South Dakota is a sparsely populated and expansive midwest of the United States, where the dramatic Black Hills National Forest is overcome by rolling prairies. Two historically renowned landmarks, Mt. Rushmore, have been sculpted straight into high-rising granite mountains. Crash Horse Memorial, a homage to the historic Native American tribal chief. The Black Hills is a place to 4 renowned US Presidents.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place every August in the tiny city of Sturgis. In the nearby Deadwood, Victorian houses and renovated game halls recall the Old Western. The Badlands National Park is famous for walking, camping and fossil conservation, with the sumptuous buttes and big grasslands.
In the middle of nowhere, South Dakota is in the middle-west and part of the Great Plains, which is often thought to be a state.It is the seventeenth largest state, but among the five least populated and least populated states. It is also short in terms of tourism because it can be found in the lower ten countries to visitors.
South Dakota is cut by the Missouri River, the country lies on the stocks of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.
The name of the State derives from important tribal communities who lived in the region for a long time. The Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota communities that reside in the country are Sioux. Nicknames include the Sunshine State, Coyote State, and Mount Rushmore State’s official, but not so creative, surname.
The local culture is strongly linked to the history and heritage of the state and rural lifestyles. Many events honor the various heritages and traditions of the State throughout the year, including many pow wows conducted at Indian Reservations, the annual Buffalo Roundup and Cinco de Mayo to mention but a few.
Mount Rushmore is perhaps the State’s most famous location with its imminent presidential faces sculpted into the mountain.In general, the Black Hills attract many tourists from the whole region, including the Badlands National Park, Mammoth Site, Crazy Horse Memorial, Little House on The Prairie or the Custer State Park. There are many more famous sites around the South Dakota.
South Dakota has the world’s largest petrified forest. The state also features the only corn palace in the world, the third-longest cavity on the planet and the largest collection of unusual groups called boxwork on a global scale. The Mashed Potato Wrestling Competition in Clark each summer is one of the most uncommon annual occurrences in the state.
In spite of the fact that many people believe that the state is pretty flat — it is part of the Greater Plains after all — in fact, it actually has the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains: Harney Peak in the USA.
Leave the typical American tourist route and schedule a journey to South Dakota. The moment has come to uncover South Dakota’s secret treasures:
1. South Dakota Air and Space Museum, Box Elder
South Dakota Air And Space Museum, Box Elder
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum, located right outside the doorstep of the Ellsworth Air Force Base near Box Elder, are a fantastic place for kids and adults alike to be able to experience it.
The newcomers and astronauts will be home to numerous exhibits and displays linked to aviation and the aerospace sector here.There are practical and interactive events that really assist individuals get engaged and enjoy knowing more about aviation and space transport.
The museum also recalls innovative individuals and militants who have helped America advance over time.
Vintage and modern-day aircraft collections, rockets, breathing machines, survival equipment and other technological components include collections. Walk through the Hall of Fame and find out more about the individuals who protected and created the country. There are a lot of patriotic and inspirational tales.
Indoor and outdoor viewing regions are distributed in artifacts, space cars and other products. There is an on-site presentation store to remember your journey with a souvenir and different trips add a new dimension to your journey.
2. Nicollet Tower, Sisseton
Nicollet Tower, Sisseton
Climb to the edge of Sisseton’s Nicollet Tower for amazing views of South Dakota’s picturesque countryside. You can not only look in pride of the Sunshine State, but also look out over the neighbouring Minnesota and Northern Dakota.
Nicollet Tower was built 75 meters high to pay tribute to the French mapmaker Joseph N. Nicollet, who had been researching and mapping the prairies for several years. The cartographer worked closely with indigenous peoples to ensure that names of places were accurately recorded by native American uses. The final outcome was a wide map of the region between the rivers Missouri and Mississippi.
You can go to an interpretive center at the top of the building and view the map. Learn about Nicollet’s trip with local tribal communities and his meetings.There are also beautiful artworks showing the trips and workings of Nicollet, together with comprehensive data on the local aboriginal culture.
The Tower is accessible throughout the year and there is no entrance charge to ascend to the peak. However, you have to feel quite vigorous, because there are over 90 measures to take!
