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20 Reasons Why South Dakota Is One Of The Best States In The US For Tourists

For a lot of people, South Dakota might seem like another flyover state on their route from the East Coast to the West Coast. That, or they simply might just associate it with the patriotic carvings of our founding fathers at Mount Rushmore. But for those who have actually visited and explored the area, they will quickly realize that South Dakota is more than just a one-stop shop during their road trip to their final destination.

Simply put, South Dakota is a city that will simply amaze everyone in more ways than one. It’s a state like no other, that has some of the best parks in the nation, plenty of national monuments, and a planned memorial that will one day eclipse Mount Rushmore ten times in its size. And just to think, South Dakota is only getting started. With their innovative culinary scene, great history and culture, and the quirkiest road trip stop that anyone will ever see, be prepared to feel impressed and even fall in love with the state. With that being said, here are 20 reasons why South Dakota should be on everyone's bucket list.

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20 Mount Rushmore

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First and foremost, there is no reason why you shouldn't visit Mount Rushmore, even if it’s just for a mere 15 minutes during your entire trip (and quite honestly, you won’t need more time than that). Say hello to our founding fathers and be prepared to be amazed by this one-of-a-kind national landmark. Mount Rushmore is one monument that every proud American should see at least once in their lifetime. PlanetWare.com writes, “This historical monument is South Dakota's most prominent tourist attraction. Carved majestically into the side of the mountain are the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

19 Crazy Horse Memorial

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If you thought that Mount Rushmore was great, just wait until you get to see the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial. Unlike Mount Rushmore, there are certain periods during the year that you can actually climb the memorial and see its face, both up close and personal. Planetware.com writes, “The head and upper body portion of Chief Standing Bear have been carved into this mountain, like the Mount Rushmore carvings just down the road. The on-site Indian Museum of North America enriches any visit to Crazy Horse, and visitors can also access scheduled bus rides to the base of the memorial throughout the day to meet Crazy Horse face to face.”

18 Custer State Park

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It’s where the buffalo roam, after all! No trip to South Dakota is complete without visiting Custer State Park. A lot of local residents will tell you that it’s the one place where the granite peaks and rolling plains are calling (and we believe it). The area is famous for its bison herds, other wildlife, scenic drives, historic sites, visitor centers, fishing lakes, resorts, campgrounds and so much more. Planetware.com writes, “Custer State Park covers a wide range of different terrain, offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing. A large herd of bison roams the peaceful landscape, which is also home to a wide variety of other wildlife.”

17 Wind Cave National Park

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When we told you that South Dakota was abundant in national parks, we weren’t kidding at all. Located in the southwest portion of the state, the Wind Cave National Park is known for its vast, underground Wind Cave, chambers like to Post Office and the Elks Room. In other words, there’s something for everyone. Someone wrote on Trip Advisor, “The cave has beautiful and unique structures that are only found in a few places and nowhere boasts as many of the formations as Wind Cave. The guides are excellent. You cannot bring backpacks or big bags with you into the cave.”

16 Jewel Cave National Monument

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Here’s another South Dakota gem that a lot of people probably don’t know about: the Jewel Cave National Monument. It’s currently the third largest cave in the world, with over 193 miles of mapped passageways. But what we can tell you is that you will have a lot of fun exploring this area. Now, whether or not your GPS will work, we can’t tell you. Midwestliving.com writes, “The second-longest cave in the world features about 150 miles of mapped passageways. Visitors carry lanterns on some tours of Jewel Cave National Monument (55 miles southwest of Rapid City). Rangers also lead arduous spelunking tours through undeveloped passages.”

15 Storybook Land

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South Dakota is a wonderful state for any family that is looking to pass by during a cross-country road trip. Inspired by nursery rhymes, this one-of-a-kind theme parks features a miniature train, castle, and so much more. It’s located in Aberdeen, South Dakota and is a must-see attraction, especially for little kids. A guest said this on Trip Advisor, “We went with my infant and three-year-old daughter, and she had the best time! She’s over 36” tall, so she could go on all of the rides — many by herself. It wasn’t very crowded, even on a Saturday in June, so we got to enjoy the rides with little to no wait.”

