The 10 Best Summer Activities in South Dakota!

South Dakota is a wonderful summer hot spot, with a moderate summer climate in additional to excellent swimming spots, fairs and festivals, sporting events, rodeo competitions, music festivals, and so much more. Start your summer with these 10 great activities to do in the state! 

1. Days of ‘76 Rodeo and Parades, Deadwood, SD

Rodeo is ingrained in the culture of South Dakota—it is even the official state sport! The Days of ‘76 Rodeo is the perfect place to experience this state tradition, as it is the four-time winner of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) “Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year.” Lively parades are held in downtown Deadwood in conjunction with the rodeo, including the historic Deadwood Main Street Parade. The rodeo will include events in bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. 

2. South Dakota State Fair, Huron, SD

For over 130 years, the South Dakota State Fair has been the premier summer event for folks across the state. There will be a carnival, vendors, livestock entries, Men’s Expo, Women’s Expo, bull riding, Miss South Dakota State Fair Pageant, live music from world-renowned artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, a tractor pull, wine pavilion, beer garden, and more!   

3. Central States Fair, Rapid City, SD

Held in mid-August in the Central States Fairgrounds, this fair has world famous artists, a huge carnival with adrenaline-pumping rides, Sommerfest German tent, fruit pie cooking competition, demolition derby, wrestling, mutton bustin’, pig wrestling, comedians, magicians, rodeo, livestock shows, and much more! The Central States Fairgrounds hosts other exciting events throughout the year, so check their website for a complete schedule of upcoming happenings.

4. Mount Rushmore Rodeo at Palmer Gulch, Hill City, SD

The Mount Rushmore Rodeo is one of South Dakota’s most exciting sporting events! During the five Saturdays that the rodeos are hosted on, cowboys and cowgirls saddle up to compete in barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, and team roping. There are fun activities before the start of each rodeo. For kids, there is a mutton busting competition. Mutton busting is an exciting and memorable rodeo event in which children ride sheep.

5. Annual Sioux River Folk Festival, Canton, SD

Canton’s Sioux River Folk Festival is held every year in early August. The live music event features music, workshop, yoga, food, and contests. This event has drawn locals and visitors alive to the Newton Hills State Park for almost 30 years. Gaynor Johnson, one of the founders of the festival stated, “my wish is that long after I’m gone, people will still gather in this magical place called Newton Hills and celebrate life, nature, and, of course, good music at the Sioux River Folk Festival.”

6. Summer Nights, Rapid City, SD

Three blocks of downtown Rapid City come alive during Thursday nights in the summer to host Summer Nights! This family-friendly event has live music in a variety of genres. Each night draws about 8,000 people, with the highest attendance recorded at 14,000! A schedule of bands can be found at their website at www.rapidcitysummernights.com. Music includes genres like classic rock, 80s, pop, modern country, and more! There are activity stations set up for children and a beer garden for the adults. There is something for everyone at Rapid City’s Summer Nights!

7. Cool Summer Nights, Baltic, SD

Held mere miles from Sioux Falls, the small town of Baltic hosts the Cool Summer Nights picnic. This free event is held every Wednesday night from early June through late August with events like picnics, music, lawn games, a playground. It is put on by the Sioux Falls Art Council who accepts donations at the picnic. This event is a perfect way to celebrate the summer season and the beautiful scenery in the state!

8. Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, De Smet, SD

Celebrate the birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame, in style at her historic De Smet family home. Actors and actresses from the “Little House on the Prairie” television series will hold a Q&A session for fans prior to the performance. The performance is a family-friendly drama based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Audience members can step back into the time of wide-open prairies being settled by pioneers. Purchasing tickets in advance is not necessary, as all seating is general admission. 

9. Summer Porch at Strawbale Winery, Renner, SD

Held at Strawbale Winery in Renner, this event is held on Thursday evenings all summer long! There will be local food and craft vendors, wine tasting, local and regional art, and live music. No pets or outdoor food or beverages are permitted. This is a family-friendly event, so feel free to bring the kids!

10. Downtown at Sundown, Brookings, SD

The town of Brookings hosts this summer concert series during seven weeks of summer, from mid-July through late August. 5th Street in downtown Brookings comes alive with live music, cold drinks, local food, and a celebratory atmosphere. It is held every Thursday night, and every night features a different opener and headliner. Music of all variety is played, and there are free kids activities. Bring the whole family and dance the night away at this free and fun event!

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