 north to the town to see the famous monument stating it’s the center of the nation.
Overall Best Time to Visit South Dakota
The best time to visit South Dakota is in the summer. Late May to September is excellent because many people are off from school and can take time off from work.
Of course, there are holidays, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, and you can visit them. However, you can visit any time during the summer to enjoy the warmer weather. In Sioux Falls, daily high temperatures are in the lower to mid-80s.
At night, it gets down to the 50s or 60s, so it’s the perfect time to go camping, or you can stay in a hotel. If you prefer to visit the western part of the state, there’s Rapid City.
The summer temperatures are about the same, but it’s a bit cooler in June compared to Sioux Falls. July and August can be just as warm during the day and at night. You can head west to Sturgis in August to watch the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The town is also home to a motorcycle museum that you can visit year-round. You’ll also find multiple campgrounds just outside of the city so that you can stay close to the rally.
Sturgis also hosts the Camaro Rally in June, so you can stay there all summer to see more stuff. If you’re looking to visit South Dakota in late August, head to the southeastern part so that you can partake in the Yankton Riverboat Days and Summer Arts Festival.
In late July, you can go to Deadwood, South Dakota, to visit the rodeo. There’s also a museum there that’s open throughout the summer and the year.
While it can get hot in South Dakota in the summer, it’s not too bad. The weather is much better than the winters the state experiences, so consider visiting when it’s warm.
Cheapest Time to Visit South Dakota
Visiting South Dakota may give you plenty of things to do. Unfortunately, it can also be the most expensive time to visit. If you want to stick to a small budget, you should consider visiting between October and March.
People are back in school during those months, so you won’t find a ton of families traveling. And a lot of people have to work during the school year as well. If you can take off from work, going when it’s a bit cooler can be a great way to save money on flights and hotel stays.
October can still be a decent time to visit, with daily highs around 60 degrees in the eastern and western parts of the state. Sadly, there’s a steep drop in daily highs in November, with highs in the mid-40s that month.
In March, the highs are about the same as in November. However, hotels and airlines will do whatever they can to fill rooms and seats. If you’re willing to deal with the cold, you can save money on your trip. The winter can be an especially good time to go if you want to tour the state Capitol.
You won’t have to deal with as many crowds, so you can see the building and ask plenty of questions. If you head east to Sioux Falls, you’ll be able to enjoy the city’s museums more easily as well. And you can head to Mitchel to visit the Corn Palace.
All of these indoor activities are perfect for your winter South Dakota trip. However, you may notice that a lot of attractions, like parks, close down for the winter, so you don’t have as many activities to choose from.
If you’re more adventurous, you can plan to camp outside for a night. Just make sure you bring a suitable sleeping bag to stay warm. It also helps to bring a tent in case it rains or snows so that you can stay protected.
Least Busy Time to Visit South Dakota
Part of why winter is the cheapest time to visit South Dakota is that it’s not as busy. Businesses want to keep things running, so they may be more likely to run special deals.
The weather is a big turnoff for some travelers. And the fact that you may not be able to visit all of the parks can also make it not worth visiting during the winter. If you’re willing to be flexible or if you’ve seen those attractions before, you can come back to the state when it’s cooler.
You can still enjoy quite a few indoor activities all over the state. Whether you want to visit the eastern or western part, you’ll have something to do. A lot of indoor activities are family-friendly, so you can bring your kids.
If you visit Sioux Falls around Thanksgiving, you can watch the city’s Christmas Tree Lighting. There are also tons of music performances in the city around this time.
Meanwhile, Rapid City is home to Christmas Village, which is open all year, including during the holidays. Of course, you’ll want to rent a car that can handle slick roads and snow. That way, you can drive around the state to see all of the open attractions.
South Dakota doesn’t have a great public transportation system, even in its cities. You’ll also want to pack a coat and some thick pants if you want to venture outside. Then, you can still enjoy the beauty of South Dakota even when it’s cold out.
Worst Time to Visit South Dakota
You could make any argument that any time is the worst time to visit South Dakota. However, the crowds of summer trips are easier for many people to deal with than the weather.
