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South Dakota Vacations

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South Dakota

Your South Dakota vacation

In the heartland of America, you'll find a place where the plains meet the mountains, where bustling cities meet the wild frontier, And where winding rivers and wind swept prairies blend with towering granite peaks and jagged spires. Here, you'll find South Dakota, the land of Great Faces and Great Places.

Best time to take a vacation to South Dakota

  • Best Time to Go

    The best time of the year to plan South Dakota travel is spring or autumn, but don’t let the weather deter you. South Dakota is interesting any time of the year and you can often find cheap South Dakota vacations during the winter.

Top South Dakota attractions

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial

    South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum came to the Black Hills to carve his masterpiece into the side of a granite mountain. Today, visitors from all over the world come to South Dakota to see the 60-foot faces of four American Presidents. It's a true national treasure and something you have to see to believe.

    Mount Rushmore National Memorial symbolizes the ideals of freedom, democracy and the American dream in the four 60-foot granite faces. This mountain carving of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln draws over three million visitors a year. It is both a spectacular site and a man-made wonder.

    History:The first blast on the mountain occurred in 1927. Under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum, 400 men and women worked through hot summers and cold winters to create the 60-foot faces, nearly 500 feet up the side of the mountain. Over 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite. The fine details of the faces were achieved, using a jackhammer. Operators hung from the top of the mountain in bosun chairs held by steel cables.

    Despite the dangerous work, in the 14 years it took to carve the mountain, not a single person died. The memorial was officially declared complete on October 31, 1941.

    However, Gutzon Borglum's vision was not totally completed. In July of 1941 Borglum died unexpectedly. His son, Lincoln, tried to continue his father's work, but funding ran out as America entered World War II. Visitors, who would like to see a model of Borglum's original dream, can view it at the Sculptor's Studio located at the Memorial.

    The Secret Behind the Faces: Another part of Borglum’s grand vision was for a Hall of Records to be carved in the canyon behind the faces. Borglum envisioned a majestic room that held important documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Borglum started blasting his hall, but never finished it.

    On August 9, 1998, Gutzon Borglum’s dream was somewhat completed when a repository of records was placed in the floor of the hall entry. Inside a titanium vault, sixteen porcelain tablets tell the story of Mount Rushmore, the reasons for selecting the four presidents and a short history of the United States. The Hall of Records is not accessible to visitors.

    Why These Four Presidents?: Borglum chose these four men to carve into the mountainside because they represented the first 150 years of American history. George Washington was our first president and a founding father of our great nation. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence—the basis for our democracy. Jefferson was also responsible for the expansion of the union with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

    Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the preservation of the union by holding the country together during the Civil War, the most trying time in our nation’s history. Theodore Roosevelt was chosen because he led the country during the explosive economic growth of the early 20th century. He was also responsible for setting aside land for national parks so all generations of Americans could enjoy the beauty of the country.

Insider tips for South Dakota travel

  • Keystone

    Stop in Keystone for truly unique artwork on your South Dakota vacations where you will see Dahl’s Chainsaw Art.

  • Hot Springs

    Enjoy an educational experience at the largest mammoth research facility in the world in Hot Springs.

  • Purple Pie Place

    Get a taste of homemade treats and sweets at the Purple Pie Place in Custer as you relax and take a break during your South Dakota travel.

  • Deadwood Grille

    Enjoy an evening of fine dining at Deadwood Grille as you visit the historic town and stop in the restaurant that fits the period.

  • 1880 train

    Take the 1880 train through the Black Hills on a two-hour trip on a traditional steam engine.

South Dakota history and culture

  • South Dakota has a rich history that reaches from the days of the dinosaurs to the Cold War. One of the most complete T-Rex skeletons was found in South Dakota, and the largest collection of Columbian Wooly Mammoth bones are still being unearthed in the Black Hills. Hikers in Badlands National Park can watch ongoing digs in what is considered one of the richest fossil beds in the country.

