South Dakota Family Road Trip
Our family road trip across South Dakota remains a favorite vacation. South Dakota offers outdoor beauty from the vast prairies to the rolling Black Hills as well as nonstop wildlife viewing. From stunning state parks to awe-inspiring national parks, South Dakota should be on everyone’s must-see destinations.
University of South Dakota National Music Museum
On our way out of Kansas, we stopped at the National Music Museum on the University of South Dakota's campus. The National Music Museum has an extensive collection of musical instruments, including more than 14,800 American, European, and non-Western instruments from a variety of cultures and time periods. Being big Johnny Cash fans, we were thrilled to see his guitar and June Carter’s. The vast selection of unfamiliar instruments was fascinating. An audio-tour was included with the very reasonable price.
- Address: 414 E. Clark Street, Vermillion, South Dakota 57069
- Metered parking
- AAA discount
*Currently closed for renovations - reopening planned for 2021
Palisades State Park
With only one night at Palisades State Park (30 minutes outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota), we did not get to explore this unique park as much as we would have liked. Our campsite was at a prime location on the rushing waters of Split Rock Creek with great views of the rose-colored Sioux quartzite formations.
If hiking after a rainstorm, be prepared for copious amounts of sticky, black mud. A popular vacation spot - reserve early for weekend dates. Cabin rentals available.
- Address: 25491 485th Avenue, Garretson, South Dakota 57030
- Open year round (although showers/flush toilets turned off from October 1 through April 30)
- Palisades State Park entrance fee: $8/vehicle
Laura Ingalls Homestead
As fans of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, we wanted to learn about her life in the Dakota Territory during the late 1800's. Although you can see most of Ingalls Homestead in a couple of hours, we spent a leisurely day on the 160-acre property. Out of all the activities --driving a covered wagon, touring a one-room school house, playing a pump organ, making corn husk dolls and rope, riding a pony -- the very favorite was playing in the two barns full of kittens!
We camped on the property for $10 per night which included access to the bathrooms and hot showers. Prairie winds are strong at night, so you definitely stake and tie down well. (Our practice at the Outer Banks, North Carolina, paid off). RV camping available with electric and water hookups; dump station located in the parking lot. For a unique camping experience, the covered wagons looked like fun.
- Address: 20812 Homestead Rd, De Smet, South Dakota 57231
- Admission: $15/person 5 years and up
World's Largest Pheasant
Heading for a couple of nights in the Badlands National Park, we planned for few unusual stops along the way which included the World's Largest Pheasant. Located in the town of Huron, the 28-foot, 22-ton fiberglass and steel pheasant pays tribute to Huron's place as a prime pheasant hunting destination. Keep a sharp look out, and like us, you might see an actual ring-necked pheasant.
- Address: Hwy-14, Huron, SD 57350
The World's Only Corn Palace
Established in 1892, the Corn Palace was used to demonstrate that South Dakota had a viable climate for agriculture. However, the World's Only Corn Palace also attracts 500,000 tourists each year to view the one-of-a-kind corn murals. Each year there is a new design and theme, featuring naturally-colored grains and grasses.
- Address: 604 N Main Street, Mitchell, SD 57301
- Hours: Memorial Day through Labor Day 8am - 9pm; rest of the year 8am - 5pm
- Restrooms available
Dignity Statue & Missouri River Overlook
Heading west on I-90, we stopped at the Chamberlain Information Center for a break to stretch our legs. For those in larger vehicles, there is plenty of parking with extra large spaces for RVs and trucks. However, it is worth the stop alone for the chance to view the magnificent 50-foot tall Dignity statue, honoring the indigenous people of the Dakotas, as well as to enjoy the mighty Missouri River overlook.
- Address: Chamberlain, South Dakota, located between exits 263 and 265 on Interstate 90
Murdo Drive-In (Lunch)
With a long day on the road, we fueled ourselves up at the casual eatery, Murdo Drive-In. Cooked from scratch, this is not a fast food stop, but we weren't in a hurry. Decide between grass-fed burgers, broasted* chicken, tacos, or hotdogs and finish up your meal with ice cream - you can't go wrong. *FYI: Broasted -a method that combines pressure cooking with deep frying.
- Address: 212 Kennedy Ave, Murdo, SD 57559
- Hours: Summer season (mid-May through August) 11am - 10pm daily
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park remains a favorite camping stop for our family. Even if you only have a few hours, definitely make time for this other worldly experience. With only a few hours, you can stop by the visitor center and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet and map and watch the 20-minute film. A short hike at Door Trail and then a scenic drive along the Badlands National Park loop will give you a taste of this alien landscape and opportunity for wildlife spotting.
With more time (and no fear of heights), the Notch Trail is highly recommended. We spotted a fawn tucked into a nook in one of the cliff walls and great views of White River Valley. If you spend the night, the rangers give stellar programs - the dark skies were amazing for night sky viewing.
- Badlands National Park Entrance Fee: $30/7-day pass (or a $80/year for annual National Park Pass).
- Hiking: Carry hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, appropriate footwear, and plenty of water.
- To help stay cool, tie a damp bandana around your neck.
- Junior Ranger program