South Dakota Bucket List ~ Black Hills and Badland Region

Today we hit the final region of South Dakota and by far the largest bucket list for the state as it hits upon the popular tourist areas of the state: The Black Hills and the Badlands. Lots to see and do here!

Belle Fourche

  • Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center: This small museum focuses on history from the tri-state area and also is home to the “Center of the Nation.”

Custer

  • Crazy Horse Memorial: This constant work in progress will one day be a magnificent memorial to the great warrior Crazy Horse.
  • Custer State Park: Beautiful state park that features a wildlife viewing loop and beautiful Sylvan Lake.
  • Jewel Cave National Monument: Unique cave filled with “boxwork” and very interesting tour.

Hill City

  • 1880 Train/South Dakota State Railroad Museum: Ride the train from Hill City to Keystone and back again after exploring the museum.

Hot Springs

  • Mammoth Site of Hot Springs: This is an active paleontologist site.
  • Wind Cave National Park: Come hike along the prairie or take a tour of this impressive cave system.

Interior

  • Badlands National Park: Experience this unique landscape! Gorgeous views and hiking!

Keystone

  • Mount Rushmore National Monument: See the famed “mountain of presidents.”
  • National Presidential Wax Museum: See wax presidential figures in specific moments of history along with other presidential artifacts.

Lead

  • Black Hills Mining Museum: Explore the history of mining and take a simulated “mine tour.”
  • Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center: Explore the Underground Lab mission, the history of Lead and view the iconic Open Cut.

Philip

  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: Explore the history of the Cold War and visit the missile site and control bunker on a tour.

Rapid City

  • America’s Founding Fathers Exhibit: Found in a replica of Independence Hall, this attractions takes you back in history to explore our Founding Fathers.
  • Bear Country U.S.A.: Drive thru nature park. Get up close and personal with some native animals.
  • Chapel in the Hills: Take in the beauty of this unique church.
  • Dinosaur Park: Visit this iconic attraction built in the 1930’s with sweeping views of the town below.
  • The Journey Museum and Learning Center: Explore the history of the Black Hills and the Native Americas who called the area home.

Spearfish

  • Spearfish Canyon: Take in the gorgeous views of the canyon by driving along the byway.
  • Roughlock Falls State Nature Area: Enjoy a beautiful waterfall area just a short hike from your parking spot. Be sure to check out nearby Spearfish Falls as well.

Sturgis

  • Bear Butte State Park: Attempt to summit Bear Butte and take in stunning views of the beginning of the Black Hills.
  • Old Fort Meade Museum: Learn the history of the fort that was built to protect miners and settlers on the Western fronteir.

Wall

  • Wall Drug Store: No visit to South Dakota is complete without visiting the famed Drug Store. Overpriced but still a must see.

All attractions found in the 2019 South Dakota Vacation Guide.

South Dakota Bucket List ~ Missouri River Region

Today we are hitting a large region that takes up the middle of the state and runs from northern to southern boarders of the state. It follows the Missouri River and contains the state’s capitol city. However, despite the broad range, it’s a surprisingly small list!

Chamberlain

  • Dignity: This gorgeous work of art celebrates the Native American heritage of the state. Accessible from an I-90 rest area, enjoy river overlooks and a small museum dedicated to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Pierre

  • South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center: This center is a small museum dedicated to the history of the state.
  • South Dakota State Capitol: Beautiful capitol nestled in a small river town.

All attractions found in the 2019 South Dakota Vacation Guide.

South Dakota Bucket List ~ Glacial Lakes and Prairies Region

Today we move into the northeastern part of South Dakota, the area we currently call home.

Aberdeen

  • Storybook Land/Land of Oz: Located within Wylie Park, bring your favorite childhood stories to life in this whimsical park.

Brookings

  • McCrory Gardens: Botanical Gardens located on the South Dakota State University Campus.

De Smet

  • Ingalls Homestead: Bring Little House on the Prairie to life by visiting the Ingalls Homestead and experiencing activities related to the books.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes: View the actual homes where they Ingalls family spent time.

Huron

  • World’s Largest Pheasant: Stop by this roadside oddity for some fun photos.

Roslyn

  • International Vinegar Museum: Located in a 1930’s auditorium, this small museum in an unassuming town gives you the low down on all things vinegar.

Sisseton

  • Fort Sisseton State Park: Explore this fort where 14 original buildings remain.
  • Nicollet Tower: Take in the views of the Coteau area from the top of this observation tower.
  • Sica Hollow State Park: Named for it’s iron tinted water, this area was special to the Native Americans of the area and offers beautiful hiking.

Watertown

  • Bramble Park Zoo: Small family friendly zoo with a wide range of animals.
  • Terry Redlin Art Center: Enjoy the artwork of Terry Redlin.

