South Dakota is located in the Great Plains, in the Midwestern region of the United States. Summers are hot, while winters are very cold with high winds. The land is home to several Plains Indian tribes, including the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota-speaking people of the Great Sioux Nation. The state is famous for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Millions of visitors come to see the sculptures four former U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Other points of interests include the Crazy Horse Memorial (a mountain monument), Custer State Park (wildlife reserve in the Black Hills) and the Badlands National Park to name a few. As the state’s sites are pretty spread out, you will need to rent a car to get around and explore most of it. For more information visit: travelsd.com.
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Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is dedicated to an Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. Construction of the memorial began in 1948 and the carving is not yet completed. When finished, it will be the largest mountain carving in the world. Visitors can view the mountain and see the carved face of Crazy Horse (which is 87 feet tall) or explore the visitor center and Indian Museum of North America History for artifacts and art related to Native American culture and history.
The High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, South Dakota honors the Western heritage of the region and the pioneers, sheep and cattle ranchers, American Indians, miners, and the rodeo and transportation workers from the High Plains. Artifacts, exhibits, live music, poetry, “historical campfire series” and an outdoor area with longhorn cattle can be seen at the heritage center.
Historic Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark and home to many historical sites, including the Days of ’76 Museum, Broken Boot Gold Mine, Saloon #10 and the original site of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok. Many stores, restaurants and bars are also located in the town.
Laura Ingalls Wilder is an iconic American author who wrote about life on the prairie based on her time in South Dakota and other Midwestern states. Visit the Ingalls Homestead and learn about life on the prairie through exhibits, family activities and reconstructed historical sites like a schoolhouse, barn and the Ingalls home. Visitors can also camp overnight in a covered wagon, bunkhouse or tent.
The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs is a large mammoth research facility and museum where visitors can see fossils from mammoths, a giant short-faced bear, camel, wolf and other animals. Exhibits on Ice Age mammals, including a life-sized model of a mammoth, also teach visitors about life in what is now South Dakota during the Pleistocene era. Another archaeological site is the state is the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village where visitors can see historical artifacts, exhibits, Native American art and view a real dig site.
Learn about the Cold War at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. International visitors can see an underground launch area that controlled 10 nuclear missiles for almost 30 years. Artifacts and exhibits about the Cold War are also on display and free, guided tours are available throughout the year on a first-come, first-served basis.
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic attractions in the United States, attracting almost 3 million visitors each year. There are several types of guided tours and events at the site, including tours about local Native American tribes, the history of the area and evening programs before the Lighting Ceremony. Mount Rushmore is accessible by car or a private tour company (see list below).
- Affordable Adventures
- Big Thunder Gold Mine Tours
- Black Hills Discovery Tours
- Black Hills Open-Top-Tours
- Cosmos Mystery Area Tours
- Dakota Bike Tours
- GeoFunTrek Tours
- Mount Rushmore Tours
- Paleo Adventures
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
Art & Cultural Attractions
- The Dahl Arts Center, Rapid City
- Goss Opera House, Watertown
- The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge
- Husby Performing Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls
- Journey Museum, Rapid City
- National Music Museum, University of South Dakota, Vermillion
- Redlin Art Center, Watertown
- Sculpture Walk, Sioux Falls
- Sioux Falls Arts Council, Sioux Falls
- South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings
- South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, Sioux Falls
- Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls
- Washington Pavilion of Arts & Science, Sioux Falls
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
Minor League Sports
No major league professional teams are located in South Dakota, but international visitors can see popular sports at a professional and semi-professional level in Rapid City and Sioux Falls:
- Rapid City Rush (hockey)
- Sioux Fall Pheasants (baseball)
- Sioux Falls Skyforce (basketball)
- Sioux Falls Stampede (hockey)
- Sioux Falls Storm (indoor football)
Watch a college sports team at a local South Dakota university and see some popular American sports for a much cheaper price – often free! Some South Dakota colleges with athletic programs include:
- Augustana Vikings, Augustana College
- BHSU Yellow Jackets, Black Hills State University
- DSU Trojans, Dakota State University
- Northern State Wolves, Northern State University
- SDSU Jackrabbits, South Dakota State University
- South Dakota Coyotes, University of South Dakota
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Badlands National Park features numerous landscapes, including a mixed prairie, protected wilderness area, canyons and rocky pinnacles. Outdoor activities at the national park include hiking, nature walks, camping, cycling and astronomy programs.
There are many cave systems in the Black Hills, including, Wind Cave National Park, the Black Hill Caverns and Jewel Cave National Monument, the third-largest cave in the world. Book a cave tour (reservations are recommended, especially in summer months) or explore other outdoor activities around the caves, like hiking, nature trails, camping, horseback riding and other activities, depending on the area.