    South Dakota is home to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota peoples—collectively known as the Sioux Nation. Several museums and cultural centers across the state depict the history and traditions of these nations as well as display ancient artifacts and modern artwork.

    The Black Hills, called "Paha Sapa" by the Native Americans, are considered sacred ground to many tribes across the country. The Lakota Nation believes all life comes from "Paha Sapa", and they fought fiercely to protect them during the Indian Wars of the 1800s. One of the most sacred places is Bear Butte State Park in the northern Black Hills. This formation of magma never erupted and looks like a giant sleeping bear. It is still used as a place of worship for over 60 Native American tribes.

    Across the eastern plains, visitors can explore our heritage along the Native American Scenic Byway or by attending a traditional powwow. More than 62,000 Native Americans currently live in South Dakota.

    Gold Rush and Wild West

    In 1874, an expedition led by General Custer discovered gold for the first time in the Black Hills. Two years later, the last great gold rush was on as prospectors from all over the country came looking for their fortunes. The largest find was near the town of present day Lead. Two brothers and their partner staked claim on a mine that would yield gold for over 120 years. In 2002, the Homestake Gold Mine shut down mining operations, but visitors can still tour the surface of the mine.

    The Gold Rush of 1876 brought prospectors, gamblers and outlaws to the state, and the Wild West was born. The wildest town was considered to be the gold camp of Deadwood. Here is where Wild Bill Hickok was shot from behind while playing poker, where Calamity Jane created havoc and where Seth Bullock tamed the town without killing a single person.

    The early pioneers conquered the prairies and left a lasting legacy across South Dakota. "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her life growing up in the town of De Smet. Four of her six books were written about her family's adventures on the prairies of South Dakota. You can tour her childhood homestead and see the places that inspired her classic books and a television series.

    Many people don't know that South Dakota played a key role in the Cold War. In the 1960s, America began stockpiling Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The 44th Missile Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota operated 150 missile silos and 15 launch control facilities in the western part of the state. Two of these sites, the Delta One Launch Control Facility and the Delta Nine Launch Facility, have been preserved as a National Historic Site to provide visitors with a unique Cold War history lesson.

    In 1874, an expedition led by General Custer discovered gold for the first time in the Black Hills. Two years later, the last great gold rush was on as prospectors from all over the country came looking for their fortunes. The largest find was near the town of present day Lead. Two brothers and their partner staked claim on a mine that would yield gold for over 120 years. In 2002, the Homestake Gold Mine shut down mining operations, but visitors can still tour the surface of the mine.

    The Gold Rush of 1876 brought prospectors, gamblers and outlaws to the state, and the Wild West was born. The wildest town was considered to be the gold camp of Deadwood. Here is where Wild Bill Hickok was shot from behind while playing poker, where Calamity Jane created havoc and where Seth Bullock tamed the town without killing a single person.

    The early pioneers conquered the prairies and left a lasting legacy across South Dakota. "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her life growing up in the town of De Smet. Four of her six books were written about her family's adventures on the prairies of South Dakota. You can tour her childhood homestead and see the places that inspired her classic books and a television series.

    Many people don't know that South Dakota played a key role in the Cold War. In the 1960s, America began stockpiling Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The 44th Missile Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota operated 150 missile silos and 15 launch control facilities in the western part of the state. Two of these sites, the Delta One Launch Control Facility and the Delta Nine Launch Facility, have been preserved as a National Historic Site to provide visitors with a unique Cold War history lesson.

