South Dakota is home to many gems. Home to places that hold influence to domestic and international travelers; places like Mount Rushmore National Memorial and The World’s Only Corn Palace. It is home to local finds, and quirky stopping points. One thing in common between all of these places is the story to be told.

There is one place in South Dakota that I have visited in the last year that really screams, “this is South Dakota” to me. That place is the Redlin Art Center in Watertown. I was able to get back to the Redlin Art Center after not having visited for a few years. Immediately upon walking into the building you are flooded with a sense of coziness. A sense that you are really going to enjoy the time you have to spend.

The 52,000 square foot building is filled with 155 original oil paintings from Americana and wildlife artist Terry Redlin who truly has a great eye for romantic realism. Terry is considered to be one of the country’s most widely collected painters of wildlife and Americana.

I think the reason why I get an overwhelming feeling of “true South Dakota” when I walk in, is because Terry Redlin gave this beautiful art center back to South Dakota as a gift of thanks. He easily could have put this building near the Twin Cities where he went to art school. But instead, Terry, who was named America’s Most Popular Artist eight years in a row, chose South Dakota as the home to his impressive art center.

Terry’s story is unique. His interest in outdoors themes can be traced to his childhood in Watertown. He lost one of his legs in an accident at the age of 15. Shortly after, Terry was granted money by the state of South Dakota to put toward school. He made the decision to attend a notable art school in Minnesota.  He worked as a commercial artist and illustrator for many years. His career as a wildlife artist did not begin until age 40.  From 1977-1984, Terry was selling original oil paintings as income for his family and to support his business. In 1985, Terry’s son, Charles, convinced him to stop selling originals so that one day a museum could be built. The Redlin Art Center opened in 1997. In 2007, Terry retired from painting. This year he turned 76.

Terry’s paintings are ones that are easy to understand and easy to relate to, especially those that live in the Midwest. Walking through the galleries in the Redlin Art Center gives you an appreciation for his work as an artist, and you can see the development in the style of his work through the course of his career.

One of my favorite galleries is the “American Portrait” series which walks through what life looked like growing up in a small, classic, American town. As the series progresses, you notice subtle changes on the exterior of the house, a boy grows from childhood to college to being enrolled into military, the seasons change, and we’re reminded that freedom is never free. Terry’s inspiration to finish this series was 9/11.

The Redlin Art Center has recently begun incorporating sketches to compliment the paintings. Some of the sketches date back to Terry’s earliest days as a five year old, doodling on the back of papers at his dad’s work. Some are sketches from his later days as an artist, which when accompanying the finished piece, help the visitor understand Terry’s line from concept to completion.

The art center sits on an impressive 30 acres, known as the Terry Redlin Conservation Park; it includes both groomed grounds and natural habitat. There are 1.5 miles of walking trails outside and a gazebo for visitors to enjoy the surroundings.

It’s an overall impressive attraction that South Dakota is both proud and fortunate to have in our state.


guest blog post by Anna Huntington, Destination Rapid City community arts coordinator

One of the largest public art projects in the United States is coming to life in Rapid City this summer — and you can be part of it!

Master sculptor Masayuki Nagase started carving The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water at Main Street Square in the heart of Downtown Rapid City on July 1. The artist works on the 21-piece granite sculpture on site at the Square most weekdays. Using traditional hand tools and working behind a safety barrier equipped with large viewing windows, Nagase carves his design depicting the natural and cultural past, present and future of the Black Hills and Badlands.

Masayuki Nagese carving on opening day, July 1

 The massive Sculpture Project includes two “Garden Tapestries” of stones that are punctuated by two 35-foot-high granite spires. Nagase’s work is always inspired by nature and his visual design theme for the pieces of granite in the Badlands Garden Tapestry along Main Street is wind. For the Black Hills Garden Tapestry along Sixth Street, his theme is water. The artist’s design describes the impact of these natural forces on the landscape and inhabitants of the region. His overall theme for Passage of Wind and Water is transformation, change and hope.

Nagase trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo and has worked as a stone sculptor for more than 30 years. He lives in California with his family and will be working on The Sculpture Project during the summer months over the next three to five years.

The artist was selected by a community-based selection committee from an international pool of nearly 100 applicants last year.