3. Colonial House Restaurant and Bar, Rapid City
Colonial House Restaurant And Bar, Rapid City
Toto, it’s time to visit fantasyland!
The Restaurant and Bar Rapid City’s Colonial House features beautiful scenes of the Wizard Oz. The wall is decorated in large paintings that show the journey down the Yellow Brick Road, in Dorothy and Munchkins, flying monkeys and the devastating tornado.
Coloniales House Restaurant and Bar are an excellent family-friendly restaurant in rapids cities even if you’re not in the Emerald City, ruby purple slippers, a tin man or scarecrows.
The place is surrounded by an aura of nostalgia. The service is friendly and efficient and home cooked food can be good for you to pamper yourself in another portion!
The family-run restaurants are specialized in meals that ease the soul and satisfy hunger. American convenience is warm.
Why not set up a sprung at your step and begin the day with blessed eggs, muffins and caramel rolls, or bagel sandwich, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner?? Tuck into a skillet in Log Cabin to get hungry.
The menu for dinner involves burgers, sandwiches, pasta, pork chops, cod and salads. At night, you’ll end the day with a succulent steak of sirloin, wild salmon, BBQ fries, chicken fried and more. A large choice of desserts and wines are available, and children can choose from a unique menu for children.
4. Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose
Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose
Wonderful, dark, strange and curious are just a few terms to sum up Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose.
Created in the collection of more than 50 large metal sculptures by a local farmer-artist, Wayne Porter, mostly painted and shiny colours, and many of them rather macabre and strange.
The carvings are certainly very uncommon. Made from ancient and unused farming machinery, instruments, rail materials and scrap metal.
Perhaps the first thing you will find when you get to this place is a huge bull’s head 60 ft in the sky with mythical creatures surrounded by a skeleton. Find out more and find odds like a raised hammer, a bunch of roaring beasts, a huge butterfly sitting on a big hand finger, a fish carcass sheltered under a shade and a frightened man hurling downhill on a slide ..
However, the partly dissected frog, the face that grows out of its head with its open mouth, a purple emaciated dancer with only a chain-link-curtain and a collar, and a jack-in – the-box who cries bloody tears, are still more strange.
5. Giant Pheasant, Huron
Giant Pheasant, Huron
Huron’s Giant Pheasant is much less spooky than Montreal’s from one collection of giant carvings to another.
The statuesque bird is hung on top of a simple brick base and overlooks the lovely James River Valley. The giant foul, 20 meters high and 40 feet long, has the honor of becoming the world’s biggest pheasant ..
However, the Giant Pheasant is steeped in local legend too – not just a whimsical view.
Folklore says of a gigantic fascinating flag who rode the early South Dakota lands in the 1880s. It is said that the footprints of the birds create valleys and creeks and that a rainbow is readily confused for its colourful plumage that stretches across the heavens.
Swift across the heavens and the terra firma, many individuals have blame the roaring winds of the giant pheasant over the prairies for whispering the wings.
The story was abundant, and many hunters were trying to catch the elusive bird, or at least to look.
One day, while hunting with his dad, a young kid came across the bird. He couldn’t take himself to destroy it because of the beauty of the pheasant. From that stage the thankful pheasant chose that he was fatigued to pass through the prairie and climb the sky. Instead he made a hunting agreement with the kid, and promised to remain silent until the entire universe celebrated his glory in their sight.
Each year, local people release a fire to see how he flies, fulfilling both the promise made to the Giant Fasan and predicting when the first fascinating hunting season comes.
6. Big Sioux Recreation Area, Brandon
Big Sioux Recreation Area, Brandon
The scenic Big Sioux Recreation Area is a local jewel that individuals enjoy to maintain a secret a little outside of Brandon.The recreational park is less visited, and it has a camping area ideal for those who enjoy a good time. It is also an excellent place for a day journey.
A lovely river passes through the park and you will discover several labeled walking paths.
Walking, biking, boating, canoeing and fishing are great methods to be active during the summer months. For nice outdoor dishes there’s a picnic shelter.
In the summer, snowmobiles or snowshoes can explore the countryside. Comfort from the cold is provided by a warming shed.
