When making weekend getaway plans for anyone seeking truly unique experiences unlike any others in the country, South Dakota is the place to visit. Located to the north of the center of the country, South Dakota boasts some of the most distinctive landscapes to be found anywhere. Ancient sites containing fossils of mammoths give way to Badlands, which are too treacherous to survive in for long. Its meandering rivers quench dry landscapes, evergreen forests offer outdoor leisure in tranquil settings, and tightly knit communities provide festivals and rallies for guests from all over the world to enjoy–South Dakota will not disappoint. Here are 8 Small Towns in South Dakota for a Weekend Getaway.
Found in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota, Sturgis is home to the world-famous Annual Motorcycle Rally and, as such, makes a great choice for a weekend getaway, especially for motorcycle enthusiasts. Sturgis enjoys nine full days of events centered around the Rally, offering live music and food vendors and drawing crowds from all over the globe.
If outdoor adventure is something you seek, Sturgis also offers over a million acres of forest and mountain lands to be explored by motorcycle, car, or bike in the region’s Bear Butte State Park. This park is considered a sacred site to the Lakota people and provides plenty of outdoor recreation during a weekend getaway, such as boating, fishing, and horseback riding, to name a few. Visitors can also take advantage of the park’s education center, which highlights the area’s geography and cultural significance in connection to the Northern Plains Indians.
A fun family adventure awaits in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which is why this small town is an excellent option for a weekend getaway. Considered to be a very budget-friendly place, Aberdeen makes it easy for families to enjoy everything on offer here without breaking the bank. Aberdeen’s Wylie Park proudly claims to be one of the region’s most beautiful in the area, offering 200 acres of lakes and trails as well as a zoo to explore.
The beloved Storybook Land is also called Wylie Park Home and is a must-see experience for families with young children. Celebrating such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Captain Hook, and Humpty Dumpty, as well as many others, Storybook Land is filled with life-size replicas of the characters from these much-loved stories. Storybook Land also provides an opportunity to hop aboard a replica steam engine train called the Storyland Express, and you can ride the rails while touring the park, which is sure to please the young and the young at heart.
Hot Springs, South Dakota, is home to the site of the largest concentration of mammoth bones in the entire world, making it a must-see destination for those who desire an opportunity to view the bones of these ancient animals up close. Hot Springs is also known for its mineral springs, of course, and The Moccasin Springs Mineral Spa offers the opportunity to experience the waters of a spring reported to be over 140 years old. Filtered through the region’s famous red rock into a moccasin-shaped pool, visitors are welcome to let the tensions in life melt away at the spa’s pool house. Guests can visit the spa’s warming house, which enjoys its own fireplace as well.
Hot Springs is also proud to be home to the award-winning Southern Hills Golf Course, an 18-hole course offering pristinely manicured greens against an evergreen landscape punctuated with mountain peaks. It is reputed to be one of the best courses in the country by Golf Weekly magazine. If that’s not enough to appease your sense of enjoyment, Hot Springs is also host to an annual hot-air balloon festival and is a true feast for the eyes as the sumptuously patterned balloons populate the evening skies with every color of the rainbow, making Hot Springs a great place to enjoy a weekend getaway.
The historic town of Dell Rapids, South Dakota, is home to the Sioux River Red Rock Trail, making it a choice at the top of the list for a weekend getaway, especially for those who enjoy outdoor recreation. The Dell Rapids Campground, located along the Big Sioux River, is one of a variety of tranquil locations along the river, offering campers a chance to unwind in the great outdoors. In town, Dell Rapid’s downtown core hosts a variety of historic architecture bedecked in the region’s famous rose-colored quartzite, which is elegantly displayed within the decorative styles of the buildings that line the streets.
The Dell’s Theatre, located in a 1938 art-deco-style building, is an attractive and memorable opportunity to enjoy a film while on a weekend getaway. For outdoor adventurists, Dell Rapids also delivers. A visit to the region’s Palisades State Park provides stunning quartzite clifftop views of the rushing waters of Split Rock Creek below. Rock climbers and photographers alike will find hours of enjoyment in this stunningly unique environment.
