20 Things South Dakota Is Known And Famous For

Please note that some posts may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission should you choose to purchase using these links but at absolutely no extra cost to you.

The North Central region of the United States is home to the culture-rich state of South Dakota. Although it is one of the least densely populated states in the US, South Dakota is known for its large area and the allure of its cultural and natural features.

What Is South Dakota Known For?

South Dakota is famous for its Native American culture, exciting festivals, and important monuments. The state is home to the renowned Mount Rushmore monument that is often featured in Hollywood movies.

Additionally, South Dakota is known for its expansive beautiful landscape that encompasses rugged lands and mountains. Furthermore, there are plenty of famous people from South Dakota whom you would be glad to know are associated with the state.

History, Culture, And Traditions


Midsummer Festival

South Dakota is famous for the annual traditional celebration of the mid-summer season.

The origin of the festival in South Dakota dates back to the late 1860s when immigrants from Dalarna County of Sweden came to settle in Southeastern South Dakota. The festival, which is one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden, has become an integral tradition in South Dakota.

The festival is usually organized by the Dalesburg Lutheran Church with many offerings, including food, music, and history lessons.



Another major festival South Dakota is known for hosting is the celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, better known as Tết.

Tết is observed in Sioux Falls with a giant party that consists of fun games, live shows, puppet shows, fashion shows, food, and lots more. The festival takes place in January or February depending on which of the two months the new year falls in.

Attending Tết gives visitors the opportunity to also explore other attractions in Sioux Falls that South Dakota is famous for.


Native American Day

Every second Monday of October is set aside to pay respects to the Native Americans, who were the first settlers in South Dakota.

The holiday is originally celebrated as Columbus Day but for South Dakotans, it is a day to remember and celebrate the rich culture and contributions of Native Americans.

Recently, Seven Council Fires were designated as the official indigenous language of the state in commemoration of Native Americans.

The Seal of South Dakota

The Great Seal is one of the symbols South Dakota is famous for having. The current seal was adopted in 1889 and has served as the official state seal since then.

The circular seal consists of a picture featuring a boat on a river, hills, a farmer, a mine, a farmer, and cattle. All of the things in the picture represent South Dakota’s commerce, agriculture, industry, and natural resources.

Above the picture in the seal is a ribbon bearing the motto of the state: ”Under God the People Rule”.

Black Hills Gold Jewelry

South Dakota is known for the manufacturing of Black Hills gold jewelry. The distinct jewelry is manufactured in Black Hills, South Dakota, and is the official state jewelry.

The jewelry’s distinctive design incorporates grapes, grape leaves, and grape stems. The gold color has a hue variety of green, red, and gold, which are achieved when the gold is alloyed with silver and copper, respectively.

If you can afford it, the Black Hills gold jewelry is the perfect gift to get for your loved ones.

Cities And Travel Destinations


Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is the most notable landmark in South Dakota. The historical monument features the carved heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Gutzon Borglum designed the monument. The carving began in 1927 and was completed in 1991, although it was paused for decades during this period.

Mount Rushmore is the most renowned fixture that South Dakota is famous for. It has been featured in international reports and many Hollywood movies.


Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is the most populous city in South Dakota with a population of over 200,000. But this number pales in comparison to the number of annual visitors the city receives., thanks to the diverse attractions packed in it.

South Dakota is home to malls, museums, and natural terrains where visitors can immerse themselves in activities that interest them. From art and culture exploration to restaurant hopping, skiing, there are plenty of entertainment options.

Sioux Falls is one of the most prominent cities in the state. It also boasts most of the hot spots South Dakota is famous for.


Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon is a top natural attraction in the Northern Hills of South Dakota. The gorge is located within the Black Hills mountain, south of Spearfish.

The area is blessed with stunning waterfalls(particularly the Spearfish Falls) and cliff walls that are just as captivating. The canyon features trails that reward hikers with a beautiful view of the natural scenery. The landscape gets even more scenic in the fall with beautiful colors.

Spearfish is one of South Dakota’s most beautiful natural possessions. Visitors are welcome to camp in the city of Spearfish and explore the canyon whenever they like.


Rapid City

With a population of over 75,000, Rapid City is the second-most populous city in South Dakota. It is home to some natural areas and attractions South Dakota is known for.

The city is located near Mount Rushmore and shares an extension of the Black Hills National Forest. In the city, the Museum of Geology displays a collection of geological and mineralogical items for tourists to explore.

The city is about an hour’s drive away from National Badlands Park, a destination with an expansive landscape and trails that will interest hikers.

Landmarks And Architecture

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial is a monument dedicated to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse. The carving on the mountain, located in the Black Hills, started in 1947 and is still in progress.

The project is so enormous it is the largest unfinished mountain carving in the world right now. So far the head and upper body of Crazy Horse have been carved on the mountain.

Although it is not yet completed, this memorial is already one of the most famous landmarks in South Dakota.


