With frosty mornings, clear blue skies, prairie vistas, and rugged Black Hill views, South Dakota is a spectacular place to spend a Thanksgiving break. Choose a South Dakota vacation rental in one of the state’s many welcoming communities, and enjoy great food, fantastic entertainment, and plenty of opportunities to relax and soak up the easygoing atmosphere. Check out the best cities and towns to visit in South Dakota this Thanksgiving.

1. Hill City

Source: Flickr/Drew Jacksich

Hill City is the perfect vacation destination to kick off your holiday season. The Friday after Thanksgiving, the whole town comes aglow with holiday lights and festive activities. Railway enthusiasts and history buffs love checking out the interactive displays at the Black Hills Central Railroad’s depot while everyone enjoys the festive tree displays interspersed with the exhibits. Savor the mystery of the season with a Holiday Express train ride aboard the 1880 Train to North Pole, South Dakota, where Santa is ready to greet you with hot cocoa and treats. Saturday, take in the sights downtown during Hill City’s Olde Tyme Christmas event. Between snacking on roasted chestnuts and watching the holiday parade, be sure to celebrate Small Business Saturday by stepping into local businesses to get a head start on your holiday shopping.

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2. Sioux Falls

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Book a vacation rental in Sioux Falls, and enjoy Thanksgiving in the heart of America. Start the day out right by participating in the Run for Food. Choose from three different routes, ranging from 1 mile to 10K, and then run or walk your way through your selected course. Donations are collected before the race to support local food outreach programs. Next, head to the District for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast with turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings. The District also hosts concerts, so be sure to check out the schedule for events during your stay. On Friday, catch the Parade of Lights that runs down Phillips Avenue.

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3. Keystone

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of the Interior

Thanksgiving is a great time to head to Keystone to view Mount Rushmore and have some holiday fun. The Mount Rushmore visitor’s center is open year round, and there are fewer crowds in the late fall season. Keystone offers visitors other opportunities to step back in time. Head to The Keystone Historical Museum, which features a fully outfitted school room from days gone by on the second floor. Take a stroll through the area using Keystone’s Old Town Walking Tour pamphlet as your guide. Many sites have special holiday displays and activities throughout Thanksgiving weekend.

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4. Custer

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A vacation in Custer puts you close to many of the top South Dakota attractions, including the Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest mountain carving. For a memorable Thanksgiving feast in a truly memorable location, head to Laughing Water Restaurant, located at the Memorial, for a traditional Thanksgiving buffet. Then, spend some time viewing the sculpture and touring the onsite Indian Museum of North America to learn more about some of the Native people represented at America’s first Thanksgiving.

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5. Pierre

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South Dakota’s capital city takes celebrating seriously. The annual Christmas at the Capitol celebration kicks off the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and opens daily throughout the holiday season. Spend an afternoon touring the display, which includes around 100 intricately decorated and lighted trees spread throughout the Capitol building. On Friday, visit the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center for the holiday open house, and enjoy live entertainment while learning more about the history of the area.

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6. Huron

Source: Flickr/Jordan Wilms

Your crew is sure to love Huron’s Parade of Lights. This annual event kicks off Thanksgiving weekend with a procession of illuminated floats that seem to get larger every year. After the parade, take a walk around town to see the many entries into the Christmas Lanes competition, in which area residents and businesses construct elaborate lighted lanes to compete for prizes, including the coveted Clark Griswold Award for the house with the most lights.

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7. Rapid City

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Settle into a cozy vacation home in Rapid City for a great Thanksgiving vacation. Leave the cooking to others, and enjoy Thanksgiving brunch at Minerva’s, complete with a roaring fire in the fireplace and oversized cushioned chairs to help you feel at home. If you prefer your feast a little later in the day, Marlin’s Family Restaurant offers Thanksgiving dinner in a casual atmosphere into the evening. On Saturday, visit Main Street Square for Rapid City’s holiday celebration and winter market. There is ice skating and live entertainment, and the younger members of your party are sure to anticipate Santa’s arrival by firetruck at the height of the festivities.

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8. Mitchell

Source: Flickr/Ashleigh Bennett

From art lovers to exercise enthusiasts, Mitchell offers a host of activities to Thanksgiving travelers. The Mitchell 5K Turkey Trot Run/Walk takes place annually on Thanksgiving morning and allows same day registration, making it easy for you to participate. Reserve Friday for a visit to the Corn Palace. A continual Mitchell fixture since 1892, this building is covered with evolving murals and decorations made from different colors of natural corn that are changed regularly to keep them fresh. If you love to shop, take a stroll around town on Saturday or Sunday when local businesses open their doors for extended hours in honor of Small Business Shopping Weekend.

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9. Lead

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If your idea of a great Thanksgiving vacation is to escape into the wilderness, a vacation rental in Lead makes a great home base for exploring the South Dakota Black Hills. Spend your days exploring on the Mickelson Trail following in the footsteps of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and then relax in the evenings by watching the stars rise in the dark Western sky.

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