South Dakota is one of the United States most wide-open states. It is a nature-lover’s dream and perfect escape for those travelers seeking something different than your typical outdoor getaway American getaway. South Dakota is sparsely populated and many of its 869,000-plus residents reside in small towns.
The state is packed with state and national parks provide unique outdoor adventures other American destinations lack. Many of the small towns are quaint, quiet slices of Americana. They offer extraordinary travel experiences that are miles away from the big cities that dot the US.
Whether you are looking for an exciting trip to the Badlands National Park or a road trip to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota has plenty of great, eye opening adventure. The USA’s 40th state is one not to miss.
Despite its ominous name, Deadwood is a beautiful small town with rich history. Deadwood is most famous for its gold as it was the epicenter for a gold rush that brought thousands of people to South Dakota in 1876.
The small town’s legendary Mount Moriah Cemetery is the final resting place of Wild West figures Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Visitors can also tour the Adams Museum where they will find a huge gold nugget and a plesiosaur fossil. There is also the George S. Mickelson Trail which meanders through the Black Hills National Forest.
Custer is home to just over 1,900 people. Few travelers tend to descend on small towns like Custer until they realize just how much there actually is to do there.
The town is located on the cusp of Custer National Park and travelers can get lost in the local forests easily. Whether it’s climbing hills and mountains or hiking long nature trails, Custer is filled with outdoor excitement. Visitors can camp overnight in the national park or explore it throughout the day.
Known as “The Little City with Big Attractions”, Dell Rapids is situated in the southeastern part of the state. Much of Dell Rapids’ original architecture came from the region’s rose quartzite rock. You can see rose quartzite rock formations around the area which were formed by glaciers centuries ago.
Dell Rapids is perfect for camping and its scenic bike trail provides hours of exercise. Its most exciting sites include the restored 1888 Grand Opera House, Dell Rapids Museum, and the 1910 Carnegie Public Library.
Located in Pennington County, South Dakota, Hill City is the oldest city in the country. Hill City is home to two great railroad attractions. The South Dakota State Railroad Museum showcases the history of steam engines in the area.
Meanwhile, the Black Hills Central Railroad is a heritage railroad line that operates an authentic 1880 steam engine. The Crazy Horse Memorial mountain monument is also located near Hill City and is a must-see for American history buffs.
Nestled in the Black Hills, Keystone is home to the Rushmore Tramway Adventures. The adventure park offers travelers the chance to ride ziplines and a chairlift while taking in views of Mount Rushmore.
The Big Thunder Gold Mine Museum is also located in Keystone and it gives visitors insight on the Black Hills’ mining history. You will leave Keystone with far more appreciation for the region’s rich history.
Mitchell is home to the world’s one and only Corn Palace. The amazing Moorish architecture is an attraction of its own on the outside and it is well worth snapping selfies in front of it. The Corn Palace attracts around half a million tourists per year to its unique exterior.
The town is also home to the Dakota Discovery Museum and the Carnegie Resource Center. The latter is a great place to learn about Mitchell’s unique history.
Pierre is the capital of South Dakota. Despite its significance, it is only home to around 13,000 people. The South Dakota State Capitol is a gorgeous building that showcases the architecture of the town’s past. Founded in 1880 on the shores of the Missouri River, you can find a historic downtown with stores, hotels, and restaurants brimming with local culture.
You can tour Pierre’s excellent National Guard Museum or the South Dakota State Historical Society’s great exhibits. LaFramboise Island Nature Area is a real treat along the Missouri River. The island was explored by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition. They were the first non-Native Americans to visit the land.
Spearfish is one of South Dakota’s larger small towns. Home to 10,000-plus, visitors can find more outdoor adventure to participate in. Located in the northern region of the Black Hills, travelers can reach lush forests and endless hiking trails in a matter of minutes.
Keen fishermen can find lakes and rivers filled with fish ready to be caught. The town’s history of fishing and wildlife can be explored at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives.
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, Vermillion has been labeled a “national treasure”. Vermillion’s historic downtown is home to cafes, shops, theaters, and art galleries. There around over 90 destinations for travelers to explore.
Vermillion is the location of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival in early June. It is a great way to immerse yourself in local culture and take in a theater show produced by the town’s people.
Wall maybe one of South Dakota’s small towns, under 800 people, but it has a number of exciting tourist attractions. Wall is the birthplace of the Wall Drug Store, which opened in 1931 and still stands with independent stalls inside it today.
For travelers who want to explore the vast natural riches of the Badlands, Wall is a perfect base. Badland National Park is located near Wall giving visitors the chance to camp or just tour it for the day. Despite being isolated, Wall still attracts 2 million tourists each year. As small towns go, that is an enormous amount of people.