Skip to Content

13 Fun Things to Do in South Dakota

13 Fun Things to Do in South Dakota

2020 was a mix of challenges for many, but for me, it brought epic road trips and unique discoveries, especially in South Dakota. Let me share 13 fun things to do in South Dakota that I loved and think you will too.


1. See the World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell

Mitchell, South Dakota, takes pride in the one-of-a-kind Corn Palace. Adorned with colorful corn and husk murals that are reinvented annually, this architectural marvel showcases the creativity and spirit of the region. A fun fact is that the murals are created from 325,000 ears of colored corn, sliced and nailed for decoration.


The world-famous Corn Palace, resembling a gym, hosts a great museum, snack bar, and souvenir shop. Pick up a popcorn ball, a local favorite made with marshmallows, and browse the historical events celebrated on the palace walls.

Stroll through Mitchell’s friendly streets, visit delightful shops like the Vault Clothing Co., and sip gourmet coffee. Don’t miss the delicious treats at Crazy About Cupcakes, a spot that’s as Instagrammable as indulgent!


2. Experience Wild Wonders at Custer State Park

Custer State Park offers 71,000 acres of Black Hills wilderness and four historic lodges. With well-kept roads and scenic routes, such as Needles Highway and the 19-mile Wildlife Loop Road, the park invites nature enthusiasts for a drive they’ll always remember. Hopefully, you’ll get lucky to experience bison and burro (donkey) jams in the streets like I did. 

Watch for pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and majestic elk as you explore one of South Dakota’s best outdoor havens. You can also fish and camp at this property.


3. A Momentous Gaze at Mount Rushmore Memorial

The awe-inspiring Mount Rushmore, with the monumental faces of Presidents Roosevelt, Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, is a vision that stirs the soul and induces chill bumps. I shed tears when I first saw this amazing slice of Americana I’d wanted to see for more than 40 years. 


The celebrated landmark is easily accessible, needing only a parking pass to experience it. Whether you capture incredible photos by day or revel in the star-stuffed evening light show and tribute, Mount Rushmore is a testament to American resilience and creativity you must witness firsthand.

Be sure to check out the Mount Rushmore gift shop before leaving.


4. Stop in the Legendary Full Throttle Saloon Adventure

In the heart of Sturgis lies the Full Throttle Saloon, renowned as the world’s biggest biker bar. My friend Sara and I chanced upon this vibrant watering hole during our 9-state, 10 National Park road trip as our online map took us on a short-cut dirt road that ended at the sight of the thousands of bikers parked at this venue. Visitors are also greeted by fantastic motorcycle statues and photo ops. 


With live music setting the tone and a welcoming crowd, it’s an electrifying escape where all are invited to enjoy the camaraderie and cold drinks. It feels more like a huge concert venue than a biker bar.


5. Quintessential Small-Town Bliss in Custer

The quaint town of Custer brims with local charm found by way of historical sites, unique boutiques, and tempting eateries. Neighboring monumental attractions like Crazy Horse Monument and Wind Cave National Park, Custer, in the beautiful South Dakota Black Hills, is a hub of comfort and discovery.


Treat your taste buds at places like the Purple Pie Place or unwind amid the cozy ambiance of Calamity Jane’s Coffee Shop. Don’t forget to capture the whimsical painted bison that grace the town, adding an artistic touch to your wanderlust.


6. Badlands National Park: A Colorful Desert Spectacle

For open skies and geological wonders, unleash your inner explorer at Badlands National Park. Discover striking geologic rock formations painted in colorful hues that tell ancient earth stories. This 244,000-acre park promises encounters with majestic bison, playful prairie dogs, and jaw-dropping dramatic landscapes in every direction. 


While there, pop into the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to snag a keepsake and unearth the park’s past. I found excellent posters, postcards, and t-shirts.


Want more National Parks? You can read about Medora, ND for Theodore Roosevelt National Park here.

7. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: Revving Up the Fun

Whether on two wheels or two feet, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a sight to behold. Nearly half a million motor enthusiasts gather here for a thrilling blend of rides, bites, and rhythm over ten fun-filled days. You might not catch me on a Harley, but admiring the camaraderie and festival atmosphere undoubtedly fuels the spirit.


8. Holy Terror Coffee: The Quaintest Cuppa in Town

What’s a road trip without cozy coffee breaks? Holy Terror Coffee in Keystone, South Dakota, strikes a chord with its charming decor, both stylish and whimsical, and inventive brews. Indulge in their iced mocha frappe and the tastiest pastries – trust me, the carrot cake fudge is a little slice of heaven.

Take note; they’re seasonal, opening from Mother’s Day through Labor Day.


9. The Towering Crazy Horse Memorial

Driven by tributes from fellow travel buffs, the Crazy Horse Memorial commands attention. Carved into a mountainside, this grand unfinished statue honors Native American culture and history. Although it was a drive-by visit this time, this masterpiece’s scale and vision captivated us from afar.


10. Wall, South Dakota: A Glimpse into the Old West

Are you seeking a taste of Wild West nostalgia? The town of Wall, South Dakota, is your ticket back in time. With roots as a humble railroad outpost for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, today it beckons travelers with eclectic shops and local eats.

Don’t miss Wall Drug Store’s famed five-cent coffee and juicy hot beef sandwiches – a true step into the frontier life. It’s the world’s largest drugstore. Remember that during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, thousands of motorcycles will be amidst the parking lots.


11. Dakota Brick House: A Foodie Haven in Vermillion

Food lovers, meet your match at Dakota Brick House. Their Artichoke Skillet Dip is not just another appetizer; it’s a mouthwatering experience. Savor the perfect medley of spinach, garlic, and gruyère – it’s heartwarming comfort food that’s etched in my memory for all the right reasons. They also have tantalizing wings, poutine, wood-fired pizzas, and tacos.


12. Photograph Dignity of Earth and Sky

Suddenly, there she was, “Dignity of Earth and Sky,” a 50-foot stainless steel symbol of Lakota and Dakota Native American pride. Overlooking the Missouri River, this poignant statue elegantly captures the spirit inherent in South Dakota’s cultural tapestry. 

One hundred twenty-eight fluttering blue diamond shapes on her quilt tell a story of resilience and beauty. Visible between exits 263 and 265 on I-90 – Dignity, in her native 1850s dress, a sight that calls for pause and admiration.


13. USD Campus: A Hub of History and Beauty

Stroll through the University of South Dakota in Vermillion for architectural splendor and verdant landscapes. The flagship location is more than just educational grounds; it’s a scenic haven teaming with ‘Yote (pronounced like goat) pride. Go to Old Main, the campus star, for the best photo ops.


Discover South Dakota

Captivating and brimming with personality, South Dakota offers an eclectic mix of sights and experiences. Whether seeking a serene natural retreat or an up-close encounter with Americana, this beloved state promises every traveler a story worth telling.

Ready to go? South Dakota’s vibrant horizons are calling.


Read more of our Midwest posts:

Guide to Indiana’s French Lick Resort

9 Cool Things to Do in Lincoln, NE

Where to Eat on Kansas Highway 36

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.