Get a taste of the rugged and wild west in gorgeous South Dakota. Here, a vast and varied landscape awaits, with dramatic views that range from wide open plains dotted with buffalo to lakes set in forests to the spectacular and distinctive Badlands. With cities like Sioux Falls and Rapid City that act as perfect bases for everything from visiting interactive museums for kids to seeing the presidents’ faces at Mount Rushmore or hiking to the top of the tallest peak east of the Rockies, there are seemingly endless options for family-friendly spots and outdoor activities in this state.
From the Badlands to the Black Hills there’s no shortage of breathtaking views. Hiking, camping, canoeing, horseback riding, biking, skiing and wildlife spotting are just a few of the activities you can enjoy while taking in the scenery.
Rapid City and Sioux Falls make great bases for experiencing the state. Explore the downtown shops and restaurants, visit interactive museums or feed animals at the zoo.
South Dakota offers some of the most scenic drives in the country. Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, Spearfish Canyon and the Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park are a few of the most spectacular. Visit in early autumn for peak foliage that will truly wow.
Slipping in educational opportunities is easy here. Tour the life-sized statues of all past presidents in Rapid City, learn about four pivotal presidents at world-famous Mount Rushmore and experience Native American culture and history at Crazy Horse Memorial or a pow wow. Visit Deadwood for a taste of the true Old West and see the spot where Buffalo Bill was shot.
From cities and towns to rolling hills to famous sights like Mount Rushmore, South Dakota has it all.
Rapid City is the perfect spot to make your home base for exploring the stunning Black Hills region.
Where to Stay: The WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort offers a complex of four different hotels with a variety of room types all just steps from an indoor waterpark that kids will love splashing around at.
South Dakota’s largest city is an ideal place to visit and set up camp for exploring the east side of the state.
Where to Stay: Dakotah Lodge is just minutes from downtown and offers families a wide variety of options for rooms, including family suites. Relax by the fireplace on the outdoor patio or let kids tackle the 167-ft waterslide in the indoor waterpark while adults relax in the hot tub.
Set in the Black Hills just a 30-minute drive from Rapid City, this 71,000 acre park features a stunning range of views and incredible wildlife.
Where to Stay: Sylvan Lake Lodge is located right inside the park and you can walk to Sylvan Lake for hiking, kayaking, canoeing and beautiful views. They also offer cabins that come with full kitchens and the biggest cabin can sleep up to 20 people — so you can bring the entire extended family.
Just an hour north of Sioux Falls, Brookings offers exceptional opportunities for families.
A short one hour drive from Rapid City you’ll hit the captivating Badlands National Park, a maze of buttes, canyons and spires that seem straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
See the world-famous carved faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Kids will learn everything from farming and fixing cars to broadcast television and art at this highly interactive museum.
Take a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour for up close animal encounters or drive the Wildlife Loop.
Take in the stunning waterfalls and views that give this city its name.
Get off the beaten trail and freely ride through the Black Hills National Forest on horseback.
The result of millions of years of wind and water erosion, these canyons, spires and buttes are one of the most unique landscapes in the country.
Kids will delight in visiting the largest reptile zoo in the world featuring gators, snakes, giant tortoises and so much more.
Visit the homestead of the famed Little House on the Prairie author and be transported back to the pioneer era.
Explore this underground national park and have kids take part in the Junior Ranger Program.
Drive some of the most scenic routes in the country for tunnel views of Mount Rushmore, stunning fall foliage and loops of wooden bridges.
A car is best for getting around South Dakota. While Rapid City offers a bus system and Sioux Falls has a reliable metro system, a car is necessary for visiting some the best and most famous sites, such as Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and the scenic highway routes.
All photos courtesy of South Dakota Department of Tourism.