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19 Best South Dakota Tourist Attractions (Our Favorites in 2024)

19 Best South Dakota Tourist Attractions (Our Favorites in 2024)

If you’re looking for an exciting and memorable vacation spot with plenty of things to see and do, look no further than scenic South Dakota! With its diverse landscapes, national landmarks, and quirky roadside attractions, it’s one of the coolest places to visit. 

Not sure what there is to do and see in South Dakota? The state nickname — the Mount Rushmore State — can give you an idea of where to get started, but there are incredible parklands, old western towns, glacial lakes, quirky attractions, and sacred Native American sites that make it a great state to visit. 

South Dakota tourist attractions are as varied as the landscapes and rock formations you’ll find in this rugged, scenic state. But which attractions are the best? When you’re visiting a state with so many off-the-beaten-path destinations, you need a guide to show you the attractions that are worth traveling out of your way to see. 

19 Must-Visit Attractions in South Dakota

From the western Black Hills and Badlands to the central Missouri River and family-friendly attractions and cities in the southeast, South Dakota is a beautiful and unique state with something for everyone.

Let’s take a look at the best South Dakota tourist attractions below — from South Dakota’s “Great 8” landmarks and beyond — to point you toward the most visit-worthy spots! 

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The famous landmark and one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions, Mount Rushmore National Monument where the faces of four US presidents are sculpted on a mountain

Adventures On Wheels/Shutterstock

It’s one of those places that makes you proud to be an American — and totally impressed by the skill and ability of the men and women who painstakingly carved the presidential likenesses of the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota. 

The most famous attraction in the state by far and one of the most iconic landmarks in America, Mount Rushmore is a must-visit when you find yourself in South Dakota. It’s also one of the South Dakota Great 8 Places. 

Here in the rocky mountains, green forests, and vast grasslands of the Black Hills, the faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln solemnly look out over the landscape from their granite mountain perch. 

This famous 60-foot high carving is the work of over 400 skilled carvers, done between 1927 and 1941. The sheer scale and magnitude of the faces will astound you. You’ve seen photos, but witnessing it in person is a completely new experience. You’ll feel like a microbe in comparison. 

After admiring the main attraction, you’ll find some trails that lead through this part of the Black Hills (great spots to grab more photos) and ranger-guided hikes that can lengthen your time at Mount Rushmore a bit.

Looking for something a little more thrilling? Check out the Rushmore Tramway zipline tour, where you’ll zoom across 800 feet with incredible views of Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills. 

How to Visit

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is in Keystone, SD. Rapid City is the closest big city nearby, so take Interstate 90’s Rapid City exit (exit 61), then take Highway 16 to Keystone before getting on Highway 244 toward Mount Rushmore. 

  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: $10 per vehicle ($5 for seniors, free for active duty military)
  • Hours: Daily from 5AM–11PM Apr.–Feb., 7AM–9PM Oct.–Mar. 

2. Badlands National Park

A scenic view of natural landscapes, one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions, at Badlands National Park on a sunset


South Dakota and the Badlands are almost synonymous — you can’t think of one without the other. Badlands National Park is one of South Dakota’s Great 8 Places because of the striking rock formations, sacred Native American history, and rugged trails riddled with wildlife. 

Come to the Badlands to hike, take scenic drives around the Badlands Loop, South Unit, and Sage Creek Rim Road, enjoy a guided ranger geology walk or night sky presentation, see wildlife, or ride your bike down craggy dirt trails with amazing views. 

Hiking trails are the best way to get up close to the stunning canyons, spires, and layered rock formations that make the Badlands so majestic. There’s a good chance you’ll spot bighorn sheep, bison, and prairie dogs along the way. 

For an easy 0.75-mile hike, try the Door Trail along a wooden boardwalk with great views of the park or the Window Trail (0.25 miles) where you’ll peer through a natural rock window at a craggy canyon. 

If you’re up for a challenge, hit the Castle Trail — the longest in the park at 10 miles. You’ll see the Door and Window trail sights, then continue on to the Fossil Exhibit Trail with some really impressive formations along the way.

If you’re interested in Native American history, sacred sites are all around you in the Badlands. The park’s name comes from a Lakota word for the harsh environment and weather conditions within the park. The South Unit still belongs to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. 

How to Visit 

Badlands National Park is located in Interior, SD, roughly an hour from Rapid City to the North Unit of the park. Upon arrival, check out the Ben Reifel Visitor Center in the North Unit to see an educational film in the theater, check out the fossil lab, see museum exhibits, and browse the bookstore. 

The White River Visitor Center in the South Unit features onsite rangers who are happy to give you pointers for hiking and biking trails, museum exhibits, and Lakota history in the park. 

