Travel & Destinations

Planning a Trip to South Dakota

Embracing the spirit of America in the Heartland

South Dakota’s combination of natural beauty, historic landmarks, and Native American culture makes it a must-travel destination for those seeking to explore the heart of America. The state’s landscapes range from rolling prairies to the majestic Black Hills and are a sight to see.

With the convenience of a direct flight from DFW to Rapid City, South Dakota offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for an unforgettable adventure. With Rapid City as the starting point for your trip, you can easily access several iconic destinations and experience the beauty and history of the South Dakota Black Hills region. 

The Amazing Sites to See in South Dakota

Evening at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore evening ceremony Photo courtesy of

Patriotic Journey to Mount Rushmore 

Within a 35-minute drive, you can marvel at the massive presidential sculptures carved into the mountainside at Mount Rushmore. A uniquely American experience, it is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. It features the carved faces of four American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, who represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation. It took artisans 14 years to carve the entire sculpture, from 1927 to 1941. This national memorial symbolizes American history and the values that shaped the nation. 

During the sculpture’s evening ceremony, lights illuminate the faces of the four presidents, and veterans are acknowledged, creating a compelling and emotional moment for everyone present. The ceremony serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have served our country and highlights the enduring bond between the military and the nation.

Crazy Horse Sculpture in South Dakota
A new Crazy Horse sculpture is being built on the front part of the monument.

Crazy Horse and Indigenous Culture 

To delve deeper into South Dakota’s Native American heritage, plan to stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial, a monumental tribute to the Native American leader that is still under construction. While celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Crazy Horse this summer, the monument’s outstretched pointing finger — it measures an astounding 291/2 feet in length — was being sculpted. 

South Dakota is home to several Native American tribes, including the Lakota Sioux. Learn about the rich Native American culture and traditions, and history of the region at the site’s museums while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Black Hills. This ongoing sculpture project aims to honor the Lakota warrior and serves as a tribute to all Native Americans. Special events at the site are also a great way to experience Native American music, dance, and art. 

Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Take a scenic drive through Badlands National Park

The Majestic Wilderness of Badlands National Park 

Known for its rugged beauty and otherworldly landscapes, Badlands National Park showcases stunning geological formations and fossil beds.

The eroded rock formations, deep canyons, and sharp ridges result from millions of years of geological processes. Despite its harsh and arid environment, it provides a habitat for bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, coyotes, and black-footed ferrets.

Badlands National Park is an International Dark Sky Park with exceptional opportunities for stargazing. Visitors can witness the night sky’s brilliance with minimal light pollution and regularly hosted astronomy events. 

Custer State Park in South Dakota
Custer State Park in South Dakota

Bison Haven: Exploring the Wonders of Custer State Park 

Just 20 miles to the south of Mount Rushmore, you can explore the stunning landscapes of the Black Hills by visiting Custer State Park. The park features one of the largest bison herds in the world, with over 1,300 bison roaming freely across its vast grasslands. The park offers various opportunities to observe these majestic creatures up close, such as driving along the Wildlife Loop Road or joining a guided buffalo safari. The annual Buffalo Roundup is at the beginning of October.

The scenic Needles Highway, a twisting 14-mile route through narrow tunnels and past needle-like rock formations, travels through the park. Warning: Make sure to fold in your side-view mirrors when passing through the tight stone tunnels with only inches to spare. Whether exploring the nearby underground wonders of Wind Cave National Park or taking a scenic drive through the Needles Eye Tunnels, stunning views and a thrilling driving experience awaits. 

Deadwood National Historic Landmark in South Dakota
Historic Main Street in Deadwood

South Dakota’s Rich Wild West History 

 Once a bustling mining town, Deadwood is now a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can take a step back in time and experience firsthand the Wild West era through museums, guided tours, and reenactments. One of my favorite stops was Mount Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickock is buried. A legendary gunslinger and lawman, he was shot and killed in a saloon in 1876. Calamity Jane, a frontierswoman and friend of Wild Bill, requested to be buried next to him upon her death in 1903. 

Start Planning Your Next Adventure

South Dakota offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and outdoor adventures. Discover the rich heritage of South Dakota: it is an ideal vacation destination for North Texans (and all Americans). For more fabulous places to experience in South Dakota, CLICK HERE.


Sharon Kurtz

Sharon Kurtz is a freelance writer and photographer. Her passion is travel, telling stories, and tussling with her four-legged friends. As a baby boomer who loves adventure, she welcomes opportunities to share stories of people, places, food, and flavors around the corner or around the world. A regular contributor to fyi50+ Magazine, she's published 200 articles in various digital and print publications. Austin, Texas, is home with her husband and three spoiled dogs when not searching out new adventures. You can follow her travels on Instagram and Facebook.

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