There is a playground for children which is perfect for older tourists to have time and an ancient cottage for history lovers.
7. McCrory Gardens, Brookings
McCrory Gardens, Brookings
McCrory Gardens are another spot where individuals can look at the creations of Mother Nature in the State University of South Dakota.
The beautiful gardens are about 25 acres and the arboretum extends to an additional 45. It consists of hundreds of trees, plants, flowers, herbs, shrubs, herbs, and many other trees.
The parks also try to educate and inform individuals about the growing of indigenous crops and the introduction of outside animals adapted to local environment and circumstances, not just for the pleasure of esthetics.
There are numerous topics and agreements in the official gardens. Watch beauty wing in the Butterfly Garden and in the Hummingbird Garden from tree to tree. Inhale into the Collection of Lilac. In the Prairie Medicinal Garden you can learn about various uses for crops. Let the children roam loosely in a labyrinth of children. Walk through the Great Raspberry.
A number of color beds are based on topics of Blue, Yellow, Red and White Gardens, while others are devoted to certain plants, like Geranium Garden, Iris Garden and Peony Collection.
The cottage garden, Alcove Garden, Rock Garden, Floral Display Garden, Waterfall Garden, Mum Garden, Woodland Garden and The Sensory Garden, are all other enjoyable gardens.
8. Pease Creek Recreation Area, Geddes
Pease Creek Recreation Area, Geddes
The Pease Creek Recreation Area, an off-road park near Geddes, includes almost 600 hectares and offers easy access to the river Missouri and Lake Francis Case.It is a great spot to spend a few hour out in the Sunshine, offering a number of recreational activities and facilities.
There are about 3,5 miles of paths that can be used for various operations. Walk, jog, cycle and ride through the woods and appreciate a fantastic view of the pond and its beautiful environment.
If you want to attempt your hand fishing in the lake, you’ll need a fishing license. You can capture walleye, bass, squid, northern cod, and shellfish if you put your lines or nets. There is also a fish purification facility on site, and it is simple for the boat ramp to get into the waters.
Along with a periodic camping region, which includes electric hookup points, eager riders can also discover places for horses during the night. There is drinking water and a picnic shelter.
9. Prairie Edge Trading Co & Galleries, Rapid City
Prairie Edge Trading Co & Galleries, Rapid City
When you go shopping, please attach Prairie Edge Trading Co & Galleries to your travel list in South Dakota. Located in Rapid City, it has the largest and most attractive range of Native American products in the country.
Give yourself some wonderful souvenirs or purchase presents for loved ones that are a bit distinct from the norm. There are lovely pieces of art, indigenous crafts, music, clothing and clothing, a enormous range of novels, and more.
Ceremonial and traditional products, all produced by native individuals using ancient methods and techniques to demonstrate their cultures, are of specific concern. Feathered headdresses, amulets, bracelets, tomahawks, drum tubes, bells, dresses, decorations, pockets, clothes, etc. are available to capture your eye. You will see all kinds of products you need. Everyone is stuck in symbolism.
The Art Gallery is worth a glance, although you don’t want to purchase anything. Look at nature, everyday life scenes, religious convictions, myths, folklore and rituals that are visibly presented.
10. Spokane Ghost Town, Spokane
Spokane Ghost Town, Spokane
You will surely appreciate a journey to Spokane Ghosts Town, if you love exploring forgotten and abandoned spots where only the fantasies of yesterday pass by the deserted roads. It is just outside Custer.
Earlier a mining city, now there are only memories and haunting images from the past.
The tiny town, which was established at the end of the 1800s, got its name from the much bigger and more famous city of Spokane in Washington. It was once a prosperous town and was full of regular exercise. However, today it is difficult to imagine people shopping in the stores, children studying in schools, and booming, squabbling and chatting.
The mine was shut when the precious metals came out. They rapidly left the city without job. Some of the mine structures were subsequently destroyed and others destroyed, owing to their instability or insecurity. Finally, even the safety guard stopped watching the city and in the 1980s left.
Since then, the city has been totally deserted and decayed into an old coat of its own.Today, there are only a few traces of past life, including the Watchman’s House, college, foundations and some long dead and old vehicles.