  • Admission: $15–$30 per person
  • Hours: Open 24/7, Visitor Center from 8AM–5PM

Read Next: The Best & Worst Times to Visit Badlands National Park in 2024

3. Bear Country USA

Three North American Black Bears taking a shade at a dried fallen log as one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions in Bear Country USA


Not far from Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore, an entirely different type of adventure awaits you at Bear Country USA. It’s a 200-acre drive-through wildlife park where you can see South Dakota native animals like bears, buffalo, foxes, elk, and timber wolves at play.

One of the best South Dakota tourist attractions for families, Bear County USA is education wrapped up in fun for all ages. Most of the wildlife in the park are raised by park staff from infancy and born right here in Bear Country. 

The drive-through wildlife park is the highlight of the trip. This is the only way to get close to big wildlife that’s usually dangerous — black bears, wolves, and mountain lions, among others — without risking your safety. Windows rolled up, you’ll get to see these critters roaming the grounds freely.

After the drive-through park, head to the walk-through Wildlife Center to see smaller animals, learn about the wildlife in the park, and better understand their habitats and habits.

You’ll see foxes, badgers, Martens, porcupines, raccoons, prairie dogs, river otters and more as you stroll along the Wildlife Center path. Check out the Discovery Den to learn about the wildlife you’ve seen. 

The Cub Grub Grill is open for snacks, burgers, and ice cream if you worked up an appetite exploring the park. There’s a huge gift shop with stuffed plushies, park souvenirs, wildlife books, and more. 

How to Visit

Bear Country USA is close to Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park in Rapid City, SD. Take Highway 16 toward Keystone from Rapid City to reach it. There’s a per-car maximum price of $80, no matter how many people are loaded up in your car! 

The park is open from spring (usually mid-April) to late November each year with closures planned on Thanksgiving Day. Convertibles and motorcycles are not allowed in the park for safety reasons, but courtesy vehicles are available for those who need them. 

  • Admission: $22 (adult), $20 (senior and military), $17 (ages 5-12), free (4 and under)
  • Hours: Apr.–May 23 9AM–5PM, May 24–Jul. 31 8AM–6PM, Aug. 1–Sept. 2 8AM–5PM, Sept. 3–30 9AM–4PM

4. Big Thunder Gold Mine

Large entrance sign at Big Thunder Gold Mine, one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions


The Black Hills gold rush from the 1870s made a big impact on South Dakota, drawing prospectors from all over to come with hopes of striking it rich. Today, that gold-driven excitement remains in places like Big Thunder Gold Mine, where you can pan for gold and tour a real mine. 

Big Thunder Gold Mine is a South Dakota attraction people of all ages can enjoy. Who doesn’t want to pan for gold, sorting rocks and gems to find those yellow, glittering flecks? At the gold panning station onsite, you’ll pan sediment from nearby Battle Creek and keep any gold you find. 

Take it a step further by claim panning by the creek, bringing your pan to the water’s edge as you sift through sediment from the bottom and stand a better chance of finding big flecks and chunks of gold. 

While you’re not guaranteed to find gold with your panning adventures, one thing is certain at Big Thunder Gold Mine: Guided mine tours that take you deep underground into a real gold mine originally opened in the Black Hills gold rush and regularly maintained for safety. 

There’s an onsite restaurant, Big Thunder Bar & Grill, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the high season from mid-March to October. It features indoor and outdoor dining spaces with a stone fireplace outside that’s great for a cozy evening. 

How to Visit

Big Thunder Gold Mine is in Keystone, SD and close to Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Bear Country USA if you’re looking for attractions to build out your itinerary in the area.

You’ll find the mine just off the main strip in Keystone with ample parking, so it’s a really convenient spot to visit. Hours vary month-to-month, starting at 10AM–4PM in March and moving to 8AM–8PM in June through August. September and October see opening hours from 9AM to 5–6PM. 

Here’s a look at the pricing for the different activities at Big Thunder Gold Mine: 

  • Mine tours: $13.95 (adults), $10.95 (ages 6-12), free (5 and under)
  • Onsite gold panning: $13.95/pan or $11.95/pan with gold mine tour
  • Onsite gem panning: $9.95/pan
  • Half-day claim panning: $65.95 (adults), $50.95 (ages 6-16)
  • Full-day claim panning: $90.95 (adults), $75.95 (ages 6-16)

5. Black Hills Balloons

One of the best ways to see the beauty of the South Dakota Black Hills is from the air, and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit Black Hills Balloons for a hot air balloon ride over the rugged scenery.

