Deadwood, South Dakota. Editorial credit: Cheri Alguire /

9 Offbeat Towns To Visit In South Dakota

Offbeat and South Dakota is a natural pairing. You can argue that all of South Dakota is offbeat, given its large area and low population, but there is an extra level of quirkiness to be reached in and around certain towns. There, you can find a giant Cold War missile, a supposedly haunted hollow, a human walking a dinosaur on a leash, a city of petrified wood, and many other oddities. Go south of normal in spectacular South Dakota.


Actors reenact a historic gunfight in Deadwood, SD
Actors reenact a historic gunfight in Deadwood, South Dakota. Editorial credit: Jess Kraft /

As depicted in the TV series of the same name, Deadwood was one of the wildest towns in the Wild West. Legendary figures like Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, and Calamity Jane lived and died in the community (in Jane's case, a little outside of town). You can visit their graves at Mount Moriah Cemetery before reenacting their lives at Adams House, Broken Boot Gold Mine, Saloon #10, and The Brothel, a museum of Old West prostitution. Carve your own path in Deadwood or hire a guide from Deadwood Historic Tours.


Midland Pioneer Museum in Midland, South Dakota.
Midland Pioneer Museum in Midland, South Dakota. Image credit: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD via Wikimedia Commons.

Midland was named for being midway between important South Dakota rivers. It should be renamed Offthegridland for its tiny size and offbeat attractions. Around 100 people live in Midland, but brave tourists increase its population by staying at The Stroppel Hotel and Mineral Baths, a quirky old inn on hellishly hot mineral water from the bowels of Earth. After taking the plunge in Midland, they head south to 1880 Town, an open-air museum of historic buildings and artifacts that began as a movie set. Just east of this time capsule town is a far more ancient wonder, Skeleton Man Walking Skeleton Dinosaur, which is a giant roadside art installation depicting a person walking a T-Rex on a leash.


Porter Sculpture Park, near Montrose, South Dakota
Porter Sculpture Park, near Montrose, South Dakota. Image credit: AI via

Montrose is a southeastern SD community with around 500 residents and standard small-town attractions like a café called My Place Montrose Café and a bar titled Office Bar Montrose. But four miles south of town is one of the strangest sites in all of America: Porter Sculpture Park. In an 18-acre field off a gravel road, 50-plus bizarre sculptures peer over the grass, all of which were sculpted by landowner Wayne Porter. They include a dragon, jack-in-the-box, grim reaper, dissected frog, and an upside-down hammer. The highlight is a 60-foot, 25-ton bull's head.


Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in Philip, South Dakota.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in Philip, South Dakota. Image credit: Steve Cukrov -

Another undersized town surrounded by oversized objects, Philip's 760ish residents are dwarfed by Giant Prairie Dog, a six-ton, 12-foot-tall sculpture outside Badlands Ranch Store, and the Minuteman II, a 57-foot, 36-ton deactivated missile at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The latter is a museum of South Dakota's secretive Cold War-era nuclear operations. Philip proper has normal-sized but still quirky attractions like Gem Theatre, a true gem of a theater in the middle of nowhere, and 73-Saloon, a rural cocktail bar established in 1906.


Aerial View of Lemmon, South Dakota and its Petrified Forest Rock Garden
Aerial View of Lemmon, South Dakota, and its Petrified Forest Rock Garden.

When life gives you Lemmon, squeeze out its oddities. This town in extreme northern South Dakota boasts Petrified Wood Park & Museum, a city block-sized sculpture garden made from an estimated 4,000 tons of petrified wood, 300 tons of petrified grass, and 13,000 fossilized bones. Just up the street is another sculpture garden, The Kokomo Gallery, but this one is made of scrap metal. South of town on Shadehill Reservoir is the Hugh Glass Memorial, which is not a sculpture garden made of glass. It is a monument to a trapper who was mauled by a grizzly near that spot in 1823. Glass's story was immortalized in The Revenant.


Scenic, South Dakota
Scenic, South Dakota. Image credit: Direwolf73 via Wikimedia Commons.

Scenic, South Dakota, is almost a ghost town. Ancient wooden haunts, once operating as a general store, saloon, jail, and other staples of early-20th-century living, line the silent streets. Modern stores will open and then join their ancestors in Scenic heaven. Stopping this town from being a full-blown history museum is Iglesia ni Cristo, a Filipino Christian sect sometimes categorized as a cult, which bought all of Scenic for around $700,000 in 2011. Their place of worship, Scenic Community Hall, is one of the few accessible buildings in town.

The rightful Scenic, South Dakota, is near Badlands National Park. Awe-inspiring sights include Pinnacles Overlook, Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and Roberts Prairie Dog Town.


Pringle, also called the Elk Capital of South Dakota.
Pringle, also called the Elk Capital of South Dakota. Image credit: J. Stephen Conn via

Pringle is stacked with oddities. If you thought we meant that metaphorically, feast your eyes on Bicycle Sculpture, a mound of hundreds - if not thousands - of discarded bikes built next to a bike path. It is so large and well-structured that people can walk through it. Another site, this one stacked with controversy, is a 140-acre compound built by Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous Mormon sect often categorized as a cult. Jeffs is in prison for sex crimes, and the compound is now owned by another cryptic church called SDR Training Center, which may be an FLDS alias.

Being in the Black Hills, Pringle is less than an hour's drive from Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the historic city of Custer, named for the titular commander who was defeated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.


Aerial View of Sisseton, South Dakota, in winter.
Aerial View of Sisseton, South Dakota, in winter.

Sisseton is a "city" of roughly 2,500 people in northeastern South Dakota. It does not have city proportions, nor does it have city attractions. Sisseton's sites are rustic and spooky, such as Nicollet Tower, a 75-foot tower in the countryside overlooking three states, and Sica Hollow State Park, whose alleged monsters, ghosts, disappearances, and blood-red water make it one of the most infamous spots in SD. In fact, its infamy predates colonization since "sica" means "bad" or "evil" in the Dakota Sioux language. Nearby Fort Sisseton Historic State Park can cap off a trip to scenic and sinister Sisseton.


Downtown Wall, South Dakota.
Downtown Wall, South Dakota. Image credit: Steve Cukrov -

Wall is considered a tourist trap - but it deserves credit for being one of the first and most famous tourist traps. Wall captured its first curious, thirsty travelers in the 1930s when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the uniquely titled Wall Drug Store and started offering free ice water. Drugs, water, billboards, and the newly built Mount Rushmore brought more and more travelers to the Wall, so the Husteads and their heirs commissioned more and more attractions, including the Western Art Gallery Cafe and an animatronic dinosaur. Now, Wall is an entire town catering to tourists. Badlands Saloon & Grille, Buffalo Gift Shop, Jackalope's Corner, and many other bombastic businesses surround OG Wall Drug Store.

South Dakota has badlands and even "badder" towns. We mean "badder" in a good way - so terrific and twisted that they inspire offbeat road trips for true adventurers. A tour of Deadwood, Midland, Montrose, Philip, Lemmon, Scenic, Pringle, Sisseton, and Wall gets to the gnarled, ancient bones of the Mount Rushmore State. Rush less to Rushmore and rush more to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Petrified Wood Park & Museum, Sica Hollow, and all the sites in between.

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