When most people embark on a journey to the “Mount Rushmore State,” that’s exactly where they begin their sightseeing. You may know about the several majestic monuments that stand proudly above the Black Hills as wild animals roam free on the prairie, but did you know that some of state’s best kept historical secrets lie deep underground?
Strap on your hiking boots and make sure to grab a camera! You’ll need it for when you see your students’ faces light up with excitement, as they strike it rich with memories made in South Dakota.
Fascinating Wonders of Nature
Your students deserve to see nature work its beautiful magic on the shorelines of the Big Sioux River. Start your journey by visiting the scenic Falls Park, located in its namesake city of Sioux Falls. Let your students take in the exhilarating view of the triple waterfall from the observation deck that stands five stories above the falls.
For the animal and nature lovers in your group, consider taking a trip to the Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove, also located in Sioux Falls. Students will enjoy observing hundreds of butterflies from around the world, receive a cooling splash from the stingray exhibit and experience plenty of other interactive learning opportunities.
Take in the fresh air of nature, and then be sure to stop by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) facility and the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS), located just outside of Sioux Falls. Your students will enjoy a fascinating tour through one of the government’s hardest working environmental and scientific data processing facilities. The facility not only researches environmental issues that affect the land and weather, but they’ve also partnered with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to process their satellite images from space.
When you’re traveling through Custer County, tell your students to grab a flashlight and plunge deep into the depths of the Jewel Cave National Monument, which is the third largest cave in the world!
If you get a chance, stop by the Wind Cave National Park, which is also in Custer County. Wild animals roam free there, and the cave has many unique formations for your students to discover.
Cultural and Historic Old West Adventures Await
While you’re visiting Sioux Falls, take a creative SculptureWalk with your students. Conveniently, the approximate one-mile walk will lead your group of adventurers directly to the city’s first high school, the historic Washington Pavilion.
At Washington Pavilion, also located in Sioux Falls, your students are sure to find plenty of entertaining things to do. The building is the first high school built in Sioux Falls, but it is now home to the South Dakota Symphony and many other artistic, musical, and scientific performances and events. Enjoy a guided tour of the facility, including the Wells Fargo CineDome, and watch an educational movie shown on a gigantic movie screen.
After a long day, settle down with your students for a picnic in the historic Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, located about 12 miles away near Canton. Take a stroll with your students down the same paths and trails that were once shared by many of the Oneota Indigenous Peoples.
If your group ventures to the city of Mitchell, there are plenty of buried secrets to share with your students. It is home to the Prehistoric Indian Village & Archeodome, and it has a fantastic display of earth lodges for your students to explore. While you’re visiting, you may even spot a live archeological dig taking place, since the Archeodome always excavates the prehistoric land.
Another significant part of Mitchell’s culture is the Hutterite Religious Colonies. South Dakota is home to the largest number of Hutterites in the country, and they graciously offer behind-the-scenes tours to student groups. Your students can learn a lot of about agriculture, farming and communal living, as the Hutterites comprise the oldest self-sustaining communities in existence.
Make sure your students’ adventure includes a little play time in the rough and tumble gold-mining town of Deadwood. Take your students on an underground adventure through the Broken Boot Gold Mine, where they are sure to discover some gold.
Show your students how the Old West traveled in style by booking one of the Deadwood Stage Coach Tours—but be careful; you may become a witness to one of Shoot-Outs-“Main Street Deadwood Historic Street Shows, featuring the legendary and “longest running Old West stage show in the world.”
Unique Experiences Found Only in South Dakota
As your group makes its way out west towards the Black Hills, take a break and stop by the city of Mitchell. The city is home to the “World’s Only” Corn Palace. Enjoy free admission and a self-guided tour through the city’s corn culture, illustrated by a variety of artistic displays and decorations. Take a better look at all of the creativity by climbing to the top of the Corn Palace’s observation deck.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is located in Custer County. While there, your students will enjoy a picturesque view of the highest mountain in South Dakota, as well as many Native American artifacts and performances.
If your group visits the Black Hills, be sure to stop by Keystone, home of the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial. A stop at the visitor center and a hike on the Presidential Trail are just two ways to explore the historic mountain beauty. It’s no wonder the Black Hills receive over three million visitors each year!
Education and excitement abounds in South Dakota, so make sure that you’re part of your students’ learning experience by visiting soon. You’ll be surprised what they’ll discover. If you’ve visited South Dakota, be sure to leave a comment about your trip, and what you think is best for students.