Take Your Pick
Belle Fourche, SD
In the Middle of No Where?
Geographic Center of the United States - In 1959, after Alaska and Hawaii became part of the United States, this spot became the geographic center of the US. When you look at the map near Belle Fourche you will see two markers, the one in Belle Fourche is the "Geographic Center of the U.S Monument" and a little north is the actual "Geographic Center of the U.S". The monument is sometimes crowded, so you may want to head to the survey marker. Granted you will have to travel a dirt road, climb through a barbed-wire fence, and walk a short distance, but it's worth it.
Crazy Horse, SD
One Big Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse Memorial - When completed the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest mountain sculpture in the world, standing over 560 feet high. All four of the President's heads from nearby Mt Rushmore will fit on just the face of Crazy Horse. That's big! Initiated in 1947 by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski, the sculpture is a memorial to the famous warrior Crazy Horse. Tours of the site today take you to a viewing area where you can watch the carving of the monument still being done by Ziolkowski's 10 children. The visitor center and museum contains wonderful handcrafted artwork and details the history of the sculpture.
Custer, SD
Custer State Park - If you are looking for Tatanka, buffalo, or even bison you've come to the right place. OK, all the words mean the same thing, Tatanka is Lakota for buffalo, and a bison is commonly referred to as a buffalo. Anyway, you can take a buffalo safari here, try your hand at a buffalo chip throwing contest, or just view the scenery from the comfort of your car. You will be amazed at how close the buffalo get to you!!! Here is a tip for you, never kick a buffalo chip on a hot day.
Custer, SD
Yabba Dabba Doo!
Flintstone's Bedrock City - Yabba Dabba Doo! Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty and Dino are all alive and well in Flintstone's Bedrock City. The theme park is designed primarily for children 10 and under and is a cute place to take the little monkeys. You can ride a Flintmobile and Iron Horse Train, eat Brontoburgers or visit Mt Rockmore. Barney and Fred are never too far away and always make for a good photo op. Right next door is the Bedrock Campground so you can sleep close to the your favorite prehistoric families.
Deadwood, SD
Why it's Called the Dead Man's Hand
Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane - Deadwood is most famous for the shooting of James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok on August 2, 1876. Hickok, was a legend in his own time, loved and hated by many. While playing poker, Jack McCall pretending to watch the game, shot him in the back of the head. Wild Bill was holding a pair of 8s and Aces - known today as the "dead man's hand". The theory is the Wild Bill killed McCall's brother back in Kansas, which is probably true and McCall was taking revenge. You can visit the Old Style Saloon #10, his death chair and his grave at Mount Moriah Cemetery. Where buried next to Wild Bill is Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Cannary), the women who loved him.
Garretson, SD
The Escape of Jessie James
Devil's Gulch - Shortly after robbing a bank in Northfield, MN in 1876, Frank and Jessie James were on the run for their lives and heading towards the Dakota Territory. Two fellow gang members had already been killed and they knew they were going to be next. The brothers decided to split up and Jessie soon realized he took the wrong path towards Devil's Gulch. What separated him from freedom was a 15 foot chasm, a dizzying drop, and water as deep as 600 feet. So he throttled his horse back and made the jump to escape to Missouri. Whew!!!
Hot Springs, SD
The Mammoth Archeology Site
The Mammoth Site - Over 25,000 years ago woolly mammoths, wolves, and bears roamed this area. And on this very spot was an enticing spring-fed pond of warm water. The animals would walk into the pond for a drink or a bath, but once in, they couldn't escape because the sides were too steep to get a foot hold. After a while the animals would drown or starve to death and sink to the bottom. Silt then covered and encased all the animals that were trapped in the pond and hardened into a type of mud tomb. Today you can see the layers of animal bones still partially encased in the rock.
Hot Springs, SD
Exploring Underground South Dakota
Caves and Caverns - There is no shortage of caves and caverns in the Rapid City area. There is Jewel Cave, Ice Cave, Crystal Cave, Black Hills Caverns, Wonderland Cave, Rushmore Cave, and Wind Cave. All are great, but my favorite is Wind Cave. It is the 3rd longest cave in the US and the 4th longest in the world. The best tour to take is the candlelight cave tour, where you each get a candle bucket and explore the less lighted and less developed parts of the cave. Not sure why, but I always want to sneak off and hide in the cave until everyone is gone, then explore for real. But that is just a monkey dreaming again.
Interior, SD
Aerial View of the Badlands
Badlands National Park - Roughly 244,000 acres of buttes, ravines, gulches, spires, pinnacles, and grasslands make up this national park. Fossil beds of horse, pigs and even rhinoceros from 23 to 35 million years ago have been found here. There are some nice hiking trails, but be prepared for any type of weather. In August, this is place is hot, hot, hot with temperatures up to 116 degrees, and in January it can get down to -40 degrees. Near the northeast end, by Big Badlands Overlook, you can get a helicopter ride for a great aerial view of the area.
Keystone, SD
I Had to do It
Mount Rushmore - One of the most recognized monuments in the US, Mount Rushmore is truly monumental. The 60 foot faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln that now shine in the sunlight were created by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum (and hundreds of other workers) between 1927 and 1941. When visiting during the day you can walk around the sculpture, visit the museum and take pictures of your head next to the Presidents. At night is a spectacular lighting show held in the newly constructed amphitheater. There is a film on the construction of Mt Rushmore, and another on the four Presidents, then a gradual lighting of the monument, which is very beautiful.
