Couple kayaking at Palisades State Park.

Summer in South Dakota

When the days grow long, each one kissed by sunshine, South Dakota is in its full summer swing. Seasonal businesses reopen, event calendars in cities and towns across the state fill with fun, and outdoor recreation calls to the kid in all of us. From lake and river adventures to fairs, festivals and epic road trips, discover some of the best things to do this summer in South Dakota.

You may be surprised to learn that South Dakota is home to hundreds of lakes, as well as multiple rivers that invite activities ranging from boating and fishing to swimming and kayaking. In fact, South Dakota boasts more shoreline than the state of Florida. Really!

Prepare to get outside and enjoy the South Dakota summer weather by packing a bathing suit and plenty of sun protection. Keep in mind that while average highs can reach 90°F (32°C) during the day, nights can dip into the 60s (16°C). Light, breathable clothing will keep you cool, while a light jacket (and/or rain jacket) will keep you warm when the sun goes down or a summer shower pops up.

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Great Faces, Great Places

Welcome to South Dakota - the land of Great Faces and Great Places. From our six national park units like Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park to beautiful state parks, unique roadside attractions, and legendary history & culture, South Dakota is sure to surprise you at every mile marker.

Things to Do in Summer

Discover fun activities and experiences around the state.

Family of four hiking on a summer day at Custer State Park.

Western South Dakota's iconic landmarks and epic road trips make it a classic summer vacation destination. Choose your own adventure at Custer State Park, from lazing on the swimming beach at Sylvan Lake to exploring wildflower-speckled trails. Not far away, enjoy ice cream from Carvers’ Cafe, which comes with a view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Get off the beaten path with a drive to Hot Springs and chill out — literally — at Wind Cave National Park, featuring the world’s most intricate collection of boxwork formations and a year-round temperature of 49°F (9°C). Or head for the northern hills, where you can witness a Main Street Shootout in Historic Deadwood and experience the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Family on a pier looking at the Fourth of July fireworks display over Mina Lake State Recreation Area.
Glacial Lakes & Prairies Region

With its mix of cultural capitals and small towns, the Northeast region hosts a variety of can’t-miss summer events. Choose from favorites including the Brookings Summer Arts Festival (July), when scenic Pioneer Park showcases more than 200 artists, live entertainment and food stalls; Aberdeen’s Brown County Fair (August), one of the oldest in the state; and the South Dakota State Fair, which brings five days of excitement to the town of Huron over Labor Day weekend. Of course, the region is also known for its plentiful lakes and fishing. Mina Lake State Recreation Area, Roy Lake State Park and Lake Thompson State Recreation Area are just a few places where you can cool off or drop a line

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Missouri River Region

You won’t be able to resist the call of the water in Central South Dakota. Rent a paddleboard to navigate the calm beauty of Lake Sharpe or Lake Oahe. Like to fish? Check into local resorts and marinas that cater to anglers in search of walleye, bass, salmon and more. Follow the Missouri River along the Native American National & State Scenic Byway, which connects several sites of historical and cultural significance, including the powerful Dignity: Of Earth & Sky. Around the capital city of Pierre, sunflower fields explode into bright yellow as far as the eye can see. The region is also home to several fun celebrations, from the quirky Potato Days in Clark to the patriotic Fort Pierre 4th of July Parade, Rodeo & Fireworks.

Couple watching the sun set on a sailboat at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area in Yankton.
Southeast Region

Summer is hopping in the Southeast, so hang with the locals at an event — maybe a home game of the Sioux Falls Canaries (because baseball + beer = summer, right?) or a free Levitt at the Falls concert in beautiful Falls Park, set against views of downtown and the tumbling Big Sioux River. Or, trade the city for a natural immersion. Just north of Vermillion, Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie invites history-filled hikes in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. Several more state parks in the Southeast offer endless outdoor adventure. Try rock climbing above Split Rock Creek at Palisades State Park, boating and camping at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area or fantastic birding at Good Earth State Park at Blood Run.

Can’t-Miss Summer Events & Festivals

Celebrate the Fourth of July at the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche. A tradition of more than 100 years, this event is one of the longest-running outdoor rodeos in the nation. Don’t miss all the exciting professional and ranch rodeo events, like mutton bustin’ and steer roping, plus the annual cattle drive, street dance, carnival, fireworks spectacular and parade. Nearby, experience biker heaven at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally — the largest biker rally in the world. More than 500,000 riders converge on the small town of Sturgis each August for concerts, races, contests and dozens of other events.

Get an authentic taste of SoDak at the South Dakota Chislic Festival. The state’s best will compete for bragging rights over who makes the tastiest chislic — a South Dakota specialty of cubed cuts of deep-fried meat. Find more great grub at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. Full of carnival rides, rodeo events, live music, antique tractor shows and livestock and agricultural demonstrations, this five-day fair is packed with family fun.

Powwows (or “wacipis” in Lakota) are vibrant celebrations of Native culture and community featuring singing, dancing, drumming and an array of colorful regalia. Most of South Dakota's nine tribes hold their wacipis in summer, and spectators are encouraged to attend.

Find Summer Events

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So much more south dakota to explore

Another adventure is waiting for you this summer in South Dakota. Get inspired and say #HiFromSD to share your vacation experiences!

Illustrated image of three bison grazing in Custer State Park. The Needles rock formation is visible in the background.
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