South Dakota has gained a reputation for being a great place to raise your family, but why? Obviously, this is a no brainer, as SoDak is safe, friendly, and the cost of living is low, but it is also a great place because of our ample attractions, including these 13 that you must visit before your kids grow up:
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Keystone)
C'mon; you know we couldn't start an article about places to take your kids in SoDak without mentioning Mount Rushmore, which is hands down the most recognizable place in the MOUNT RUSHMORE STATE! (Don't forget to take lots of pictures for the kids' scrapbooks!)
2. Ingalls Homestead (De Smet)
One of the greatest treasures in American literature is that of the Little House on the Prairie series, and guess what? Parts of it took place in De Smet! Read your kids the Little House books and then treat them to a trip to the Homestead for covered wagon rides, a one-room schoolhouse, and making toys like corn cob dolls and jump ropes.
3. Storybook Land (Aberdeen)
Arguably one of the most magical places in South Dakota is Storybook Land, where "families enjoy a world of imagination inspired by familiar nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty and Hickory Dickory Dock." From following the Yellow Brick Road through Oz to riding the old-fashioned carousel, your family will never forget their visit to Storybook Land!
4. Storybook Island (Rapid City)
Much like Land, Storybook Island is inspired by whimsical storybooks and features such literary delights as Raggedy Ann and Andy, and the Cat in the Hat; plus a carousel, train rides, and a free-range play space! (Even more delightful for us parents? Admission is free!)
5. 1880 Train (Hill City)
Raise your hand if you have a 2-year-old who is completely obsessed with trains! *raises both hands* No matter your child's age, they are guaranteed to love a ride aboard the 1880 Train, which takes its guests on a relaxing ride through the scenic Black Hills.
6. 1880 Town (Murdo)
Not to be confused with the train, the 1880 Town transports you from modern day to c. 1900, when the west was truly won! What can you do at 1880 Town? There are countless old-time businesses to visit, a 1950s train diner, museum, farm, animals, and more.
7. Historic Prairie Village Carousel (Madison)
In case you haven't already noticed, we here at Only in South Dakota LOVE a good carousel, which is exactly what you will find at the Historic Prairie Village. Once touring the Midwest, this antique carousel is one of the few remaining steam-operated rides in the country, so do not miss your chance to enjoy this historic gem!
8. Dinosaur Park (Rapid City)
Raise your hand if you have a 5-year-old who is completely obsessed with dinosaurs! *raises both hands* (I have boys, in case you didn't figure it out already.) Billed as being one of the Black Hills' first attractions, Dinosaur Park features life-size replicas of dinosaurs, jaw-dropping views as far as the eye can see, and a must-visit gift shop and visitor's center.
9. Fishing in one of our many lakes
Pick a lake, any lake, and your child is guaranteed to make some of the best memories your child will have! (South Dakota + fishing go hand in hand... amen?)
10. Reptile Gardens (Rapid City)
My boys love Reptile Gardens, and who can blame them? Reptile Gardens is the world's largest reptile zoo and houses thousands of snakes, lizards, crocodiles, amphibians, and giant tortoises! In addition to the animals themselves, the attraction also offers shows, botanical gardens, and gold panning.
11. Winner Drive-In (Winner)
Remember when you were a kid and going to the drive-in movie was the coolest thing ever? Good news: It still is! While drive-in theaters are sadly decreasing, there are still a few of these outdoor theaters scattered about SoDak, including this one in Winner.
12. Mitchell Corn Palace (Mitchell)
No matter your age, it is always pretty darn cool to see a building decorated with over 275,000 ears of corn! (Just like we said with Mount Rushmore, be sure to take lots of pictures for posterity's sake.)
13. South Dakota State Capitol (Pierre)
Finally, we here at Only in South Dakota recommend taking your kids to see the Capitol (preferably around Christmas, when the building is adorned in gorgeous trees, but any time will do), which gives you the chance to introduce both history and government to your child(ren).