South Dakota Vacation Planning Guide
It is a well-known fact that South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, with its giant carvings of U.S. Presidents. But South Dakota boasts many more attractions, enough, in fact, to fill an entire fun-filled vacation. History buffs will enjoy the Crazy Horse Memorial and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, while nature lovers will be delighted by South Dakota's forests, parks, and caves. Several airlines fly into the Rapid City Airport, but the majority of visitors to the state arrive by car.
Travel to South Dakota
Frontier, United, and Northwest are three of the major airlines flying into the Rapid City, South Dakota airport, located in the southwestern part of the state. From there, most tourists rent cars in order to reach the major tourist attractions, although package tours are readily available. Most visitors to South Dakota drive into the state, coming most often from the south on Highway I-29 or on Highway 90 from the east or west.
Mapping Out the Visit
Using a South Dakota attraction site map, it is an easy task to plan a route through the major sites most visitors hope to see. To help visitors find their way around the state, the official South Dakota tourism site offers a highway map that can be downloaded and printed. Information centers along the major highways provide resources and maps.
Visitors to South Dakota can take their choice of upscale hotels located in cities to smaller bed and breakfasts, inns, motels, and lodges found in smaller towns and more rural areas. In the summertime it is wise to make reservations ahead of time. Many tourists come to South Dakota in order to camp in one of the state parks, many of which allow camping and even provide campsites.
For History Buffs
Mount Rushmore, dubbed America's Shrine of Democracy, is the main attraction for most visitors to South Dakota. The enormous 60-foot tall granite carving of Presidential faces is found in the Black Hill's National Forest. Another mountain carving history buffs will want to see is the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial, also located in the Black Hills, an ongoing endeavor that was begun in 1948. Also of historic interest is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, the secret weapon site activated during he Cold War; it is located in 75 miles east of Rapid City.
For Nature Lovers
Spelunkers will be in heaven with all the possible caves to visit in South Dakota. Most of the famous ones, including Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park, are located in the southwestern part of the state. The million acres of the Black Hills National Forest provide incredible drives and all kinds of opportunities for outdoor fun. More opportunities for outdoor adventures can be found hiking in the Badlands National Park where visitors can participate in a ranger-guided program in the summer. Over 1,500 free roaming bison call Custer State Park home; another favorite attraction is the curving Needles Highway.
Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.
mount rushmore image by michael langley from Fotolia.com