Paws for Beer’s Top 10: South Dakota

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Badlands National Park

South Dakota will always hold a special spot in my heart as it was the location of my first solo trip. I had always wanted to see the Badlands National Park and decided that in the summer of 2012 it was time to stop wanting and start doing! I pack up my truck, grabbed my dog, Boomer, and headed out to one of the most awesome states I have ever been to!

Here are our top 10 stops in South Dakota:

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

looking into the missile silo

1.Minuteman Missile Silo:
The Delta-09 Missile Silo is located off of 1-90 at exit 116. This silo is luckily inactive however this stop gives you a brief but comprehensive look back into the Cold War days. Missiles were buried throughout South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana as launching a missile from these locations was only “minutes” away to Russia. This site is pretty bare-bones, offering a self-guided cell phone tour. There is no fee for this tour and the site is open from 8am to 4:30pm. If you are looking for more information on the silos, there is a manned visitor center located at exit 131.

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Wild Bill’s gravesite in Deadwood SD

2.Deadwood, South Dakota:
Tumbleweed may not be bouncing down the streets of Deadwood but you can still get a sense of what it was like during the Old West. During the summer months there are daily reenactments (minus Sundays) with one of Deadwood’s most famous, Wild Bill getting shot at No.10 saloon. You can also pay your respects to the actual Wild Bill, who is buried at the Mount Moriah Cemetery located on the hillside of town. Be sure to check out the Midnight Star casino, which is owned by actor Kevin Costner. The slots were more friendly here than the other casinos located throughout town!

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Image Credit:Wikipedia

3.Sturgis, South Dakota:
Sturgis is located on the west side of the state and holds probably one of the most well-known motorcycle rallies. The motorcycle rally is held in early August each year and brings in people from all over to share their love for motorcycles. There are organized rides, music concerts (for 2014 they’ve got Lynyrd Skynyrd, Motley Crue and Trapt on the books), bike shows, tattoo contests and more! If you plan on going they recommend booking lodging early. Check out their site for more information

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park

Image Credit: Rolando000

4.Wind Cave National Park
Known as one of the world’s longest caves, Wind Cave National Park, comes in at a whopping 140.47 miles long (226.06 km). Wind Cave was deemed a national park in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt and was the first cave to be named a national park. This cave is unique as it has rare formations of calcite that look like honeycombs. There is a visitor center at the site and cave tours are offered for a fee.

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Wall Drug South Dakota

5.Wall Drug
It will be hard to miss Wall Drug while driving through South Dakota. Billboards and signs line the highways for miles advertising its location, even still offering a “free glass of water” for thirsty travelers, like they did back in the 1930’s. This roadside attraction is slightly cheesy, but worth a stop. Check out their 76,000 sq foot retail space which includes a backyard full of amusing treasures.

top 10 things to do South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Monument

6.Mount Rushmore National Monument
Mount Rushmore is an American icon and a must do if you are in the area. Check out the stone carved heads of the former presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. While you visit the park you can get an up close view of the presidents while taking the Presidential Walk. In addition to getting a closer view, you can read interesting facts about each president on the interpretive signs along the way. Entrance to the park is free however there is a parking fee.

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Custer State Park Annual Bison Round Up

7.Custer State Park
General George Armstrong Custer may not have a huge fan club but he did contribute a lot to the history in the Black Hills. Custer State Park is a true gem with beautiful scenery. As summer comes to an end be sure to check out the annual bison round-up in late September. Here you will see 1000+ bison being collected for vaccinations and corralled for the winter months. I recommend bringing a camp chair, snacks and your camera if you attend this event. There is a fee for the park however it is generally waved on the round-up day.

