From the Great 8 to acclaimed museums and national parks, South Dakota boasts a wide array of attractions that offer accommodations for people with disabilities. Here is a short list of the state's top wheelchair-friendly and accessible things to do.
Accessible Great 8
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Explore America’s Shrine of Democracy, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and marvel at the grandeur of Gutzon Borglum’s iconic sculpture — all while learning about the history of our storied nation. Visitors will find ample wheelchair access throughout the park, free wheelchair rentals, written transcripts for the self-guided audio tour, closed captions on all videos, braille and audio-described publications, and ASL interpretation available by request.
Photo credit: @lung_story_short
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park ensures that all visitors can experience its rare underground cave system by offering tours specifically for those with disabilities. Their half-hour Accessible Cave Tour is perfect for visitors in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. The tour includes an elevator ride in and out of the cave, as well as an introduction to the cave and boxwork formations. ASL interpretation is also available, and must be reserved two weeks prior to your visit.
Photo credit: @planetstahl
Jewel Cave National Monument
The third-longest cave in the world, Jewel Cave National Monument offers several guided tours, including the wheelchair-friendly Discovery Tour — a 20- to 25-minute adventure that takes participants into one large room of the cave. Service dogs are also permitted on this tour. The park also offers ASL interpretation by request, as well as tour scripts and guided outlines for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. And, above ground, there are several paved, accessible trails to explore.
Badlands National Park
Another iconic South Dakota landmark, Badlands National Park aims to make its offerings accessible to everyone, from its campgrounds and trails to its ranger programs and more. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center offers sensory-friendly tactile experiences, listening devices for people with hearing impairments, ramped entrances and wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Visitors can also enjoy miles of accessible trails and overlooks.
Custer State Park
Nestled in the Black Hills, Custer State Park is a 71,000-acre park that teems with native wildlife, including bison, elk, antelope and mountain goats. The majority of the park can be explored from the comfort of your vehicle, but there are also several paved trails that are accessible for most people in wheelchairs. The Black Hills Playhouse and visitor center, both located in the park, are wheelchair friendly, too.
Other Top Attractions
Museum of Geology
Located on the campus of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the Museum of Geology houses a robust collection of rare fossils and minerals. The museum is wheelchair accessible via a ramp on the front of the O’Harra Building, which has an elevator to take visitors to the third floor where the museum is located. Wheelchairs are available to rent upon request as well. The museum also offers a unique tour for people with visual impairments that includes tactile learning opportunities. These tours must be scheduled in advance.
The Mammoth Site
In 1974, woolly mammoth bones were found at a dig site in Hot Springs. Today, The Mammoth Site is an active paleontological dig site open to the public that boasts the largest concentration of woolly mammoth remains in the world — 61! For those in wheelchairs, the site has a ramped pathway around the sinkhole as well as a small elevator that can take people from the ground floor to the raised observation deck.
A South Dakota attraction for the whole family, Reptile Gardens is set in an incredible botanical garden and houses one of the largest collections of reptile species in the world. The paths through the gardens are paved and accessible for most people in wheelchairs. They also have wheelchairs available to use free of charge, and lift access to exhibits on the second floor.
Children's Museum of South Dakota
As the name suggests, the Children’s Museum of South Dakota is a fantastic place to bring kids if you’re near Brookings. The museum offers a host of hands-on, indoor/outdoor activities with the goal to spark imagination and learning for children of all ages and abilities. A weekly Sensory-Friendly Play features designated quiet rooms, adaptive equipment and art tools (such as noise-reducing headphones, fidget items and transition timers) and limits the guest list to 100 people. The museum is wheelchair accessible, too.
Bear Country USA
View black bears, elk, bighorn sheep and bison from the comfort of your vehicle at Bear Country USA. At this one-of-a-kind Rapid City attraction, visitors can experience the magic of South Dakota wildlife up-close without being in crowds or needing to travel on uneven or unstable pathways.
Redlin Art Center
The Redlin Art Center houses more than 160 original oil paintings by acclaimed Watertown artist Terry Redlin. The gallery is surrounded by a 30-acre Conservation Park that was designed by Redlin himself as an homage to his childhood dream of becoming a park ranger. The center is fully wheelchair accessible, with elevators and ADA-compliant restrooms on each floor.
Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
The Aktá Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, located on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, is an immersive museum dedicated to preserving and educating visitors on Native American culture, both past and present. The museum is wheelchair accessible and welcomes qualified service dogs. It also offers several tactile learning experiences for people of all abilities, including the Medicine Wheel Garden, where visitors are encouraged to sit or wander in quiet meditation — perfect for those in need of a moment to destimulate.
Drive-In Movie Theaters
Throughout South Dakota, visitors will also find an array of drive-in movie theaters. These theaters offer opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy a classic cinematic experience. Contact each theater directly for detailed accessibility information.