Add dates

Things to do in South Dakota

Our most recommended things to do in South Dakota

Rapid City: Mount Rushmore and Black Hills Full-Day Tour

1. Rapid City: Mount Rushmore and Black Hills Full-Day Tour

Head out on an 8-hour, all-inclusive tour of the Black Hills of South Dakota. On this tour, you will depart from Rapid City and travel to Custer State Park, while exploring the top attractions along the way. As you make your way through the Black Hills, your driver/guide will provide interesting commentary, answer questions and provide you with information of what to do and see at your attraction stops. Your first destination will be Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Explore the world-famous memorial depicting four of the most prominent presidents of the first 150 years of the United States – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. Next, you will discover the 8th wonder of the world at Crazy Horse Memorial. It is the world’s largest mountain carving and is a memorial to all Native American tribes.  Lastly, travel into Custer State Park. It is known for its bison herds and other wildlife. Take in the scenery and marvel at the beauty of the Iron Mountain Road, which climbs 17 miles to the entrance of Mount Rushmore. You will wind over unique wooden bridges known as the pigtails. 

Custer: Black Hills Hot Air Balloon Flight at Sunrise

2. Custer: Black Hills Hot Air Balloon Flight at Sunrise

Go on a hot air balloon tour of the Black Hills and treat yourself to an experience of a lifetime. Admire the beautiful Black Hills and witness historic, wild landscapes and abundant wildlife from a hot air balloon. Soar above the southern Black Hills, and world-renowned Custer State Park with extraordinary 360-degree views of mountains, rock formations, valleys, lakes, and prairies.  Look out for wildlife such as elk, antelope, whitetail deer, buffalo, mule deer, or even a mountain lion. Fly just miles away from Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave National Park, and the South Dakota Badlands. Certified pilots will navigate the flight with your safety and enjoyment in mind. During your 1-hour ride, your pilot will answer any questions that you might have and identify local points of interest.  Upon landing, enjoy a celebratory champagne toast, light snacks, and a story about the origin of hot air ballooning.

Rapid City: Private Black Hills Monuments Full-Day Tour

3. Rapid City: Private Black Hills Monuments Full-Day Tour

Enjoy a day of sightseeing on this all-inclusive private tour of the main sights of Black Hills. After a convenient pickup from your hotel, travel to the iconic Mount Rushmore National Monument, where you will spend some time hiking. Learn about how the monument came into existence. Next, travel to Crazy Horse Memorial, where you will learn about one of the most important historical figures in the history of South Dakota. Finally, explore the beautiful Custer State Park. See wildlife at incredibly close proximity and enjoy the local flora.

Badlands National Park Private Tour

4. Badlands National Park Private Tour

Enjoy a private tour for a unique glimpse into the unique beauty of the Badlands National Park. Learn about the history of the area and spend the day discovering the rare geology of the Badlands. After being picked up, take a short drive to the quaint town of Wall to explore and uncover why Wall Drug is so legendary throughout the world. Next, travel into the Badlands National Park to admire some of the rarest and most incredible geological formations in South Dakota. Enjoy a few moderate hikes around the Badlands and with some luck see some local wildlife up close. Lastly, visit the town of Scenic, a ghost town with a great history, which your guide will tell you all about. On your way there, see the Minuteman Missile Site.

From Rapid City: Private Devils Tower Tour and Hike

5. From Rapid City: Private Devils Tower Tour and Hike

Discover the diversity of South Dakota's natural monuments on this day trip to Devils Tower. Departing from your hotel in Rapid City or Spearfish, enjoy the ride to Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Once there, get the opportunity to hike around this natural wonder. While hiking, learn more about Devil Tower's incredible Native American history, and what makes it so unique, from your tour guide. Admire local fauna and flora and witness panoramic views. Stop for lunch at a restaurant of your choice and get the chance to sample some local cuisine before heading back to your hotel in the evening.

Buffalo Jeep Safari & Mammoth Site Tour

6. Buffalo Jeep Safari & Mammoth Site Tour

Get up close and personal with roaming buffalo, deer, and feed the wild donkeys at Custer State Park. Once in the park, board an open-air Jeep and explore the beauty the park has to offer with your guide. Make sure to bring healthy snacks for the wild donkeys and you will have them eating out of the palm of your hands. Next, travel to Hot Springs to get a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of the Mammoth Site. While at this active Paleontological dig site, view fossils from the ice age. Enjoy an interactive learning experience that includes a botany and geological walkway.

From Rapid City: Private Spearfish Canyon Tour

7. From Rapid City: Private Spearfish Canyon Tour

Start with pickup from your hotel in the morning and travel to Spearfish Canyon. Journey along the winding road up the canyon and marvel at the beauty of the Black Hills. Arrive at Spearfish Canyon where you will see breathtaking limestone palisades of a creek-carved gorge more ancient than the Grand Canyon. With your guide, choose from different hiking options suited to all levels of ability and experience. Discover incredible waterfalls, scenery, wildlife, and plant life. Enjoy some lunch at a location of your choosing. After your day of exploration, be returned to your accommodation back in Rapid City.

