Born and raised in Nebraska, I’ll always be proud of my Cornhusker roots. But when I first saw the Black Hills of South Dakota in 2006, I was in awe of their majestic beauty. I felt spiritually alive among the miniature bluish-black mountain range and lush Ponderosa pines.

In 2008, my heart nagged me to leave the cornfields of Nebraska to move to Rapid City. I’ve been here ever since, and have had the opportunity to explore even more of South Dakota in my spare time. What I’ve found is that South Dakota is a beautiful and diverse state – perfect for family vacations and Midwestern explorations.

Here are 15 things to love about South Dakota:

  1. The gorgeous Missouri River splits the state into two regions—East River and West River. Residents are known by which side of the river they live on.
  2. Native American spirituality runs through South Dakota’s veins. The state is home to many Sioux tribes.
  3. Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer County honors the Oglala Lakota warrior and each year, there is a hike to the top of the mountain.
  4. The faces of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt greet about 3 million people each year at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
  5. Badlands National Park boasts 242,756 acres of magnificent buttes, pinnacles, and spires. Visitors come here to hike, practice their photography, and see the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States.
  6. Driving along the highway, you’ll spot prairie dogs, buffalo and big horn sheep.
  7. The University of South Dakota—the state’s biggest university—is nestled in the town of Vermillion, population 10,692. In other words, you won’t get too distracted when you come here to study.
  8. The world’s only Corn Palace awaits you in Mitchell, which is right along Interstate 90.
  9. Over half a million motorcyclists attended the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2015. The rally is held the first week of August each year.
  10. Gambling is legal here, and Deadwood is the center of the action. The city’s rich history—think Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock—combined with ghost lure make Deadwood a tourist hot-spot.
  11. Harney Peak—at an elevation of 7,244 feet—is the highest natural point in the state and in the Black Hills.
  12. Kuchen, the German word for “cake,” is the official state dessert. It’s made with a sweet dough and contains a fruit or custard filling.
  13. You can win $100 for building a bird using plastics, metals, paper, wood or whatever your creative mind cooks up, at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.
  14. The local honey is among the best in the nation, as our state insect is the honeybee.
  15. The people are among the most hardworking and friendliest bunch you’ll meet. You’ll always remember a South Dakota smile.

Molly Golden

Molly Golden is a wife, an idealist, and a beauty product junkie living in Rapid City, SD. She’s also a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She loves traveling (but hates flying), yoga, indie music, fine art, new age spirituality, aromatherapy baths, pedicures, massages, dark chocolate, and dry red wine. Oh, she also reads fashion magazines like they’re going out of style!