Sure, if you’re coming in from North Dakota or other nearby states, the winter may not be a problem. But if you’re not used to snow and sub-freezing temperatures, you should avoid visiting the state between November and March.
December, January, and February can be particularly tough with highs in the upper 30s and lows in the teens. If there’s snow on the ground, you may need to wait for plows to clear it.
And if you’re planning on driving across the state, doing so may take longer in the winter. You can plan for that, but you could waste a lot of time on your trip. Of course, you also can’t visit everything the state has to offer.
A lot of outdoor activities, from parks to forests, aren’t open to the public during the off-season. And visiting indoor activities may become a chore when you have to bundle up and clean snow off the car. Some people also find it more difficult to take time off work in the winter.
Depending on what job you have, you might need to be at work during the holidays and the first of the year. So that can also make it harder to schedule a trip.
The summer is just so much more flexible when it comes to getting around and doing different activities. If you want to avoid the summer, you can go in the spring or fall. But unless you have to go during the winter, you should try to avoid it.
Things to Consider
As you plan your trip to South Dakota, you may want to do everything in the state. However, you should keep the following things in mind as you plan your schedule:
- It’s in two time zones. Just over half of South Dakota is in the Central Time Zone, including Sioux Falls, Pierre, and Brookings. However, Rapid City and other western towns are an hour behind in the Mountain Time Zone. If you’re looking to visit both sides of the state, make sure you account for any time changes each day.
- There aren’t that many people. South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, has just under 200,000 residents, and it’s the only city with more than 100,000 people. Only five cities have a population of at least 20,000. That means you may not be able to find a ton of shops just anywhere, so plan when it comes to groceries or other goods.
- Flights can be expensive. Cheaper airlines, like Southwest, don’t even fly into South Dakota; Omaha is probably the closest with cheap flights. Flights from Dallas to Sioux Falls start at over $600 one way, and all of them include stops.
- It has two interstates. If you live close, driving may be more efficient financially and time-wise. You can get to South Dakota from the east or west by taking Interstate 90. Interstate 29 is a great option for north and south travel on the eastern edge of the state. While you can use these highways, they don’t cover all of South Dakota.
- Winter is intense. Depending on the city, South Dakota can get 30 to 70 inches of snow per year. If you want to visit in the off-season, prepare for some snowfall. You’ll also want to prepare for low temperatures below freezing, so don’t schedule any outside activities between December and February.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve never visited South Dakota, you may have some questions about the state. Here are some popular queries and their answers.
What’s the best month to go to South Dakota?
The best month to visit South Dakota is in September. You can still enjoy some holdover of the summer temperatures, so it’s warm but not too warm.
It also hasn’t started getting cold yet, so you can do a lot of outdoor activities. And since school is back in session, you won’t have to deal with as many crowds.
What is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore?
May, September, and October are the three best months to visit Mount Rushmore. Of course, May is full-blown spring, and September and October are the start of fall.
The weather is still pretty good, and it’s a bit cooler than in the summer. Along with the cooler weather, you can avoid the peak level of crowds at the national park.
What is the best time to visit the Black Hills?
The best time to visit the Black Hills is September or October. Like with Mount Rushmore, you get to enjoy slightly cooler temperatures without a huge risk of snowfall.
You can also enjoy the changing colors of the leaves in the mountains. Whether you want to go camping or stay in a hotel, the fall is the perfect time to go.
What is the number 1 attraction in South Dakota?
Mount Rushmore is the top attraction in South Dakota. It’s a well-known monument, and it attracts about two million visitors every year. While the carvings aren’t natural, it’s cool to see the carvings of some figures from American history.
How many days do you need to visit South Dakota?
You should plan to visit South Dakota for at least four to seven days. That way, you have enough time to explore the various cities along Interstate 90. It’ll also give you time to go north or south if you choose.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit South Dakota?
The best time to visit South Dakota is the summer, so June, July, or August. While you’ll have to deal with some crowds, they don’t compare to crowds in larger cities.
South Dakota has great summer weather, so you can spend your time indoors or outside. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to South Dakota today!