11. Everest Cuisine, Rapid City
Everest Cuisine, Rapid City
A hidden gem for foodies, tuck into authentic Nepalese food in the heart of South Dakota’s Rapid City. It sure makes a change from typical American fare! Tibetan and Indian dishes can also be found on the menu.
Spices are imported, recipes that have been passed down through the generations are followed, and culinary traditions from the Himalayan region are carefully observed. The restaurant is highly praised by those who find it and eat there, and there’s a terrific selection for vegetarians to enjoy.
The members of staff welcome all diners with warmth, extending genuine hospitality to everyone that steps through the doors into the small and intimate restaurant. Prices are reasonable, dishes are tasty, and you can sample something a bit different to the norm when exploring the Coyote State.
If you just can’t make your mind up and choose from the extensive menu, sample a variety of dishes and select your favorite (s) from the mouth-watering buffet.
Alternatively, begin your repast with items like pakoras, samosas, and lentil soup, before moving on to chicken, lamb, shrimp, or vegetable biryani, tandoori chicken or shrimp, or one of many curries. Bhendi or chana masala, mixed vegetable curry, kadhai chicken, goat curry, chicken or lamb korma, lamb saag, and muglai shrimp are just a few options to ponder.
Accompany your meal with one of the freshly made bread, including roti, naan, kulcha, and paratha, and sip on a lassi or masala tea while waiting for your order to arrive.
12. Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, Vermillion
Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, Vermillion
A state park, Spirit Mound Historic Prairie is a sacred place for Native Americans. They believe that the area harbours wicked spirits. If you do visit this quirky place steeped in legends and lore, first and foremost do keep in mind that it is a revered site for indigenous people and treat the land and people with respect.
Okay, now that the serious stuff is out of the way, more about the park and its spirits!
Native American groups in the west have many tales about spirits, also often referred to as the little people. The spirits of Spirit Mound Historic Prairie are said to be arrow-wielding evil monsters with huge heads who kill anybody who tries to enter their territory.
Indeed, a tale is told today of a warrior group that was almost entirely obliterated by the spirits after going too close to the mound. Legends say that those who survived the spirits’ rage were left crippled for the rest of their days. Intriguingly, this story is only around two and a half centuries old.
Lewis and Clark, two famous explorers from past times, visited the top of the mound. They told stories about the devils who protected the area and learned plenty from native groups.
Today’s visitors can follow a half-mile track to the peak—if they dare! Native prairie grass grows around the mound, and there is an abundance of insect life. The sounds of clacking and whirring fill the air; hopefully, you won’t hear the whizzing sound of fatal arrows!
13. Devil’s Gulch, Garretson
Devil’s Gulch, Garretson
From malevolent spirits to Satan himself, Devil’s Gulch is another scenic spot in South Dakota that has hellish connotations and legends.
The local folkloric tales, however, have nothing to do with the actual Devil; rather, they concern the infamous outlaw, Jesse James, his horse, and a giant leap. We’re not really sure how the gorge got its name, though.
A picturesque spot, red cliffs tower either side of the verdant valley, a gaping chasm cutting between the rocks, and a raging river running below.
As you stand here admiring the scenic splendor, imagine there is no footbridge spanning the ravine. Now, picture a desperate outlaw trying to evade capture, riding his horse like the wind to be confronted by a sheer 60-foot drop and a massive split in the earth. What should he do?
Legends say that the notorious Jesse James made his horse charge and jump across the 20-foot canyon, landing safely the other side to ride away to freedom. While there are many doubts surrounding the story it does, nonetheless, create more mystery and interest around the site.
14. Brant Lake, Brant Lake
Brant Lake, Brant Lake
Brant Lake is both the name of a large lake and the small city located close to the lake. The lake was given its name first, named after the brant geese that are often spotted in, on, and around the water. The city later took its name from the nearby body of water.
A beautiful lake that sees a small number of visitors, perhaps the greatest hidden gems are the sandy beaches that are dotted around the water’s edge. There are several patches of the beach where you can relax and chill out in peace; if a few people have already beaten you to a beach simply move on around the water and you’re sure to find a spot that’s almost deserted.
