Family of four hiking in the Black Hills

Summer in South Dakota


Explore South Dakota in the summer!

When the days grow long, each one kissed by sunshine, South Dakota is in its full summer swing. Seasonal businesses reopen, events calendars in cities and towns across the state fill with fun, and outdoor recreation – especially on the water – calls to the kid in all of us.

Obviously, pack a bathing suit (sun protection, too). But 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 protected when the sun goes down or a summer shower pops up.

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Storybook land castle
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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.

Woman at an overlook in the Black Hills
Black Hills & Badlands Region

Stay cool at Custer State Park near Custer by hanging out at Sylvan Lake. Choose your own adventure, from lazing on the swimming beach to renting a paddleboat. Not far away, another classic summer cool-off awaits: ice cream from Carvers’ Cafe that comes with a view of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

To get off the beaten path, drive south to Hot Springs and (literally) chill out inside Wind Cave, featuring the world’s most intricate collection of boxwork formations, Native American history 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 in the town of the same name (Aug. 6-15, 2021).

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reenactment
Glacial Lakes & Prairies Region

With its mix of cultural capitals and small towns, Glacial Lakes & Prairies hosts a variety of can’t-miss summer events. Choose from favorites including Aberdeen’s Brown County Fair (August), one of the oldest in the state (August), and the Brookings Summer Festival in Brookings (July), when the city’s scenic Pioneer Park showcases 200 artists, live entertainment, and food stalls.

Of course, the region is also known for its lakes AND its fishing. Even better? The weekend before Memorial Day is Free Fishing Weekend – no license required!

Boats on a sandbar on the lewis & clark trail
Missouri River Region

With the Missouri River and four popular lakes beckoning, you won’t be able to resist the call of the water in South Dakota’s Missouri River region. Rent a paddleboard to navigate the calm waters of Lake Sharpe or Lake Oahe. Like to fish? Check into local resorts and marinas that cater to (and equip) anglers in search of walleye, bass, salmon and other species.

Follow the river by car along the Native American National & State Scenic Byway. The route connects several sites of significance to native tribes, including the powerful Dignity: of Earth & Sky sculpture in Chamberlain.

Falls Park
Southeast Region

Summer is hopping in Sioux Falls, 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, featuring downtown views and the tumbling Big Sioux River.

Trade the city for a totally natural immersion. Just north of Vermillion, Spirit Mound invites hikes – in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark – dotted with prairie wildflowers that show off for the season.


Featured Events

The Sturgis Rally is biker heaven. Head to the Black Hills for one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world, where more than 500,000 riders converge on the small town of Sturgis each summer. Every year, this 10-day rally grows and adds can’t-miss events, like Black Hills sunset rides, poker tournaments, tattoo contests, motocross competitions, drag races and live music.

If you’re looking to try real South Dakota cuisine, attend the South Dakota Chislic Festival. South Dakota’s best will compete for bragging rights over who makes the tastiest chislic, a South Dakota specialty of cubed cuts of deep-fried meat — usually lamb, beef or venison. Grab tasty grub and South Dakota craft beer from festival vendors and enjoy live music, kids’ games and more.

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 and has become a can’t-miss regional celebration. Catch all the exciting professional and ranch rodeo events, like mutton bustin’ and steer roping. Plus, you won’t want to miss the annual cattle drive, street dance, carnival, fireworks spectacular and Fourth of July parade.

In Huron, don’t miss the South Dakota State Fair. Full of carnival rides, rodeo events, live music, antique tractor shows and livestock and agricultural demonstrations, this five-day fair is packed with family-friendly fun.

Find Summer Events

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Illustration of BigHorn Ram in Badlands National Park at Sunrise with flowers and the colorful striated spires leading off into the horizon
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