As a large, outdoor public artwork in granite, The Sculpture Project: Passage of Wind and Water builds on the region’s sculpting tradition established by Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial, the world’s largest outdoor sculptures.

The Rapid City project takes the area’s sculpting tradition in a new direction, too, as a work that incorporates community input and is intended as a tribute to the community. Over the winter, Nagase held a series of community design workshops to gather information about people’s connection to nature in the region and will continue that process as the project unfolds. Before he carves the two spires, he will take handprints from community members, which he will sandblast into the spires in an upwardly spiraling pattern indicating hope for the future of the community.

You can catch the artist at the Square most weekdays. On some Fridays, when he’s finished working, Nagase will give informal talks describing the project and the week’s progress. Some Thursdays, you’ll find the artist at his studio in the nearby Dahl Arts Center, which he’ll open to visitors from 3:30 to 5 p.m.


Find out more at the project’s website: and follow us on Facebook.


Custer State Park is a South Dakota staple that many visitors enjoy while on their vacation through the state. The park is the second largest state park in the nation, boasting 71,000 acres of land filled with wildlife and countless breathtaking views.

The Wildlife Loop Road through the park is a visitor favorite and provides great opportunities to see the roaming bison, prairie dog towns, the begging burros and antelope. This loop road is open to anyone who has paid admission into the park. The entry fee is just $6 per vehicle for a day pass (or $30 for a year of entry to all state parks if you’re a regular). It sure is an affordable way to enjoy fine South Dakota scenery like the wildlife, beautiful lookouts, and Needles formations throughout the park.

Custer Resorts also offers a Buffalo Safari Jeep Ride through the park. I’ve been to the park dozens of times, and have been on a jeep ride a handful of times. Each time, I know I’m in for a ride! The staff members that drive the jeeps are well educated about the park, the Black Hills area, and the animals that call the park home. I always know I’m in for a treat and bound to learn something new.

This time, we had Dave as our driver. Immediately I clicked with Dave as he might have been sassier than I am! We had a great time playing park trivia, bumpin’ along looking for buffalo, and seeing how many prairie dogs we could spot in the park.

Make sure you visit Custer State Park on your trip through South Dakota, and take a jeep ride too!


This post is provided by Jenna Carda, intern for South Dakota Department of Tourism

If you are like me, you love seeing all the baby animals in the spring. How could you not? They are adorable! So when the opportunity came for me to go to Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown, S.D. – I jumped on it.

When you walk into the building, you are immediately captured by all the indoor exhibits. I felt like a little kid wanting to run and look at everything the minute I walked in the door! From native South Dakota fish like trout and walleye to clownfish, lionfish, turtles and insects there was a lot to see.

In addition to the displays there are classrooms for their children’s educational lessons. From zoo detective classes to learning about animals around the world in 50 minutes, the educational opportunities sound like a great experience.

As you walk outside you can enter a bird cage. Inside, there are beautiful birds all around while you stroll along a path in a wonderful garden.

From there, you can check out any of the animals the zoo hosts from the animals found in South Dakota like bison, peacocks and prairie dogs to large jungle cats and monkeys.

I must say that my favorite part of the entire zoo was indeed the monkeys. There are lemurs; there are capuchins; there are spider monkeys. So many to see! And do I need to express how adorable the babies were? Clutched to the backs of their momma, they were comfortable as can be. Some of the lemurs even put on a little show for us, hanging upside down and running from branch to branch.

Hands down, spring is a great time to go to the zoo. In addition to baby animals, plants are blooming and the weather is great. Check out for more information on zoo locations in the Mount Rushmore state.

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This post is provided by Jenna Carda, intern for South Dakota Department of Tourism

Looking for a unique place to stay in South Dakota? Nestled between the famous Wall Drug and the scenic Badlands National Park sits Frontier Cabins Motel. Located off I-90, the motel is a great option if you are looking for a central location to many of South Dakota’s main attractions.

The main store and front desk houses an array of merchandise. From handmade Native American jewelry to South Dakota made products, there is a lot to look at. The staff is friendly and will surely greet you with a smile.

There are thirty-three log cabins –placed in a cul-de-sac form – which are fully equipped with all the common amenities and decorated in a woodsy style. Log bed frames and bed-side tables are paired with log dressers and wrought iron lamps. To top off the rustic décor, each of the cabins has a front porch complete with log seating.

