We love to write about hidden gems in our state – the places you might not know about. But South Dakota also has some very famous attractions that we don’t want to forget. Winter is a great time to visit many of these places. The tourists have gone home, and they’re less crowded.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone
Obviously, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is South Dakota's most famous attraction, and a real national treasure. Completed in 1941, the memorial receives more than two million visitors every year. You have to see this memorial in person to truly appreciate it.
2. South Dakota State Capitol Building, Pierre
Our state capitol was constructed between 1905 and 1910, at a cost of nearly $1 million. This beautiful building includes Italian marble, a 96-foot rotunda, public galleries and several memorial statues on the grounds.
3. Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer
Jewel Cave National Monument is so enormous that only around five percent of it has been mapped. It's the third longest cave in the world.
4. Falls Park, SIoux Falls
A little gem located right in Sioux Falls, this pretty park has a waterfall as its crown jewel. The Big Sioux River cuts right through the park, which also has plenty of walkways, benches, an observation tower and a restaurant.
5. Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Canyon
Roughlock Falls is truly spectacular, tumbling 50 feet from its highest tier, then cascading over several more levels. You can take a short, easy hike to an observation platform where you'll have a picture-perfect view.
6. Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park Covers 242,756 acres and it's truly breathtaking. Vast expanses of prairie are broken up by spectacular rock formations, cliffs and spires. You might think that this place is uninhabitable, but it's actually full of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs, badgers and a herd of bison.
7. Corn Palace, Mitchell
The Mitchell Corn Palace was completed in 1921, and it gets an exterior makeover every year. The murals on the outside of the building are made of corn husks, and every year they celebrate a different theme. The Corn Palace has nearly a half million visitors annually.
8. Wind Cave National Park, near Hot Springs
Located about 10 miles from Hot Springs, Wind Cave National Park is the sixth-longest cave in the world. It features intriguing formations called "boxwork." Outside the cave, visitors find a seemingly endless expanse of mixed-grass prairie.
9. Mammoth Site
Located in Hot Springs, Mammoth Site is home to the remains of at least 61 mammoths. Visitors can get up close to see the continuing excavation, and visit a museum that has interactive exhibits.
10. National Music Museum, Vermillion
The National Music Museum in Vermillion is a world-class music museum with more than 15,000 instruments on display. From some of the world's earliest instruments to a wonderful collection of American-made guitars, this museum delights those who play, listen to and love music of all kinds.
11. Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer County
The Crazy Horse Memorial is an ambitious project that's still in the making. Construction started in 1948, and when it's completed it will be the world's largest sculpture. It will eventually depict Crazy Horse atop his horse.
12. Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park
Take a drive along the 18-mile-long Wildlife Loop Road at Custer State Park, where you get a glimpse at some spectacular scenery, as well as bison, pronghorn, deer, elk, prairie dogs and of course...the infamous Begging Burros.
13. Roberts Prairie Dog Town, Badlands National Park
If you see prairie dogs as adorable creatures and not vermin, Roberts Prairie Dog Town is the place to go. It's located inside Badlands National Park, near the town of Wall, and it's home to thousands of people-friendly prairie dogs. You can get pretty close to take some great photos, but don't get too close - they carry fleas.
14. 1880 Train, Hill City
The historic 1880 Train is a South Dakota gem that everyone should ride at least once in a lifetime. The steam-powered train takes you from Hill City to Keystone (or vice versa), and along the way you'll see some of the most stunning scenery that the Black Hills has to offer.
15. Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park
Custer State Park is chock-full of beauty, and Sylvan Lake is one of those spots that you'll never want to leave. It's a small lake - just over 17 acres - but what it lacks in size it makes up for in scenery. Take a hike around the lake to see it in all its splendor.
16. Nicollet Tower, Sisseton
For some of the best views in the state, climb the 75-foot-tall Nicollet Tower. You'll have an eagle's eye view of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. The best part? Accessing the tower is totally free.
17. Bear Butte, near Sturgis
Bear Butte is a deeply sacred place for the Plains Indians. Towering 1,253 feet over the prairie, a short climb provides you with incredible views. Human remains dating back more than 10,000 years have been found here, and the Lakota and Cheyenne people often leave prayer cloths and tobacco pouches as offerings.
These 17 places just scratch the surface! What other well-known gems would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments!