By Merle Rosenstein

 gsad21South Dakota Dept of Tourism

The rugged scenery and tantalizing terrain of South Dakota attracts families in search of outdoor adventure. America’s oldest mountains, the Black Hills, lay claim to the highest peak in the continental United States east of the Rockies. The awe-inspiring Badlands, a collection of buttes, spires and canyons contrast the mixed-grass prairie. Once home to ancient mammals, the Badlands now shelter bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets. South Dakota’s rich agricultural heritage is celebrated at sites across the state. Wild West legends come alive in Deadwood, where families can follow in the footsteps of outlaws, gangsters and gunslingers. Choral the kids and come to South Dakota for sculpted natural scenery, wild animal encounters, brushes with lawlessness and agricultural and homesteading history.


Black Hills High

The Black Hills, named by the Lakota Sioux for the thick cover of pine and spruce, occupy 4856 square kilometres in western South Dakota. The six national parks making up the Black Hills display lofty granite peaks rising from the Great Plains, deep canyons and gulches, clear streams and tumbling waterfalls.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 37 kilometres southwest of Rapid City, stands as a symbol of American democracy.

Badlands National Park displays stunning spires and deep gorges rippled in shades of purple, yellow, tan, gray, red and orange.  The Badlands house the largest mixed grass prairie in the National Park System with bison, pronghorn, mules, whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles and hawks.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, once hidden underground, reaches 386 metres above the Belle Fourche River Valley.

Jewel Cave, the second longest cave in the world, extends beneath the Black Hills.

Wind Cave is thought to be the oldest cave in America.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site harbours a missile silo and launch control facility.


All Creatures

The Black Hills offer animal attractions to suit the whole family.

Old MacDonald’s Farm – feed baby goats, watch chicks hatch in incubators, watch pig races and take a pony or train ride. 

Bear Country U.S.A. Bears, buffalo, wolves, elk and 25 different species of North American animals greet kids and parents at Bear Country U.S.A.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary Kids can see hundreds of horses in their natural habitat.


Channel Your Inner Outlaw

The lawless town of Deadwood was born during the Black Hills Gold Rush in 1876. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried in the Mount Moriah Cemetery. A self-guided tour sheds light on the lives of Deadwood’s famous characters. Museum pieces such as the Wild Bill collection, the History of Rodeo, Native American and Old West artifacts, over 50 authentic horse-drawn vehicles and the original ‘Deadwood Stage’ recreate the town’s past. Kids can pan for gold at the Broken Boot Mine, see saloon girls dance at the Deadwood 1876 Theater or try their luck at the Northern Hills largest arcade, Gulches of Fun.


Roam The Prairies

The Ingalls Homestead in De Smet takes families back to 1879 when the Ingalls family settled on a parcel of land in South Dakota. Kids can ride in a covered wagon, witness a 1880s school session in action and dress up as a pioneer. 


Lend An Ear

The Mitchell Corn Palace, established in 1892 as a testament to South Dakota’s agricultural bounty, sees 500,000 visitors each year. Early settlers displayed their produce outside the building. Each year in August, a Corn Palace Festival is held with amusement rides and concerts. The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally coloured corn.


For more information on family fun in South Dakota go to