Historic Deadwood

Deadwood is an attractive small town engulfed by the Black Hills. The town is known for its popular wild west historic district.

The district is home to buildings that date back to the 1800s. It offers plenty of wild west activities to visitors, including reenacted shootouts, mine tours, DockDog competitions, live music, and so much more.

A notable site to visit is the Mount Moriah Cemetery, home to the graves of ”Wild Bill” Hickok, Calamity Jane, and other renowned figures of the west.

Corn Palace

Located in Mitchell, Corn Palace is known as the World’s Only Corn Palace and is one of the distinct architectures South Dakota is famous for.

The corn palace is a Moorish Revival architecture crowned with that serves as a multi-purpose arena/facility. The palace is the best attraction Mitchell has to offer and it attracts a whopping 500,000 visitors every year.

Major concerts, sports events, and major community events in Mitchell are held in the palace, most notably the annual Corn Palace Festival which attracts tourists from all over the country and the world.


South Dakota State Capitol

The state capitol building of South Dakota houses the state’s legislature and the office of the Governor. This historic building is located in the state capital of Pierre.

Constructed in 1910, the structure is a Renaissance Revival architecture. It has a stunning interior with a marble staircase that leads to an impressive rotunda. The capitol ground has an impressive statue of two horses going at each other in The Fighting Stallion Memorial.

Famous People From South Dakota

Bob Barker

Bob Parker is a household name in the American television hosting industry. Now retired, Bob Parker was known for hosting the popular CBS reality show The Price Is Right, which he anchored from 1972 to 2007.

Bob was born in Washington,  but his family moved to West Virginia where he attended high school and spent most of his youth there. Bob is easily one of the most famous people from South Dakota.

Brock Lesnar

Brock Edward Lesnar is a professional wrestler and former mixed martial artist. He is better known by his ring name Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar, aged 45, is a four-time WWE World Heavyweight champ and once held the record as the longest-reigning WWE universal champion. He is widely known for his brute and ferocious style of wrestling, which can be attributed to his mixed martial background.

Brock was born in Webster, South Dakota, and he spend his childhood and youth on his parents’ farm with his two older brothers and younger sister.

Brock’s illustrious career in WWE has made him a global figure and one of the most famous South Dakota people.

January Jones

January Jones is an actress and model widely known for her role in the successful drama television series Mad Men. Her stellar portrayal of Betty Draper earned her multiple major award nominations.

Jones was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. However, she spent part of her childhood in Hecla, South Dakota, before returning to Sioux Falls in 1996. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls.

She also featured in prominent movies, including X-Men: First Class and American Wedding. Jones is one of the most famous people from South Dakota in Hollywood.

Adam Vinatieri

South Dakota is also known for being the home state of former American football placekicker Adam Vinatieri, who played in the National Football League with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts for 24 seasons.

Vinatieri is one of the greatest kickers of all time and holds the record of the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points. His 599 tally is the record number of field goals made in the NFL.

Adam was born in the coastal town of Yankton, but he left for Rapid City with his family at the age of five. He attended Central High School in Rapid City, graduating in 1991.

Famous Food In South Dakota



The official state ‘nosh’ of South Dakota is Chislic, a serving of deep-fried cubes of meat on skewers or in a dish.

The origin of the dish is credited to German/Russian who introduced it in the 1870s, and its popularity has only grown since then. Now it is considered the foremost signature meal South Dakota is famous for serving. 

The tasty Chislic is served in almost any restaurant in South Dakota and is a favorite lunch treat for many. If there’s one savory South Dakota food to try, this is it!


Wasna is a traditional dish in the Lakota culture of South Dakota. It is made by grinding buffalo meat and mixing it with berries or other ingredients, then rolling it into small balls or patties and drying it.

Wasna can be eaten as a snack or reconstituted with water and used as meat in stews or other dishes. It is known for its high protein and nutrient content and was a staple food for the Lakota people for centuries.

Today, it is still enjoyed by many Native American communities and is gaining popularity among non-Native people as well, making a top dish South Dakota is known for offering tourists.


This traditional dessert is another South Dakota dish that has its origin linked to Germans who migrated to the region centuries ago.

It is a type of fruit-filled pie, with a sweet dough or pastry crust and a variety of fruit fillings such as cherry, apple, or peach.

Kuchen is a popular treat in South Dakota and is often served at social gatherings and events. It is a beloved part of the state’s culinary heritage and has been passed down through generations of families.

It is often served with coffee or ice cream and is a favorite dessert among locals and tourists alike.

Discovering More Things South Dakota Is Known For

Travel Insurance

South Dakota has a balanced combination of attractions and activities that will pull people of diverse interests to the state.

The integration of European and indigenous cultures gives visitors days to explore its heritage and learn about its history. South Dakota is known for so many things, which you can only experience if you look in the right place.

Be sure to plan a trip to the state yourself to experience and uncover more things that South Dakota is famous for.



Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

More Adventures


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


other stories