South Dakota Vacation Packages

Hotel only $92

1 Sheraton Sioux Falls & Convention Center

4 stars
4.0 / 5 24 reviews

1211 West Avenue North Map

Save 20% on your stay

Enjoy a warm welcome at the Sheraton Sioux Falls & Convention Center. Glass elevators, a botanical atrium, and two indoor waterfalls made to replicate the nearby Falls Park create a dramatic entrance in our lobby. Our six-story hotel is conveniently attached to the... More

Hotel only $59

2 Super 8 Pierre SD

2 stars
3.0 / 5 29 reviews

320 W Sioux Map

Stay 2, Save 15%

The Super 8 of Pierre welcomes you to the Capital City and Lake Oahe. Explore the Missouri River area, just as Lewis and Clark did nearly 200 years ago. Discover statewide history and world-class fishing in South Dakotas Capital City. Prime Area for Walleye Fishing and... More

Hotel only $59

Modern luxury meets 1920s grandeur in this downtown historic landmarkThe Hotel Alex Johnson offers a thoroughly modern experience (flat-screen televisions, pillowtop beds) in a rich 1920s setting. Railroad magnate Alex Johnson built the retreat in 1927 (construction began... More

Hotel only $52

4 Americas Best Value Inn Mitchell

3 stars
3.1 / 5 28 reviews

1001 South Burr Street Map

Fall Sale - Save 15% on your stay

Americas Best Value Inn Mitchell offers the most value for your money when staying for business- pleasure- or just passing through. We offer clean spacious rooms- free newspaper in lobby- free continental breakfast- business center with computer- luggage storage space-... More

Hotel only $49

Minutes from downtown Deadwood and steps from the slotsA newer addition to the Deadwood hotel scene, Cadillac Jacks Gaming Resort, an Ascend Collection hotel, just north of town. Despite close proximity to six gaming rooms and the on-site sports bar and restaurant, the... More

Hotel only $55

6 Super 8 Sioux Falls

2 stars
3.4 / 5 22 reviews

2616 East 10th Street Map

Stay 2, Save 15%

Newer property conveniently located just off of I-229 with easy on/off access. If traveling via the I-90 corridor you will find our location to be just what you need for easy accessibly to just about anything. Closest Hotel to the Grand Falls Casino.We boast 56 well... More

Hotel only $65

7 Days Inn Pierre

2 stars
3.4 / 5 5 reviews

520 West Sioux Ave Map

Stay 3, Save 20%

Received a Certificate Of Excellence Award From Tripadvisor. The Days Inn of Pierre, Chairmans Award Winning Property is located just 2 blocks from the Missouri River. Your adventure on the river includes beautiful parks with biking and hiking trails along the river and... More

Hotel only $42

8 Super 8 Rapid City Rushmore Rd

2 stars
2.6 / 5 60 reviews

2520 Tower Rd Map

Stay 2, Save 15%

Minutes from Main Street, a convenient crash pad for the Rushmore-boundFancy? No. Convenient? Yes. The Super 8 Rapid City Rushmore Road lies within walking distance of restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays and Perkins, and hub of shops and eateries in downtown is a short drive... More

Hotel only $95

9 Hampton Inn Mitchell

3 stars
4.0 / 5 2 reviews

1920 Highland Way Map

Free On The HouseT hot breakfast, Wi-Fi

fun for the whole family…welcome to the Hampton Inn Mitchell.Home to the world-famous Corn Palace, Mitchell offers plenty of family friendly entertainment. It all starts with a visit to the world's only Corn Palace, where you'll discover murals created with thousands of... More

Hotel only $41

10 Hampton Inn Deadwood at Four Aces Casino

3 stars
4.0 / 5 17 reviews

531 Main Street Map

Free On The HouseT hot breakfast, Wi-Fi

where to stay after you play...welcome to the Hampton Inn Deadwood at the Four Aces Casino. From turn-of-the-century streetlamps to carefully restored architecture, the entire city of Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark. Step back into the Wild West days and discover... More

South Dakota highlights

  • South Dakota highlights
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial

    Mount Rushmore National Memorial is our Nation’s Shrine of Democracy and a breathtaking work of art. In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum came to the Black Hills to carve his masterpiece into the side of a granite mountain. Today, visitors from all over the world come to South Dakota to see the four faces of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and to explore the beautiful Black Hills.

  • Crazy Horse Memorial

    Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. Blasting on the memorial started as a way to honor the culture and traditions of North American Indians. Visitors to Crazy Horse can see the progress of the mountain carving as well as tour a Native American Museum and art center on the campus of the Memorial.

