Things to Do in South Dakota
With its rolling hills, roaming wildlife, and natural beauty, Custer State Park is one of the most scenic areas of South Dakota. Its clear streams, tall granite mountains, and open plains present much to see. Herds of bison, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, and even wild turkey are frequently seen from one of the park’s walking trails or scenic drives.
The Needles Highway, Wildlife Loop Road, and Iron Mountain Road are some of the most beautiful drives in the park. Five beautiful lakes and various streams provide opportunities to go fishing, kayaking, and swimming as well.
After gold was discovered in the Black Hills by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, the area quickly developed. Today it is known more for its wide open spaces and events such as the annual buffalo roundup. There is more than 71,000 acres of wild land to explore, with tunnels, forest, bridges, and viewpoints to stop at throughout.
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.
The jagged, tree-covered peaks of the Black Hills rise abruptly from the Great Plains of South Dakota. This rugged mountain oasis has drawn visitors for centuries, from the Native Americans who considered them sacred to the gold miners that illegally settled the infamous Wild West town of Deadwood, and modern visitors who come for Mount Rushmore, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or simply to hike and camp within the stunning wilderness. The Black Hills boast numerous must-see attractions tucked into an area only 120 by 50 miles in size. Just outside of Custer, drive the stunning Needles Scenic Byway to see its iconic rock formations, while the Wind and Jewel Caves offer unique underground adventures. Perhaps most recognizable is Mount Rushmore, the 60-foot sculptures of U.S. presidents on the side of the mountain resides near another massive sculpture, the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been under construction since 1948, and would be the largest sculpture in the world at 563 feet when finished.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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