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19 Fun Things to Do in South Dakota

Ishaan Govardhan Aug 31, 2019
This great state’s dramatically stunning terrain is split in two by the mighty Missouri River. Steeped in a unique blend of cultures, South Dakota has not forgotten its strong Native American roots or its connection to the Old West era.

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From the hip-and-happening nightlife scenes of urban towns like Rapid City, to the untamed natural beauty of its great swathes of wilderness, the state of South Dakota has something special in store for every visitor.

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Begin your South Dakota getaway at one of USA's most iconic national monuments: Mount Rushmore. These 60-foot carvings at Keystone immortalize 4 of America's most seminal presidents.

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The other side of Rushmore makes for a challenging climb up the steep granite face of the mountain (pit yourself against Olton's Shoulder). Other rock climbing routes include the ones at Falling Rock, Victoria's Canyon, and ice climbing at Spearfish Canyon.

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The Big Sioux River of South Dakota flows over quartzite formations in Falls Park of Sioux Falls. This thunderous spectacle is a result of about 7,400 gallons of water dropping 100 feet over the course of every second!
Visit Deadwood and step back in time to the era of the gunslinging outlaws of the Old West. This town has preserved its Wild West look, and you can also check out historically accurate reenactments of shootouts!

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If you feel like dusting off your old skateboard and trying a few tricks, there are plenty of skate parks in South Dakota for you to explore. Spearfish Skatepark has a pretty good setup of ramps.

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Every season is fishing season in South Dakota! The state's streams and back-country ponds are kept well-stocked with trout and other fish, by the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives (which is itself, worth a visit).

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If it's a memorable roadtrip you're after, take the car out for a spin through the Black Hills mountains. The Needles Highway winds through mesmerizing rock formations and the narrow Needles Eye Tunnel (only about 8 ft wide!). 

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Drive through the thriving Bear Country USA wildlife park. You should keep an eye out for wolves, bears, elk and if you're lucky: mountain lions!

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No South Dakota roadtrip is over without a drive down the 18-mile Wildlife Loop of Custer State Park. Around these prairies, over 1,500 wild bison roam freely. If you drive up there in September, you'll be able to witness the annual herd roundup.

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Once you step outside your car, you won't be able to stop yourself from exploring the wilderness on foot. Hike beautiful nature trails like: Cathedral Spires Trail, Notch Trail, or the Riparian Trail.
Shutterbugs should swing by the picturesque 242,756-acre Badlands National Park. These eroded conical pinnacles and buttes used to be the hunting grounds of Native American tribes. Keep an eye out for fossils and beautiful agate rocks.
Back in the heart of South Dakotan civilisation, you should visit the town of Rapid City. There's a unique attraction in its Art Alley: a back alley where the buildings are covered in colorful graffiti and modern art. With the proper permit, you can spray your own art over its walls if you want to.
Downtown Rapid City is known for its City of Presidents Walk: a series of life-sized bronze statues of every single US president. It makes for a fascinating walk down the nation's memory lane.

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Chocaholics will find themselves in heaven at Hill City's popular Turtle Town. Don't leave without stocking up on their signature handmade chocolate fudge!
If you ever find yourself in the South Dakotan city of Vermillion, check out the National Music Museum and its staggering collection of over 15,000 musical instruments!

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Come winter, you won't be able to resist the pure white slopes. So book your stay at one of the many South Dakotan ski resorts.

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Over 1,500 miles worth of snowmobile trails have been mapped out over the South Dakotan terrain. So rent a snowmobile, and zip through the ponderosa pines at top speed!

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From December to March, you can test your angling skills out on the ice of Enemy Swim, Waubay Lake or Lake Thompson by going ice fishing. Good luck hooking northern pikes, yellow perch and walleyes!

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Every year for 2 days in August, the South Dakotan skyline is dotted with dozens of colorful hot air balloons. This amazing spectacle of the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival is not to be missed!