All attractions found in the 2019 South Dakota Vacation Guide with a few added by me as we live nearby these attractions.

South Dakota Bucket List ~ Southeast Region

Back at the blog after a break for the holidays. This week our focus is my current “home” state of South Dakota. The state is split into four regions, with the bulk of attractions found in the west. Today we focus on the Southeast which is home to the largest city in the state, Sioux Falls.

Canton

  • Newton Hills State Park: Great place to hike and camp; a wooded oasis.

Garretson

  • Devil’s Gulch Split Rock Park: Stand on the footbridge that spans the gulch and enjoy the beauty of the chasm.
  • Palisades State Park: Enjoy the unique cliff and rock formations.

Madison

  • Lake Herman State Park: Check out the views of Lake Herman, created by melting glacial ice years ago.

Mitchell

  • Corn Palace: Explore this local arena that features several murals made entirely out of corn.

Montrose

  • Porter Sculpture Park: Explore over 50 sculptures located just off the interstate.

Sioux Falls

  • Falls Park: Explore the falls that give the town its name in this beautiful park space.
  • Good Earth State Park: South Dakota’s newest state park preserves a Native American sacred site and features trails and scenic decks along the Big Sioux River.
  • Great Plains Zoo: Fun smaller zoo to visit and explore.
  • Sculpture Walk: Enjoy the downtown area of Sioux Falls and the many works of art.

Vermillion

  • National Music Museum: After years of major renovations, this museum is slotted to reopen this year. Fun for any music lover!
  • Spirit Mound: Located along the Lewis and Clark Trail, this site was a great vantage point along the expedition.

Yankton

  • Missouri National Recreation River: Part of the National Park Service, this area provides lots of fun along the Missouri River. Explore the site of the first Dakota Territorial Captiol and cross the Meridian Bridge to have a foot in South Dakota and Nebraska at the same time!

All attractions found in the 2019 South Dakota Vacation Guide.

Our First AirBnB Experience!

Ever since moving to South Dakota, we have had the opportunity to vacation in the Black Hills following our time at Pastors Conference. This year, that extra vacation time didn’t happen, because conference didn’t happen! We still wanted to do something special, so we boarded the dogs for a few days and decided to try our first ever AirBnb! I found an adorable remodeled “barn” in Watertown, SD and off we went!

The booking process was so simple and our host made great contact with us ahead of time so we knew just where to go and how to access our accommodations. I don’t know why I’d been so nervous to try the whole system out as it really was a breeze!

This particular AirBnB had a living space with woodstove right to the left of the entrance and a nice cozy swinging bed/couch in the middle that faced a TV.

There was also a bedroom off to the side that could sleep another 3 people and also contained a washer and dryer in case you were there for an extended amount of time.

There was a bathroom across from that bedroom as well. It was huge and well stocked with towels, assorted over the counter meds and anything else you could possibly need!

The kitchen was amazing! We were gearing up for a possible winter storm during our visit, so we stocked up on a few take out meals to reheat from our favorite restaurants in the area (Buffalo Wild Wings and Firehouse Subs) and also bought some other groceries for a few other meals. Just like the bathroom, the kitchen was completely stocked with anything we needed! We were easily able to use dishes and cook the pizza we bought in their fancy new oven! We also had plenty of storage in their nice fridge! Plus the huge island space was perfect for the multiple board games we brought along for entertainment fun.

We had a blast all weekend despite the weather being questionable (although we didn’t get as much snow as they expected.) We watched a lot of Netflix (they had it on the TV), played some board games, and enjoyed the woodstove as the temperatures dropped!

If you would love to experience the AirBnB for yourself, check it out here! It was the best first AirBnB experience we could have asked for and we can’t wait to find more fun unique lodging in the future!

Nicolett Tower ~ Sisseton, South Dakota

Living out in rural South Dakota, there’s not always a ton of options for quick side trip outings as we aren’t near what many would consider “tourist” areas. However, this fall, we were able to sneak in a little side trip about an hour north of us to visit Nicolett Tower in the Sisseton Hills area and take in some of the fall colors.

The tower has a small parking lot and does have an interpretive center, but that building was closed during our visit due to Covid-19.

As you can see from the photo, the tower has three main viewing decks, each at a higher level. It’s a relatively short climb to the top, but the views are pretty great, especially if you come when the fall colors are appearing like we did!

While this certainly isn’t an attraction that I would suggest making a detour for, it provided us with some fun entertainment after being holed up in our house most of the year, let us take in some of the fall colors, and gave us a nice change of scenery from the flat farmland near us! It’s worth a stop if you are passing through the area!

We obviously haven’t been active on it lately as our travels have been few and far between, but don’t forget you can still follow us at sitesandbitejournal on Instagram and of course as always sign up for e-mail updates from the blog. I have one more close by trip to share and will be going to town on Bucket List posts as well!