The sparkling waters might entice you in for a swim in the warmer summer months; the refreshing water is certainly a great way to cool down in the hot sunshine. You can also have a go at fishing—maybe you’ll strike lucky and catch your supper!
15. Splash Central Waterpark, Huron
Splash Central Waterpark, Huron
Another South Dakota destination that’s ideal for cooling down on a hot summer’s day is Splash Central Waterpark in Huron. A fun place to take the kids, it doesn’t tend to attract all that many people from out of town. Even better? You can have watery fun in the sun without needing to travel to the seaside or a lake.
Among the different pools is a huge 50-meter-long Olympic swimming pool. Practice your butterfly stroke in one of the eight lanes, show off your diving skills—try not to belly flop!—from the one- or three-meter diving boards, or simply tread water and splash around.
For thrills and spills speed down the many twists and turns of the open slide, or hop in an inflatable ring for the ride of your life on the Master Blaster Water Coaster. Alternatively, land with a gigantic splash after plummeting ten feet—in a mere two seconds! The Free Fall Drop Slide is sure to get your heart pumping fast!
Challenge your buddies to a race across the water-based obstacle course, watch the kids frolicking in the shallow kids’ pool, complete with an array of interactive features, and take it easy as you drift along the lazy river. The Sea Creature Water Walk is sure to test your skills.
16. LaFramboise Island Nature Area, Pierre
LaFramboise Island Nature Area, Pierre
Another South Dakota destination that was visited by Lewis and Clark on their epic adventure, LaFramboise Island Nature Area is located in the state capital of Pierre. An island in the Missouri River, it can be reached by a bridge from the mainland.
Covered in rolling meadows and trees, the island has lots of wildlife. It is a breeding ground at certain times of the year for the once-endangered bald eagle.
The island provides nice views across the water of the nearby areas. There are hiking and cycling trails to explore, and you can spend a peaceful day fishing in the river. Picnic areas are available too.
Today a lovely place for a day in nature, the island was referred to as Bad Humor Island by Lewis and Clark. They had, unfortunately, stressful and edgy experience with a local tribal group, which led to their time on the island being tarnished. Hopefully, you’ll have a much more pleasant time.
17. Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Hot Springs
Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Hot Springs
Within the boundaries of the expansive Wind Cave National Park, Battle Mountain Sanitarium was once used as a medical facility for former soldiers. The hospital treated people for a variety of muscle and bone complaints, as well as for tuberculosis and similar conditions. It was thought that the mineral springs had therapeutic and healing properties and that the air conditions were ideal for chest complaints.
The health facility first opened in 1907, though it later changed to treat a range of general conditions in addition to its original goals.
It is a listed National Historic Landmark today, noted for its interesting architecture and historic use. The complex was built with a combination of Mission Revival and Romanesque styles, making it rather distinctive. The establishment was also constructed using a variety of materials, including pink sandstone, further adding to its arresting appearance.
The setting is scenic, and one can only imagine how soothing the site must have been for people in convalescence.
18. Anne Hathaway Cottage, Wessington Springs
Anne Hathaway Cottage, Wessington Springs
Built to resemble the famous and striking Anne Hathaway Cottage in the United Kingdom’s Stratford-upon-Avon, South Dakota’s cute cottage is the only building in the American Midwest to feature a thatched roof.
Nostalgic, olde-worlde, and quaint, the cottage is a vision of loveliness. The white facades are crossed by brown timberwork, and large windows with small panes provide a view out to the well-tended lawn and manicured shrubs.
Although not as large as the original childhood home of William Shakespeare’s wife, it is still an impressive piece of architecture. It is also quite a novel sight to stumble across in South Dakota!
The beautiful gardens are accessible to the general public at any time during daylight hours. You must make an advance booking if you want to tour inside the house. For a true British experience, however, how about sitting down for high tea within the pretty walls?
19. Lake Vermillion Recreation Area, Canistota
Lake Vermillion Recreation Area, Canistota
South Dakota has numerous places of natural beauty, many of which are hidden gems, known only by the local community and travelers who have really done their research. Lake Vermillion Recreation Area is one such place to add to your itinerary.