top 10 things to do South Dakota

Crazy Horse Memorial

8.Crazy Horse Monument
Although Mount Rushmore is impressive, I personally find Crazy Horse Monument more stunning. The monument’s size is massive in comparison to Mount Rushmore. All of Mount Rushmore can fit in the small spot behind Crazy Horse’s head. This is a privately funded sculpture that started construction in 1948 and is still under construction and probably will be for many years to come. Crazy Horse was a powerful leader in the Lakota tribe and was chosen by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to represent their tribe at this monument. Be sure to take the bus ride, for an additional small fee, to the base of the sculpture where you will get a better view as well as gain some additional knowledge from the tour guide.

top 10 things to do South Dakota

Needles Highway in South Dakota

9.Needles Highway
Rated as one of the most scenic drives in South Dakota the Needles Highway is a visually stunning spot and highly recommend by Paws for Beer! Like most scenic drives it comes with a few driving challenges, however nothing should keep you from this drive! Note that this road has several rock carved out tunnels that could be limiting to some RV’s. The tall rock spires that line this highway gives the drive it’s beauty. We drove the highway in early fall and the seasonally changing colors were dynamite! Make sure you make a stop at the Eye of the Needle, a rock formation that looks like the eye of a sewing needle. Also stop at Sylvan Lake, where they have some dog friendly trails around the lake. The drive is free however some of the highway is in Custer State Park, which has a park fee.

top 10 things to do South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

10.The Badlands National Park
I saved the best for last! The Badlands National Park is located near Wall South Dakota. It is a smaller park, however, not to be overlooked. The park recommends that you allow for 2 hours for the driving tour, however Boomer and I took 5 hours. Your time there will of course depend on how often you want to stop for photos or go for a hike. You will most likely get to see some wildlife while in this park. While we were there we saw several herds of big horn sheep, bison and prairie dog colonies. This park is filled with fascinating buttes, pinnacles and spires while being surrounded by stunning prairie lands. There is a visitor center on the east side of the park, however you can enter from either the west or east side of the park. There is a fee for park entrance.

top 10 things to do in South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Have you ever been to South Dakota? Where would you go if you were visiting South Dakota?

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20 Responses to Paws for Beer’s Top 10: South Dakota

  1. bavariansojourn says:

    I didn’t know much about Dakota before reading this… So much to see! 🙂

  2. Just like bavariansojourn, I knew so little about South Dakota before reading this post. Would love that scenic drive on the Needles Highway.

  3. I knew absolutely nothing about South Dakota besides Mount Rushmore. What an amazing state! Love that crazy horse memorial and the Badlands!

  4. Brianna says:

    Thanks for highlighting an area that frankly,as an American, I really didn’t give much thought to. The Badlands look amazing!

    • I think when people travel the United States (especially from foreign countries) they visit the big cities, LA, Miami, New York, but there is so much more out there. It is a huge country filled with beautiful spots that are often overlooked. It may not be as easy to get to the mid-west but I think it is totally worth the effort!

  5. It’s a special place for me to. This was a stop along our honeymoon back a few years ago. Fab spot, I was in awe of those heads! Thanks for linking up with us to #SundayTraveler

  6. Great information on South Dakota’s attractions. This is timely as we’re hoping to go there this summer. My kids have been wishing to see Mt Rushmore but I am more interested in Crazy Horse and Badlands. I’m glad to see there are other quirky attractions too. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • sounds like it’s going to be a great trip for you and your family! Rapid City is a great base for the area’s attractions if you have not picked a location for lodging yet.

  7. I am constantly in awe of how many fantastic places there are to visit on this continent. How cool looking are those Badlands?! I went on a road trip through the Dakotas when I was a kid but I have absolutely no recollection of it. I would love to go back one day.

    • I loved the Badlands – the arid landscape is unlike anything I had ever seen before. Coming from Idaho I think that’s why I was so drawn to it because it was not familiar, yet still beautiful!

  8. I’ve seen Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore on my drive back from Washington. The Dakotas don’t get much attention but they should! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler 🙂

  9. Sammi says:

    Great Top 10 🙂 that nuke gives me the willies!

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