Mount Rushmore: Self-Guided Tour with Smartphone App

8. Mount Rushmore: Self-Guided Tour with Smartphone App

Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app, which will function as your personal tour guide, audio tour, and map all in one. Once downloaded, your tour of Mount Rushmore begins by the Mount Rushmore Information Center, right next to the monument’s parking lot. From here, you’ll walk toward the mountain itself. Along the way, you’ll stop at a memorial to Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor behind this incredible feat, and learn about his unusual history. Then you’ll walk down the Avenue of Flags, draped with the flags of US states and territories. After that, you’ll arrive at the main viewing platform, where you’ll have a perfectly clear view of Mount Rushmore. Here, you’ll discover how this unlikely project got off the ground in the first place. Next, you’ll head to a second, less-crowded viewing platform, where you’ll hear how workers actually carved this rugged mountain into the presidential faces you see today. As you continue toward the Sculptor’s Studio, you’ll get the full story behind the sculptor’s battles with the Park Service, as well as his plans for a hidden room on top of the mountain! You’ll then arrive at the studio, where you can see a plaster model of the monument’s original design and learn more about Borglum himself. After that, you’ll walk along the Presidential Trail, a short boardwalk through lush forest which offers even more views of Mount Rushmore from different angles. As you walk, you’ll hear about another side of the Mount Rushmore story, this time from the perspective of the Lakota who lived here long before any settlers arrived. Finally, you’ll loop back around toward the main viewing platform and hear about the controversy which swirled around Alfred Hitchcock’s filming of North by Northwest at this monument. Your tour ends at the conclusion of the Presidential Trail, just steps away from the main viewing platform.

From Rapid City: Custer State Park Private Safari and Hiking

9. From Rapid City: Custer State Park Private Safari and Hiking

Enjoy a private full-day tour from Rapid City or Hill City to the beautiful Custer State Park. Custer is South Dakota's largest state park, famous for its bison herds, antelope, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife. Custer State Park is regularly named as one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Once at the park, join an open-air jeep safari tour to get up close and personal with roaming buffalo and other wildlife. You will have an opportunity to get out and feed the burros. For the remainder of the afternoon, you will be able to hike some of the most beautiful trails located in the park. Lunch will be enjoyed at the historic Custer State Game Lodge, or another location of your choice.

Badlands National Park: Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour

10. Badlands National Park: Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour

Start by downloading the Action Tour Guide app, which will function as your personal tour guide, audio tour, and map all in one. Once downloaded, your tour of Badlands National Park begins either in the town of Wall. (If it’s more convenient, you can also begin the tour from the town of Philip.) From there, you’ll head south into the park itself. Once you enter the park, you’ll have the option to take a quick detour to see a prairie dog colony at Roberts Prairie Dog Town. It’s a pretty uncommon sight, and I’d highly recommend it for any animal lovers! After that, you’ll reach Pinnacles Overlook, a fantastic place to spot bison or bighorn sheep. Don’t forget to bring binoculars just in case! Then there’s Ancient Hunters Overlook, where the ancestors of the Lakota once butchered bison they had killed in their hunts. As you drive, you’ll hear lots more about these hunters and their prey. Then you’ll arrive at Yellow Mounds Overlook, which really outdoes its unappealing name by revealing millions of years of geologic history! Homestead Overlook is up next. Here, you’ll learn all about how the Homestead Acts transformed the Badlands, and what they meant for the Lakota who were already living in the region. At Burns Basin, up next, you’ll get a chance to see the site of one of those 20th century homesteads once occupied by a sheep rancher. You’ll find something different at Prairie Winds Overlook, offering views not of rocky crags but instead of lush, flowing prairie. Believe it or not, these prairies are in danger of disappearing in the near future, making this spot even more special. Then there’s Panorama Point. The name of this one is pretty self-explanatory, so make sure to set your phone’s camera to Panorama Mode! At Bigfoot Pass, next, you’ll hear the tragic tale of the Wounded Knee Massacre, which took place not far from the Badlands. Then you’ll learn how to spot a golden eagle, one of the Badlands’ most majestic residents. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is up next, and it’s a must-see for anyone traveling with younger explorers. Here, you’ll uncover the history behind the many, many fossils and prehistoric creatures of the Badlands with an easy walk full of informational signs. After that, you’ll come across Saddle Pass Trail, a short hike that’s great for birdwatchers. If you need a break, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center is just beyond that trail. It even features a fossil lab for amateur paleontologists hungry for more knowledge! You’ll come to the Cliff Shelf Trail next. This unique trail takes hikers through a lush juniper forest to break up the harsh, rocky landscape. Then there are the trio of trails known as The Notch, The Castle, and The Door. Offering a variety of different lengths and difficulties, there’s something for everyone here! Finally, you’ll arrive at Big Badlands Overlook. This one really earns its name, and offers one of the best views in the entire park. Your tour concludes here.

Other Sightseeing Options in South Dakota

Want to discover all there is to do in South Dakota? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about South Dakota

Overall rating

4.9 / 5

based on 86 reviews

We had a delightful day with Christine, our private driver, photographer and guide. She had all the insight required to educate us on all aspects of the Badlands in SD. We found prairie dogs, Buffalo, Little Bighorn sheep and antelope. We stopped for many breathtaking views of Badlands. We visited famous Wall drug store. The van was super comfortable and clean with plenty of water and snacks. We had lunch at Red Rock restaurant (included). Christine customized our experience based on our level of fitness and our interest. She allowed us to skip a view of the military missile silos in order to see Sturgis. Pick up and drop off from your Hotel. Highly recommended tour with Christine!!

Our guide was Rise and she was so friendly, very knowledgeable about South Dakota, alms history if everything we saw! We felt like she was part of our family when our tour was done! My husband was a little skeptical about the cost of the tour but in the end he felt it was worth every Penny and more! She knew so many places to see, get the best pictures and interesting things we would not have known on our own, plus he was able to see everything and enjoy the drive with Rose taking care of the driving and hair pin curves!! Really recommend the Blackhills Tour and ask for Rose !!

This was on my bucket list!! I am not a liver of heights, but Damian and his whole crew made my first ballooning a wonderful experience!! Gentle, smoothe, beautiful, perfect!!

Bruce our driver was very friendly and provided a lot of information in which made the trip more enjoyable.

Excellent experience! Christine was a great guide and was very informative!