The 10 Best Educational Activities for Children in South Dakota!

Opening your child’s eyes to the world around them, through history, art, science and more, is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent. Seeing a child enjoy an activity all while gaining greater knowledge of this world is a truly rewarding experience. Experience the greatest the state has to offer with these 10 great educational activities for children in South Dakota! 

1. Reptile Gardens, Rapid City, SD

On the outskirts of Rapid City, this animal park houses the largest reptile zoo in the world. Deadly snakes like black mambas, king cobras, and diamondback rattlesnakes slither around this park, to the amazement of both young and old visitors alike. Other animals include crocodiles, lizards, turtles, and more! Reptile Gardens isn’t only about animals—it also contains a lush botanical garden with species from around the world. Children can learn about reptiles and plants in this fun, exotic wonderland!

2. Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Hot Springs, SD

See the American Wild West as it was 300 years ago with wild horses, rocky canyons, and wind swept prairies. This wildlife sanctuary gives wild horses both freedom and quality care. In addition to beautiful horses, marvel at the Ponderosa Pine forests along the Cheyenne River, a restored one-room schoolhouse, and ancient petroglyphs. With 600 wild mustangs on 11,000 acres of private land, your kiddos will never want to leave!

4. Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone, SD

Located only three miles from Mount Rushmore, Big Thunder Gold Mine is an authentic 1890s historic mine giving tours to inquisitive minds of all ages! For a hands-on activity, try the on-site gold panning. Visitors receive a hands-on lesson to learn the proper panning technique for Black Hills streams. Remember the trip with something from the huge gift shop. Kids will never forget this fun family activity!

4. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, SD

Venture back to the tense times of the Cold War at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Remember the Red Scare while marveling at the Delta-09 underground missile silo which held a Minuteman II missile. The center includes an above-ground support building and underground control center capsule. Give your children an intense, first-hand view of this strained time in our history!

5. Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer County, SD

This impressive mountain carving is only 17 miles from Mount Rushmore, but once finished will be much larger than Mount Rushmore. See the in-progress monument of the legendary Oglala Lakota warrior. Visit the onsite Indian Museum of North American, welcome center, and Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and see more than 12,000 historic artifacts. Children will marvel at the huge monument and learn about South Dakota’s rich pre-Columbian history!

6. Journey Museum & Learning Center, Rapid City, SD

Discover art, science, culture, and history at Rapid City’s acclaimed Journey Museum. Tour South Dakota’s unique history from the formation of the Black Hills billions of years ago to the Wild West. Walk through the streets of a pioneer town. Explore an archeological dig pit. Exhibits include hands-on rock, fossils, and artifacts. Explore more recent events such as the Rapid City Flood of 1972. Children will have a greater understanding of the rich history of the Black Hills after visiting this amazing museum!

7. Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, Sioux Falls, SD

This Sioux Falls art gallery and science museum is popular among families. The Science Discovery Center has over 100 interactive, hands-on activities for kids to have fun while learning. Exhibits include activities like building a colony on Mars, excavating dinosaur bones in the shadow of a 40-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex, learning about tornados, rock climbing, creating high-speed films, and so much more! 

8. South Dakota Discovery Center and Aquarium, Pierre, SD

View the aquarium with fish species native to the Missouri River or play with any of the over 60 interactive, educational exhibits at Pierre’s science playground! Have fun with mirrors, learn science in the Growing Up Garden Center, have a hair-raising experience with the Van de Graf generator, explore the indoor treehouse, and learn about nanotechnology.

9. High Plains Western Heritage Center, Spearfish, SD

Learn about the pioneers of the American West at the High Plains Western Heritage Center. See a furnished log cabin, rural schoolhouse, and antique saddle and blacksmith shop. Marvel at the transportation room with a stagecoach, chuckwagon, buggie, and sleighs. In the Heritage Center, live Western music and poetry are performed monthly in a large theater. Entrance is free for children under six!

10. Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, SD

Explore one of the longest and most complex caves in the world! It is known for containing 95 percent of the world’s discovered boxwork formations. Feed your child’s adventurous spirit as you descend into the cave on a ranger-guided tour. Above-ground, the unique prairie ecosystem is home to elk, buffalo, antelope, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets!

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