14 Akta Lakota Museum

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The Akta Lakota Museum, located on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, is more than your traditional South Dakota Museum. It’s an experience, as the school is committed to promoting the knowledge and understanding of the rich culture of the Lakota people. Midwestliving.com says, “In the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center on the grounds of St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain (population: 2,300), quilts, beadwork, paintings and sculptures by contemporary Native American artists mingle with trade goods [...] and other artifacts that help tell the story of the people who once ruled the lands along the Missouri.”

13 Deadwood

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No, we are not talking about the hugely popular HBO series here, but, then again, if you are a fan, it’s another reason why you should visit this town. Deadwood is a city that is vastly known for its gold rush history, along with the graves of Wild West figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The Travel Channel says, “Located in the northern Black Hills, visitors can experience the rich history of the Wild West at family-friendly museums and attractions, test their luck gambling at one of the casinos, or get a taste of South Dakota at Belle Joli or Schade Winery.”

12 Akela Spa of Deadwood

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Well, if you happen to be in Deadwood, you might as well visit the Akela Spa as well. This place will exceed your expectations as it is one of the top spas in the region. It’s also the only destination day spa in the beautiful Black Hills. The Travel Channel writes, “Designed with luxury and serenity in mind, Akela Spa of Deadwood – the area's only destination spa – uses Native American treatments to calm and soothe its guests. Book the spa's signature massage, Akela Hante, which uses cedar oil – a sacred element in the Native American culture – to purify and heal your mind and body.”

11 Black Hills Forest

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Get ready to impress your fans on your social media feeds, because the Black Hills Forest is rich with wildlife, beauty, and forested hills and mountains. It’s also known for roaming elk and panoramic views of the Mount Rushmore sculpture. One person wrote on Trip Advisor, “As many have said, this is a great national forest with so much to see and do. There's hiking, wildlife, water, tourist stops/museums/attractions, small towns with shops and restaurants, etc. There's a little something for everyone here, and I'd recommend plotting out your course well in advance, but leave some wiggle room to pull over and explore something new. You won't be disappointed.”

10 Hot Beef Sandwich

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We can’t make a list about South Dakota and not talk about all the great food that the state has to offer. Three words here: hot beef commercial sandwich. Just thinking about it makes some people hungry. According to the Food Network, “Part of the South Dakota experience is venturing off the highway and into an unassuming diner for a hot beef commercial. It’s the ultimate sandwich for the meat-and-potatoes set. The hearty meal sticks to ribs and powers locals through frigid South Dakota days. Beware of instant potatoes — you want nothing but real mashed potatoes and shreds and chunks of seasoned roast beef sandwiched.”

9 Indian Tacos

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Another great reason to visit South Dakota is for its Indian Tacos. The Indian taco switch outs your basic tortilla shell for a delicious fry bread (more on that to come) and instead ground beef they use buffalo meat. In South Dakota it’s basically a staple food, as many restaurants have it on their menu. According to the Food Network, “The toppings — special recipe taco meat and refried beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, juicy tomatoes, diced red onions, black olives, house-made picante sauce — are piled on until they tumble off the heap and around the plate; there’s also a vegetarian version with homemade black bean sauce.”

8 Purple Pie Place

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If you are craving an all-American pie, the Purple Pie Place has exactly what you need, plus more. In fact, you’ll find yourself dreaming out these pies for weeks to come. Yes, they are just that good and one of the reasons why you must visit the city of Custer. The Food Network writes, “Purple Pie Place in Custer takes tart rhubarb to pie-in-the-sky (or at least pie in the hills) status. Four pies to try: rhubarb, strawberry-rhubarb, raspberry-rhubarb-jalapeño and bumbleberry. Find more renditions using the tart stalk at the Leola Rhubarb Festival, then pair dishes perfectly with rhubarb wine from Schadé Vineyard and Winery or Prairie Berry Winery.”

