When you think about planning a vacation, South Dakota probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind. But it should be! These beautiful small towns in South Dakota should be added to your bucket list.
Filled with stunning scenery, national parks and monuments, and small quaint towns, South Dakota should be at the top of your bucket list.
These quaint little communities offer a slower pace with plenty of local flavors, history, arts & culture, outdoor activities, and western charm.
We’ve created an article about the 10 Best Small Towns in South Dakota so you can start planning your trip today!
Each town offers something different but each one has its own charm that makes it worth visiting over and over again!
For more things to do in South Dakota be sure to visit my article on 101 Things To Do in South Dakota.
Deadwood, South Dakota
With a longstanding history of gold mining, Deadwood is a quintessential small-town South Dakota. Once the capital of the Black Hills Gold Rush (1876-1878) and a stop on the Pony Express Trail, you’ll find lots to show off to friends back home.
The historic downtown area is full of historic buildings, shops, and restaurants with plenty of charm. You will find old-time saloons and every day in the center of town in the afternoon you will get to see an old west gunfight.
There are tours that take you into the mines and teach you about their rich history. And it’s not just for gold mining either! There are ghost tours, carriage rides, and other activities that will keep kids entertained for hours.
You can also tour Mount Moriah Cemetery (Boot Hill) to learn about and see the graves of some of history’s famous characters, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and more.
In addition to the above, Deadwood also has become the gambling capital of South Dakota with several gaming establishments including Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort, Deadwood Gutch Gaming Resort, and Gold Dust Casino to name a few.
Custer City, South Dakota
As one of the most popular small towns in South Dakota and the Black Hills, Custer has a lot to brag about as it is home to Custer State Park (one of the best state parks in the United States).
Custer State Park is known for its Wildlife Loop Road which is a 31-mile scenic route that runs through the park. Here you can see native South Dakota animals in their natural habitat without having to go on some guided tour or head deep into the forest. Look for bison, burro, prairie dogs, deer, and pronghorn along the way.
Custer State Park is also home to lakes, campgrounds, lodges, restaurants, hiking, scenic drives, boating, and swimming. If you love the outdoors, you will love Custer State Park.
The town itself is right on the edge of the park and is full of southwestern architecture and western history. There are over 100 buildings that help make up Custer. Some of the buildings date back as early as 1876. Here you will find shopping, lodging, and restaurants.
It is also home to many of South Dakota’s gem attractions including Crazy Horse Memorial, Needles Highway Scenic Drive, and Jewel Cave National Monument. You can also see both Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments from the center town of Custer.
Hill City, South Dakota
From the breathtaking views to the outdoor adventure, Hill City is a great place to visit. It’s also home to many intriguing attractions that you’re sure to enjoy when you visit this picturesque town.
Home of the 1880 Train, this is a must-do attraction when visiting Hill City. Take a ride through the scenic Black Hills in a Baldwin steam locomotive with 19th-century coaches. The 1880 train was featured in the TV show “Gunsmoke” as well as several movies.
The Museum of the Black Hills institute can also be explored when visiting Hill City. Come see over 900 fossils, 165 replicas, and over 500 minerals, meteorites, and agates. Also on display is the original Stan TM T Rex.
I would also recommend Circle B. Chuckwagon Cowboy Music Show for a real country experience. Here you will get a chuckwagon dinner with a music show, pony rides, wood carving demos, and wax bullet pistol shooting. You kids can also take part in a gunfight by helping to catch the bad guys.
Dell Rapids, South Dakota
Located in the southeastern part of South Dakota, Dell Rapids is a small town with a lot of great attractions. While it may not be as big or have as much to see and do as other small South Dakota towns, Dell Rapids still has plenty to offer its residents and visitors alike.
The city gets its identity from the red quartzite rock formations that run from the Wisconsin Dells to Dell Rapids. In fact, these unusual rock formations inspired many of the town’s buildings and attractions. Many notable sites include the restored 1888 Grand Opera House, the 1910 Carnegie Public Library, and even a quilt store where you can find some of the most unique quilting creations around.
South Dakota is one of the most beautiful states in America, so it comes as no surprise that Dell Rapids has a lot to offer visitors and residents alike. From its scenic biking trail to its historic downtown, Dell Rapids is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy South Dakota’s natural beauty.
Wall, South Dakota
Home to the famous Wall Drug Store and the gateway to the Badlands National Park, Wall is another great small towns in South Dakota.
Badland National Park is located near Wall giving visitors a place for lodging and camping as well as restaurants and shopping. Despite being isolated, Wall still attracts 2 million tourists each year.
