In many ways, South Dakota is the perfect road trip state.
Straddling the line between the Great Plains and the Mountain West, South Dakota boasts a variety of compelling landscapes, including the Black Hills and the incomparable Badlands. It has more than its share of famous American landmarks, such as Mitchell’s Corn Palace and the mighty Mount Rushmore. And though there is a lot of land to traverse, Interstate 90 makes it quick and easy to drive through South Dakota, connecting Sioux Falls and Rapid City in less than six hours of travel time.
The following itinerary follows Interstate 90, taking visitors to some of the most popular places in South Dakota from east to west. The tour can be done in five days, with a day at the beginning in Sioux Falls, two days at the end in the Black Hills and a couple of days to explore the interesting roadside stops in between.
If your group is especially interested in South Dakota, extend this tour to seven days to include visits to other sites, such as the Pioneer Auto Museum, Minute Man National Historical Park and cities such as Sturgis and Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills.
Wonderful Waterfalls in Sioux Falls
Near the eastern edge of the state, Sioux Falls is South Dakota’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Groups will find a number of natural and cultural attractions on the banks of the Big Sioux River, as well as a number of other interesting stops on the outskirts of town.
Falls Park is the city’s most famous site. Situated in the center of town, this 123-acre park features a series of waterfalls that send more than 7,400 gallons of water down a 100-foot cascade every second. The park has an information center, a cafe and an observation tower that offers great views of the waterfalls and surrounding Sioux Falls.
Groups visiting Falls Park may also want to explore the Sculpture Walk, which connects the park to nearby Washington Pavilion. The Sculpture Walk features a series of public artworks each year created by area sculptors. The sculptures are on display for a year before being sold to private individuals and being replaced by new artwork.
While you’re there: Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History has more than 1,000 live animals and a collection of 150 mounted animals. The Outdoor Campus offers a number of interactive, educational programs introducing visitors to various outdoor activities.
Mitchell, A Corny Attraction
Located about 75 miles west of Sioux Falls, the town of Mitchell might not garner much tourist attention were it not for its unique and iconic attraction: the Corn Palace.
Since 1892, the city’s large civic building has been decorated with corn. There have been several Corn Palaces in downtown Mitchell over the years. The current one is a permanent structure whose exterior is adorned with murals made entirely of local corn. The murals are designed by local artists and change every year. It takes a team of 20 workers about two months to put up the new decorations each year, using 275,000 ears of corn.
The city of Mitchell uses the Corn Palace for a variety of sporting events, concerts and other community events throughout the year. When groups stop by, they can also learn about the history of the Corn Palace and the culture surrounding corn cultivation. Visitors arriving in late August can take part in the city’s annual Corn Festival.
While you’re there: The Dakota Discovery Museum teaches visitors about pioneer and Native American life in South Dakota. And the Prehistoric Indian Village preserves the site of a 1,000-year-old Native American settlement, where visitors can see ongoing archaeological digs.