Top Things to do in South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I visited South Dakota to see a friend but ended up seeing some amazing places.  A few I had heard of previously but had no idea they were in South Dakota.  It’s a great state with lots to see.


Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

On my 2 month trip around the US, I decided to visit South Dakota to visit a friend I had met in Patagonia to see him and his wife.  He lived in Watertown, a small city in the East of South Dakota.  Luckily the greyhound bus made a stop here at a gas station out of town and so I got dropped off there before Bipin picked me up.

The first night Bipin and his wife Surekha took me to see Lake Kampeska which is quite near there house.  It’s a great lake for taking a walk or cycling around.  Though it is 13.5 miles around it.

Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota

The next day Surekha took me to Yoga, the first time I had ever tried.  I didn’t understand the whole breathing part but it felt good to have a good stretch.  After we had lunch before going to the Redlin Art Centre.  Terry Redlin was born in Watertown and is one of America’s most popular wildlife artists.  The centre contains most of his artwork.  It is free to visit and I really enjoyed seeing his paintings.

Redlin Art Center Watertown, South Dakota

Thanks Bipin for the pic and for letting me stay with you and Surekha, I had a great few days.  That evening we went to their friend’s for a meal and the next morning, I left to carry on my trip to Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Sioux Falls is the biggest city in the state of South Dakota and the city was originally settled around the falls which is in the centre of the town.  The falls are beautiful and are lit up at night too.  There is also a 16 mile bike trail along the river.

Rapid City

After my visit to Sioux Falls I got the bus to my next stop in Rapid City. I arrived about 6pm and found that the local bus service finishes at 5.30pm and so I had to walk the 2 miles to my hotel.  Unfortunately there were no hostels in Rapid City but I did manage to get a cheap hotel/motel that had a pool!!

The next morning I then had a short walk to go pick up my car from the rental company before I headed off for the day.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

I had previously seen Mount Rushmore in films and once I found out that it was in South Dakota, I knew I had to visit.  As I had just picked up a rental car in Rapid City it only took me 35 mins to drive out.  The entrance is free but it costs $10 to park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

Custer State Park was one of my favourite parks in the US, but maybe that’s because it was the first time I had seen Bison, it is a great park, with a lot of wildlife.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Rapid City or as I did it, a 45 minute drive from Mount Rushmore.  It costs $20 per vehicle into the park and this is valid for 7 days.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse Memorial is still a work in progress.  They began work on it in 1948 and there is no finish date as all work is funded by donations or the fees from visitors.  It costs $11 per person and an extra $4 to take the shuttle for a closer look.  Though being able to get right up to the face of Crazy Horse will set you back about $125.  On a evening there is a laser show, which is well worth staying to watch if you visit late afternoon.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA

Badlands National Park is located about an hours drive east of Rapid City.  It’s a great park to visit and see the way the landscape has been shaped over the years.  The mountains have been eroded by water over time and further on in the park is a prairie.  It costs $20 per vehicle or if you are visiting a few national parks then worth investing in the $80 annual pass as I did.

Is there any other places you have visited in South Dakota, you think should be on the list? If so, let me know.

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35 thoughts on “Top Things to do in South Dakota

  1. I can’t wait to explore South Dakota! You def listed some great places to hit up while in the area! Also looks like a beautiful state!

  2. We were wondering if we should include Badlands and Mount Rushmore to our American trip itinerary, but it didn’t work out, so we left it for another time. But now I see that there is actually much more to see in South Dakota! Didn’t know about Sioux Falls before, such a beautiful waterfall. Maybe next time then.

  3. Wow, until reading this post I had no idea mount rushmore was in South Dakota, in-fact I had no idea where it actually was but not being American I have an excuse. As a non-American, south Dakota was never on my places to visit when I eventually get to the states but it might need a visit now. Thanks for educating me 😀

  4. Wow, South Dakota sounds and looks amazing! Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park are very high on my bucket list! I love your photo of Sioux Falls, looks really pretty!

  5. South Dakota is one of those states that many people do not think of as a great travel destination. That Crazy Horse Memorial sounds way expensive! Was it worth it in your opinion? I would probably skip out…

    • It’s cheap to get in the main bit and only $4 to get a bit closer but super expensive if you want to get to touch it. In my view you only need to do the visitors centre and the bus at $4.

  6. I haven’t been to South Dakota yet, but I’m hoping to go soon so I’ll remember this tips! And that’s awesome that there’s a waterfall right in the middle of Sioux Falls!

  7. Mount Rushmore is probably the most famous attraction to visit in South Dakota, and I definitely would visit Sioux Falls, but being a super fan of Twin Peaks I am also curious to visit the location of the tv show, such as Buckhorn.

  8. That’s a nice read. I recently read someone’s article on Mt Rushmore and have been wanting to visit since. However, I can see there’s a lot more to do in that area! Thanks for sharing.

  9. I love the bison! Looks like there’s lots of beautiful national parks and attractions in the state. Do you think you’ll be back there soon, and what would be top of your list to explore further?

    • I am not sure when I will be back in the US next. I want to visit all of the US national parks and do a drive along the East Coast, so that will be my plan for next time. I might be in South Dakota to visit my friend again so hopefully I can find lots more to see in this state.

  10. I know absolutely nothing about Dakota let alone South Dakota! Looks like some really nice places to see and picturesque too! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Badlands National Park looks incredible. It’s definitely on our list of places to visit. Great tip about the annual pass for $80 too!

  12. I love South Dakota! It’s such a beautiful state – I was really surprised! A few years ago I drove through on a road trip and was really impressed by how much there is to see and do. My favorite part was definitely the Badlands – gorgeous! Did you skip Wall Drug? I think one of the most hilarious things about South Dakota is how. much. advertising. there is for Wall Drug. Also a touristy, fun but cliche thing to do in SD.

    • I have never heard of Wall Drug before!! I just googled and will have to make a stop there on my next visit 🙂

  13. My friend keeps asking me to go to yoga with her – like you I’m not I quite get the breathing and stretching part! But South Dakota looks like an awesome place to visit if I’m ever in that part of the world! x

  14. I’d love to visit South Dakota. Going to add it to my list of places to visit once I have saved up for a trip around the States. Great Post

  15. Good on you for trying yoga! It can be intimidating for first-timers, but is so good for sore muscles. I would love to see Sioux Falls and wild buffalo! South Dakota is on my list now:)

  16. Wow the Badlands looks incredible – I love that sort of bleakly beautiful scenery. And of course you’d have to see Mt Rushmore when in the area. Is it really $125 to see Crazy Horse? That ain’t cheap!

  17. South Dakota looks like a great destination. As a non-American I knew Mt Rushmore was there – but didn’t really know about anything else!
    I didn’t manage to get there when I lived in the US, but it is one my list if I ever get back over there! (its a long way from Australia…!)

  18. There is so much to see and experience in South Dakota, I am sure there never will be a dull moment. I have always been fascinated by Mt. Rushmore, it has a strange haunting quality to it. I always remember the chase action scene of the Hollywood classic North by Northwest when I think of Mt. Rushmore.

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