Adventure in South Dakota

Godfrey Hall is an award-winning UK based travel journalist and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has been in search of elves in Iceland, traveled to the depths of central Australia and been off the beaten track in Bulgaria.   

South Dakota is a fascinating part of the USA. Often forgotten by many, it has a wide variety of attractions and plenty to see and do. Many of its major sights such as Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park and Spearfish Canyon are just a short drive from Rapid City. The city has over the past years undergone an amazing transformation and now has a delightful downtown area.

South Dakota is an ideal place for a family holiday as there are plenty of child-friendly attractions. The autumn is particular beautiful.

The Badlands, Buffalo Safaris and the Wild West

There are a number of noteworthy sights in the state including the iconic Wall Drug Store. Just off I-90, this amazing store dates back to the 1930’s when the owners decided to advertise iced water. This worked and the store continues to thrive to this day, with doughnuts to die for!

Another attraction which I have visited a number of times is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Initially the work of one man, this incredible mountain sculpture is still growing. The information center is very extensive, and I would recommend that you visit here before taking off to Mount Rushmore.

If you are interested in seeing buffalo then the place to go is Custer State Park. There are plenty of wild buffalos in the park along with a variety of other animals. Excellent safaris start at the Game Lodge. Every year around the end of September, the annual buffalo roundup herds around 1,500 creatures into several corrals. The public are able to witness this event from a number of viewing points. Make sure you get there in time as most of the action takes place in the early morning.

A trip to the Badlands is a must. Try to get there around dawn when the sun is just rising to get the full effect of the amazing colors. There is a special drive around the area that is well worth considering a short drive from Wall, with plenty of motels and cabins available in the area.

For a glimpse of the Wild West, visit the cemetery at Deadwood where you will find among others, the grave of Calamity Jane. The town itself has a number of casinos and is a great place to flutter away a few dollars. The local museum has plenty on the characters of the past and lots about Deadwood’s turbulent history.

Spearfish Canyon, just a short drive from the Interstate, is a beautiful place to visit in the autumn when the colors of the trees are quite spectacular.

Where to Stay

One of the most spectacular places to stay is the Game Lodge in South Custer State Park. Pulling back the curtains in the morning is always a surprise as you may find you are confronted by a buffalo on the grass in front of the lodge or a large group of wild turkeys. There are several excursions that can be arranged, and the staff are very knowledgeable. There are a selection of places to stay close to the I-90, or you might like to try some of the hotels in the center of Rapid City or in Custer.

Local Delicacies

One of the delights of the state is the opportunity to try a range of buffalo products. I have eaten buffalo steaks, buffalo burgers and buffalo lasagne. If this is not your scene then you will find plenty of traditional eating places out in the countryside. There are also several restaurants where you can try more traditional Native American fare. If you are in the northeastern part of the state, visit Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne Indian River Reservation, which has a number of intriguing restaurants. A great place for a chuck wagon supper is Fort Hays near Rapid City where you can also enjoy a show as well as visit the “Dances with Wolves” movie set.

Getting Around

The best entry point is Rapid City. The regional airport is just a short distance from the center. The other way is come in on the I-90 which crosses the state. The best way to see as much as possible is by car. Most of the attractions are situated close to Rapid City. The road system is good and there are some excellent scenic drives. You should also take a ride on the Black Hills Central Railroad, which runs from Hill City to Keystone, a great trip.  If you intend to visit any of the tribal reservations you should plan for a long drive. Remember to treat these areas with respect and follow any tribal regulations.

More information can be found on the official South Dakota website

Featured Image: Sunrise at Badlands National Park (

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