See the rock formations, grasslands, forests, and wildlife from an awesome perspective when you float over the region in a hot air balloon, flown by an experienced pilot who can point out some of the coolest formations and animals you’ll see beneath you. 

It’s a unique way to get a glimpse of many of the best South Dakota tourist attractions, like Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, and the gorgeous southern Black Hills area.

Passing over valleys, mountains, canyons, and lakes, you’ll have the chance to spot bighorn sheep, mountain lions, mule deer, and buffalo amble on the ground below. It’s one of the most scenic hot air balloon flights you can take in the United States. 

Flights take off at sunrise (around 5:15AM) and end with a complimentary champagne toast with the pilot, light refreshments, and a historic chat about hot air ballooning. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience! 

How to Visit

The balloon hangar is located in Custer, SD, about 6 minutes away from Custer State Park. It’s only a half-hour from Keystone (Mount Rushmore) and 1.5 hours from Badlands National Park, making it an awesome day trip from these places. 

Advance reservations are required. Meet your pilot at the hangar on Mt. Rushmore Road in Custer at the scheduled time. It takes about 20 minutes to prep the balloon for flight, then you’ll board, rise into the sky, and enjoy the one-hour flight. 

  • Admission: $375 (adults), $300 (ages 4-12)
  • Hours: All flights at sunrise, May 1–Oct. 31
  • Off-season flights: Available by special appointment

6. The Corn Palace

A golden afternoon at one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions, the Corn Palace where a couple is seen walking out of the attraction

Johnnie Laws/Shutterstock

If you’re into corny humor and love visiting off-the-wall spots that are as unique as they are interesting, you can’t miss the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. It’s one of our favorite attractions in the state and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else! 

Known as The World’s Only Corn Palace (no one’s disputing that), this 39,200-square foot palace is completely decked out in murals and decorations dedicated to that kerneled, golden vegetable everyone enjoys: Corn. 

A highlight of the city of Mitchell since 1892, the Corn Palace transforms every year with new kernel-created murals and decorations that follow each year’s theme. Dakota Wesleyan University students come up with the annual theme and artisans use real corn kernels in 12 natural colors to create the artistic murals and designs. 

Corn is the main “ingredient,” but native grasses and grains are also used to make the designs a bit more aesthetic with different textures and shapes. 

The Corn Palace is also home to an arena and concert stage. Rodeos, circuses, and the annual Corn Palace Festival in August are examples of fun events that take place at the palace.

There’s likely to be something going on during your visit, especially if you come between Memorial Day and Labor Day! Even if you’re not here for an event, taking a tour of the Corn Palace is free.

Visit the gift shop across the street to pick up corny mementos of your veggie-fied visit. And you’ll want to snap your photo standing next to the iconic Corn Palace monument in front! 

How to Visit

The Corn Palace is located right on North Main Street in Mitchell, SD, roughly an hour from Sioux Falls. Parking is free and available at the palace or nearby on 7th and Lawler for RVs and vehicles with trailers. 

Peak season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so you may run into bigger crowds during these times. But it’s nice because this is when the new murals and exhibits are added for a totally fresh experience. 

  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free
  • Hours: Mon.–Sat. 8AM–5PM

7. Crazy Horse Memorial

On going construction at Crazy Horse Memorial where a whole stone mountain is sculpted into a monument of the famous Native American Chief Crazy Horse which will become one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions

James Dalrymple/Shutterstock

South Dakota’s really got a thing for carved monuments and memorials, and you’ll see one of the most impressive at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. This carving depicts Crazy Horse, a Native American tribal leader, that was started in the 1940s and is still under construction as an active carving site today. 

Crazy Horse’s face is the most-finished part of the carving. This Oglala Lakota leader will eventually be depicted mounted on his horse, riding among the low pine forests of the Black Hills with his furrowed brow and serious expression. 

When the monument is completed, it will be the world’s largest sculpture, standing over 560 feet tall and 640 feet wide. Can you even imagine the scale and magnitude? That’s taller than a 60-story building — no wonder it’s one of the South Dakota Great 8. 

You’ll be able to view the monument from the Wall of Windows and the outdoor viewing veranda to get different perspectives. Attend a pottery workshop at the Indian Arts Cultural Exchange, see daily dance performances, If you’re here after sunset during the peak season, catch the laser light show. 

There are 3 museums and art galleries dedicated to Crazy Horse, Native American history in the Black Hills, and a small theater where you can watch an orientation film to learn about the history of the monument and Crazy Horse’s legacy. 

The Laughing Water Restaurant is also on the grounds if you want to grab some traditional Native American food, like Native American tacos and hearty Tatanka Stew with buffalo meat. 

