Fun things to do in South Dakota

  • Lincoln and Washington at Mt Rushmore
    Lincoln and Washington at Mt Rushmore
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  • Jefferson at Mt Rushmore
    Jefferson at Mt Rushmore
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  • Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore
    Roosevelt at Mt. Rushmore
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Most Viewed Things to Do in South Dakota

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    MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL

    by mtncorg Updated Mar 26, 2004

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    'Build it and they will come', so the winds in the Iowan cornfield spoke to Kevin Costner in the movie 'Field of Dreams'. The same can be said for the presidential mugs atop Mt Rushmore. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt have been blasted out of the rock. The site is so familiar to most Americans that a certain amount of anticlimax can be experienced when you are finally face-to-face with the sculptures. Patriotism is the order of the day and flags wave proudly. If you are around the area, do stop by and see what the fuss is about. Admire the long hard work that took place. Visit with the resident mountain goats. Then flee farther into the Hills to escape the tourist masses and to better discover the wonders of the Black Hills.

    Keeping with the Costner theme, much of his 'Dancing with Wolves' movie deals with Black Hills themes. $8.00 - Annual

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    WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK

    by mtncorg Updated Mar 26, 2004

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    Just south of Custer State Park is the US's seventh national park, protected since 1903. Wind Cave is over 320 million years old - so-called for winds that groan in and out of the natural entrance due to barometric atmospheric pressure differences between inside and outside of the cave. The cave is know for its intricate boxwork, popcorn and frostwork formations - all rare and very delicate rock forms - in addition to the everday stalagmite/stalagtite findings. There are three tours following underground paved, lighted paths: the Natural Entrance and Fairgrounds Tours last about 1 1/2 hours, covering a half mile and about 450 stairs; the shorter Garden of Eden Tour goes about a quarter of a mile and only 150 steps - about one hour. From mid-June to mid-August, there is a one mile Candlelight Tour - two hours - letting you see the cave as earlier explorers did - by light of a candle lantern. There is also a Caving Tour which lasts about 3-4 hours and requires a modicum of fitness, old clothes/gloves, and ability to crawl about in cave tunnels. You need to contact the Park in advance to gain a reservation for one of these two tours. Cave temperature is a constant 53F. 77 miles of cave tunnels are know, though barometric wind studies estimate that ony 5% of the cave has been explored.

    Above ground, the open plains remain in an almost natural state. Buffalo were wiped out in this area in the 1880's, but starting with 14 survivors from the Bronx Zoo, in New York, in 1913 the herd is in the hundreds today.

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    Little Bighorn

    by Alicja1 Written Mar 12, 2004

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    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is the site of the June 25, 1876 battle between the U.S. Army's seventh cavalry, guided by Crow and Arikara scouts, and several bands of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho.

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    Indian Museum and Cultural Center

    by Alicja1 Written Mar 12, 2004

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    If you love Native Culture like me you could soend there ours. This place is full of information. Each year tribal members and others contribute Native American art and artifacts to enhance the collection and make it more comprehensively represent all North American tribes. The only thing I dont like is descripcions of exhibitions. All of them are written in past tense even that lots of thing are still using in rezervation. The same is with Ceremonies.

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    Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park

    by Florida999 Updated Aug 16, 2006

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    Sylvan Lake is beautiful, and the kids enjoyed the boats ( or whatever you call the giant floating tricycle ) . I was not convinced it was clean enough to go swimming in it, but many people did. Probably ok if you don't drink large amounts of water.

    You can climb on the rocks around it and have a great view of the entire lake and surrounding areas.

    The lake was located about 1/2 mile from our campground.

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    Custer State Park Wildlife

    by Florida999 Updated Aug 16, 2006

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    We drove the "wildlife loop" road some of the way and saw a few antelopes and one bison. Had I known how many more animals we would see at Yellowstone, I would not have driven that road....
    It took us a long time, and we only saw a few animals. But, if you do not go to Yellowstone, and just visit there, by all means go look for the bison! Maybe you will have more luck than us and see several.

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    Palisades State Park

    by JennJenn Written Sep 30, 2003

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    This is the state's smallest state park, but it's beautiful. Especially in the fall. Popular with hikers and climbers, it's perfect for rock climbing. About half of the paths are grass, which I've never seen before. I really enjoyed walking ALL the trails (which only took about 2 hours).

    Just a short drive from Sioux Falls.

