South Dakota climate
As a Great Plains state, South Dakota has an interior continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures can reach the high-20s (Celsius) and winter can be well below zero. Sioux Falls averages 104cm (41 inches) of snowfall annually, but there is less snow further north, and the northwest can get less than one foot of snow.On the northern fringe of tornado alley, South Dakota’s twisters are mostly in the eastern part of the state, sometimes in the central region, and rarely in the western part of the state. Spring is the peak tornado season.
When to fly to South Dakota
Summer is the peak season for visiting. This is when most visitors step off their flights to South Dakota. The attractions and outdoor activities are in full swing; visitors flock to the Badlands and to the Black Hills with Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Summer is also busy with Native American powwows, historical celebrations, volksmarches, and rodeos.
The fishing season lasts year-round, with some exceptions.
If you want to see the attractions but not the crowds, try the spring and autumn. However, off-season traffic is on the rise, so make reservations in advance.
The winters are generally too harsh for most of the outdoor attractions and activities.
Getting around South Dakota
You will need a car to get around South Dakota, or, if you are going to the more popular destinations, consider joining a tour group. There is limited bus service in the state, and the historic trains just run short routes. Driving is also your best bet even in Sioux Falls, and parking is plentiful.
Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are other ways of getting around, along with boating on the Missouri River, and motorcycles.
South Dakota insider information
- The Black Hills are home to Mount Rushmore, which features the faces of four American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Walk through the Avenue of Flags, 56 flags, representing the 50 states, one district, three territories and two commonwealths. The National Presidential Wax Museum has waxworks of every president from the signatories of the Declaration of Independence to JFK and George W. Bush’s visit to Ground Zero in New York in 2001.
- South Dakota is the home of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribes, who make up the Sioux Nation. The Journey Museum in Rapid City tells the story of the Great Plains from the perspective of the Lakota tribe as well as the pioneers who settled there.
- The South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings exhibits paintings celebrating the pioneer roots of the state as well as 19th- and 20th-century America Indian art.
- Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex, who resides at Field Museum in Chicago is the “largest, most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex”, was unearthed in South Dakota. The Badlands National Park has some of the world’s richest fossil beds.
- Follow the Lewis and Clark trail. Two centuries ago, President Thomas Jefferson sent a crew, headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to map the American West. On the trail today is a monument to Sacagawea, the only woman to accompany the Corps of Discovery and Native American Scenic Byway among many others.
- See the face of the legendary Lakota leader, Crazy Horse, gaze out across the Black Hills. Nine storeys high, the sculpture was started in 1939 by Korczak Ziolkowski and still continues, the work now done by his family. When finished, it will be the world's largest mountain sculpture - 195 metres (641 feet) long and 171 metres (563 feet) high.