Want to get even closer to the memorial? Add a bus ride to the base of the mountain to your trip or opt for a guided van ride to the top of the mountain for the most breathtaking views of this massive carving. 

How to Visit

Crazy Horse Memorial sits in the Black Hills in Crazy Horse, SD, just 18 minutes from Custer State Park and 37 minutes from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It’s a great combination visit destination. 

You’ll access the site by taking Highway 16 about 9 miles south of Hill City to Avenue of the Chiefs. Parking onsite is free once you’ve paid admission according to the number of people in your vehicle. 

  • Admission Oct.–May: $30 (3+ people/car), $24 (2 people), $12 (1 person)
  • Admission June–Sept.: $35 (3+ people), $30 (2 people), $15 (1 person)
  • Bus Tour to the Base: +$5 per person
  • Guided Van Tour to the Top: +$125 per person
  • Hours: 9AM–6PM (Welcome Center & Museums), 9AM–6PM (Gift Shop)

8. Custer State Park

Hundreds of bison seen grazing on a vast grassland at Custer State Park on piece of the best South Dakota tourist attractions

Anh Luu/Shutterstock

Nestled in the Black Hills with twin titles as South Dakota’s oldest and largest state park, Custer State Park is massive and absolutely packed with historic sites, landmarks, hiking trails, and opportunities for scenic outdoor recreation. 

Fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, sightseeing — it’s all possible here in the park, which spans over 71,000 acres of Black Hills wilderness. Canyons, mountains, rock formations, creeks, rivers, and lakes make it a spectacular attraction to visit. 

The park is rich in wildlife, so what could be an ordinary hike can quickly become exciting when you spot pronghorn, elk, buffalo, and mountain goats. Take the moderate 1-hour Badger Clark Historic Trail to hike a mile in the park’s pines and hardwood trees to see a historic cabin.

The Creekside Trail is easy, paved, and roughly 3 miles along Grace Coolidge Creek. At the creek, there’s a walk-in fishing area with lowhead dams and nearby ponds that make for great trout fishing. Center, Legion, and Sylvan lakes are other fishing hotspots in idyllic natural settings. 

While getting out on foot is the best way to experience the wonder, wildlife, and varied landscapes of the park, taking scenic drives is a close second. Drive the 14-mile Needles Highway to see rare needled rock formations spiking up from the earth and drive through tunnels in the mountain as forests surround you. 

Wildlife Loop Road spans 18 miles and is prone to wildlife jams, as buffalo herds, deer, donkeys, elk, and sheep crowd the roads and give you a close-up look at the rich biodiversity of the park. Look for prairie dogs popping their heads up along the roadside! 

Watch a play in the summertime at the Black Hills Playhouse in the park, come in late September for the Annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival, or camp at one of the 9 campgrounds throughout the park to stay and enjoy a few days. 

How to Visit

Custer State Park is located in Custer, SD, about 13 minutes from Crazy Horse Memorial and 35 minutes from Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This convenient location makes it a great addition to trips to either of these destinations or any place in the Black Hills. 

On the park grounds, there are 4 lodges that have their own restaurants, scheduled and guided activities, private cabins, and lodge rooms if you’re interested in staying but don’t want to camp at one of the 9 campgrounds onsite. 

  • Admission: $20/vehicle (7-day pass); $3/person (motorcoach)
  • Hours: Open year-round 24/7; showers, flush toilets, etc. closed from Oct.–Apr.

9. Historic Deadwood

Locals and tourists on the sidewalk of Historic Deadwood, with the best South Dakota tourist attractions of historic saloons, bars, and shops

Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock

Love Old West history and unique attractions that you’ll talk about for years to come? Check out Historic Deadwood in western South Dakota. This storied town’s motto is “Untamed. Since 1876.” and it’s where Wild Bill Hickok and Jack McCall engaged in a famous shoot-out.

Deadwood flourished during the Black Hills gold rush, bringing prospectors and merchants to the town in droves — including gunslingers like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill. The entire town is a National Historic Landmark and one of the best attractions in South Dakota. 

Along the cobblestone Main Street, you can see the historic buildings revitalized with shops, eateries, and attractions today. Wild West re-enactments are held regularly so you can step back in the pages of time and experience a heart-pounding battle between legendary characters. 

This historic town is home to some great museums, like the Days of ’76 Museum, where animal-powered vehicles, antique firearms, and interactive exhibits will entertain all ages who want to learn about the gold rush era and Old West daily life (and shootouts). 

Take guided tours of the town, ride the Deadwood Trolley, visit the Mount Moriah Cemetery to see famous gunslingers’ graves, check out the Adams Museum to see gold and fossils, and visit the many restaurants, wineries, and breweries in the town if you’re in search of good eats and nightlife. 

