There’s no shortage of American pride in South Dakota. After all, it’s home to Mount Rushmore, as well as six national parks and monuments, an abundance of wildlife, and endless natural beauty. Nearly every quaint town features a vibrant parade, fireworks, and plenty of heart. From Old West shootouts and rodeos, to cave diving and festivals, July 4th celebrations in South Dakota are especially exciting. Join in on the fun by booking a stay at one of many cozy vacation rentals in South Dakota today. Without further ado, here are the top family-friendly places in the state to commemorate Independence Day.
1. Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, America’s Shrine of Democracy, symbolizes freedom and hope for America. It features 60-foot faces of four of our great presidents and is where thousands of people renew their patriotism during the July 4 ceremonial activities. Take in some breath-taking views on the Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking trail that meanders through the mountain. Each night during the summer months, there’s a patriotic lighting ceremony, but if you’re here for July 4th, you’re in for a real treat. Each of the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, are portrayed by professional re-enactors, along with other live performances. It’s possibly the most patriotic place west of Washington D.C. to celebrate the Independence Day!
High in the Black Hills is South Dakota’s Outdoor Recreation Capital and one of south Dakota’s most memorable communities. Pronounced “Leed,” this town is home to two major downhill ski areas, the southern gateway to Spearfish Canyon, gives direct access to Mickelson Trail, and has miles of groomed snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, as well as mountain climbing, hunting, fishing and golfing. In addition to everything the great outdoors has to offer, Lead has one of the nations most unique and best fireworks displays at Lead’s Gold Camp Jubilee over the Homestake open cut. Spend your long holiday weekend enjoying three days of live entertainment, vendors, and family-friendly activities.
3. Rapid City
South Dakota is known for wild animals such as bison, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, and various attractions let you get up close and person with some rare and exotic animals like reptiles, bears, and alpacas. Recognized as the world’s largest collection of reptiles, the kids will love a visit to Reptile Gardens where they can see snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles and more. Also in Rapid City is Bear Country USA where more than 20 species of North American mammals, including wolves, reindeer, elk, black bears and grizzly bears, roam freely throughout the 250-acre park. Finally, make a stop at Caputa Alpacas where you can spend the afternoon petting, playing with, and feeding these adorable, fluffy creatures.
4. Bell Fourche
Pronounced “bell foosh,” Belle Fourche is French for “beautiful fork,” named for being the meeting place of the Redwater River, Hay Creek and Belle Fourche River. Bell Fourche is home to 9 parks, but the River Walk, a 5-mile path that winds through the city, is the best way to navigate the town and enjoy its natural beauty. For an exciting Fourth of July weekend, come for the famed Black Hills Roundup rodeo, one of the oldest continuously held outdoor rodeos in America. Along with traditional rodeo events like barrel racing and bareback riding, there’s also a week-long carnival, huge fireworks display, a mile-long parade, a barbecue, ranch rodeo, the miss rodeo South Dakota contest and more.
Custer puts you just minutes away from amazing climbs, trails, adventure, and family fun. Located at the edge of Custer State Park, you’re also close to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Jewel Cave National Monument. Multiple tours are available to take you through Jewel Cave, the world’s third largest cave. The park is open year-round, but we highly recommend the Historic Lantern Tour and Wild Caving Tour only offered during the summer months. Then, join the fun at Custer’s Old time Country Fourth celebration with live music, old-fashioned games, races, and an arts and crafts festival.
6. Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, is the perfect combination of a small town feels with big city amenities. There’s an abundance of sports and outdoor activities to choose from, but our favorite thing about Sioux Falls is its innovative culinary scene. In fact, it’s been called the “Paris of the Plains” and the place of “newfound culinary fame” by The New York Times. Some absolute must-tries are C.H. Patisserie, opened by Chris Hanmer, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts, Mama’s Ladas enchiladas, and Sanaa’s Mediterranean food. Be sure to save some room for picnic food at Sioux Fall’s 4th of July Family Parade & Picnic. Events include a fun run and walk, parade, and live music.
7. Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is a 244,000-acre experience you wont find anywhere else. It’s said you may feel like you’ve been transported to another planet. And while the park doesn’t have its own July 4th event, a visit to South Dakota wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the 60-mile stretch of rugged terrain to view the Badlands rock formations. It’s the ideal place to celebrate the true wonders of nature.
This 1870s gold rush town became a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and gives you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of historic Old West legends like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock. Pay your respects to Wild Bill Hickok at Mount Moriah Cemetary where many western legends, outlaws, madams and other notable citizens are laid to rest or catch a glimpse of gunslingers and history in action during the town’s fun reenactments. There’s history around every corner.
9. Lewis and Clark Trail
If celebrating Independence Day makes you want to reconnect with the history of our great nation, then You and your family will love the adventures that away from you along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The trail begins at the southeastern tip of South Dakota where the two explorers first entered the state and end near the North Dakota border. At Adams Nature Preserve, you can see one of the last free-flowing segments of the Missouri River with more than seven miles of hiking and biking trails that crisscross the preserve. Spend a few days at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area located on Lewis and Clark Lake. The park offers a full-service marina, sandy beaches, hiking and biking trails, and an archery range. Campsites are available along with cabins and vacation rentals with spectacular views of the lake.
10. Native American Scenic Byway
South Dakota is rich in Native American history and culture, so this list wouldn’t be complete without experiencing at least one aspect of it. There are nine Native American tribes that call South Dakota home, and each of them works together to welcome visitors into their communities in order to educate and to share. When visiting Native communities, you will experience genuine hospitality, discover authentic art, and hear about the fascinating history and unique culture of the people known by many as Sioux. While you can visit many of the tribes scattered throughout South Dakota, the Native American Scenic Byway takes you through the lands of the Yankton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes, reaching across South Dakota from Nebraska to North Dakota. The route also offers breathtaking views of the Missouri River, diverse landscapes, and abundant wildlife. What better way to celebrate our country than experiencing its true history?