Covering more than 510 acres, the lake is located within a 30-mile drive of the state’s largest city of Sioux Falls. Escape the city’s noise for a few hours, or longer, and spend a relaxing morning or afternoon at the pleasant Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
Plentiful fish swim through the glistening clear waters, making it a great choice for angling enthusiasts. Walleye, crappie, bluegill, and northern pike inhabit the waters, though do note that you will need a fishing license to fish here. Alternatively, make like a fish yourself and swim through the pristine waters. If you don’t want to get wet around the gills how about a nice boat ride instead?
Bask on the sandy lakeside beaches, cycle and walk around the water’s edge, admiring the views from inside a kayak or canoe, have a go at paddle boarding, enjoy a picnic, and let the kids cut loose and let off steam at the play area. If you want to linger for longer, camping facilities are available too.
20. South Dakota Tractor Museum, Kimball
South Dakota Tractor Museum, Kimball
You really don’t need to be a farmer to appreciate South Dakota Tractor Museum, though a passing interest in agriculture might be beneficial.
Set within plain and ordinary warehouse buildings, South Dakota Tractor Museum tells the story of farming life on the prairie. See how farming practices have developed and changed over the years and learn how locals have lived off the land for a long, long time.
Brimming with exhibits, there’s more than just tractors to see here. There’s an extensive collection of farming tools and equipment from around the region and from different time periods. There are also objects of cultural interest.
See a variety of machines used over the years to plow the fields, making the land ready for the next crop planting season. Learn how crops were collected with combine harvesters, see hay-baling machines, and more. One of the most unique items is a hand-powered contraption for removing corn kernels.
Take a step back in time and visit a jail cell from the 1800s, a reconstructed rural schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and a room with lots of old furnishings, household items, and kitchen equipment from yesteryear.
21. Chapel in the Hills, Rapid City
Chapel In The Hills, Rapid City
Rapid City’s Chapel in the Hills is another of South Dakota’s unusual hidden jewels. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that you’d somehow stumbled into Scandinavia when you first come across this small church.
Built in the 1960s by a Lutheran minister called Reverend Conrad Thompson, the Chapel in the Hills was designed to resemble an old Norwegian place of worship. The inspiration was the 1150 Borgund Stave Church in Norway’s county of Laedal in Sogn of Fjordane.
Rev. Thompson had lived in Norway for a while and had developed a penchant for the country’s charming and rustic churches. He especially loved the village church in Borgund. When he needed a building from which to broadcast his Lutheran radio show he decided to create a replica of the pretty Norwegian church.
His passion knew no limits, and he managed to acquire the original plans for the ancient Norwegian church in order to be able to make as accurate a copy as possible. The South Dakota south is made almost completely from wood, just like the original. A Norwegian master carver was brought over to assist with the interior features.
22. Termesphere Gallery and Museum, Spearfish
Termesphere Gallery And Museum, Spearfish
Spearfish Canyon is a popular biking spot, but don’t miss the Termesphere Gallery and Museum too when in the Spearfish area.
Head down the gravel track and you’ll come to an unusual dome surrounded by trees. Step inside and you’ll find a wonderful collection of termespheres. But what ARE termespheres? They are unique paintings in the shape of a sphere, conceived by a local artist from the Black Hills. They are named after their creator, Dick Termes.
See things differently as you gaze upon an inside-out representation of the world, projecting outwards from one particular dot in space. The innovative creations certainly provide different perspectives and plenty to ponder.
The spherical pictures hang from a motor, which slowly causes the orbs to rotate. The museum usually displays anywhere from 30 to 70 of the 400+ termespheres created by Disk Termes.
Captivating and slightly hypnotic, the museum is sure to impress.
23. Press Start, Rapid City
Press Start, Rapid City
Do something a bit different come evening time in Rapid City and check out Press Start.
Somewhere in the middle, it’s a place where a bar meets an arcade, blending to form what is commonly known today as a barcade.
Open until midnight during the week and until 2 am Saturdays, feel like you’ve entered a time warp as you lose yourself in the large collection of vintage games. It’s sure to spark a pang of nostalgia! Unlike in the classic arcades of your youth, Press Start serves a wide choice of alcoholic beverages (and soft drinks) to make your game-play experience even better.
