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11 Best Small Towns in South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota aerial view

While you might think South Dakota is just a flat state full of farms in the middle of cornfields, this midwestern state has so much to offer. The state’s natural beauty makes it a paradise for outdoor lovers, with the Badlands National Park, lakes, trails, and numerous state parks. Even the “biggest cities” are small towns in South Dakota, and if you’re looking for community charm, you’re sure to find it here.

Much of South Dakota is in the High Plains, but you’ll find that the land becomes more rugged west of the Missouri River. You’ll find flat-topped hills (buttes), ravines, and rolling hills in this area. There are many scenic drives in South Dakota, from the 19-mile Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway to the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, where you can experience much of the area’s landscape, wildlife, and small South Dakota cities!

The most notable attraction in South Dakota is the Mount Rushmore National Monument, with four revered U.S. presidents carved into the granite, but there is also the Crazy Horse Memorial, a tribute to the storied Native American tribal leader.

South Dakota is sparsely populated, with many small towns scattered across the state. It is divided in half by the Missouri River, cutting through Sioux City, Chamberlain, and Pierre (the capital city). Although it’s one of the least populated states, you’ll find plenty to do in the best small towns in South Dakota!

Best Small Towns in South Dakota

1. Deadwood

Deadwood, South Dakota aerial view
Refocus Photography / Adobe Stock

Set against the backdrop of the Black Hills, Deadwood is one of the only towns listed on the National Historic Register. Once a frontier town in the Dakota Territory, Deadwood was also home to the 1876 Gold Rush.

As you drive or walk through the South Dakota town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Old West. (Of course, the historical re-enactments make it even more real!) Famous figures Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are buried in the town’s cemetery.

When you visit Deadwood, you can stop by the Adams Museum, which has a plesiosaur fossil on display and a large gold nugget. The Historic Adams House is also worth seeing, with its Victorian architecture and preserved interior.

Lastly, you can’t miss the Tatanka Story of the Bison. This local attraction focuses on the symbiotic relationship between the North American plains bison and the Lakota Nation, with exhibits and sculptures.

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