While often overlooked as a travel destination, South Dakota deserves a top spot on your list. "The land of infinite variety" boasts a fascinating history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty. Being overlooked has advantages, such as fewer crowds and affordable prices, especially when home to some of the world's most iconic landmarks. At the heart of South Dakota are its small towns: charming, friendly, and unique. Explore the best of these small towns on your next visit.
Tucked in the Black Hills National Forest, Deadwood was a haven for gamblers, miners, and outlaws. Now listed on the National Historic Register, the wild west vibe remains. Visit the historic Adams Museum and House and the Days of '76 Museum, and take advantage of the proximity to natural beauty and outdoor adventure. Badlands National Park and Wind Cave National Park are a short drive away.
Hill City's community is known as the "Heart of the Hills" for a good reason. In the middle of the Black Hills National Forest, it's close to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park. The former mining town is a paradise for nature, historical attractions, and entertainment. Visit the 1880 train, stroll through Tracy Park, and treat yourself to the award-winning Prairie Berry Winery. Whether staying overnight or simply passing through, Hill City awaits your arrival.
This quaint Black Hills town is 15 miles from Custer State Park. Choose from over 50 comfortable lodging options, enjoy delicious restaurants and breweries, and explore the great outdoors in one of its many local parks. If you're visiting in September, attend the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. When you're ready to explore the surrounding areas, drive along the scenic Wildlife Loop Road to Custer State Park and spot buffalo, elk, bison, deer, and other wildlife.
Wall is the gateway to Badlands National Park, and this town has everything you need while resting between outdoor adventures. In addition, it's home to Wall Drug, a unique 76,000-square-foot shopping complex. Established in 1931, it's a popular stop for Western-themed souvenirs, diverse food offerings, and family-friendly attractions. There's history to explore here, such as the 1886 Schoolhouse Museum, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and the Wounded Knee Museum.
Home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone offers many options for travelers. For outdoor recreation, enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the summer or skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Choose from various hotels, motels, lodges, and campgrounds for accommodations. For popular attractions, check out the Rushmore Tramway Adventures, the Big Thunder Gold Mine, and the Keystone Historical Museum.
South Dakota's capital, Pierre (pronounced "Peer"), offers something for everyone. On the east side of the Missouri River, it was the state's first settlement. Founded in 1880, Pierre became one of the largest trading posts on the Great Plains. Today, you'll find endless outdoor recreation at LaFramboise Island Nature Area and Farm Island Recreation Area, history and culture at Fort Pierre Chouteau and Oahe Dam and Lake, and annual celebrations such as the popular State Fair.
Like its northern neighbor Pierre, the scenic Missouri River runs through Chamberlain, providing unbeatable fishing, boating, and hiking opportunities. In addition, this town is the home of the Lakota Sioux Tribe and the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center. Between tasting local cuisine at family-run restaurants and shopping for handmade crafts, don't miss seeing the South Dakota Hall of Fame, the Chamberlain Cultural Heritage Center, and the Dignity statue.
Spearfish sits in the High Plains of the Black Hills. For anglers, Spearfish Creek is your place for the best fly fishing opportunities. Drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway for 19 miles of jaw-dropping limestone cliffs, hillsides, waterfalls, and wildlife. Grab your bike or hiking shoes to see this town's natural beauty and catch its epic sunset views. The Big Thunder Gold Mine Museum is your place if you're looking for history.
Mitchell's Corn Palace attracts 500,000 tourists each year. Murals made exclusively from corn and other grains cover this unique building. Nature, history, and culture are also abundant here. There's the Dakota Discovery Museum, the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, and the McGovern Legacy Museum, to name a few. Be sure to save time to relax at the beautiful Lake Mitchell, too.
Hot Springs is known for just that—its natural hot springs. There are plenty of opportunities for swimming and relaxing at Hot Springs State Park and Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa. You can also observe wild horses at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary or explore paleontological research at Mammoth Site. Stay here when visiting Wind Cave National Park, one of the longest cave systems in the world.
Scenic Aberdeen is located amid the plains and rolling hills of the northeast portion of the state. This family-friendly town has received numerous state awards, such as "All-America City" and "South Dakota Community of the Year." Check out ArtWorks Cooperative Gallery and the Capitol Theatre for local fine arts. You can also check out the Dacotah Prairie Museum for history. Traveling with kids? Storybook Land is essential for fun and imagination.
Close to the Nebraska and Iowa borders, this quaint town is home to the beautiful and lively University of South Dakota. The campus is also the site of the National Music Museum, whose global collection of 15,000 musical instruments attracts music lovers worldwide. Dakota Days Homecoming in October is also a fun celebration to attend.
Dell Rapids got its name from the rapids of the Big Sioux River running through it. Agriculture and railroads comprise much of its history, and you can learn all about both at the Dell Rapids Museum. The gorgeous Sioux Quartzite rock is also native to this area and visible when walking along the Sioux River Red Rock Trail. Try a round of 18 holes at the Rocky Run Golf Course. Then head to Main Street to unwind in the laid-back lifestyle of this town.
Like Deadwood, Lead (pronounced "Leed") was founded during the gold rush and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Want fresh air? Take in stunning views of mountains and infamous granite spires at Roughneck Falls State Park. Love beer? Visit the Dakota Shivers Brewing Company. Curious about the town's history? Black Hills Mining Museum is the place to be.
For a look at rodeo life and cowboy culture, visit the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center, which honors the life and legacy of rodeo legends with entertainment, education, and events. There are also plenty of outdoor recreational activities. Check out Lake Francis Case for hiking, biking, and boating. You can also pop into boutique shops lining Main Street and taste a craft beer at Platte Creek Brewing Company.