South Dakota Destination Guide
South Dakota Holidays
Nestled beneath its sister state to the north, South Dakota is a sprawling and sometimes surprising Midwest state. Its main claim to fame is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial – a spectacular rock sculpture of four iconic American presidents carved into solid granite.
However, there's much more to South Dakota than just its monumental memorial, in a state where badlands meld into prairieland and the locals offer a friendly welcome to all who venture to this unassuming part of the world. From Sioux Falls to Rapid City, Badlands National Park to the Crazy Horse Memorial, this largely rural state is a pleasantly vibrant place to visit.
Broaden your horizons with a trip to...
- the stunning Mount Rushmore
- wildlife sanctuary Custer State Park
- kitschy favourite The Corn Palace
When it comes to attractions, they don't come much bigger than Mount Rushmore – both figuratively and literally. A stunning depiction of former American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, this unforgettable sight is an 18-metre-high rock sculpture carved straight out of a towering cliff face.
Mount Rushmore may enjoy most of the plaudits, but there are plenty of other top attractions in South Dakota. Similarly ambitious in scope is the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial, which rises majestically out of Thunderhead Mountain in the heart of the Black Hills. Some 160 kilometres to the east is the Badlands National Park – a windswept landscape of spectacular buttes carved out of the rocks by thousands of years of wind and rain.
Don't forget to check out...
- the monumental Crazy Horse Memorial
- brooding Black Hills National Park
- the historic town of Deadwood
Eat and Drink
South Dakota is cattle country, so it's no surprise that beef reigns supreme in this part of the world. You won't have to go far to enjoy a beef burger, however there are many more exotic ingredients available, including the buffalo, pheasant and elk native to the region.
National restaurant chains abound in Rapid City and Spearfish, while the casino town of Deadwood is a great place to re-fuel at the buffet. There are also several wineries and microbreweries scattered throughout the state, including the pioneering ChrisaMari Winery in state capital Pierre.
Sample some authentic South Dakota cuisine...
- and tackle some bison tacos
- with kuchen, the state's official dessert
- a cold-resistant South Dakota wine
Where to Stay
There's no shortage of accommodation options in South Dakota, particularly in larger towns like Sioux Falls and Rapid City, while state capital Pierre offers some charming riverside locations in which to relax and rejuvenate.
Ranging from cheap and cheerful motels to well-appointed brand-name hotels, South Dakota is also a great place to check out some alternative forms of accommodation, including the gaming resorts of Deadwood and the Native American tribal casinos scattered throughout the state. Farm stays are also popular, with South Dakota boasting plenty of venues in which to try your hand at ranch life.
Spend some time in South Dakota territory...
- at historic Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City
- on the banks of the Missouri River in Pierre
- at a campground in the Black Hills
Shopping in South Dakota is best accomplished in the major towns, with the spacious Empire Mall in Sioux Falls one of the state's most visited tourist attractions, offering a variety a of department stores and specialty boutique outlets. Rushmore Mall is Rapid City's major shopping outlet, while each town boasts a popular Scheels All Sports store.
For home-grown South Dakota souvenirs, look no further than some authentic Sioux pottery or a unique piece of Black Hills gold jewellery. Other popular items include Harley Davidson merchandise - owing to the world-renowned Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - as well as souvenirs from the iconic Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial.
Shell out some tourist dollars on...
- official Black Hills gold jewellery
- a bottle of South Dakota rhubarb wine
- Native American Sioux pottery
South Dakota Like a Local
Custer State Park's Buffalo Roundup is one of the state's most popular annual events, with thousands of onlookers descending on the park to watch as the resident buffalo herd is rounded up by a posse of skilled cowboys and cowgirls.
With much of rural South Dakota originally settled through the Homestead Act, it's possible to see how life was once lived on the vast prarieland with a trip to the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet. Once home to author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who immortalised the region with her Little House On The Prarie series of books, it's also a great place to enjoy a covered wagon ride and partake in some of the homestead activities popularised during pioneer times.
Enjoy some outdoor time...
- at the Prairie Berry Winery
- fly fishing in Spearfish
- on the George S. Mickelson trail