South Dakota Discovery Guide

Overview

The "Mount Rushmore" State is home to some of the most unforgettable vistas in America, with stunning natural scenery and breath-taking man-made wonders too. Every region of South Dakota is unique, from the rolling prairies in the east to the badlands and hills in the west.

The western region of South Dakota is known as the Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Region, but in fact this long name describes only a small portion of the many fabulous sights and exciting activities in the area. No matter what you prefer to spend your vacation time doing, any trip to South Dakota must include at least a short stop in this region—Mount Rushmore, located near Rapid City, is most certainly a sight that nobody will want to miss. This massive and imposing sculpture is definitely a “must-see” that will leave any visitor truly awed by its epic scale, as well as by the historical significance of the area.

The Crazy Horse Memorial in Black Hills is another unique attraction, and visitors can learn much about the history of the area with a side-trip to the nearby Indian Museum and Cultural Center. Also in Black Hills is a town known as Deadwood. Once home to legends of the Old West such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (both of whom are buried in the Deadwood Cemetery), this is now a town full of living history, and with its meticulously restored buildings is an amazing place to visit. There are attractions enough to fill up a week or two of vacation time, and this small town has a thriving night life too, with casinos, fine dining and other entertainment.

The central area of South Dakota is known as the Great Lakes Region. The Missouri River is a prominent landmark here, with this entire region bisected by the river from north to south. There are several lakes in this region too, with hunting, fishing and outdoor sports popular attractions here. There are several towns in the region, each offering its own selection of activities and places to visit. In Chamberlain, the South Dakota Hall of Fame and the Akta Lakota Museum offer insights into the current and past history of the area, with the Akta Lakota Museum focusing on the history of the Sioux Nation and Lakota culture. The final resting place of Sitting Bull is located in Mobridge, while the capitol city of Pierre offers a variety of museums and historical exhibits, such as the South Dakota Discover Center.

In the north east of the state, the Glacial Lakes & Prairies Region is a beautiful and exciting place to visit. From hunting and fishing to canoeing, boating and a variety of water-sports, as well as cross-country skiing in the winter, there’s a wide variety of outdoor sports and activities on offer here. The hunting in the region is simply fantastic, with some of the best pheasant hunting in the state, as well as several varieties of waterfowl, and walleye, perch and other fish for the angler.

The Glacial Lakes & Prairies Region is a “must-visit” for any fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books—several of her books are based on the years her family lived in the town of De Smet, and this town has several attractions that provide insight into life for Laura and the town’s inhabitants during these years. Laura’s childhood home has been meticulously restored, and visitors can view Main Street stores and ride in a covered wagon just as Laura did all those years ago. It’s even possible to camp overnight on Laura’s prairie, with the Ingalls Homestead camping ground offering the chance to stay in a bunkhouse or covered wagon for the truly adventurous! There are plenty of other things to do in the area, with Lake Thompson, South Dakota’s largest natural lake, just eight miles east of De Smet. Lake Thompson is a paradise for the keen angler, with northern pike, perch and walleye. Pheasant hunters will be very pleasantly surprised by the best pheasant hunting in the eastern regions of South Dakota.

The south east of the state is simply known as the Southeast Region. Sioux Falls is here, the largest city in the region, with a view of the Big Sioux River Falls that is an attraction in itself. With no less than ten golf courses in the city and surrounding area, this is a fantastic place for a golfing vacation—why not spend a week or two in the city visiting all the courses, and see some of the many other attractions along the way! Sioux Falls offers a wide variety of things to see and do, with museums, art galleries, theatres and more. There is plenty to do during the day, and the city really comes alive at night, with music as the focus—a great variety of live shows and bands are here, with country, rock, jazz, blues and folk music providing the entertainment.

The Southeast Region is a fantastic area for birding, where more than 300 different species of birds can be observed in various areas. From the Great Bear Recreation Area to the Lake Andes National Wildlife Reserve, there are more than 30 stops along the “Birding Trail”. There are many recreation areas and camping sites along the way—the perfect vacation for anyone who loves to spend their time getting close to the natural world. Most recreation areas and camping sites include a variety of activities, such as hiking and biking trails, fishing and canoeing the lake sites. These are popular places to visit in winter, too, with many sites offering cross-country skiing and other fun winter sports.

South Dakota is a wonderfully diverse state both in terms of geography and the variety of things to see and do. From the wilderness of the Black Hills, Badlands, and Lakes Region to the metropolitan Southeast Region, nobody can visit South Dakota without leaving with wonderful memories of the rugged beauty of this state.
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