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New Experiences to Check Out in South Dakota

South Dakota’s prairie cities, badlands buttes and scenic Black Hills make the state a perennial travel favorite. But major anniversaries, highly anticipated openings and updated events promise new ways to experience the state.

1. Custer State Park centennial

South Dakota’s first state park celebrates a century with a beer competition, a summer concert series, a photo contest and new audio tours and visual tours on the park’s app.  

Custer State Park

Custer State Park

2. Deadwood in the spotlight

The Black Hills gold rush town and National Historic Landmark will toast 30 years of legal gambling as well as the construction of Outlaw Square, a downtown entertainment space slated to open by September. The town will also grab some national attention with the release this year of HBO’s film Deadwood. Old Style Saloon No. 10 (where Wild Bill Hickok was shot playing poker) is showing episodes of the HBO series that inspired the film Tuesday nights at 9 so everyone can catch up.

3. South Dakota Chislic Festival success

Last year’s inaugural gathering in Freeman was so popular that the fest returns July 27. Guests can sample the savory, cubed meat snack that is South Dakota’s official state “nosh” and watch a chislic cookoff.  

4. Jewel Cave National Monument reopening

Cave explorers recently mapped the 200th mile of the third-longest cave system on the planet. Celebrate with seminars and interpretive talks by cave experts from around the world at the Jewel Cave 200 Mile Celebration and Reunion June 28-30, or check out the multi-million dollar sidewalk, stairway, guardrail and lighting system renovation when the cave reopens in April.

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave National Monument

5. First boutique hotel coming to Sioux Falls

Hotel Phillips is scheduled to open in late spring inside a century-old downtown bank. Historical elements will be preserved, such as the 16-ton safe deposit vault that will now be part of The Treasury cocktail lounge, but modern touches will include a spa and guest library. 

Rendering of Hotel Phillips interior

Rendering of Hotel Phillips interior by architect Perspective

6. Sioux Falls sculpture completion

 A new symbol of Sioux Falls, the Arc of Dreams, is scheduled to be unveiled May 18. Dale Lamphere’s 60-ton stainless steel sculpture will curve over the Big Sioux River, a permanent anchor to complement the SculptureWalk’s rotating art installations. 

Arc of Dreams

Rendering of Arc of Dreams

7. Badlands National Park's 80th anniversary

Celebrate the 80th birthday of this otherworldly national park any time (it’s open 24/7, 365 days a year), or stop out for events like the July 24 Discover Badlands bash to meet the wildlife biologists who work with the park’s bison, bighorn sheep and endangered black-footed ferrets. 

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

8. Barack Obama statue unveiling

In July, a life-size bronze sculpture of former president Barack Obama by local artist James Van Nuys will join 42 other sculptures along Rapid City’s City of Presidents

9. Chapel in the Hills 50th anniversary

The wooden stave church in the hills outside Rapid City celebrates its golden anniversary July 5-7 with fiddle music, Norwegian folk dancing and a renewal of vows for couples married there over the years. 

10. New spots for sips 

Lone Pine Kombucha, South Dakota’s first kombucha brewery and taproom, debuted in 2018 in Rapid City. Find organic, raw, fermented teas in flavors like watermelon, lavender and chokecherry. Rapid City's newest brewery is Zymurcracy Beer Company — the name (pronounced z-eye-murr-crah-see) riffs on the words “democracy” and  ”zymurgy,” the science of fermentation.This veteran-owned nanobrewery offers a 10 percent veterans discount every day. Sawyer Brewing Company opened in Spearfish in December, offering wood-fired pizza and a crowd-pleasing menu featuring IPAs, a porter, stout and a cream ale. Snag a spot on the patio for Spearfish Creek views. At ​22TEN Kitchen Cocktails in Sioux Falls, look for cocktails featuring fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups along with an “American Eclectic” menu that draws inspiration from comfort food from around the world. 

11. Places to climb

High Mountain Climbing Gym has opened two Black Hills climbing gyms in the last year. The Spearfish and Rapid City sites both offer a bouldering wall and beginners nights for newbies, while the Rapid City location boasts a MoonBoard where advanced climbers can try courses set by others around the world.

12. The Black Hills Film Festival's 10th anniversary

The festival returns to Rapid City and Hill City for its 10th year May 1-5. It features seminars, workshops, and screenings of films from around the world, but emphasizes movies made South Dakotans or filmed in the state.

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