  • Badlands National Park

    Badlands National Park is an experience that is “out-of-this-world.” Its 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes and jagged spires create a moon-like surface that is full of ancient history. Thousands of fossils of prehistoric beasts have been uncovered in the park. Many archeological and paleontological digs continue today.

  • Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument

    Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument take Black Hills visitors deep beneath the surface. Wind Cave is considered one of the world's longest and most complex caves. Its thin calcite fins and honeycomb rock structures complement the 28,295 acres of mixed-grass prairie, ponderosa pine forest, and roaming buffalo. Jewel Cave National Monument is the second longest cave in the world at 141 miles. Its colorful calcite crystals create spectacular jewel-like formations giving the cave its name. The official length of Jewel Cave is continually growing as explorers find new passageways. In January 2008, 476-feet of new passageways were discovered.

  • Custer State Park

    Custer State Park in the southern Black Hills offers families a unique vacation back to the old west. With 1,500 roaming buffalo, swift antelope, curious burros and shy elk, visitors can experience wildlife in the raw, natural beauty of the park. It also offers mountain lakes perfect for swimming, unique lodges and campsites, and dozens of trails for hiking and mountain biking. For those visitors who want to enjoy a scenic drive, Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road offer breathtaking views, unique rock tunnels and pigtail bridges.

  • Blackhills National Forest

    Black Hills National Forest is 1.2 million acres of lush forest, granite peaks and outdoor adventure. The sky-piercing granite spires, known as the Needles, provide excellent and challenging rock climbing opportunities. The 114-mile George S. Mickelson Trail has gently rolling slopes and converted railroad bridges that take bikers and hikers from the northern to the southern tip of the Black Hills. Harney Peak, in the Black Elk Wilderness, has an elevation of 7,242 feet and is the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

    Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located near Badlands National Park. The Delta One Launch Control Facility and the Delta Nine Launch Facility were ideal locations for long-term preservation because they were among the nation’s oldest—with technology dating back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Only minor modifications have been made to the deactivated sites, and much of the original mechanical equipment and historic furnishings remain intact.

  • Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

    Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, located in Hot Springs as part of your western South Dakota vacations, features wild horses running free over 11,000 acres.

  • Old Courthouse Museum

    Old Courthouse Museum, located in Sioux Falls, was built in the 1800s and provides a detailed look at the history of the area for an enjoyable stop on your South Dakota travel.

  • Black Hills Cave

    Black Hills Caves, where eight different caves host some of the most unusual formations and numerous passageways.

  • Queen Bee Mill

    Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, where the foundation of the old mill that was built in 1887 is still visible and visitors will enjoy the grand waterfalls.

  • Deadwood

    Deadwood is a town in western South Dakota where even the streetlights are old fashioned lamps and the entire city is a historic landmark.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

    Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, located in De Smet, is actually a series of buildings that portray the story from this writer’s famous book series.

  • Badlands National Park

    Badlands National Park, where visitors can explore the rugged terrain either by foot, by car, or even by horseback.

  • Corn Palace

    Corn Palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota features guided tours to tell the fascinating story of the Palace and its decorative murals.

  • Crazyhorse Memorial

    Crazyhorse Memorial, another carving in a mountain, represents one of the chiefs of the Lakota Tribe and although it was begun in 1948, is still unfinished.

  • Mount Rushmore

    Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous monuments in the country featuring the faces of four former presidents carved into the side of the mountain.

  • Introduction

    You will find plenty of activities to do in this wide-open state, whether you want to stay in one place or venture to different areas for your South Dakota travel. There is plenty of outdoor fun and indoor activities for everyone and the scenery changes as you travel across the state. You can travel through Custer State Park and see wild animals up close or visit Mount Rushmore Cave to cool off on hot summer days during your South Dakota vacations. Besides the numerous outdoor activities, you will also find museums and cultural events.