Surrounded by the Black Hills, Keystone, South Dakota, is the gateway town for the Mount Rushmore National Park, making it a prime location for a weekend getaway, offering proximity to one of the Country’s most ambitious human-made attractions whereby a variety of United States presidents’ likenesses are carved into the side of the mountain. Rush-Mountain Adventure Park is the place to go for a day packed full of exploration. Rushmore Cave, found within the Park, is a location that has been known to adventurers for over 90 years, but every year that goes by, more caves and passageways are still being discovered, which makes this a must-see location for those seeking a weekend getaway of adventure. Underground paths within the caves lead to expansive rooms full of stalactites made from limestones, a truly wonderous sight to see.
The Soaring Eagle Zip Ride is another adventure just waiting to be had for visitors to Key Stone. Stretching up to a height of 630 feet in elevation, the ride features an unforgettable trip back down the mountainside by zipline. Another item visitors may wish to add to their agenda is the Spokane Black Hill Ghost Town, an old mining town now abandoned, a journey through the remains of this once bustling community will provide plenty of opportunity for great photography.
Vermillion, South Dakota, brings both indoor and outdoor adventure to the table and presents a delightful option for an enjoyable weekend getaway. Home to over 90 shops, galleries, restaurants, and museums, guests who wish to be indoors will find plenty to do while exploring the town’s center. Renowned for its academic and artistic community, Vermillion is a hot spot for the creatively minded and welcomes visitors to enjoy their public art displays.
The Vermillion Area Murals is a collaboration of murals painted on various buildings within the town, guiding guests along the town’s history and culture in the form of a visual narrative. Also, the town hosts a sculpture walk featuring sculptures leased for two years at a time and replaced with new ones at the end of the two-year span. Vermillion prides itself in its open-air style art exhibits, but it is also home to the National Music Museum, making this town a desirable place for creative types, winning it a place on the list of Smithsonian Magazine’s 15 Best Small Towns to Visit. Another attractive feature about Vermillion is the fact that the town is enjoyable both on foot and by car, offering a relaxing opportunity to explore the region at a leisurely pace.
Wall, South Dakota, is a cliffside town that overlooks the Badlands below. Considered to be the gateway town for the Community Badlands National Park, Wall is a wonderful place to enjoy a weekend getaway as it offers proximity to some of the most intriguing landscapes in the country. The Badlands derived their name over the years by being known as a very difficult terrain to travel over, and as such, archaeologists have made discoveries of ancient remains of campsites, but there is no evidence that the land was ever inhabited on a perpetual basis. Archaeology enthusiasts will enjoy a chance to experience this glimpse into the Badland’s history when visiting one of over 300 12,000-year-old sites that feature evidence of campfires and animal bones of ancient travelers.
Wall Drug is a must-see location in the town, consisting of a shopping and dining complex designed with a western theme, this place is famous for its 5-cent coffee and the chance to have a photo op with a replica of a giant T-Rex. Wall is also home to the Minuteman National Historic Site Park, showcasing the significance of the Cold War and the subsequent arms race, with the last intact Minuteman missile on view, preserved on the Park’s grounds for posterity.
Chamberlain, South Dakota, is a great option for a weekend getaway for those seeking to connect with the indigenous history of the South Dakota region. Chamberlain is where visitors will find the Akta Lakota Museum, highlighting the history and artifacts of the Sioux Indians, making it a great place to visit before taking in the world-famous Dignity: Earth and Sky Sculpture. This sculpture depicts a larger-than-life 3-dimensional effigy of a Lakota woman. Standing tall in her traditional Lakota attire amidst a pattern of diamonds that glisten in the changing light, she is meant to represent the dignity, fortitude, and graceful beauty of the Lakota People.
Reaping the benefits of the great outdoors in Chamberlain is easy as the Missouri River flows through the region and offers plenty of opportunity to take delight in nature at its finest, whether it is birdwatching, fishing, or hiking, there is nothing to disturb the peace in this locale, and visitors are welcomed enjoy it to the fullest. Downtown Chamberlain is not to be overlooked, however, as visitors can also enjoy antiquing or a bite to eat at a local restaurant.
In conclusion, these eight small towns clearly offer a vast array of some of the best attractions on offer in South Dakota. If you’re seeking arts and culture, Vermillion is the first stop to make, as it offers a variety of outdoor art attractions for all to enjoy. If looking far back into the past is more to your taste, a visit to Sturgis will allow you to witness the fossilized remains of the long-extinct mammoth. On the other hand, if relaxation and stress relief are the priority, enjoying the benefits of the mineral-rich waters in Hot Springs is the place to be. South Dakota is a one-of-a-kind state and has much to offer.