Nightlife and Entertainment

Sample South Dakota’s Best Entertainment Venues

Find entertainment throughout South Dakota, whether it’s seeing a local band perform in a downtown pub, smelling the aroma as a cowboy chef presides over a chuckwagon meal, hearing the rumble of motorcycles at a rally or finding fast-paced excitement in a rodeo arena. Throw in some cultural pursuits, such as theater and the arts, and your South Dakota holiday is complete.

It will take no time at all to find out why rodeo is South Dakota’s state sport. Year-round, at events both indoors and out, feel the excitement as cowboys and cowgirls rope, ride bulls and broncos, race around barrels and wrestle livestock. Why limit yourself to one experience? Options include professional bull-riding events, ranch rodeos and Native American rodeos. One of the best known is the Days of ’76 Rodeo in July in Deadwood; watch the parade and tour the museum while you’re in town.

Everyone loves South Dakota festivals, where the locals take pride in their heritage and culture. The biggest, of course, is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which attracts about 500,000 people each August to the Black Hills town that is home to the Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame and usually only 6,500 residents year-round. Other notable annual events include Sioux Falls JazzFest, with performances by both emerging and headlining artists on two stages over three days in July; the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, featuring theatrical performances over several July weekends; and the Yankton Riverboat Days & Summer Arts Festival in August.

Whatever town you happen to be passing through, check out the range of performances at local theaters. There is never a shortage of high-quality options at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls and Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. Big-name acts like Paul McCartney and Garth Brooks have rocked the stage of the Sanford Arena in Sioux Falls. Watch talented musicians hone their craft in smaller venues, such as restaurants and pubs.

There won’t be a problem finding something fun to do in South Dakota – just remember to ask the friendly locals to give you a recommendation or two.

Useful Facts
  1. Visit Custer State Park for its amazing outdoor views and activities, and stay the night for a range of entertainment. In the summer, see performances at the Black Hills Playhouse. There also are four resorts in the park that offer lodging and dining options.
  2. The waterfalls in Falls Park in Sioux Falls offer a natural gathering place. Follow the trail along the Big Sioux River to downtown, where there is an amphitheater, a popular place for summer events. Admire the outdoor SculptureWalk exhibit and enjoy the culinary and craft beer scenes at cafes and bars.
  3. If you’re looking for the unusual, attend the Potato Days Festival in Clark in August. It was called one of the “Top 9 Strangest Food Festivals in the World” by Wanderlust Travel Magazine, perhaps because of the mashed potato wrestling, sculpture making and eating contests. 
  4. Absorb Old West culture by finding a seat at the bar in a plethora of establishments with the word “saloon” in their name. The best known might be Old Style Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood; gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok was killed there in 1876 during a poker game and the chair he was sitting in hangs above the door.
  5. Gaming resorts throughout South Dakota run the gamut from historic Victorian-style downtown buildings to lodges with mountain views. Amenities and activities include bars, dining, stage entertainment and access to top attractions and outdoor wonders.