South Dakota Badlands Vacation Ideas South Dakota Badlands - Road Trip Planner

Deadwood Getaways, Mt. Rushmore, Rapid City & South Dakota Tourist Attractions

Things to do / Travel Guide

South Dakota Badlands Tourist Attractions

The Great Plains give way to thickly forested mountains (the Black Hills) and the rocky formations of the Badlands in this corner of South Dakota. The manmade icons of Mt. Rushmore, some of the world's largest caves, herds of buffalo, Native American sites, and the restored "wild West" casino town of Deadwood all add variety and personality to the region.

Deadwood, South Dakota Getaways

Deadwood, made popular by the HBO western drama of the same name, has some rather lively tourist attractions, despite its somewhat morbid name. Deadwood offers tourists a look into the U.S.'s wild, wild west.
You'll learn about the rich Gold Rush history, about Calamity Jane and other Wild West characters, about Native American history, and about what life is like in one of Western South Dakota's favorite cities.

Enjoy classic saloons, 24-hour casinos, and some of the best nature offerings around. A good way to begin your Deadwood getaway is to go on a 4-hour open-air bus tour. This will give you an overview of the whole area and all the major sites; then you can go on your own to investigate further into the attractions that piqued your interest. Or grab a good map of the South Dakota Badlands and head off on your own Deadwood to Rapid City road trip.

Mt. Rushmore Tourist Attractions

If you head due south from Deadwood through the Black Hills National Forest then you'll hit the most impressive and most popular tourist attraction in the state of South Dakota (or perhaps in both Dakotas), Mt. Rushmore. You've probably seen pictures or Mt. Rushmore or seen it in films, but nothing will prepare you for your face-to-face (literally) encounter with four of the most popular presidents that the United States ever had. Whatever your political viewpoints—Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative—you'll have no choice but to stand in awe when you see the faces of these men carved into the side of the mountain.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in Keystone, South Dakota, just 25 miles from Rapid City and right next door to the Crazy Horse Memorial, so when you're done paying your respects to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln,, and Teddy Roosevelt, you can head to Crazy Horse, a tribute to Crazy Horse, a warrior from the Lakota Indian tribe. A meal at the Laughing Water Restaurant is definitely a must for visitors to the area.

Before heading out of the forest and into the city (Rapid City is the major city in southwestern South Dakota), you'll want to spend some time exploring the national and state parks located between Mount Rushmore and what's known as "the Badlands." Noteworthy parks include the Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and last but not least, Badlands National Park. Spend some time in this last one—the Badlands National Park; there you'll find the largest mixed-grass prairie in the United States, some of the world's richest fossil grounds, and, not to be missed, the Big Pig Dig that takes place every summer. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even scope out the endangered black-footed ferret amidst the vast Badlands.

Rapid City Tourist Attractions

Ready for some of the conveniences and luxuries of city life? You deserve it after roughing it out in the forests, hills, and prairies! In and around South Dakota's Rapid City you'll find city pleasures like hotels, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, shopping malls, and spas. Rock climbing walls and golf courses are also easily found.

Some Rapid City highlights include the Journey Museum (a natural history museum), the Sioux Pottery factory, the Mt. Rushmore Gold factory, and the Red Rock Golf Club.

Also, don't be fooled by its name—Rapid City, though rapid compared to some of its desolate neighbors, is still a rather laid-lack and slow-paced city.

South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore Road Trip Getaway Planner

You have traveled a long way to get here, so avoid the temptation to just quickly drive to and from the major attractions. Spend at least half a week exploring nature and appreciating the Native American culture.