Here are South Dakota’s top-rated tourist attractions in addition to Mount Rushmore

The last of more than 400 sculptors responsible for one of America’s most treasured monuments, Mount Rushmore, died in 2019. The feat of carving the faces of presidents in stone took 14 years. Even if the granite monument slowly succumbs to erosion, the shadows of the former presidents will survive for at least two and a half million years before they begin to lose their most characteristic features.

The elements shape our world – wind, water and weather work together for hundreds of millions of years to create masterpieces beyond the reach of human capabilities. South Dakota is teeming with natural beauty, its unique landscapes resonate with visitors who like to think of the big picture. This mix of natural and man-made attractions in South Dakota proves that the state has struck a fine balance between respecting nature and the desires of those who come to admire it.

9 Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park tells the story of the evolution of the planet on a large scale. Rock formations with colorful layers mark the eras of history. Vast seas of spiers and towering mounds contain fossils of animals that no longer exist, like the Nimravid, which would have resembled a saber-toothed cat.

Today the park is home to towns of prairie dogs that poke their heads in and out of intricate tunnel systems carved into the earth, delighting children and adults alike. Bighorn Sheep traverse fields of tall grass dotted with wildflowers and make their way above rock formations with enviable ease. The sun is beating down on day visitors, who often return at night to enjoy the awe-inspiring star show offered by the unpolluted natural landscape.

8 The only corn palace in the world

Although Iowa is the largest corn-producing state in the United States, Mitchell in South Dakota is home to the World’s Only Corn Palace. The oddity draws half a million visitors a year, many of whom have no idea what’s going on even in the realm of cultures. The mascot, a corn cob personified called Cornelius, greets guests with his million dollar smile.

The palace serves as a venue for various functions, including fall festivals, sporting events, and even weddings. Each year, local student artists use a dozen different colored corn kernels to create beautiful murals. Wild grasses and grains decorate the space of the agricultural wonder, making World’s Only Corn Palace a must-see for folk art enthusiasts or anyone awed by human creativity.

Related: 10 American Roadside Attractions You Should Stop To See (& The Weird Stories Behind Them)

seven Reptile gardens

There are several species of reptiles native to South Dakota, including snakes, turtles, and lizards. However, customers of Rapid City’s Reptile Gardens are in for a treat. Named the largest reptile zoo by the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records, the gardens are home to a variety of creatures from around the world.

Guests can meet Orville, Tank, and Samson, a trio of gentle giant Aldabra tortoises. One of the few remaining saltwater crocodiles, a 16-foot-long man named Maniac, leads a cozy life in a beautifully designed enclosure meant to protect him and amaze onlookers. The three-story Sky Dome features tropical plants, spooky caterpillars, rare and deadly reptiles and amphibians, plus a few roaming frogs and lizards.

6 Wind cave national park

Recent exploration places Wind Cave in seventh place as the world’s longest cave at just under 155 miles, although there are still some undiscovered passages that could one day change its rank. The cave represents almost all the caisson formations in the world, sheets of calcite that intersect to form unusual honeycomb patterns.

Visitors can spend an entire day exploring the underground wonder and stay another day to see the aerial beauty of the park. Wind Cave National Park contains one of the largest mixed grasslands in the country. Several trails take hikers through the park, where they will have the chance to have rewarding views of South Dakota’s beautiful and historic Black Hills.

5 Carrier Sculpture Park

Fifty phenomenal sculptures can be found on 18 acres of meadow just 400 yards from the freeway to Montrose at Porter Sculpture Park. A single man named Wayne Porter is responsible for each sculpture. The completely self-taught artist has transported his creations to a perfect open-air gallery, and it’s not uncommon for guests to meet the man behind it all.

Brightly colored renderings of butterflies and flowers appear against the natural background, while the famous 60-foot bullhead and the skeleton of a human-sheep hybrid create a darker tone. The one-of-a-kind sculpture park billed as “the art you can touch” has gained national recognition as a major roadside attraction.

4 The National Presidential Wax Museum

The National Presidential Wax Museum in Keystone offers visitors another form of artistic expression. A colonial-style building invites guests to explore life-size replicas of American presidents at pivotal moments in American history. A melancholy George Bush puts his hand on the shoulder of a firefighter following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Other exhibits include flag seamstress Betsy Ross presenting her creation to George Washington alongside his wife, Martha, and the famous drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Related: The 10 Best Wax Museums In The World, Ranked

3 Wildlife Loop Route

Wildlife Loop Road is a 29 km scenic drive through Custer State Park in Hermosa. The vast loop of open meadows promises visitors close encounters with the animals that inhabit the park. Bison roam free on the open road causing the most pleasant type of traffic jam.

Deer, antelopes, and mountain goats are some of the other animals seen by guests, and each season offers a different experience. While summer is the most popular, spring is all about babies, and the greater food shortage in winter comes with the benefit of more easily spotted wildlife.

2 Black elk woodpecker

A hike to the top of Black Elk Peak will offer hungry eyes the most expansive view of South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s the highest natural point in the state at 7,242 feet, offering views of four states from a historic watchtower once used to detect wildfires. The stain of American history should not be overshadowed by the region’s first settlers, the Lakota Sioux. The site, formerly known as Harney Peak, was renamed in 2016 to honor the famous healer Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk), who had his “Great Vision” at the top.

Related: 10 Native American Heritage Attractions Everyone Should See

1 1880 City

The 1880 town of Midland allows people to experience what life was like in the 19th century. Over 30 historic structures are authentically furnished and filled with relics from days gone by. To truly immerse themselves in the space, guests can don historically-accurate costumes as they explore. Main attractions include props from the award-winning film, Dance with the wolves, live comedy and rope tricks performances, and a train restaurant decorated with 1950s memorabilia that serves homemade cream pies.

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