Panoramic view of Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota

Things to do in  South Dakota

Historical monuments and natural wonders

Cluttered with historical sites and natural beauty, South Dakota is a diverse destination for travelers. Be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors. Mt. Rushmore National Memorial and its carved granite peaks stand proudly as one of the state's major highlights. Visit the Native American sites of Wounded Knee and Crazy Horse Memorial to gain a deeper understanding of America’s history, and the Badlands National Park for a peek at otherworldly landscapes and more things to do.

Top 8 attractions in South Dakota

Cosmos Mystery Area

The laws of gravity may not apply at Cosmos Mystery Area. At this Black Hills attraction, you see water appear to flow uphill, discover that seemingly level surfaces aren't straight, and find tall people that seem tiny. Don't miss walking up a wall in the Mystery House, and try cracking crystal-filled geodes at the on-site mine.More

Custer State Park

Nestled in the Black Hills, South Dakota’s massive Custer State Park spans 71,000 acres (28,730 hectares) of rolling prairie hills, open grassland, pine forests, lakes and streams, and tall granite peaks. The park is known for the many herds of wildlife, including bison, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep, that freely roam the land.More

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

The stony faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt peer out from the iconic granite outcrop known as Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is an American symbol, and with some 3 million visitors each year, it’s the state’s most popular attraction.More

Badlands National Park

The dramatic pinnacles and buttes of Badlands National Park provide a stark contrast to the surrounding prairie. Scenic drives, trails, and campsites give visitors many ways to take in this unique landscape and to spot bison, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. The park also contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds.More

Black Hills

If the Black Hills were in Colorado, they'd be swarming with visitors and overpriced breweries. However, as this range is a bit more remote, it flies (mostly) under the radar. The region spans roughly 1.2 million acres (0.5 million hectares) of forested hills and mountains and is full of gold rush history, Native American culture, hot springs, and incredible scenery and wildlife.More

Historic Adams House

The turn-of-the-century Historic Adams House in Deadwood showcases the architectural style of the 1890s with oak interiors and stained glass. Visit this Queen Anne-style home to admire the building’s design, learn about Deadwood's founders, and see firsthand how families spent their wealth in this gold-mining town.More
National Presidential Wax Museum

National Presidential Wax Museum

Journey through America’s history at the National Presidential Wax Museum. Located in Keystone, near Mount Rushmore, the museum features lifelike wax figures of every US president, historical artifacts and memorabilia, and realistic depictions of pivotal and iconic moments in the country’s history.More
Days of '76 Museum

Days of '76 Museum

The Days of '76 Museum displays a collection of pioneer memorabilia that commemorates the first settlers of the Dakota Territory. Deadwood’s annual Days of ’76 celebration began in 1920 as a way to honor the region’s 1876 gold rush and pioneers; the museum preserves and displays the festival’s memorabilia all year round.More
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All about South Dakota

When to visit

If you want to get the best out of the state, South Dakota is best enjoyed in summer. The warmer months are perfect for experiencing outdoor activities such as mountain biking, hiking, and fishing, as well as taking in dramatic landscapes in Badlands National Park. However, if you prefer cooler temperatures and fewer people, then spring and fall are also great times to visit South Dakota, offering fairly moderate temperatures.

Getting around

To explore the scenic landscapes of South Dakota, a car is your best bet. Driving allows you to take in the sights without having to worry about restricted public transportation schedules. Roads are well-maintained and have adequate signage, making it easy for travelers to find their way. However, if you want to get off the beaten track, then plan to explore the national parks on a bike or on foot, too.

Traveler tips

If there's one tip to know, it's to plan ahead. The roads are often windswept and remote in South Dakota, so it is important to know the route and be prepared for all kinds of weather. In remote areas, it's a good idea to bring cash, as some places may not accept card payments. No matter where you go, the warmth and hospitality of the locals is reliable.

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People Also Ask

What is the number one attraction in South Dakota?

South Dakota is home to some incredibly beautiful natural beauty, but its most famous attraction is Mt. Rushmore. This national memorial was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and depicts presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It draws about 2 million visitors yearly.

Is South Dakota worth visiting?

Yes, South Dakota is worth visiting. Filled with unique sights and exciting activities, it's a great place for travelers looking for outdoor recreation and sightseeing opportunities like Mt. Rushmore. With its variety of landscapes ranging from hills to lakes and rivers, it's easy to find scenic spots throughout the state.

When is the best time to visit South Dakota?

The best weather for visiting is late spring through early autumn. This is when the weather is mild, with sunny days and cooler nights. Many festivals and events are held in summer, including the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, SoDak Motion Fest, and Sioux River Folk Festival.

Is Mt Rushmore worth the trip?

Yes. Visiting Mt. Rushmore is an experience that cannot be had anywhere else. The famous monumental sculptures of American presidents carved into the granite evoke a sense of awe at the power, strength, and grandeur of the US and its history.

How many days in South Dakota is enough?

You could get away with around two to three days to see the main attractions. However, if you'd like to enjoy outdoor activities like angling and hiking, then having up to a week makes for an even more enjoyable, relaxing experience.

How far is it from Yellowstone to Mt Rushmore?

The distance from Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore is around 500 miles (800 kilometers), for about a 9-hour drive between the two national parks. This route passes through Wyoming and South Dakota and into Montana if you visit West Yellowstone.

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