Mitchell, SD
The Corn Palace
Corn Palace - What do corn and onion domes have in common? No, they aren't ingredients of a side-dish. They are what you see in downtown Mitchell at the Corn Palace. For over 75 years, thousands of bushels of corn and grains have been arranged into huge murals on the walls of the palace. And when it's done, it becomes the world's largest bird feeder. Providing pigeons and squirrels with the feast of a lifetime. Admission is free and inside you will find craft tables where you can buy something for the monkeys at home.
Mobridge, SD
Final Resting Place of Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull's Grave - This is the second of two possible places where Sitting Bull is buried. Sitting Bull, a Lakota Sioux holy man, lived from 1831 to 1890 and was instrumental in the defeat of Gen. George Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn. After defeating Custer he was pursued relentlessly until he finally surrendered. Once he surrendered his supporters clashed with police and Sitting Bull was accidentally shot in the head by the very police protecting him. He was subsequently buried in Fort Yates, ND. Then in 1953 the people of Mobridge supposedly dug him up and brought him back to a beautiful bluff over-looking the Missouri River.
Montrose, SD
Worth the Stop
Porter Sculpture Park - The Porter Sculpture Park is a hill-top filled with dozens of large hand made metal sculptures that will make you smile. The largest of the works is a 60 foot bull's head made almost entirely from railroad plates - and is large enough to walk inside. Wayne Porter, the creator of the park, is often there with his parents to give you a guided tour. One word of warning, if you go during nesting season you will be attacked by crazy dive-bombing birds eager to make you leave. But try to take your time and enjoy the great sculptures and hand-written signs.
Murdo, SD
The Nation's Best 1880s Town
South Dakota's Original 1880s Town - The Original 1880s Town in South Dakota is the best 19th century town I've seen, and I've seen a bunch. It has more than 30 original buildings, long horn steer, movie props from "Dances With Wolves" (which was filmed close by), a cute saloon where you can get a sarsaparilla, and much more. The best thing is you can dress up in 1880 clothing and walk around and say things like "howdy partna" and "this town ain't big enough for the both of us". Just beyond the Old Homestead, towards the back of the property, is a funny sculpture of Lulu the T-Rex being pulled by a caveman.
Pierre, SD
The Mount Rushmore State
State Capital Building - The South Dakota State Capitol Building was modeled after the newly constructed Montana State Capitol Building. You will certainly see the similarities after visiting both. Constructed between 1905 and 1910, it is made entirely of South Dakota materials and was built for just under $1,000,000. The exquisite Terrazzo Tile was laid by 66 Italian artists. Interestingly, instead of signing their names to the floor, each of the 66 men laid a single blue "signature tile" to mark what they had accomplished. Can you find them all? I found 42.
Sioux Falls, SD
Outside the Old Courthouse
Old Courthouse Museum - The Old Courthouse Museum contains a vast array of South Dakota historical artifacts, but the structure itself is a work of art. Comprised of quartzite, the building was completed in 1893 and features a stately "Big Ben" style clock tower. Inside you will find three floors of artwork focused on the Plains area. Some of the best art is the finely restored oil paint wall murals. You will also find a restored courtroom, law library and a massive wood staircase. A side note - the museum is in Minnehaha County, which as I found out, doesn't mean Little Laugh.
Sioux Falls, SD
A Great Place to Relax
Falls Park - Falls Park is located just north of downtown Sioux Falls on the Big Sioux River. A series of cascading waterfalls over pink-hued quartzite rocks is a great backdrop to your park picnic. For a grand view of the entire area head to the five-story observation tower located in the park. The nightly light show is also spectacular to see on a balmy South Dakota summer night. After you've seen all that, don't forget to visit the Falls Overlook Cafe on the east side of the Big Sioux River. It's set up in a restored 1908 light and power company building and serves a variety of foods and drinks.
Sturgis, SD
Where I Woke Up
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - Sturgis, South Dakota is home of the biggest and best motorcycle rally in the world. The numbers of bikers that attend the rally nearly double the state population for the week. Started in 1938, "Sturgis" has been held every year since, except during WWII because of gas rationing. Enough history!!! What you will find here is more fun than you can pack on two wheels. There are bands playing nightly, leather bikini clad babes, and bikes, bikes, and more bikes. The only thing you won't find here is a restful night of sleep, but you can do that when you get back home. And let it be know - I rode mine - all the way from Dallas, Texas.
Wall Drug, SD
Free Ice Water
Wall Drug - From anywhere in South Dakota you will be lured to Wall Drug by the myriad of signs begging you to stop at the little town. The saturation advertising works, because over one million people stop in every year. Although there aren't as many signs as when I was a young monkey, because of the Highway Beautification Act, you still will know of Wall Drug from at least 500 miles away. Once there be sure to check out the Wall Drug, Drug Store where you can pick up all your favorite roadside attraction items from bobblehead dolls to mounted jackalopes.
Wounded Knee, SD
Mass Grave of Wounded Knee
Wounded Knee Massacre - On December 29, 1890, 146 Sioux Indian men, women and children and 20 soldiers from the United States Army were killed in what is now know as the Wounded Knee Massacre. Surrounded by soldiers, the Indians were asked to surrender. Reports vary on why the ensuing massacre started some say it was because of a misinterpreted "Ghost Dance" (a dance to bring back the buffalo); other reports say it was because a deaf tribesman refused to give up his rifle without compensation. No matter how it started, guns and small cannon fire ripped through the tribe. On the hill over-looking the site is a mass grave were Chief Big Foot and others killed during the fight are buried. This was the last conflict between the Lakota Sioux and the US Government.