How to Vacation on a Budget in South Dakota

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In addition to the Pioneer Auto Show, there are many fun, interesting destinations located close to I-90 throughout South Dakota. Best of all, many attractions offer very affordable, or even free, admission prices, making them must-stops for families traveling on a budget. We’ve outlined some of those points of interest so you can easily plan your trek through the Mount Rushmore state, all while keeping more money in your wallet for when you arrive back home.

Experience South Dakota Culture

 Appreciate regional art and history while you vacation on a budget with these enriching attractions:

  • Pioneer Auto Show – Murdo – In addition to the over 275 classic cars, 60 motorcycles and 60 tractors on display, the authentic Prairie Town, complete with jail house, train depot and WNAX radio station, will transport you right back to the early 1900’s. A visit can easily keep you lost in nostalgia for hours, while the kid’s treasure hunt will keep the little ones entertained!
  • Museum of Visual Materials – Sioux Falls – Featuring stunning artwork by both local and international artists, this museum also offers a plethora of free children’s activities, including a Lego Creation Station, Imagination Playground and 5’ x 8’ 16-room Barbie house.
  • Dignity Statue – Chamberlain – The 50-foot tall, stainless steel statue, Dignity, represents Native American culture in South Dakota and serves as a symbol of respect and hope for the future. The amazing piece is viewable from the interstate, but way more jaw-dropping up close.
  • Dahl Arts Center – Rapid City - Located in downtown Rapid City, the Dahl offers free admission, with donations welcome and used to fund operating costs. Exhibits are displayed for a limited time only, allowing for a new experience with every visit.

Take Advantage of Free Attractions

What could be better than free? Check out the following destinations for family fun at absolutely no cost:

  • Corn Palace – Mitchell – Take advantage of free guided tours during the summer months, which include a fascinating video that details the history of this “a-maize-ing” place. Your whole family will be in awe of the elaborate corn murals on display, which are regularly changed to different themes that are relevant to current events and South Dakota culture.
  • Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center – Chamberlain – Located along the banks of the Missouri River, the museum offers an in-depth look at the history and stories of the Northern Plains Indian Tribes. The museum is open year-round and offers free guided tours upon request.
  • Wall Drug – Wall – This well-known destination may be located in a small town, but it offers big fun. Wall Drug’s Backyard costs nothing to explore, and contains water jets that are perfect for cooling down, a T-Rex to take pictures with and 3 mining stations where visitors can pan for gold or dig for treasure. And, of course, free ice cold water!
  • Museum of Geology – Rapid City – Located on the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology campus, the Museum of Geology contains paleontology and mineralogy exhibits, as well as a kids’ zone that offers a hands-on experience.
  • Storybook Island – Rapid City – Step into a fairy-tale wonderland at Storybook Island, where you can walk among displays featuring some of the most beloved children’s characters at no charge.
  • Outdoor Campus East and West – Sioux Falls and Rapid City – Both Outdoor Campus locations are free and provide a great way to learn more about the ecosystem of South Dakota. There are many hands on activities available for all ages, including free classes where participants can learn outdoor skills such as fishing and archery.

Catch a Show

It’s no secret that the price of going to the movie theater has grown over the years, but there are options available in South Dakota for you to treat your family to a night at the movies without blowing your vacation budget. Be sure to bring a blanket or chairs and some snacks, and head to these affordable events:

  • Moonlight Movies in the Park – Sioux Falls – Stop by Fawick Park in Sioux Falls on Saturdays during the summer for a free outdoor movie. Popcorn, candy and beverages are available at the concession stand to snack on during the movie.
  • Movies Under the Stars –Rapid City – Every Monday throughout the summer months, Main Street Square in downtown Rapid City hosts a free family-friendly movie night, with a different all ages appropriate show starting at dusk.

So, whether you’re headed west for a summer adventure in the Black Hills, or plan on seeing all that there is to do East River, you and your family are sure to have a blast without going over your budget during your South Dakota vacation. And make sure to pay a visit to your friends here at the Pioneer Auto Show along the way!


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