Why You Need to Travel to South Dakota
Cheap lodging, stunning landscapes, and wacky shops prove South Dakota is anything but a flyover state.
Published Aug 10, 2017 3:00 PM
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You probably didn’t even think about South Dakota when you planned your summer travel. That was a big mistake. Why? South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, epic national parks, relaxing rustic lodges, and a rich history.
So, on your next cross-country road trip, don’t just drive through this highly underrated state. Slow down, and as local Katlyn Richter, Global Media PR Director Of South Dakota Department of Tourism, advises “be prepared to stay a few more days than you anticipated” because the state where “the wild is still wild” is definitely worth a stop on your autumn trip across the country. Bonus: The landscape turns into a crazy quilt of blazing fall colors as the leaves change.
Where to Stay
20681 SD-240, Interior, SD 57750
Just because you’re in the Wild West doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable. The Cedar Pass Lodge knows that for sure. For under $200, you can rent a private cabin. Make sure to check out the communal fire pit on the property where you can socialize with fellow travelers.
12138 Ray Smith Dr, Hill City, SD 57745
This family-friendly ranch is great if you are traveling with a group. Many of their large cabins have hot tubs and grilling equipment on site. The ranch also hosts horseback trail rides, ATV tours, as well as on-site performances by world renowned Native American group Brule.
Alex Johnson Hotel 523 6th St, Rapid City, SD 57701
If you don’t scare easily, book a room at The Alex Johnson Hotel. Locals say this place is haunted. Visitors have reported various spectres and spirits in many of their rooms, including the ghost Alex Johnson himself. Book a special Ghost Adventure Package that gets you one night in a reportedly haunted room complete with a K2 Meter, which is a fancy word for a ghost detector.
Where to Go
510 Main St, Wall, SD 57790
Wall Drug holds the highly-sought title of “most billboards in South Dakota.” If kitsch is your thing, you’ll spend all day here. It is a souvenir shop, restaurant, boot store, and home to a giant rideable jackalope. Oh, and there is a robotic T-Rex. You just have to go to Wall Drug to get it.
Driving into the Badlands is like landing on another planet or onto the set of Star Wars. These rock formations have been molded by centuries of water and wind erosion creating crevices and canyons that you could spend a week exploring. The remote park has “really phenomenal night sky viewing” says Richter and it’s always open all night.
Pine Ridge is one of the largest Native American reservations in the US. This Oglala Lakota Native American reservation was the site of the Massacre of Wounded Knee. If you do decide to visit the site, remember, it is a sacred space and a place to pay respect. If you’d like to learn more about the Oglala Lakota people, head over to the Historical Center at the Oglala Lakota College.
Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Ave. of The Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730
The Crazy Horse Memorial is going to be the largest non-religious monument in the world, once it’s finished. As of today, the memorial is only partially carved, but that doesn’t take away from its awesomeness. When you head to Crazy Horse, make sure to check out the exceptional museum attached to the site.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
Obviously, you can’t go to South Dakota without going to Mount Rushmore. Here is a little-known fact: The grounds of Mount Rushmore are always open, so you can enjoy the majesty of our founding fathers as the sun rises or in the middle of the night.
599 7th St., Rapid City, SD 57701
When you’re in Rapid City, do not pass by this seemingly normal alley. More than just your average tagged-up city street, this outdoor art gallery features local artists and stretches the entire block.
Where to Eat
Al’s Oasis 1000 E S Dakota Hwy 16, Oacoma, SD 57365
Al’s Oasis pretty much screams “Home, Home on the Range.” Full of wild west-inspired decor and a gift shop to match, this roadside attraction is a favorite of truckers and travelers alike. Make sure to order some of their lemon meringue pie—it’s what they are known for.
Multiple locations in Sioux Falls
Coffee is essential to all road trips so you are going to be happy to hear that the Coffea Roasterie is one of the best spots in the state to get a bold espresso and stretch your legs out for a bit. They have their own roasts for sale on-site which always makes a great gift for friends back home.
309 S. Phillips Ave. Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Heralded as one of the best pastry shops in the US, Chris Hanmer’s spot is definitely worth a stop. This European inspired pastry shop has macarons to die for. Did we mention that Hanmer was the winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts? It’s a title that is well deserved.
Where to Shop
Urban Archaeology 126 S Phillips Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104
If vintage treasures are your poison, you’re going to want to stop at Urban Archeology in Downtown Sioux Falls. This spot is full of everything to delight your midcentury modern dreams. It’s so good, you may consider finishing your trip in a U-Haul.
Total Drag Records
307 E. 12th Street Downtown, Sioux Falls, SD, 57104
This independently owned record store is the place to stop if you fancy yourself a vinyl pirate. Not only does this shop sell and promote music—they often host all-ages, alcohol-free events and shows—they are known for their extensive collection of tapes also for sale.
Prairie Edge Trading Post 606 Main Street, Rapid City, SD 57701
As you head out of the state, don’t miss Prairie Edge Trading Post. This shop features a large collection of art, clothing, and jewelry made by the local Lakota people. It’s the best place to get some authentic South Dakota gifts for friends back home—or yourself.