Set up in the center of the cul-de-sac of cabins is a play area for children – who stay for free if they are under the age of 12.  They will have a blast on the swings, slides and open forts. While they are running around after a long day in the car, adults can sit in the gazebo which holds a bar, as well as a grill and hot tub.

After a peaceful night’s sleep, guests can go to the main store where there is a free continental breakfast. There are so many options to choose from; coffee, juice or milk can accompany bagels, muffins, donuts, etc. If you are looking for other dining options, Wall has restaurants located a few short blocks away.

After a day of touring and traveling in South Dakota, the Frontier Cabins Motel is a great, unique option for lodging that you are sure to enjoy.


This is a guest blog post.

Checking out Mount Rushmore or the Crazy Horse Memorial are good reasons to visit South Dakota. The Badlands National Park is most definitely worth a visit out, too. And, truly, there’s nothing remotely resembling the Corn Palace anywhere else in the States, or even the world. But here are the five ultimate best reasons why Canadians should visit South Dakota.

Because the Landscapes Are Incredibly Diversified

Granted, Canada’s are too. Mountains, prairies, valleys, deserts… But South Dakota’s landscapes have all of this, only within a territory that’s about 50 times smaller than Canada’s. You can climb up a mountain, then get lost in deep, dark, wild forests; you can wander around the desert-like rock formations of the Badlands, and end your day by swimming in a pristine lake. South Dakota’s landscapes are so incredibly diversified for a state of this size, Canadians, known for their love of nature, will just dig it.

Because It’s a Great Place for Road Trips

Many Canadians cherish the dream of doing the infamous road trip across the States, from East through the iconic rock formations of the Midwest and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. While that whole trip would take a while, road tripping across South Dakota is shorter, simpler and real satisfying: Amazing “wild-westish” scenery, breathtaking landscapes and one-of-a-kind pit stops along the way, such as the Wall Drug.

Because It’s the Geographical Center of the States

When you want to discover a country, what best place to start with than its center? The small city of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, was designated as the geographical center of the United States in 1959 – that’s when, of course, you include Hawaii and Alaska. A monument called “Stone Johnnie” has been set up there to honor that fact.

Because It’s Packed With Wild West and Gold Rush History

From the historic town of Deadwood – where notorious wild west figures, such as Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp or Madame Moustache, lived and died – to the unmarked burial site of Jack McCall or the Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota is full of fascinating history.

Because of Its Many Natural Wonders

You think South Dakota and you think “the Badlands”. But there are many others natural wonders in that state. The glittering and shimmering Jewel Cave, for instance, is the third longest cave in the world, with over 100 miles of paths and passages within it. There is also the unique Lemmon Petrified Wood Forest, where you’ll see petrified wood formations like no other in the world. And last but not least, the Black Hills National Forest is of stunning beauty, and includes Harney Peak, the highest peak in the States east of the Rockies.


Mireille is a travel, music and theater enthusiast. She wrote for the stage and television, and is now working as a freelance blogger for Via Rail, Canada’s leading railroad transporter, offering unique packages for visiting Toronto.


The presidents of Mount Rushmore National Memorial will embark on a 14-city tour across the Midwest, beginning May 23. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln will visit some of the most popular sites in the Midwest and personally invite residents to make a trip to South Dakota this summer.


The official tour by the presidential mascots and an accompanying street team from the Department of Tourism are part of the Department’s “Your American Journey” marketing campaign. The campaign encourages vacationers to visit places of great historic significance, unimagined beauty and patriotic inspiration within the borders of South Dakota. The group will ride in style in a bus wrapped with custom artwork depicting the variety that South Dakota offers travelers.


“All of the cities along this tour are filled with people who have a high propensity to travel to South Dakota,” says Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “The goal of the presidential mascots’ tour is to build awareness about South Dakota, create excitement among those who see them, and plant the seed of a South Dakota vacation with all of the potential visitors we have the opportunity to speak with one-on-one.”


Cities, in order of the tour schedule, include:


  • Rapid City, S.D.
  • Pierre, S.D.
  • Omaha, Neb.
  • Lincoln, Neb.
  • Kansas City, Mo.
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Chicago, Ill.
  • Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Madison, Wis.
  • Eau Claire, Wis.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Fargo, N.D.
  • Watertown, S.D.
  • Sioux Falls, S.D.