Wall is the home of the famous Wall Drug Store which opened in 1931. It is known for its many unusual items in its backyard including a 6-foot rabbit, the bucking bronco, a mini Mount Rushmore, and a jackalope. But what really made Wall Drugs famous was offering ice-cold water to visitors.
For travelers who want to explore the vast natural riches of the Badlands, Wall is a perfect base. There are great B&B’s, hiking trails, and biking trails as well as cozy restaurants in town for great food.
As small towns go, that is an enormous amount of people that visit Wall each year!
For a complete travel guide to the Badlands visit my article.
Mitchell, South Dakota
Mitchell is another great small town in South Dakota that has a lot to offer visitors. From its unique Corn Palace exterior to its impressive museums, Mitchell truly has something for everyone.
The Corn Palace is known for its amazing Moorish architecture and unique appearance. It is worth a stop to see what it’s all about. It was established for farmers to “display the fruits of their labor”. The exterior changes each year and takes about a month and 3000 bushels of corn and other produce.
Other attractions in the town include the Dakota Discovery Museum, the McGovern Legacy Museum, the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village and Archeodome, and the Carnegie Resource Center.
Spearfish, South Dakota
Spearfish South Dakota is known for its outdoor adventure and rich history. Located in the northern region of the Black Hills and has many lakes and rivers which is known for fishing.
Drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway to Spearfish Canyon where the view will leave you awe-struck. As you drive through the canyon, be sure to take in the forests and panoramic views as well as various hiking trails.
Sites not to miss in the town include historic Main Street, Spearfish Canyon, Sherman Gold Rush National Historic Site, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Needles Highway, and Harney Peak State Park.
The beauty of South Dakota is no secret. While the big cities like Sioux Falls are beautiful, towns like Spearfish give tourists a unique and unforgettable experience. The history and culture that this town has to offer will make any visit a pleasant one.
Pierre, South Dakota
The capital of South Dakota, Pierre is another small town in South Dakota worth visiting and must-see. It was built between 1907 and 1910 and showcases the city’s late 19th-century style. You can take a tour of the governor’s mansion on Wednesday from June through August.
Pierre has two state parks: Fort Pierre Chouteau along the Missouri River and LaFramboise Island Nature Area along Lake Oahe. Fort Pierre Chouteau is where Lewis and Clark once visited, making it a historical landmark that’s great to explore. Along the way, you’ll find good trails for hiking and biking.
There are many fun things to do as the town is surrounded by the Missouri River. You can take a paddleboat ride on the river and enjoy other activities along the river like fishing.
When in the area make sure to visit the Lewis & Clark Family Center where you learn all about wild animals as well as see a dug-out canoe, the kind that was used by Lewis & Clark. There are also many hands-on activities that also teach you about the history of the area.
Keystone, South Dakota
Keystone is best known as the home of Mount Rushmore. Located just a few miles away from the National Memorial, this town is filled with fascinating history and culture.
It was originally a gold mining town, and today, tourists flock to Big Thunder Gold Mine for a tour. The tours include an informative history lesson that shows the city’s rich mining heritage, and it is a quick way to get an overview of what life in Keystone was like during its peak. You can also pan for gold.
Iron Mountain Road runs through town, continue to the tunnels where the rock forms perfect frames of all 4 presidents on Mount Rushmore.
The National Presidential Wax Museum is also located in this small South Dakota town where all the US presidents are represented in scenes such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Sturgis, South Dakota
Sturgis South Dakota is famous for its motorcycle rally. This rally in August is the largest outdoor biker event in the world and is host to over 1,000,000 people. The actual town of Sturgis has about 6,500 residents year-round but swells with 10 times that many during rally time.
This small town is home to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame featuring bikes from all eras of the industry and offers guided tours. It’s worth a stop if you want to learn more about this fascinating history as you can see bikes dating back to 1905.
Sturgis is also home to Bear Butte State Park which is part of the 111-mile Centennial Trail. The Park offers some great hiking, fishing, and boating. There are many hiking trails to choose from as well as boating on Bear Butt Lake.
When you think of the beauty of South Dakota, big cities like Sioux Falls may come to mind. But smaller towns such as Spearfish or Pierre have a lot to offer in terms of history and culture that make visiting them worthwhile.
While each town has its own unique charm, some stand out for their connection with Lewis & Clark-related sites (Keystone), biker events (Sturgis) or Mount Rushmore National Memorials (Keystone). The above-mentioned small towns in South Dakota are worth checking out if you find yourself traveling through this state.
For more information visit Travel South Dakota.