How to Visit

Deadwood is located 45 minutes from Rapid City, SD and close to Sturgis (about 20 minutes away). It takes roughly an hour and 7 minutes to reach Keystone (Mount Rushmore) and an hour and 20 minutes to reach Custer (Custer State Park). 

You’ll find limited free parking at the Sherman Street lot and Lower Main Street lot at the Deadwood Welcome Center right in the heart of town. Metered street parking is also available. 

Deadwood Trolley rides can take you all around the town at $2 per ride, or you can pay $1 for a trolley token at the History and Information Center or Deadwood Welcome Center. 

10. Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument is one of the South Dakota Great 8 Places and shows you the “underbelly” of the rugged landscapes of the state. Enter ancient cave systems studded with glittering crystals and gemstones along smooth-to-craggy paths underground. 

This is the second-longest cave in the United States, thought to span over 2,000 miles into the pitch-black caverns that penetrate the gem-lined subterranean passageways. Almost 220 miles of passageways have been mapped, but the cave continues to be explored.

You can traverse well-worn sections of the cave on the 20-minute ranger-led Discovery Tour, illuminated with flat walking paths and handrails for easy ambling. Take the 80-minute Scenic Tour for a more challenging experience with stairs and small passageways. 

The Historic Lantern Tour is our favorite, though, and it’s a wilder experience in a deeper section of the cave with no lighting. You’ll carry a real lantern to illuminate the jeweled passageways in front of you, squeezing into narrow areas along 0.5 miles over 2 hours. 

Wild Caving Tours are also available if you’re really into spelunking and want the most rugged, challenging experience deep under the ground in lesser-explored parts of the cave that most visitors never see. There are more guided tour slots during the warm summer months, so plan accordingly. 

How to Visit

Jewel Cave National Monument is located in Custer, SD about 20 minutes from Custer State Park. It’s very close to Crazy Horse Memorial (22 minutes) and Mount Rushmore (50 minutes). The main entrance gates close at 4:30PM, so arrive early to explore the park. 

Book your cave tours in advance, as booking for each day closes around noon on the previous day and spots tend to fill up quickly. We recommend booking at least 2 weeks in advance to ensure you score the tour and time slot you want. 

Be sure to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket to wear in the caves, which are around 49°F year-round. Comfortable shoes with sturdy soles are a must. 

  • Admission: Free, cost for guided cave tours 
  • Scenic Tour: $16 (adults), $8 (ages 6-15), free (5 and under)
  • Discovery Tour: $6 (adults), $3 (ages 6-15), free (5 and under)
  • Historic Lantern Tour: $16 (adults), $8 (ages 6-15)
  • Wild Cave Tour: $45 (adults 16+ only)

11. Wall Drug Store

Interior of the Wall Drug Store tourist attraction with western-themed designs, shops, and eateries at one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions

Wall Drug Store interior, a South Dakota tourist attraction in the city of Wall, Sept. 2018/Pierre Jean Durieu/Shutterstock

We hear you — a drugstore isn’t a tourist attraction, and it’s certainly not the home of an 80-foot tall dinosaur and a miniature-scale Mount Rushmore. Unless it’s Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. 

This popular tourist attraction has been around since 1931, first attracting visitors to the tiny town of Wall with billboards advertising free ice water.

That offer still stands today, and this place is much more than a drugstore (though it still operates as one, in addition to tons of other offerings). 

The store has a massive 50,000-square foot footprint with a full-service restaurant, art gallery, local mall, and backyard play area for the kids with larger-than-life structures mimicking Mount Rushmore, dinos, rabbits, and more. 

Come grab a famous donut, buffalo burger, 5-cent coffee, or hot beef sandwich at the Western Art Gallery Restaurant. Check out the Western Art Gallery with original oil pantings of western scenes collected by the owner’s family over a half-century.

The Mall at Wall Drug has tons of locally crafted art, jewelry, and Native American leather goods for sale. Kids can pan for gold and gems at the mining experience, peruse the Little Britches Toy Emporium, and pop cap guns at the Shooting Gallery Arcade. 

How to Visit

Located in Wall, SD, Wall Drug Store is easy to reach about an hour to 1.5 hours from famous attractions like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park.

The town itself is very small (under 700 people), but there are a few small hotels and inns if you decide to stay overnight. 

  • Admission: Free with goods for sale
  • Hours: Daily from 8AM–5PM

12. National Music Museum

Music lovers, musicians, and history buffs can all appreciate the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. Run by the University of South Dakota, this museum holds centuries of musical history in exhibits from ancient instruments to modern music greats. 