Many outdoor activities are available at the Black Hills National Forest, including hiking, camping, cycling, rock climbing, fishing, boating, water skiing, scuba diving, tubing and horseback riding. Winter activities include ice skating, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Custer State Park is the largest state park in South Dakota and home to a herd of free-roaming bison and other animals like antelope, mountain goats, elk and wild turkeys. Visitors can go fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding. Browse a list of other state parks in South Dakota and see which types of recreational activities are available around the state.
The George S. Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile hiking, biking and horseback riding trail that travels between Edgemont and Deadwood. Most sections of the trail are suitable for all ages and experience levels. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing are also available, though snowmobiling is only available on certain parts of the trail.
Rock climbing is available in many parts of South Dakota, including many climbing schools for beginners. Sylvan Rocks, for example, is a climbing school and tour guide service in the Black Hills region. Visitors may also wish to check out other outdoor activities in South Dakota on the state’s tourism website.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
German, Norwegian, Irish and Native American cultural groups have influenced South Dakota cuisine, along with its location near the West and Midwest of the United States. In additional to cultural dishes, popular ingredients in the South Dakota diet include game meat like buffalo and elk and, thanks to the successful ranching industry in the state, beef. Visitors can also enjoy official state foods like frybread and kuchen, try out fresh produce at a local farmers’ market or taste something new at a South Dakota food festival. See below for more details.
Buy local produce—often at an inexpensive price—at a local South Dakota farmers’ market. Vendors often also sell homemade products like jams, baked goods and other items.
Food Festivals & Events
- Sioux Empire Farm Show, Sioux Falls, January
- Schmeckfest, Freeman, March
- The Original SD BBQ Championships, Huron, May/June
- Tabor Czech Days, Tabor, June
- Apple Festival, Harrisburg, September
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls is the largest fair in South Dakota. The event takes place over nine days in August and includes carnival rides, food, agricultural shows, live entertainment, exhibits and much more. A similar event is the South Dakota State Fair in August/September in Huron, SD.
Powwows are celebrations of Native American culture and heritage and often include traditional dress, dancing, music, arts and crafts, singing and other cultural activities. Powwows are held throughout the year, especially in summer. Browse a list of powwows in South Dakota to learn more.
The Buffalo Roundup & Arts Festival at Custer State Park allows visitors to watch a roundup of around 1,300 buffalo. After the roundup, visitors can see arts and crafts vendors, enjoy pancakes and other food, see traditional Native American entertainment and enjoy other fun activities over two days in September. Learn more at the state park website.
Wild Bill Days and Days of ‘76 rodeo are two events held in the historic city of Deadwood. Wild Bill Days brings free music and entertainment to the city each June, while the Days of ’76 Rodeo includes a parade and rodeo events each July. Browse the Historic Deadwood website for more information on historical and cultural events in the city.
Oahe Days is a music and arts festival in Steamboat Park in Pierre. The June event features live music, a parade, art exhibits, food, art vendors and other fun activities for kids and adults.
Crazy Horse Volksmarch is an annual hike up the Crazy Horse Memorial. Though the memorial isn’t complete, up to 15,000 hikers attend the event during the first full weekend in June and can see a close-up view of the mountain sculpture, which includes the 87-foot high face of Crazy Horse.
South Dakota Film Festival in Aberdeen is held each September. Many films from the Great Plains region of the U.S. are included in the festival, but other feature films, documentaries, short films and other pieces are also included. Another film festival in South Dakota is the Black Hills Film Festival in Hill City.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
South Dakota Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for South Dakota participants include:
- Craigslist – South Dakota
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Public Transit Systems
There are limited public transportation options in South Dakota. For local public transit systems, check the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in South Dakota communities, such as:
Bus and Train
There are no passenger trains in South Dakota, including Amtrak.
Participants in South Dakota can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- South Dakota FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion8
- National Weather Service
- Weather – Aberdeen and Northern South Dakota
- Weather – Rapid City and Western South Dakota
- Weather – Sioux Falls and Southeastern South Dakota
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Habitat for Humanity welcomes volunteers to help build low-cost housing for families in need. Volunteers need no experience and both groups and single individuals are able to join on home builds. Check the Habitat website in the link above to contact a local South Dakota affiliate and learn more.
Feeding South Dakota needs volunteers to help out with various afternoon, evening and weekend programs that often last for a few hours. Visitors can also find food pantries in South Dakota that need volunteers in their local communities.
Find a United Way in a nearby South Dakota community to find a local volunteer opportunity. Volunteers are needed to tutor children, serve meals, visit with senior citizens, help with administrative work in an office and many other tasks.
Volunteer at a local festival or event during your time in South Dakota, like during the South Dakota Festival of Books or South Dakota Shakespeare Festival. Find a favorite event and contact the organizers to see if you can help out. Browse the Local Festivals page for more information on cultural events in South Dakota.