Culture Trip’s Feel-Good Places to Visit in 2021 – South Dakota

Watching the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience
Watching the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience | © Travel South Dakota
Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor15 December 2020

Riding into South Dakota today still feels like an adventure into the old frontier territories. As one of the Great American West states – alongside Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota – it stands out, with incredible landscapes, a thriving cultural scene and a great selection of unique places to stay.

On your trip to South Dakota, there’s no better place to start than the Great 8, a must-visit collection of stunning landmarks. The best known is Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a granite shrine blasted into the side of the Black Hills in honor of four highly influential US presidents. We also love the mesmerizing Badlands National Park, in which surreal, naturally formed rock sculptures rise from the ground and take on otherworldly appearances that change depending on the time of day.

The Badlands National Park can look quite different depending on the time of day | © Ivan Kuzmin / Alamy Stock Photo

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  • While the Crazy Horse Memorial is still under construction, it’s worth visiting due to its sheer size. Work began in 1948 as a tribute to the famous Lakota leader, and when it’s complete, it’ll be one of the largest mountain sculptures in the world. The site is also home to a museum dedicated to Native American culture.

    We’ve picked South Dakota for a number of reasons as a feel-good destination in 2021. The wide-open spaces here are hard to match, with great outdoor experiences throughout the year. One highlight is the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup, which sees about 1,300 bison rounded up by experienced cowboys and cowgirls in a thrilling exhibition. The 2020 event was live-streamed worldwide due to Covid-19 restrictions, but hopefully, people can see all the thunderous drama unfold in person in September 2021.

    The best way to explore South Dakota’s vast open spaces is on horseback | © James Caldwell / Alamy Stock Photo

    Live out your own horseback adventures with guided tours and itineraries. Many of these offer you a variety of places to stay, from cozy cabins to sleeping under the stars. You could also hit the road and drive through the state in an RV, something many Americans do as a domestic break.

    Feel-good places to stay in South Dakota

    We’ve scoured the state to find these four fascinating properties to add to your wish list when planning a trip to South Dakota.

    The Hotel Sturgis

    A former JC Penney store, this hotel on Main Street serves as a great base when exploring the nearby Black Hills. With a coffee shop and an ice-cream parlor overlooking several other shops, the Hotel Sturgis is a popular gathering place for many locals. If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, rooms have private balconies; meanwhile, several national parks are only a short distance away.

    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Restaurant
    Wheelchair accessible (may have limitations)
    Concierge services
    Terrace

    Hotel on Phillips

    There’s clearly something of a conversion trend going on in South Dakota, as in a former life, this hotel was the Sioux Falls National Bank. Renovated in 2018, the Hotel on Phillips has 90 rooms available, but only one Gold Bar Honeymoon Suite for those looking to splurge.

    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    In-room accessibility
    24-hour front desk
    Fitness facilities
    Smoke-free property

    Under Canvas Mount Rushmore

    This seasonal escape lives up to its billing. If you manage to bag yourself a stay here, you’ll sleep in a luxury tent from the pioneers of the outdoor-stay experience in America. Remember this is a glamping stay, not a traditional roughing-it campsite. Everything you need for a relaxing holiday is provided – all you have to do is turn up and enjoy the spectacular views. For 2021, this property is scheduled to open between May and September.

    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Breakfast available (surcharge)
    Restaurant
    In-room accessibility
    24-hour front desk
    Terrace
    Bar/lounge
    Smoke-free property

    Spearfish Canyon Lodge

    The ultimate back-to-nature retreat, Spearfish Canyon Lodge is the place to stay if you want to visit South Dakota in winter, when the frozen landscape is stunning. The change in seasons is dramatic, but you’ll find a comfortable stay guaranteed here.

    Everything you need to know

    At a Glance

    Free WiFi
    Restaurant
    Conference space
    24-hour front desk
    Terrace
    Bar/lounge
    Smoke-free property

    Methodology

    The Culture Trip list features places with a feel-good factor that we can’t wait to visit in 2021 and beyond (once we can travel again). It celebrates travel that’s good and makes you feel good. The destinations are dedicated to sustainability; they offer something new and exciting, or an unforgettable moment that will make us fall in love all over again with the world we’ve missed in 2020.

    Culture Trip compiled the list based on insights and recommendations from its global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users from around the world to understand interest in those destinations.

    These recommendations were updated on December 15, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.