If you’re looking for an exciting and memorable vacation spot, look no further than South Dakota! With its diverse landscape, friendly people, and abundance of attractions, it’s no wonder why people love spending time here.
The 19 Best Tourist Attractions in South Dakota
South Dakota is a beautiful state with plenty of things to see and do. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or adrenaline junkie, South Dakota has something for everyone.
From Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills and beyond, here are some of the best tourist attractions in South Dakota. So, pack up your bags and get ready for an adventure!
1. The Adams Museum
The Adams Museum in Deadwood is a must-see for any fan of American history. The museum contains an impressive array of artifacts from the early days of the American West, including items related to the gold rush and the stories of famous outlaws like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
Visitors can learn about the history of Deadwood itself, which is a fascinating story of boomtowns, lawlessness, and gambling.
In addition to its historical significance, the Adams Museum features the Historic Adams House, a beautiful Queen Anne-style home with stained glass windows, a cozy parlor, and an elegant dining room.
So, if you’re a history nerd or just looking for a unique place to visit, the Adams Museum is definitely worth a trip.
2. Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is a unique and fascinating place, offering visitors the chance to experience the wonders of nature. The park’s dramatic landscape is like nowhere else on earth, with towering cliffs, deep canyons, eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.
The area is also the natural habitat for a variety of plant and animal life, including prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, bison, and bighorn sheep.
In addition, the park offers visitors a chance to experience the night sky away from the light pollution of cities. Badlands National Park is an ideal destination for those who love nature and want to immerse themselves in beauty and solitude.
3. Bear Country USA
Bear Country USA is a wildlife park located in Rapid City, South Dakota. The park offers visitors the chance to see many different animals in a natural setting, including wolves, black bears, bobcats, buffalo, elk, coyotes, and even reindeer!
Visitors can either enjoy a self-guided tour through the park in their own vehicles or stroll around in the Wildlife Walk area for an up-close look at the animals.
The park also offers plenty of activities for kids and educational programs, such as talks and demonstrations. Bear Country USA is a great place to learn about the local wildlife and see some of the most beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
4. Big Thunder Gold Mine
Big Thunder Gold Mine is a popular tourist destination in Keystone, South Dakota. The mine offers visitors the chance to tour the mine, learn about the history of mining in the area, and see how gold was extracted from the Earth in 1892.
Visitors can also try their hand at panning for gold, and they can keep any gold they find as a souvenir.
In addition, the mine offers a variety of other attractions, including the Big Thunder Bar & Grill and a museum full of interesting artifacts from the gold mining days.
So, if you’re looking for a fun, hands-on, and educational activity for the whole family, check out Big Thunder Gold Mine.
5. Black Hills Balloons
Black Hills Balloons offers visitors the chance to see the beautiful Black Hills from a whole new perspective – up in the air! A delightful ride in a hot air balloon is a truly unique experience, and there’s no better place for it than in the breathtaking scenery of South Dakota.
Floating quietly above the trees and valleys, you’ll marvel at the views as you slowly drift across mountains, lakes, and prairies, home to elk, antelope, whitetail deer, and buffalo.
And when you land, you’ll be treated to a traditional champagne toast to celebrate your flight. Whether you’re a seasoned balloonist or a first-time flyer, Black Hills Balloons will give you an experience you’ll never forget.
6. The Corn Palace
Mitchell, South Dakota’s Corn Palace is a Midwest landmark that attracts visitors globally. Built in 1921, this unique structure is adorned with colorful murals and mosaics made entirely of ears of corn and other grains.
Every year, the palace’s design is changed to reflect a different theme, making it a truly one-of-a-kind destination. In addition to its intricate exterior, the Corn Palace also features entertaining events throughout the year, so it’s an enjoyable destination for families and groups.
From concerts to basketball tournaments and craft fairs, the Corn Palace is one of America’s most interesting places to visit.
7. Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is another popular tourist destination in South Dakota. Located in the Black Hills, the monument is a massive sculpture of Native American leader Crazy Horse that was started in 1948 and remains unfinished.
When completed, it will be the world’s largest sculpture, depicting the Native American leader on horseback.
Visitors can take a tour of the site and learn about the project’s history. They can also walk through the on-site Indian Museum of North America museum, which houses exhibits about Crazy Horse and other Native American leaders.
So, whether you’re interested in history, art, or just want to take in some of America’s exceptional natural beauty, the Crazy Horse Memorial is definitely worth visiting.