You’ll see more than 15,000 instruments, from the classics to strange and exotic, that highlight how different cultures and historic periods have viewed, played, and revered music around the world.

With different collections showcasing percussion, strings, woodwinds, and brass, there’s something here for every kind of musician and music appreciator. Check out Rawlins Gallery to see historic and rare violins played by musical prodigies and masters. 

Special temporary exhibits dedicated to popular artists throughout history can be a great surprise, and you’ll be able to browse galleries of instruments used for spiritual practices across the globe as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how instruments are made. 

If you’re here on a weekend during the summer, you could catch an NMM Live! concert happening right here at the museum — a great reason to check their website and try to plan ahead for your visit! 

How to Visit

Just under 2 hours from Mitchell, SD (home of the Corn Palace), the National Music Museum is in Vermillion, SD on the South Dakota-Nebraska border.

It’s a considerable distance from many of the other attractions in the state, but if you’re entering South Dakota from Nebraska or the eastern side, it’s a great stop to make. 

  • Admission: $10 (adults), $8 (seniors 65+), $5 (18 and under)
  • Guided tours: Up to 30 patrons, free tour
  • Hours: Tue.–Sat. 10AM–4PM

13. Petrified Wood Park & Museum

Petrified wood is abundant in parts of South Dakota, but if you want to combine the cool wood-turned-to-rock with a unique roadside attraction that has drawn travelers since the 1930s, check out Petrified Wood Park & Museum in Lemmon, South Dakota. 

This quirky park was the brainchild of Ole Quammen, the town’s mayor at the time with a big dream: Creating a pseudo-forest out of Mesozoic-era petrified wood taken from the area and cobbled together in shapes like trees, pyramids, cones, and pillars. 

He envisioned the treeless park and the unique formations to give visitors the feeling that were driving or walking through a false forest built entirely of petrified wood, petrified grasses, boulders, and dinosaur bones. 

There are literally tons of petrified wood, bones, and stones in the park (over 4,000 tons of wood, 600,000 pounds of grass, and 13,000 dinosaur bones) creating the tree-like and pyramidal structures in the park.

Sitting in the heart of downtown Lemmon, this park is weird, it’s wild, and it’s wonderful with over 100 features standing as tall as 30 feet in the park. Check out the dinosaur bone castle, the most famous structure here, and the onsite Petrified Wood Park Museum tells the story in an interesting way. 

How to Visit

The park is located in the small town of Lemmon, SD, right on the North Dakota border in the north-central region of the state. There are some restaurants, bakeries, small hotels, and museums in the town if you’re interested in checking it out. 

To get to the park and museum, you’ll take Highway 12 into Lemmon and head north on Main Avenue to follow the Petrified Wood Park sign. The park sits 4 blocks away on your right. 

  • Admission: Free
  • Museum hours: Daily from 9AM–5PM

14. Reptile Gardens

A father petting a tamed Aldabra Tortoise at Reptile Gardens, with his kids on each side, as one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions

Tami Freed/Shutterstock

In Rapid City, South Dakota, the slimy, slithering, and cold-blooded world of reptiles comes alive at Reptile Gardens. This all-ages tourist attraction is popular for families with its collection of snakes, lizards, giant tortoises, and a fearsome crocodile named Maniac.

While reptiles aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of South Dakota attractions, this is an awesome spot to get out and stretch your legs while checking out some of the reptilian inhabitants in this Guinness World Record-holding reptile zoo. 

Check out animal exhibits ranging from the world’s deadliest venomous snakes (and some non-venomous), turtles, lizards, frogs, salamanders, and bugs with an ick-factor (cockroaches, scorpions, and spiders). 

Daily shows featuring some of the snakes, gators, and birds is a lively way to spend a little more time at the zoo before heading on your way to the next South Dakota attraction. 

Need a break from all the scales and slithering? Prairie Dog Town provides a nice contrast to the reptile exhibits and is perfect for those who might be a bit squeamish about the other animals here.

You’ll find Cheyenne, a bald eagle, giant tortoises, and a nice botanical garden in an enclosed Sky Dome that houses exotic and native plants if you’d rather admire the scenery than snakes. 

How to Visit

Reptile Gardens is located in Rapid City, just 6 miles from downtown at the foot of a hill. Once you see the huge glass dome, you’ll know you’ve made it! Other attractions nearby include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Bear Country USA. 

Prices listed below are for spring and fall. Admission prices are $3 more in the summer and $2 less in the winter months. 

