What is South Dakota Known for? Discover South Dakota’s Famous Facts, Foods, and Landmarks

Nicknamed “The Mount Rushmore State,” South Dakota is known for the famed landmark, alongside natural gems like the Badlands and Sioux Falls. But there’s so much more to learn about living in South Dakota.

To help you out, Redfin is here to answer your questions about what South Dakota is known for. Whether you’re looking to rent an apartment in Sioux Falls or buy a home in Rapid City, read on to find out why South Dakota is a great place to live.

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Economy and job opportunities

South Dakota is known for its economy and job industries like healthcare, banking, and agriculture. Some of the major corporations contributing to the state’s economy are Sanford Health, Avera Health, and Citibank. 

South Dakota’s top five employers

  • Sanford Health
  • Avera Health
  • Citibank (Sioux Falls operations)
  • Rapid City Regional Hospital
  • South Dakota State Government

Mount Rushmore on a beautiful summer day.

Famous tourist attractions

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial features the iconic sculptures of four U.S. presidents carved into the granite face of the Black Hills. You can learn about the monument’s history at the visitor center, hike nature trails, and attend the nightly lighting ceremony.
  • Badlands National Park showcases otherworldly rock formations, rugged canyons, and fossil beds dating back millions of years. You can drive the Badlands Loop Road, hike trails like the Notch Trail, and view wildlife such as bison and bighorn sheep.
  • The city of Deadwood preserves its Wild West heritage with historic buildings, museums, and attractions like the Adams Museum and the Saloon No. 10. Be sure to learn about legendary figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, or try your luck at the casinos.
  • Custer State Park has scenic drives, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities in the Black Hills. You can drive the Wildlife Loop Road to see bison herds, hike to the summit of Harney Peak, and swim or paddle in Sylvan Lake.
  • The Crazy Horse Memorial is a work-in-progress tribute to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse, featuring a colossal sculpture carved into Thunderhead Mountain. Visitors can learn about Native American culture at the visitor center, watch artists at work, and explore exhibits on the memorial’s history.

Popular regional cuisine

South Dakota’s cuisine reflects its agricultural roots and Native American heritage, featuring hearty and comforting dishes. Native American fry bread tacos, topped with ingredients like bison meat and beans, are a popular local specialty. Chislic, skewered and grilled meat typically made from lamb or beef, is a beloved appetizer. South Dakota also embraces Midwestern staples like steak and potatoes, often served with locally grown produce.

Top restaurants in South Dakota

  • Minervas in Sioux Falls
  • Parker’s Bistro in Sioux Falls
  • Tally’s Silver Spoon in Rapid City
  • Juniper at Vertex Sky Bar in Rapid City
  • Murphy’s Pub & Grill in Rapid City

Sioux Falls South Dakota

Arts scene and iconic events

South Dakota is deeply rooted in its Native American heritage, pioneer history, and vast natural landscapes. The state’s artistic heritage is seen in institutions like the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings and the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, which showcase both traditional and contemporary art.

Events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Sioux Empire Fair draw crowds from across the region. South Dakota’s stunning landscapes have inspired artists and filmmakers, with movies like Dances with Wolves and How the West Was Won capturing its sweeping prairies and majestic Badlands.

Five great museums in South Dakota

Did you know? South Dakota hosts the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, one of the largest and most iconic motorcycle gatherings in the world. The event draws people from around the globe to the small town of Sturgis every August.

buffalos in the badlands national park

Striking landscapes

South Dakota’s natural land formations include the majestic Black Hills in the western part of the state, home to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, as well as rugged canyons and forests. The eastern plains feature fertile farmland and the expansive prairies of Badlands National Park, known for its dramatic rock formations and fossil beds.

National and state parks in South Dakota

  • Badlands National Park: Known for its rugged landscapes, colorful buttes, and fossil beds, Badlands offers hiking trails, scenic drives, and opportunities for wildlife viewing, including bison and bighorn sheep.
  • Wind Cave National Park: Known for its extensive cave system and unique boxwork formations, Wind Cave has hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife viewing of bison and elk.
  • Black Hills National Forest: Home to Mount Rushmore, you can check out other landmarks like the Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Elk Peak, and Sylvan Lake.
  • Custer State Park: With its scenic drives, such as the Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park has hiking trails. There are also places for camping, wildlife watching, and fishing in the Black Hills.
  • Palisades State Park: Located along Split Rock Creek, Palisades State Park has hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and spots for rock climbing amidst quartzite formations.

Rapid City, South Dakota

Popular South Dakota phrases

In South Dakota, there are plenty of regional phrases that you’ll pick up living in the state.

  • “Corn hole,” is a game often called bean bag toss in other areas.
  • “Cattywampus,” is a way to describe something that’s awkward, going poorly, or in the wrong direction.
  • “Pecker pole,” is a tree sapling or young tree.
  • “Taverns,” are a regional name for a sloppy joe sandwich. 
  • “Pert near,” is a way to say pretty near or close to.

More things South Dakota is known for

  • Native American heritage: South Dakota is home to several Native American tribes, including the Lakota Sioux. There are cultural centers and events like the annual Black Hills Powwow celebrating Native American traditions.
  • Corn Palace: Mitchell’s Corn Palace is a unique attraction adorned with murals made from corn and grains. It showcases agricultural artistry and celebrates South Dakota’s farming heritage.
  • Sioux Falls: Named after the waterfalls on the Big Sioux River, Sioux Falls is South Dakota’s largest city. It has plenty of gorgeous parks, historic buildings, and vibrant downtown area.
  • Outdoor recreation: South Dakota has opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping in its state parks, national forests, and recreational areas.

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