South Dakota: A Warm Welcome to a Scenic State
Discover frontier heritage, welcoming towns, stunning landscapes and great faces and places throughout South Dakota. The pioneer spirit thrives in this scenic state filled with history, culture, natural wonders and outdoor adventures. You’ll feel right at home in welcoming towns in the state’s four regions.
With its Great Plains bisected by the vast Missouri River, South Dakota features hiking trails, prairies, back-country mountains, pristine lakes and lush woods. Most of the state’s “Great 8” must-visit sites – including national and state parks, caves and mountain carvings – are in the Black Hills and the Badlands in southwestern South Dakota. In this state, the national parks are expansive, and 56 state parks and recreation areas also provide an abundance of opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Explore off-the-beaten path destinations and immersion in local culture on an incredible 392-mile journey. It takes five and a half hours, so it’s best to stretch it out to a few days. Start in the east at Sioux Falls and drive Interstate 90 westward all the way to Spearfish. If you have extra time before departing eastern South Dakota, head north to visit the charming small towns of Aberdeen, Watertown and Brookings.
Along Interstate 90, stop in towns like Mitchell and Chamberlain to taste specialties in local cafes or discover roadside attractions like the Corn Palace and the 50-foot Dignity statue. At Vivian, take a worthy 40-minute detour north to the pretty state capital of Pierre, set nearly at dead center of the state, with picturesque bluffs along the banks of the Missouri River. Return to the interstate, and visit Murdo, Kadoka and Wall – Wall’s combination drugstore, roadside oddity, restaurant, western American art museum and gift shop is Americana at its best – before lingering in Rapid City as a base to explore the “Great 8.” Stop to view motorcycle memorabilia in Sturgis, then head to Deadwood for unforgettable tales about its gold rush and outlaw history before ending the journey in Spearfish.
Wherever you go throughout South Dakota, you’ll notice the prominence of Native American influences, including the Crazy Horse Memorial, reservation lands and cultural tribal powwows that continue today. Fascinating pioneer and Old West history dating to the early 1800s includes expedition stops of westward explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
With four distinct seasons, plan on a range of weather conditions throughout the year, depending on when and where you travel in the state. Check forecasts before your trip and pack accordingly. Sign up for South Dakota’s bimonthly Travel Professionals E-Newsletter, which provides event and destination news and gives tips for tour operators, and schedule a familiarization tour with the Global Travel & Trade team.