Order a cool glass of beer, a fruity cocktail. Or a strong short and set the wheels in motion for a fun evening that’s a bit different to a normal night out on the town. With more than 200 machines to choose between, where will you begin?!
Escape the hungry ghosts in Pac-Man, fight for your (figurative and on-screen) life in Mortal Kombat, give the pinball flippers a workout, dodge the aliens in Space Invaders, and hone your Skee Ball skills.
24. Okaton Ghost Town, Murdo
Okaton Ghost Town, Murdo
There are several abandoned spots around South Dakota, often places that relied heavily on the mining industry or other industrial fields. If you love strolling through deserted towns were only whispers from times past remain, head to Okaton Ghost Town.
Situated near Murdo, Okaton was born at the turn of the 20th century, established as a dwelling place for people that worked on the railroads. When the industry changed, many people left for pastures new. The tracks eventually stopped being used altogether in the 1980s, leading the already diminished population numbers to dwindle even more.
Although an entrepreneurial local family, the Westlake, attempted to turn the small town’s luck around and change it into a tourist attraction, people weren’t that interested in the five-street town. Like many others who’d gone before them, so too the Westlakes then packed up and moved on.
Spooky and eerie yet also attractive with a haunting appeal, Okaton Ghost Town definitely isn’t camera shy. Walk around and snap pictures of the old school, crumbling homes, collapsing fences, and the now-closed-up store. With no engines traversing the tracks, the railway lines are now overgrown. Old farm machinery is scattered throughout the area, the fields no longer needed for growing crops.
25. The Blind Lion, Rapid City
The Blind Lion, Rapid City
Another unusual nighttime gem in Rapid City, The Blind Lion isn’t the easiest of places to locate. And that’s part of its appeal.
Hidden away behind an unremarkable and rather dull door, with a sign that states it’s for employees only, The Blind Lion exudes all of the characters of a secret speakeasy from the times of prohibition.
If you manage to find the entrance the cloak-and-dagger experience continues as you head down a staircase to be confronted by a heavy-set, and locked vault-like door. You need to enter the secret code (easily available from members of staff—it’s not that secret after all!) to be able to push the door open and step into the bar.
A list of rules is displayed in the wall near the door. Wannabe patrons are advised to slow down and live in the moment, challenge their senses, and relax. They are also asked not to use cell phones inside the bar and not to divulge the passcode.
Inside, cocktails are mixed to perfection and delectable meals are served. Live music is a regular feature, and there’s a selection of board games to entertain folks like in the olden days.
26. Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia
Established in the mid-1930s, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an especially important area for bird life. The wetlands are home to various species of feathered creatures, with more than 260 types of birds recorded in the refuge. There are those that have made the area their permanent stomping (or flying) ground, and others that pass through during the migration season.
The large sanctuary covers almost 21,500 acres of wildlife-rich land. It is an important conservation and breeding area for numerous bird types. Indeed, it has the world’s largest breeding colony of Franklin’s gulls. (That will surely mean something to avid bird spotters! For everyone else, Franklin’s gulls are a type of small white gull that like to spend their summers in Canada and the northern US, heading off to Peru, Chile, Argentina, and the Caribbean islands for the winter).
The refuge also works hard to protect wildlife habitat. Numerous insects, rodents, reptiles, and other creatures live in the refuge too. Stretching expanses of grasslands and lush foliage perfectly complement the ponds, lakes, and river.
The wildlife sanctuary attracts around 75,000 visitors each year. This may seem like a lot, but it quickly seems paltry when compared with the three million people who take a trip to the state’s famous Mount Rushmore every year.
Consider too that around four million people visit the Statue of Liberty annually, approximately ten million people check out the Golden Gate Bridge every year, Disneyland Anaheim sees around 18 million visitors every year, and some 39 million visitors hit the casinos in Vegas in a twelve month period; 75,000 really doesn’t seem so many now! Be one of the few that visit this hidden gem and you won’t be disappointed.
Secret scenic spots, long-abandoned towns, places with rich legends, unusual museums, quirky sculptures, and artwork, cool eateries and bars, and places to play can all be enjoyed when going off the beaten track in South Dakota. Go somewhere different for your next trip and discover offbeat South Dakota and its diverse under-visited gems.