  • Admission: $22 (adults 16+), $20 (seniors 62+), $18 (11-15), $16 (4-10), free (4 and under)
  • Hours: 9AM–4PM (spring/fall), 8AM–6PM (summer), 9AM–3PM (winter)

15. Wind Cave National Park

A boxwork formation inside a cave at Wind Cave National Park, one of the South Dakota tourist attractions that draws thousands of annual visitors

Cheri Alguire/Shutterstock

Do you hear that? It’s the eerie sound of wind whistling and singing through the ancient nooks and crannies of the caverns at Wind Cave National Park near Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s one of the best attractions in the state if you’re into subterranean exploration! 

Wind Cave gets its name from Native Americans who recognized the unique boxwork calcite structures within the cave were responsible for allowing airflow and wind deep into the belly of the earth.

Those boxwork structures are part of what makes it so visually interesting to visit Wind Cave — they’re very rare and give the caverns an otherworldly look. 

You don’t have to be a skilled spelunker to enjoy Wind Cave National Park. The cave has been outfitted with electricity and lighting to illuminate the mostly-flat paths before you, guiding you into the caverns with signage that explains what made this site sacred to the Lakota people centuries ago. 

Above ground, the park sprawls over 33,000 acres with abundant wildlife roaming the grasslands. Bison, prairie dogs, deer, and more can be seen in the wildlife sanctuary. Get the best views by taking one of the hiking or biking trails (there are over 30 miles of these). 

If you’re only here for a day, you’ll appreciate the Geology Driving Tour around the park to see some of the cool rock formations above ground. But the real highlight is a guided cave tour, so don’t skip it if you’re on the fence! 

How to Visit

The closest city to Wind Cave National Park is Rapid City, about 50 minutes away from the park entrance. It’s conveniently located near other popular South Dakota tourist attractions, like Reptile Gardens, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse Memorial. 

Guided cave tours are popular in the park and tend to sell out hours in advance each day, so don’t wait until you arrive to get your tickets. Book online for cave tours and campground sites to ensure you snag a spot! 

  • Admission: Free
  • Cave tours: $14–$45 (adults), $7–$16 (children & seniors)
  • Hours: Tour times vary, final tours at 3:30PM

16. South Dakota Air and Space Museum

Front of South Dakota Air and Space Museum where an old fighter jet sits on its signage, one of the best South Dakota tourist attractions


Got an aviator or military history buff in your travel group? Check out the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder, South Dakota to see relics from America’s aerospace defense history, including bombers, missiles, and Cold War-era Air Defense Command hangars. 

The museum sits just outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base, displaying interesting aircraft, artifacts, and historic documents of the 28th Bomb Wing and 44th Strategic Missile Wing during the Cold War.

The museum is dedicated to showcasing America’s defense arsenal during that period, with aircraft like the B-52 Stratofortress, and the B-29 Superfortress alongside the Titan I and Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). 

Any aviation geek or military buff is going to appreciate the impressive collection at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. The aircraft in the 4 hangars are so cool, even those who think it’ll be boring will find themselves drawn in.

While you won’t be able to take tours of the Air Force Base, it’s well worth making your way to Box Elder to see the museum and learn about the role Ellsworth and its mighty arsenal played in the Cold War. 

The museum is open year round (although the indoor galleries are closed until further notice) and the tours of Ellsworth AFB and the Missile Silo are permanently closed. Admission to the museum is free.

How to Visit

The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is located outside Ellsworth Air Force Base, about 45 minutes from Badlands National Park and the same distance from Mount Rushmore National Monument.

With such a convenient location, it’s worth driving out to see the awesome bombers and missiles at the museum. Plus, admission is free! 

  • Admission: Free
  • Hours: Daily from 8AM–5PM (outdoor airpark)

17. Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame

Many people know South Dakota for its famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, but it only happens once a year for 10 days. You can visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame anytime! 

Motorcycle enthusiasts will get a kick out of the displays and exhibits in the museum. Memorabilia, artwork, and motorcycles fill the museum with regularly-changing exhibits to keep things interesting.

Check out examples of some of the earliest motorcycles and see how the designs have changed and refined over the years to the powerful machines we see today. From bone stock to upgraded models with a whole lotta horsepower, you’ll want to spend a 

In the Hall of Fame, plaques honoring past award recipients and motorcycle Hall of Famers are proudly displayed. Five awards are presented each year. You can even nominate someone for a Hall of Fame award! 

You’ll be able to pick up Sturgis merch in the gift shop to bring home the memories of your visit to appreciate long after you leave South Dakota. 

How to Visit

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is located right on Main Street in Sturgis, SD with lots of attractions and places to eat nearby, like Uncle Louie’s Diner and the Knuckle Saloon.

