Things to do on vacation in South Dakota

Vacationing this spring/summer in South Dakota? Here it’s some cool ideas of things you can get up to with family and friends during a vacation in South Dakota:

#1 Go on a trail ride

The spirit of the Old West is no doubt “live and kicking” in South Dakota and one of the coolest things you can do on vacation in the state is ride the scenic trails of the Black Hills just like cowboys did back then.
Things to do on vacation in South Dakota

There are plenty of operators in South Dakota offering trail ride adventures such as Paradise Valley Trail Rides (Nemo), Andy's Trail Rides (Lead), Palmer Gulch stables, Circle B Ranch (Rapid City), and Rockin R Rides Inc(Custer)..some of these operators also offer covered wagon rides and overnight camping.

#2 Have a good ol' dinner

If you’re traveling between May and September, one of the most popular things to do on vacation in South Dakota is enjoy a chuck wagon dinner show. Chuck wagons were similar to today's "mobile kitchens" used by the early settlers in the Old West to feed their cowboys and other workers during their travels along the Western Cattle Trail.

Fort Worth Stockyards in Texas and Calgary Stampede Festival in Canada are known for their chuckwagon cook-offs contests and chuckwagon racing competitions, while South Dakota is known for its chuckwagon dinner shows.

Circle B Ranch Chuckwagon, Flying T Chuckwagon Supper and Fort Hays Chuck Wagon Suppers are nice places to enjoy a hearty chuckwagon meal while enjoying some good ol’ country swing.

#3 Explore the caves

South Dakota is well known across the United States for its stunning colorful caves, and visiting them is something you simply can’t miss doing while on vacation in South Dakota.

Some of the best caves in South Dakota are found in the Black Hills forest and most of them are open to the public. The most popular Black Hills caves are Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park, which are open all year-round. Saying this, the privately owned caves of Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns and Rushmore Cave are also beautiful and worth visiting for tours.

#4 Hit the Great Outdoors

South Dakota outdoors is without a doubt, one of the main reasons to visit South Dakota in the first place, and you won’t find a more rugged destination in the Midwest for outdoor pursuits than the Badlands area of South Dakota.

The Badlands area is home to large open prairies where you can easily enjoy viewing wildlife like bison, prairie dogs and bighorn sheep. Viewing wildlife in the Badlands isn’t the only thing you can get up to, you can also enjoy day hikes and backcountry camping to experience the solitude 19th century trappers would’ve experienced traveling across the Badlands.

By the way, the Badlands is a national park so, you can also do other cool activities like ranger-led excursions and activities for families like star gazing and story-telling by a campfire.

#5 Enjoy a fun day out

If you’re going to be with family most of the time, one of the best things to do on vacation in South Dakota for fun is visiting a water park or/and zoo.

Rapid City is one good place to base if you’re looking for family-friendly attractions since the city is home to a water parks (Rushmore Waterslide Park and Watiki Indoor Water Park), an indoor racing center, and animal centers such as Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA, which is a cool place where you can see North American animals such as black bears, elk, cougars and buffalo.

Rapid City is also home to a farm/ fun park (Old MacDonald's Farm) worth passing by to pet and feed the animal farms.

#6 Gold panning

Gold panning is most definitely, one of the most popular things to do on vacation in South Dakota. The best places for gold panning are in the slow-moving streams and creeks (like Rapid Creek) of the Black Hills national forest, which is where most people head anyways for gold panning in South Dakota.

Other areas where you can try your luck at gold panning are Custer Park, Rockerville, Rochford, Lead, and Keystone, though most of these area lands are private.

By the way, you can only pan for gold in public places so avoid doing it in historic areas like Mount Rushmore or in gold placer claims. Saying this, as long as you ask for permission you can do gold panning pretty much everywhere in South Dakota.

See. Top 10 Tourist Attractions in North Dakota