8. Custer State Park
Custer State Park is located in the Black Hills and is the largest and oldest state park in South Dakota. The park is home to several historical sites, including the Mount Rushmore National Monument, and a variety of wildlife, such as bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, and mountain goats.
Custer State Park contains several scenic drives, including the Wildlife Loop Road, which offers visitors the chance to see wildlife up close. It’s also home to an abundance of hiking trails, including the popular Centennial Trail.
The trail winds through the park for more than 100 miles and offers stunning views of the Black Hills. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that Custer State Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Dakota.
9. Historic Deadwood
Deadwood, South Dakota, is a historic town with a lot to offer. Founded in 1876, the town is best known for its Wild West history, and it was the site of the infamous shoot-out between Wild Bill Hickok and Jack McCall.
Today, Deadwood is a vibrant community that celebrates its unique heritage. Visitors can explore the town’s museums and historical sites, take a ride on the Deadwood Trolley, or test out their luck at one of the many casinos.
The Historic Firehouse No. 1 is another popular site, and it offers tours of the restored building. Finally, Deadwood is home to Mount Moriah Cemetery, the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.
Deadwood is the perfect destination for tourists looking for an authentic Old West experience with its wide range of activities and rich history.
10. Jewel Cave National Monument
The Jewel Cave National Monument is a gem of a destination for anyone who loves caves and exploring the great outdoors. The cave is known for its beautiful calcite crystals, which have been formed over millions of years.
Visitors have the opportunity to explore with guided tours of the cave and see crystals, gypsum, and cave formations up close.
In addition, Jewel Cave is home to other attractions, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center. The monument is also situated near several other popular tourist destinations, such as Mount Rushmore National Monument and Crazy Horse Memorial.
Regardless of how you choose to experience it, Jewel Cave’s stunning natural features will leave you awed and amazed.
11. Mount Rushmore National Monument
Mount Rushmore National Monument is one of America’s most iconic landmarks. Nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the monument features the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved into a granite cliff.
Mount Rushmore was designed to celebrate the country’s history and values, and today it remains an impressive sight.
Visitors can tour the monument grounds, view the presidents’ faces up close, and learn about the monument’s construction. There are also numerous scenic hiking trails in the area, providing visitors with idyllic countryside views.
Whether you’re interested in American history or simply looking for a beautiful place to explore, Mount Rushmore leaves a lasting impression on all who see it.
12. National Music Museum
One of the United States’ lesser-known museums is the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. The museum is home to over 15,000 musical instruments from all over the world that tell the story of music and its evolution.
One of the museum’s highlights is the Rawlins Gallery, which houses some of the world’s most valuable and rare violins.
Visitors can also observe a wide variety of musical instruments from all over the globe, ranging from ancient flutes to modern guitars. In addition, the museum hosts regular concerts and events, making it a great destination for music lovers.
So, if you’re ever in South Dakota, be sure to check out the National Music Museum – you might just be surprised at what you find!
13. Petrified Wood Park & Museum
The Petrified Wood Park & Museum in Lemmon, South Dakota, is a fascinating place to visit for anyone interested in geology or architecture.
The park is home to the largest collections of petrified wood in the world and a wealth of fossils and rocks from throughout the area. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the museum to learn about the different types of petrified wood and how they were formed.
In addition, the park offers nearly an entire city block of petrified structures and picnic areas, making it a great place to spend a day outdoors.
Whether you’re a budding geologist or simply looking for a fun family outing, the Petrified Wood Park & Museum will provide an enjoyable, educational experience.
14. Reptile Gardens
The Reptile Gardens in South Dakota is a one-of-a-kind attraction that is sure to interest and intrigue visitors of all ages. The zoo houses an assortment of birds, snakes, lizards, turtles, and even a giant crocodile.
The gardens also have many educational exhibits, which teach visitors about the different types of reptiles and their habitats.
In addition, the gardens host several special events throughout the year, such as snake-feeding demonstrations and talks by experts on reptile care. The Reptile Gardens also offers daily bird and snake demonstrations, including a snake show where visitors have the chance to pet a python at the end!
With more species and subspecies of reptiles than any other zoo in the world, the Reptile Gardens is guaranteed to be a hit with any reptile enthusiast.
15. Rushmore Tramway Adventures
The Rushmore Tramway Adventures in South Dakota offers an adrenaline-filled look at one of America’s most iconic landmarks: Mount Rushmore National Monument.
For starters, it’s home to South Dakota’s first zipline tour, which spans over a mile and reaches heights of up to 400 feet.