World’s Largest Pheasant ~ Huron, South Dakota

Our final pit stop on our route back home from the Black Hills was to see the World’s Largest Pheasant in Huron.  Those who know us well, know that we love our large roadside attractions. Bonus is they tend to be free!

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Not going to lie, it’s a little concerning to see all the for sale signs around the property. Hopefully whoever buys the property either maintains the pheasant or they find somewhere else in town to move him, because he’s pretty cool!

The other really neat thing is that they have a platform to stand on (shown above) to be in the picture and another platform that you can take the pictures from. This makes the photo op so much simpler and easy to do!

If you happen to be passing through Huron (also home to the South Dakota State Fair), just take a ride down the highway and check this big bird out!

Also please note, for the time being, we are now caught up on blog posts about our own travels and have no big trips planned until the third week of March. From this point on, it will just be more of a focus on our Bucket List series as we build up our knowledge prior to other travels!

For more details on our travels, follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram or sign up for e-mail updates from the blog.

Corn Palace ~ Mitchell, South Dakota

Everyone loves to rave about the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD since it’s the “World’s Only Corn Palace”, but honestly it’s just a giant area that happens to be decorated with corn.

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I have visited the Corn Palace twice in my life, the most recent in October 2019, and both times work was being done on the artwork. While it is sort of neat to see the “process” of things going up or down, it’s also disappointing to not have any idea of when you can really see the whole thing decorated.

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The murals are not just on the outside, but inside the arena portion as well. When we stopped in, it was clear some kind of farming event had either just happened, or was due to happen soon. This is my other problem with the Corn Palace. Because it is an arena, I’m sure there are times where tourists may drop in to see it, only to be told they can’t enter on that particular day due to an event being held in the arena.

All in all, we maybe were at the Corn Palace for 15 minutes. They have pictures of past displays up in the outer hallways, and you also can climb up to the second level to be able to access the balcony over the entrance. It’s ok if you want to use it as a stop to stretch your legs while driving along Interstate 90, but overall, it’s nothing that spectacular to write home about.

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Dignity ~ Chamberlain, South Dakota

One of the best kept (not so hidden) secrets of traveling in South Dakota, is the Dignity statue. Dignity stands at the rest area in Chamberlain, just off our Interstate 90. She is magnificent to behold, and from the instant I learned of her, I knew I had to see her someday. This was the main reason why we traveled back home via Chamberlain on our trip to the Black Hills region.

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Dignity is easy to access given that she is located just off the interstate at the rest area. But this is not your average rest area either! Inside it also contains an information center with fliers about every region of the state (I found several new place to explore while inside), and also has interpretive displays about the time the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent in the area, complete with a Keelboat replica and a viewing terrace that looks out over the Missouri River! You really should plan to go during open hours for the informational center to get the full experience!

Back to Dignity! The statue has signage near it explaining the vision and goal behind creating the sculpture. Something really unique about it, is that the blue diamonds of her shawl actually were built to “move” in the wind!

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On top of the coolness of just viewing Dignity (and the museum inside), you also can walk down a path towards the river for better views of the wide Missouri. There were signs saying to watch for snakes, but we didn’t see any while out and about exploring the path.

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So the moral of this story is, it can be easy to bypass a rest area and just keep driving, but this is one rest area you should plan to stop at and stretch your legs for a longer amount of time as it offers lots of history and things to see!

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Best Western Lees Motor Inn ~ Chamberlain, South Dakota

While on our way home from the Black Hills region, we spent a night in Chamberlain, South Dakota, right along the beautiful Missouri River. We stayed at the Best Western Lees Motor Inn, that while showing its age, was a wonderful location to stay. This Best Western is two levels, with doors on the outside. It is right down by the river, so you can easily access a river walk path to the north, and there are a few restaurants close by.

Our room was right next to the lobby on the lower level. We were able to park our car right in front of our room to unload our few bags. The room opened to a spacious bedroom area, that held a bed, table/desk, armchair, desk chair, and TV stand with TV, fridge and microwave.

The small doorway led to the sink and closet area. The sink was to the left and closet to the right.

The doorway beyond the closet led to the rest of the bathroom facilities.

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On of the really unique features of this hotel was that they had a separate building for the pool area. We had the whole pool area to ourselves the night we were there. It was a huge space and also contained the ice machine. Note: They do lock it after pool hours, so get your ice early!

I didn’t get any pictures of breakfast, but they had a wide selection in a room off of the lobby area. (It actually would have been on the opposite side of the wall from the TV in our room.) They had several tables to dine at and the selection had several hot options including biscuits and gravy, eggs, and a waffle maker.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Best Western in Chamberlain, and enjoyed all the time we spent in that peaceful town!

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