Black Elk Peak Hiking

Family Spring Break Fun in South Dakota

From baby animals to gigantic landscapes begging to be explored, see why South Dakota is the ultimate family spring break destination.

Blooming flowers, warmer days and colorful signs of life everywhere — what's not to love about spring? In South Dakota, spring brings an even bigger variety of family fun. Get outdoors on a hike. Have a close encounter with wild critters. Engage imaginations with dinosaurs and museums. Or just spend a day zooming down slides at a waterpark. What are you waiting for? Keep reading to plan your South Dakota-sized spring break adventure!


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Family Hiking

Fresh air is a welcome treat after a long winter. Thankfully, South Dakota's diverse landscapes provide ample open space and adventures that will entertain even the pickiest kids. Bonus: They'll also keep everyone’s eyes off their phones and on the spectacular scenery!

Pick a place and wander through Badlands National Park. The otherworldly terrain makes it easy to pretend you’re on a different planet. Spearfish Canyon State and National Forest Service Scenic Byway is a 19-mile strip of gorgeous scenery where families can easily pull over to explore three waterfalls.

If your family is united in its love of hiking, ascend Black Elk Peak in Custer State Park to get a view of five states from the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees Mountains in France. There’s even a small area where you can enjoy a picnic lunch.

Badlands hiking
Badlands National Park
Hiking Custer State Park
Custer State Park
Hiking Black Elk Peak
Black Elk Peak

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Kid-Approved Museums

Some museums can be a little bit…dry for certain family members. That’s not the case at several SoDak museums, where it’s easy and fun for everyone to be involved. Spend a few hours with hands-on activities at the South Dakota Discovery Center, and watch the kiddos become mechanics, teachers and more at the imagination-fueled Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings.

South Dakota Discovery Center
Discovery Center, Pierre
Playing in the fountains at the Children's Museum
Children's Museum of South Dakota, Brookings
Children's Museum
Children's Museum of South Dakota, Brookings

Roar with the Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs make eyes light up, no matter if you're 3 or 83. Good thing there are plenty of places to get your roar on in South Dakota! Get a dinosaur overload with the treasure trove of fossils and more at Hill City's Museum @ Black Hills Institute. Climb on the seven life-sized concrete dinosaur replicas as you take in the view from Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. A 50-ton, 80-foot brontosaurus will greet you as you enter Wall (from the east), the same town that’s home to the legendary Wall Drug and its T.rex that comes to life every 15 minutes.

Black Hills Institute geology
Museum @ Black Hills Institute, Hill City
The head of an animatronic T.rex peeks over a wall and some wire at Wall Drug
Wall Drug, Wall
Dinosaur Park
Dinosaur Park, Rapid City

Game On!

Any kid will tell you — play is good for the soul and the body! Head to Press Start in Rapid City for food, drinks and, most importantly, old- and new-school arcade gaming. Get your bounce on at Sky Zone in Sioux Falls or Get Air Trampoline Park in Box Elder. Engage the family in laser tag at Galaxy Gaming in Sioux Falls and enjoy go-kart racing and more at Flags and Wheels (Rapid City), Karttrax Family Fun Park (Yankton) Allevity Entertainment (Aberdeen), and Thunder Road locations in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Watertown.

A family looks on as a young child awkwardly knocks her mini golf ball into the hole
Thunder Road, Sioux Falls
Family go-karting at Karttrax
Karttrax, Yankton

Waterpark Wonders

The weather can be unpredictable in South Dakota around spring-break time, but our indoor waterparks ensure a splash-ton of fun no matter the weather. Make a day or night of it in Rapid City at the 30,000-square-foot WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort, which has five family-friendly hotels right on-site: Residence Inn by Marriott, Fairfield Inn by MarriottHome2 Suites by HiltonLa Quinta by Wyndham and Courtyard by Marriott Rapid City. Nearby properties like the Best Western Ramkota HotelAmericInn by Wyndham and Grand Gateway Hotel boast their own indoor water playlands as well. 

Soak in the naturally warm mineral springs at Evans Plunge in Hot Springs. In Deadwood, make a splash with the pirate ship and water geysers at The Lodge at Deadwood before settling in for a nice meal, a restful evening and maybe even some gambling once the kids go to bed. 

Evans Plunge
Evans Plunge, Hot Springs
Watiki Water Park
WaTiki Indoor Waterpark, Rapid City

In Sioux Falls, hotels like the Ramada Hotel & Suites, OYO Dakotah Lodge Waterpark and Best Western Plus Ramkota all have attached water playlands. So do the Brookings Inn in Brookings, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Brandon, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Aberdeen and the Days Inn by Wyndham, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites and Comfort Inn & Suites in Mitchell, home of The World’s Only Corn Palace.

Animal Encounters

Spring means lots of great things in South Dakota, but none as cute as the baby animals and birds that are born each year. For tips on where to find them and a preview of the cuteness that awaits, check out this photo essay. Warning: It may exceed recommended levels of adorability.

No matter how old you are (or feel), it’s impossible not to get excited when seeing tigers, elephants and creatures from around the world. The whole family can enjoy that experience at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls or the Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown.

Bramble Park Zoo
Bramble Park Zoo, Watertown
Bramble Park Zoo
Bramble Park Zoo, Watertown
Great Plains Zoo
Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls

Scenic Drives

You control the speed, climate and music while you take in some of South Dakota’s finest scenery on a classic spring break road trip. In the Black Hills, Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is a 70-mile drive that includes spiraling bridges, hairpin curves, granite tunnels and awe-inspiring views. Custer State Park is perfect for animal-spotting, especially Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway, with its “beggin’ burros” and potential for a buffalo traffic jam (which is the best kind). 

While you're there, you may even get treated to a buffalo carwash. Well, that's not an official name, but it's pretty accurate. The park's resident bisons are big fans of salt, including the kind that gets put on the roads in the winter. If you park in the right spot during your spring trip, you could be surrounded by buffalo happy to lick your vehicle clean. It’s cute and makes for some unique photo opportunities, as long as you take the right precautions. These beasts can get dangerous fast, so stay in your vehicle, pull away slowly when you’re ready to move on, and enjoy a truly unique South Dakota experience.

Begging Burros
Beggin' Burros, Custer State Park
Driving on Wildlife Loop
Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway, Custer State Park
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