Visitors can enjoy a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Rushmore Tramway Adventures’ summit, where they will enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
From the top, you can take the chairlift back down, or, for the adventurous types, there is also the option to take an alpine slide down the mountain. So, if you’re looking for a day of adventure and thrill-seeking, the Rushmore Tramway Adventures will exceed your expectations.
16. South Dakota Air and Space Museum
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is a great place to learn about aviation history. Located in Box Elder, the museum has various exhibits showcasing aerospace technology, Cold War history, aviation pioneers, and Ellsworth Air Force Base history.
The museum houses a collection of over 30 rare warbirds, from World War II-era fighters to sleek jets from the 1950s. In addition to the impressive array of aircraft on display, the museum also features interactive exhibits that let visitors put their hands on pieces of history.
With its focus on aviation history and science, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum is the best place to visit for anyone looking to learn more about flight.
17. Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is the perfect destination for gearheads and motorcycle enthusiasts. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people walk the museum’s exhibits to see an impressive collection of motorcycles, ranging from early models to contemporary designs.
The museum traces the history of motorcycles from their early days as a means of transportation to their present-day status as a symbol of freedom and independence.
In addition to the bikes on display, the museum also features a wide variety of memorabilia. For new and long-time fans of motorcycles alike, the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is a must-see for anyone interested in two-wheeled transportation.
18. Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake is a beautiful body of water located in South Dakota’s Black Hills region. The setting is picturesque, with towering pines and rocky cliffs framing the sparkling blue water. Visitors enjoy hiking and camping in the area or simply relax and take in the stunning views.
Visitors can enjoy fishing, canoeing, swimming in the lake, or taking a scenic boat tour. Sylvan Lake is also an excellent place for wildlife enthusiasts, considering the area is home to deer, bald eagles, ospreys, and many other species.
Sylvan Lake is an ideal destination for those who love the outdoors, offering those who enjoy the scenic beauty and rich history an unforgettable experience.
19. WaTiki Waterpark
South Dakota may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of waterparks, but WaTiki Waterpark is definitely worth visiting! The park has something for everyone, a lazy river, an action-packed activity pool, and slides ranging from mild to wild.
Families will appreciate the kid-friendly areas, while thrill-seekers can take on the park’s attractions, like the Parrot’s Plunge and Seahorse Slide.
And don’t worry about the weather – this indoor park lets you enjoy all of the fun, even on a cold day. So, whether you want a relaxing float or an exhilarating ride, WaTiki Waterpark is the coolest place for a day of family fun.
Things to Consider
When planning a trip to South Dakota, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. The first is transportation – while the state is small, it’s spread out, and some areas can be pretty remote.
The next consideration is the weather. South Dakota experiences all four seasons, so make sure to pack accordingly and keep in mind that many of the state’s attractions are outdoors.
And finally, some of these destinations attract many people, especially during the summer months.
So, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan your trip for shoulder seasons – late spring or early fall – when the weather is still pleasant, and the crowds have dwindled.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding South Dakota tourist attractions:
What is the biggest tourist attraction in South Dakota?
Mount Rushmore is the biggest tourist attraction in South Dakota, drawing more than two million visitors each year. The iconic monument features the faces of four American presidents carved into a mountain face.
Is Mount Rushmore worth the visit?
Mount Rushmore is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. The monument is impressive, and the surrounding landscape is stunning. In addition, there are plenty of other things to see and do in the Black Hills region.
What are three things South Dakota is famous for?
South Dakota is most famous for the Mount Rushmore National Monument, the Badlands National Park, and hosting the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In addition, South Dakota is also the birthplace of former Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphery.
What is the prettiest place in South Dakota?
There is no wrong answer when determining the prettiest place in South Dakota – the state is full of stunning natural beauty. From the rolling hills and pristine lakes of the Black Hills region to the wide-open prairies of the Great Plains, South Dakota offers a wealth of picturesque landscapes.
What is the best time of year to visit South Dakota?
The best time of year to visit South Dakota depends on what you’re looking for. The summer months are the busiest and offer the most activities and ideal weather for outdoor exploration. For fewer crowds and milder temperatures, plan your trip for late spring or early fall.
Best South Dakota Tourist Attractions: Final Thoughts
There is no one “best” tourist attraction in South Dakota – the state is home to abundant natural beauty and exciting places to explore.
From Mount Rushmore to WaTiki Waterpark, there’s something for everyone in South Dakota. So, for a fun, one-of-a-kind vacation spot, be sure to add South Dakota to your list!