It’s about an hour from Mount Rushmore and close to many of the best attractions in South Dakota. Veterans and seniors can get discounted entry, but you’ll need to ask when you arrive (generally $1-$2 off admission). 

  • Admission: $10 (adults), $5 (ages 14-18), free (13 and under)
  • Summer hours: Daily 9AM–5PM
  • Winter hours: Daily 10AM–4PM
  • Rally hours: Daily 9AM–6PM

18. The Mammoth Site

Giant excavated Mammoth fossil preserved at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD

Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock

In Hot Springs, South Dakota, a gigantic fossilized mammoth was uncovered accidentally by a developer who was building a new subdivision. When the first tusk was uncovered, construction stopped and the site was painstakingly excavated, buried for ages in an ancient sinkhole.

The developer decided to forego the housing development and turn the area into a nonprofit organization to let the digging continue. Today, the Mammoth Site is the world’s largest mammoth research facility. It’s an active dig site where bones and fossils are still being uncovered! 

To date, more than 60 mammoths, including 3 woolly mammoths, have been uncovered here, along with 87 other animals dating back to the Late Ice Age. It’s really incredible to think about the life that once roamed this part of South Dakota. 

You can experience the exhilaration of the dig for yourself with an augmented reality sandbox dig, a hands-on stream table, and self-guided tours through the indoor archaeology center detailing the finds and discoveries from this area. 

Inside the facility, there’s an active dig site you can check out, Ice Age animal and flora exhibits, summertime classes and research programs to join, a sluice to sort and dig for cool finds, and a snack shack if you get hungry while you’re here. 

How to Visit

The Mammoth Dig Site is in Hot Springs, SD with other attractions like the Moccasin Springs natural mineral spa sitting on the ruins of the old Hot Springs Hotel. The Crazy Horse Memorial is about 45 minutes away and Mount Rushmore is about an hour away. 

  • Admission: $14 (adults), $12 (seniors 60+), $11 (military and ages 4-12), free (3 and under)
  • Hours: Daily from 8AM–5PM (closes 1 hour later in summer, 1.5 hours earlier in winter)

19. WaTiki Waterpark

South Dakota is better known for its natural swimming holes like lakes, rivers, and streams, but WaTiki Waterpark is an awesome attraction in the southwestern region, close to most of the major attractions in the state. 

Everyone can enjoy some indoor waterlogged fun at WaTiki’s 30,000 square feet of adventure, with massive water slides featuring twists and turns, pools, a lazy river, the Oasis Hot Tub, and themed areas like Maui’s Body Slide and Koko’s Kingdom. 

It’s not just the waterpark you can look forward to, either. A fun-filled arcade is here when you’re ready to dry off and de-prune those fingers and toes for a bit. There are 5 hotels in the complex, so booking a stay is easy if you decide you just can’t leave WaTiki. 

Onsite casual restaurants and cafes, like Sliders Bar and Grill and the Bistro Bar, make sure you’re able to fuel up (just wait 30 minutes til you hop back in the water) without missing out on any of the fun. 

As the largest indoor water park in North and South Dakota, this is definitely an attraction that you won’t want to skip if you’re traveling with family. It can make a longer road trip across South Dakota so much more enjoyable for the kids! 

How to Visit

Located in Rapid City, WaTiki Waterpark is conveniently located near Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and smaller attractions like Bear Country USA (all 20 minutes to an hour away). 

Get the VIP Package to bundle the most fun into your trip with a reserved table for 4, towels, $20 in free arcade play, and general admission all included. 

  • General admission: $20, Spectator pass $10, VIP package $60
  • Summer hours: Daily from 8AM–9PM
  • Winter hours: Mon.–Fri. 4PM–9PM, Sat.–Sun. 8AM–9PM

Choosing the Best South Dakota Tourist Attractions to Visit

Sturgis rally in South Dakota, one of the state's best tourist attractions


South Dakota’s huge list of attractions cover all the bases. Famous national historic landmarks? Check. Gorgeous landscapes and interesting rock formations? Check.

Palaces made entirely of corn and quirky drugstores that draw more visitors than some major cities in the US? Check.

South Dakota is one of those places that seems easy to figure out on the surface — you’ve got Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Badlands National Park, and the famous Sturgis motorcycle rally. But there’s so much more to this scenic and historic state.

Choosing the best attractions to visit in South Dakota really relies on knowing what your interests are (and the people you’ll be traveling with). But there’s plenty to appeal to all types, from national parks with natural beauty to sacred caves and mammoth dig sites. 

Visiting the best South Dakota attractions will show you just how diverse and interesting this state really is — and we’re betting you’ll make plans to return and see more of the places on this list soon!