Everything you need to know about Visiting South Dakota

by ilive4travel

Published on Sep 9, 2023


Are you planning on Visiting South Dakota, then find out everything you need to know for your trip to South Dakota from ilive4travel. From things to do in South Dakota to where to stay in South Dakota and the best time to visit.

South Dakota is located in central USA and it is surrounded by 6 states (Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

It is the 16th largest state and covers 2% of the USA. It joined the Union in 1889 when it became the 40th state to join the United States of America.

In 2022 it had 14.4m visitors who visited the state and the most popular tourist attractions of Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Wind Cave National Park.

Best Things to do In South Dakota

South Dakota has a lot of nature and parks and consists of 2 National Parks, a National Monument, a National Memorial, a National historic site and a National Recreational River.

South Dakota also has 63 state parks and recreational areas where you can see the varied landscapes, from mountains, lakes, prairies and woodlands.

In winter it has a lot of snowfall and in summer the temperatures are high, but it is a beautiful state to visit.

Mount Rushmore

a mountain with 4 faces carved into the mountain, they have been polished to look white against the rest of the mountain, below the mountain are trees growing

The most visited place in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore with just over 2.5 million people visiting it every year. I think that even if you are not American you have heard of Mount Rushmore as it has appeared in many films. I think I had seen it in James Bond and a few disaster movies!!

Construction started on it in 1927 and it took just 14 years to complete at a cost of $990,000 which in todays money would be around $17m.

Originally the carvings were supposed to be the presidents head’s and bodies to their waists, but due to a lack of funding it was decided to finish it as we see it today.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota is another popular attraction in South Dakota with around 1.5 million people visiting the site every year.

There is lots to do at Crazy Horse from watching the video about the history of Crazy Horse, seeing the mountain from the viewing gallery, getting close to the bottom of the mountain on a short bus trip or even arranging a trip to the head of Crazy Horse.

The memorial to Crazy Horse was started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski and has been funded entirely from public money rather than government money. Many people ask when will Crazy Horse monument be finished, but in reality no one knows. Only a small team work year around on the mountain and it could take another 50 – 100 years to finish!!

If you are trying to decide whether to visit Crazy Horse vs Mount Rushmore, I personally think you should visit both, they are very close to one another.


Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is located just south of Custer State Park, Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore, close to a town called Hot Springs. It became the 6th National Park in the USA in January 1903.

In 2021, 709,000 people visited the park which gets its name from the sound the wind makes as it blows in and out of the cave entrance.

Wind Cave is not just a cave, but the land above it is part of the national park where you can hike or watch the wild Bison and Elk roaming on the land.

It is free to enter the park and enjoy the trails, though if you want to do one of the cave tours they range from $14 to $16 per adult. It is best to book in advance especially during March to October, though half the tickets are available on a first come first served basis on the day.

Badlands National Park

pink grey mountains carved by years of water flowing through them, they are in the foreground and in the distance with a flat area of land in the middle with grass covering it, on a beautiful sunny day with blue skies

Badlands National Park is located between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in South Dakota. It didn’t become a National Park until 1978 when it became the 39th National Park in the country. Before that it had been a National Monument from 1929.

Badlands covers an area of 242,756 acres, with a lot of this area being a large grass prairie and pinnacles and spires that have been eroded over thousands of years.

There is lots to see and do in Badlands National Park from driving the Badlands Loop Road to hiking in Badlands National Park.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave is located between the town of Custer in South Dakota and Newcastle in Wyoming. It became a National Monument in February 1908.

It is one of the largest caves in the world with over 215 miles of mapped passages.

It is recommended to book tickets in advance as you can only explore the caves with a guide and there may not be any tickets available on the day. Tickets are available around 60 days before and can be booked online.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile is located opposite the east entrance to Badlands National Park and it is good to combine a trip to both on the same day. It is 76 miles east of Rapid City and will take an hour to drive from there.

It became a National Historic Site in 1999 to protect and preserve the history of this site and to tell the story of the cold war and the 1,000 nuclear missiles that were stored their ready to be deployed at a moments notice for 30 years during the cold war.

It is free to enter the site and you can currently see one of the missile silos with an unarmed missile inside. If you would like to visit the Launch Control Facility then it is best to book your tour in advance as in summer it can be booked up 8 weeks in advance.

Custer State Park

fields with wild grass as far as you can see with a few trees in the foreground and loads of trees in the background on the hills

Custer State Park is located in the west of the state in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It became South Dakota’s first state park in 1919. In Custer State Park you can see many wild bison, antelope, prairie dogs and begging burros.

It is the largest state park in South Dakota and there are many hiking trails, the scenic loop road and the beautiful Sylvan Lake, to either swim in or walk around.

Sioux Falls Park

Sioux Falls is located in the east of the state right on the border with Minnesota and Iowa. It has about 3.5 million visitors each year with about 200,000 of these deciding to visit Sioux Falls Park, where you can see the Falls that the town was named after.


Where to stay in South Dakota

Depending on where you are planning to visit in South Dakota will depend on where you will want to stay. Rapid City can be a good place to stay if you are wanting to visit a few of the Parks and Memorials in the east of the state, but if you are planning to visit Mount Rushmore and the Blackhills then there are some great places to stay near Mount Rushmore.

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——-  About me ——-

girl sat on some wooden stairs wearing a black jumper

Clare from Ilive4travel

Hi my name is Clare and welcome to ilive4travel.  I am originally from the UK but spend most of my time in Peru, the country that caught my heart.

I have visited 73 countries and love to share with you everything I have learnt about these countries in my guides.

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