South Dakota is true gem in the USA with its diverse landscape, historical significance, monumental sculptures, and much more. Unique and beautiful towns dot the terrain from charmers in the Black Hills to prairie towns that were once home to legendary figures. Here, we explore some of the picturesque, must-visit towns found throughout South Dakota.
Located in the heart of the Black Hills National Forest, Custer is the area’s oldest town. A charming mountain town brimming with activities, everyone from outdoor adventurers and nature lovers to history buffs will find something of interest. A stroll through the historic downtown will reveal restaurants, unique shops, and museums, such as the 1881 Courthouse Museum with its displays showcasing the history of the area. The surrounding landscape provides plenty of activities from climbing to hiking to wildlife watching, visit Custer State Park to see free-roaming buffalo and much more. Many events take place throughout the year as well, including the Annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival.
Found in the northern Black Hills, Deadwood is a beautiful town designated a National Historic Landmark. Steeped in history, this town began as a gold camp and grew into a town that became a destination for many colorful and legendary characters, including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Today, this place is full of historic buildings that house a variety of businesses from gift shops to food haunts and more. Many exciting adventures in the form of historical re-enactments take place as well, including shootouts on Main Street, the slaying of the Hickok, plus the trial of his murder. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the area, have fun in the great outdoors, or participate in one of many events that occur during the year.
Located in eastern South Dakota, De Smet is a friendly prairie town with historical charm. A place to explore the life of the famous author Laura Ingalls Wilder, this town is a must-visit for anyone who is a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books or television show. Guests can take guided tours of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes to get a glimpse into her life and her family’s lives. Other highlights include the Depot Museum with its unique artifacts and the nearby Harvey Dunn School. Adventure seekers will also enjoy the area as the open landscape is a great place for many recreational activities.
Another Black Hills beauty, Hill City is often referred to as ‘The Heart of the Black Hills’. First settled in 1876 with the discovery of Black Hills gold, this picturesque town is a historic find with something for everyone. Children and adults alike will love the Museum at Black Hills Institute with its displays of dinosaurs, fossils, and other fascinating collectibles. History buffs will want to visit the South Dakota State Railroad Museum before walking to the nearby 1880 Train Depot where they can take a ride on a vintage steam train through beautiful scenery to Keystone. Art lovers also have exciting avenues to explore in the way of art galleries.
Keystone is an ideal location from which to explore the monumental Mount Rushmore. Once a popular mining town, the area then became involved in the logging industry before becoming the tourist destination that it is today. One of the oldest towns in the Black Hills, this lovely place has many things to do and explore. A great way to discover yesteryear is to partake in a historic walking tour, which highlights nineteen places of interest. Many companies in the area also offer tours of the Black Hills and surrounding area. Keystone is also home to many great dining establishments along with shops brimming with unique gifts.
Located in the southeastern section of South Dakota, Mitchell is a fascinating, friendly town with its roots in both the railroad industry and agriculture. Showcasing ‘the World’s Only Corn Palace‘, this unique destination is a colorful building adorned with onion domes and minarets plus murals, which change each year, made of 12 different varieties of corn with framing provided by native grasses, straw, milo, and sourdock. For those visitors interested in learning about the area’s past, the Dakota Discovery Museum with its displays on Native Americans and Pioneer Life and the Prehistoric Indian Village, which is an archeological site, are two great places to explore. Recreational activities abound for those seeking outdoor adventures.
The capital of South Dakota, Pierre is the second smallest US capital. Founded in 1880, this town is located right in the heart of the state along the Missouri River and features beautiful tree-lined streets, an historic downtown brimming with charming buildings housing a variety of businesses, plus verdant parks perfect for taking a leisurely stroll. Must-visit attractions include the State Capitol, which can be toured via a guided or self-guided tour, and the South Dakota Heritage Center, which teaches visitors about the state’s heritage and history. Plenty of recreational activities are available for adventure seekers as well and include highlights such as water sports and hiking.
Incorporated in 1888, Spearfish is a gorgeous town brimming with scenic vistas and outdoor adventures for every fitness level. Situated on the northern edge of the Black Hills, the landscape provides the perfect opportunity for adventurers to try their hand at a variety of activities, including hiking, biking, and climbing to name but a few. The stunning land is also a photographer’s dream, try to visit Spearfish Canyon during the fall when the colors change. For those guests who would rather relax a bit, the town is home to various specialty shops, terrific food joints and breweries, and more. Events take place throughout the year as well, including the Festival in the Park, which is a large outdoor arts festival.
Home to the University of South Dakota, Vermillion is a lively community situated in the southeastern corner of the state along the Vermillion River. The town boasts a historic downtown with a variety of businesses, including boutiques and restaurants. Galleries and museums are also to be found throughout the town while music lovers will appreciate The National Music Museum, located on the university’s campus with its collection of over 15,000 instruments representing numerous cultures and time periods. Another must-visit attraction is the W.H. Over Museum, which teaches visitors about the natural and cultural history of the state. For outdoor enthusiasts, year-round opportunities await from hiking to boating to ice fishing.
Founded in 1861, Yankton is another beauty set along the banks of the Missouri River in the southeastern portion of the state. With something to pique a variety of interests, the town offers activities for everyone from art lovers to history buffs to those visitors wanting the experience the great outdoors. Those guests with an interest in art and history will enjoy taking a tour of the historic finds dotting the town or meandering through the historic downtown area where they will find lovely buildings filled with boutiques and galleries along with culinary gems. Yankton also offers an abundance of outdoor adventures from fishing to hiking to water sports.
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