    I think it was about $3/person or $5/car, but I had an annual state park pass for SD, so I didn't really pay attention.

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    Mount Rushmore

    by Florida999 Updated Aug 16, 2006

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    The Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. I am not going to write a history lesson here, there are probably enough of those available already but just say that I enjoyed visiting this monument and the Park Ranger tour was interesting. I did not know how Mount Rushmore was actually constructed and found the short video in the visitor center informative.
    My favorite President here: Theodore Roosevelt. He supported national parks and liked the outdoors. I think all of them deserve a monument, since they either started this great nation or improved it.

    A sidenote: We were impressed with the facilities, they even have a parking garage!
    You do have to pay to park , but the monument itself is free.

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    Harney Peak

    by Florida999 Updated Aug 16, 2006

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    At 7242 feet, Harney Peak is the highest mountain in South Dakota. Of course we had to hike to the top! There is a large tower on the top and you have a great view of the Black Hills.

    The trails start at Sylvan Lake and form a loop, if you want to walk back a different way than up. It is a little longer this way, but worth the effort. The # 4 trail was nicer in my opinion, but probably better for the way back, since most of it is uphill ( from Sylvan Lake). The # 9 trail goes up and down. Not the most demanding hike, but it is about 8 miles round trip.

    Note: if you walk back on the # 4 trail, you will get to the wrong parking lot first, make sure you continue on the correct trail to the Sylvan Lake parking lot!

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    Badlands

    by Florida999 Updated Oct 13, 2006

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    When we got to the Badlands it was very hot and dry. We did not camp there ( see accomodation tips for details).
    We went for a small hike up Notch trail. Very scenic, but hot. After the hike, we drove back to the campground to fix dinner, and decided it was just too hot to camp, packed up, and went to the nearest motel a mile away.

    From all landscapes I have ever been in , this one is the one I would not ever want to get lost in!! I cannot imagine being an early explorer and wandering around in this without shade, water, or any sense of direction. Even on the small trail we went on, I had the feeling of being on another planet. If you even wonder off the trail a little, you could get lost there very easily.

    We went on a group "night walk" with the Park Ranger and saw a snake, and some green eyes in the distance, but nobody could figure out what it was, not even the Park Ranger. The guy went on and on about stars, I almost went to sleep listening to him go on and on. I think he might have been an alien....

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    Freeman's Schmeckfest

    by JennJenn Updated Oct 2, 2003

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    "Schmeckfest" is a German festival of tasting in southeastern South Dakota. The town of Freeman uses the festival as a sort of homecoming for all of its own to come back to help put on this festival of food.

    The festival includes musical performances, food making demonstrations and the opportunity to buy the fresh-made food, as well as a full dinner served 3 nights, each night to more than 1,000 people.

    Freeman, population 1300, is located in U.S. Highway 81, which runs from Canada to Mexico.

    Early April. In 2004, it's planned for April 1-3.

    Check out my Freeman page for more lots more info.

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    Custer State Park

    by BLSM Written Dec 1, 2003

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    Take a drive thru Custer state Park and see the buffalo. There are usually a few hanging around by theirselves. Do not get out of your car to get a closer picture. Every fall the state has a round up to sell off the excess animals. The park can only support a herd of a certain size.

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    Black Hills National Forrest

    by Basaic Updated Nov 21, 2009

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    The Black Hills National Forrest consists of 1.2 million acres in Southwest South Dakota. There are lots of attractions in the area to include several national and state parks. The forest itself has spectacular scenery and several pulloffs, campsites and other places to enjoy it. the granite faced mountains in the area are amongst the oldest in North America. They were formed about 60 million years ago. Try the drives along US Highways 16 and 16A and South Dakota Highway 87.

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    Climbing Harney Peak in the...

    by erikajj Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Climbing Harney Peak in the Black Hills. It was a great hike, but I took the time to pose for a snapshot. This photo was taken on our first hike up in 1996. As you can see, I am not equipped with the proper gear (see packing tips).

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    Vermillion, SD...Home of the...

    by erikajj Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Vermillion, SD...Home of the University of South Dakota. It is not an exciting town but it is very quaint and has a free campground if you are on your way through to the Hills. The Shrine to Music Museum is worth a look: hundreds of musical instruments from around the world are displayed here.

    The Coffee Shop downtown is a relaxing, homey place to hang out. You can also head toward the river and see beautiful vistas from the cliffs.

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South Dakota Things to Do

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