7 Indian Fry Bread

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Oh, we can’t talk about South Dakota without talking about Indian Fry Bread. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: fried bread and it’s absolutely delicious. You won’t find this in other parts of the country. The Food Network writes, “It is honored as the South Dakota state bread and continues to be a staple in Native American culture as they celebrate authentic fry bread, making it by hand and sharing it with others. Each family has a secret recipe or way of making it. The slightly chewy, puffy bread is often a base for Indian tacos, dipped in wojapi or buffalo chilli, or simply warmed with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar or dripping with local honey.”

6 Badlands National Park

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The Badlands National Parks is just one of those places that no matter where you point your camera, you're bound to take a good picture. It’s just that photogenic, no matter where you look. Its dramatic landscapes span layered rock formations, steep canyons and towering spires so much so that you will feel like you are on a movie set, or even another world from our own. Bighorn sheep and prairie dogs inhabit its grasslands. Planetware.com writes, “The dramatic landscape of Badlands National Park consists of uniquely formed hills and pinnacles made from the erosion of clay and sand. A large herd of bison roams freely within the park, adding a unique element to the whole experience.”

5 The Best Rest Stop In The US

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The Wall Drug is perhaps America’s best rest stop, especially if you are in the middle of your cross country tour and in need of some ice water, cheap coffee or better yet, the best maple glazed donuts in the country. On top of that, there are plenty of stores for shopping (you’ll find everything from clothes to boots to toys and more), attractions for kids, and even a mini-museum. In other words, it’s like Disney World, but that South Dakota version. One person wrote on Trip Advisor, “A little old west type of Wal-Mart with a great story. I really enjoyed shopping here and saw a lot of families having a great time. if you like fudge... buy theirs! Its scrumptious.”

4 Visit Rapid City

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Rapid City stands out as the gateway city to Mount Rushmore. It’s also known as the City of Presidents because of their series of life-size statues that spas around several blocks in its downtown area. There’s also the Journey Museum and Learning Center, which offers exhibitions on the city’s local history. If that weren’t enough, there’s also the haunted Alex Johnson hotel. One visitor said on Trip Advisor, “My wife and I headed to a restaurant right in the middle of the city. When we arrived, there were thousands of people there. We discovered that there is a celebration every Thursday during the summer.”

3 Dignity

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Dignity – which is also known as the Dignity of Earth and Sky – is a sculpture overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlin, South Dakota. It’s also a must-see attraction, as it depicts an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. And yes, it’s as big as it looks; it stands over 50 feet high and is a true beauty to look at. A visitor said on Trip Advisor, “This was a great rest stop while crossing the state on US 90. The size and scope of the statue was impressive for a rest stop and we enjoyed the nearby informational center about Lewis and Clark.”

2 Sioux Falls Bike Trail

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For those looking to keep fit and active during their vacation, don’t worry – South Dakota didn’t forget about you. You can burn your calories (after eating all of the fried bread) during this 19.1-mile bike ride that is located near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It also features a very stunning waterfall. One person wrote on Trip Advisor, “These trails are Wonderful. You can ride on easy trails or make it a serious ride. Take short trips along downtown area – stop for drinks and food. Or bike 23 miles around Sioux Falls. The entire trail is perfect for all bikes.”

1 The Corn Palace

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Last but not least, you must check off The Corn Palace during your South Dakota visit. It’s heavily advertised as the only corn palace in the world (we believe them) and better yet, admission is free. It’s also considered a true American Icon and serves as a venue for concerts, sports events, exhibits and other community events. The Travel Channel writes, “Some visitors return to see the new theme of the mural on the outside of the palace, which changes annually. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the palace is used for a variety of events, including exhibits, performances and the annual Corn Palace Festival.”

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