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The Top 10 Things to Do in South Dakota

The Top 10 Things to Do in South Dakota

Turns out that you are moving to South Dakota and that is great news, for you! This state features postcard-type views as far as the eye can see, including badlands and, of course, the Black Hills, where the famed S.D. gold rush began. Chances are, as you make your way around your new home, you will already be in one of its over 50+ state parks systems. The state is best reserved for those who love to explore.

Known for its numerous reservations and budding agriculture, the state has numerous historic sites that are devoted to Native Americans and pioneers, who all laid the groundwork in not only colonizing its borders, but also in preserving its natural beauty.

All that said, we have you covered with things to do and see there. Refer to the below Top 10 list:

  1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park

This national monument, which portrays former U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, is found enveloped in the beautiful Black Hills. As a bonus, you can also visit Rushmore Cave, which is located at the foothills of the monument. The tour takes you along mining paths, founded in 1876, carved in the limestone as you can navigate via ladders, columns and stooped ceilings. All of this is located at the heart of the Rush Mountain Adventure Park.

  1. Mammoth Site

This attraction, located in Hot Springs, allows you to tour an indoor dig site containing Ice Age fossils and allows you to navigate the area as part of an education experience. Tickets are relatively inexpensive as some are as low as $9, while children under 3-years-old are admitted for free. Educational programs include, Fossils, Animal Tracks, Erosion, Archaeology and Odontology, among others.

  1. Crazy Horse Memorial

Established in 1948 to honor Native Americans, the Crazy Horse monument was erected in commemorating the leader of the Oglala Lakota and the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). Crazy Horse’s face is sculpted on the side of Thunderhead Mountain and faces out over the landscape. The site is maintained by the Indian University of North America and includes a giftshop where you can even purchase a miniature sculpture of the monument.

  1. Reptile Gardens

This site makes for the largest reptile zoo in the world and also features a spanning botanical garden as well. Founded in 1937, it features animals like lizards, snakes, turtles, gators and also some species of birds and prairie dogs. As part of the gardens, attendees can make their way along an indoor jungle, which is brimming with tropical plants, reptile fossils and rare flowers, like a Torch Ginger, Dutchman’s Pipe and Passion Flower, just to name a few. Keep in mind that Reptile Gardens is closed through the winter months and reopens in March, each year!

  1. Terry Peak Ski Area: Ski & Snowboard Resort

This is a ski and snowboard, as well as snowmobile, enthusiast hotspot in peak snow season! Found atop the highest peak in the northern Black Hills, it was first established as a resort in 1936 and saw its first chairlifts installed in 1954. The lodge features 30 runs for beginners and advanced snow shredders, as well as all-ages lessons for the first timers. The resort also houses numerous events like concerts, conventions and weddings.

  1. South Dakota Air and Space Museum

Free admission! That’s right, you can swing by this museum gratis for a tour, as well as special events held throughout the year as well. As you navigate this site of aviation history, whether on the strip or in the hangars, you will come across 30 vintage military aircrafts, some dating back to World War II. Exhibits feature missile displays as well, including a Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic. The museum also has interactive displays, like ones pinning you in a aircraft cockpit via the flight simulator.

  1. Minuteman Missile Historic National Park

This museum pays homage to the hidden missile silos during increasing tension between the U.S. and Russia. Each silo, including many more across the country, were implanted to defend our country. However, in 1991, Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev both inked the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, thus decommissioning and disarming each other. The park offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit an actual silo and launch site with a Delta-09 intercontinental ballistic missile inside!

  1. Black Hills & Badlands Dinosaur Park

This is a free, family-friendly attraction, which overlooks Rapid City. The area features five-different life-size dinosaur sculptures in a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus and Edmontosaurus, all created in the 1930s. Materials used to create them includes wire mesh, concrete, black iron pipe and plenty of bright green paint!

  1. Black Hills Central Railroad

This railroad is the oldest-operating tourist train in the country and the 1880 train takes passengers on a 20-mile tour of South Dakota, spanning over 2.5 hours. If you visit the BHCRR, make a day of it and be sure to swing over to 1880 Town, where you can walk a heritage village of 30-different buildings, including a saloon, post office, jail and church. There is also a museum dedicated to nine-time rodeo cowboy world champion, Casey Tibbs.

  1. Mitchell Corn Palace

You read that correctly. This is the world’s largest (and only) corn palace. The building, built in 1892, is a Moorish revival and topped with Russian-styled onion heart domes. The interior is decorated with mosaics and murals made of corn and various other grains. The site hosts numerous sporting events, concerts, community events and activities throughout the year, but guided tours are usually always available and free!

For even more to see while you’re in ‘The Mount Rushmore State’, check out All Places in South Dakota, courtesy of Atlas Obscura, 22 Really Cool Things to Do in South Dakota (Besides Mount Rushmore), via Travel Channel, and Trip Advisor’s comprehensive activities list of Things to Do in South Dakota.

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