The presidential mascots and accompanying street team will also offer residents of these cities a chance to win one of four vacation giveaways. Contest details and registration can be found beginning May 15 on the Department of Tourism’s Facebook page, The contest runs through June 14, 2013.


The mascots, designed to depict the mountain carving in the Black Hills, have traveled across the country the past two years, including a stop in New York City to watch the “Mount Rushmore’s American Pride” float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The presidents’ journey can be followed online at, or by using the hashtag, #SouthDakota, on Twitter (@SouthDakota).

Watch our social channels for more details on where the presidents are and what they are doing!

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2013 Birding Festival

by Katlyn Richter on April 24, 2013 · 2 comments

Gear up outdoor enthusiasts and bird watchers! South Dakota’s 3rd Annual Birding Festival is taking place in just a few days.

May 3-5, 2013, birding enthusiasts will migrate to Lake Andes, South Dakota, to see hundreds of bird species that have migrated to South Dakota after spending time in other parts of the country. Festival goers will also see birds that are temporarily in South Dakota before they move on to another region.


The Lake Andes area is known to play home to more than 322 species of birds, 164 of which are breeding species.

In previous years, birders have enjoyed the sight of Snowy owls, and a Western grebe paired with a Clark’s grebe. The sighting of the two together is very rare and special for the enthusiasts.

Registration for the event is in Pickstown, South Dakota. The group will be taking “field trips” to Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge – this is the only time that the Refuge (near the Fort Randall Dam) is open to the public. Other activities include bird banding, bird identification, a session with birding experts, guided field trips and activities for children.

For more information on the festival, visit this link.


Go Outside!  Play!

It was beginning to seem like spring would never come, but finally, thank goodness, it is here. Warmer temperatures are a welcome change in their own right, and combined with the color explosion that is close at hand, South Dakota will soon be an even more wonderful place to spend time outside.

From canyons to trout, to foxes and ringed-necked pheasants, there’s plenty to see while enjoying the upcoming warm temperatures. Whether you’re a South Dakotan or a visitor, here are some of the best spots in the state for enjoying springtime treasures.

Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway

It can be a downer when the weather doesn’t match the season. In South Dakota, cool temperatures often still make the prospect of getting outside on foot a little daunting. This is why the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park is such a treasure. Without leaving your car you can see a variety of animals (foxes, deer, coyotes, elk, prairie dogs, pronghorn), including one of the world’s largest buffalo herds. There are also other great scenic drives in the park to complete your truly American safari experience.

McCrory Gardens

The McCrory Gardens maintained by South Dakota State University in Brookings is a must-see for flower and plant enthusiasts. The gardens consist of 25 acres of flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs and grasses. Especially exciting is the rose garden with over 30 varieties of roses, given that they’ll soon be blossoming. Just think of the smell!

McCrory Gardens
photo taken by: Jeremiah M. Murphy

Roughlock Falls Nature Area

The Roughlock Falls Nature Area in Spearfish Canyon may be one of the most picturesque spots in the state. A multilevel waterfall spills onto moss covered rocks, making it a popular subject for photographers and admirers alike, but the falls themselves are only half the fun. The Roughlock Falls Nature also boasts ample hiking trials and trout fishing spots, and a wonderfully high concentration of wildlife and bird life.

Roughlock Falls
photo by Matthew Paulson

Oyate Trail

The Oyate Trail is a grassroots, alternative route for traveling along South Dakota’s southern border from North Sioux City west to the southern Black Hills. The trails system of highways, like US-18, bend and twist through some of the state’s most beautiful and most culturally important areas. The vistas are endless and the trail’s path connects thousands of visitors to several places to learn aboutNative American culture and history. The Oyate Trail is superb option for those who’d like to enjoy the outdoors with a few creature comforts.

Bid Winter Farewell

Even when winter seems hesitant to leave, we can take heart in the fact that spring is right around the corner. Outdoor excursions, concerts, wildlife viewing, hikes, photography, fishing; these are just a few outdoor options South Dakota offers in the spring to those who’ve been craving fresh (warmer) air.

No matter if you do your exploring on foot or behind the wheel, enjoying spring’s resplendent glory in South Dakota can be the perfect post-winter recharge. Have fun, and remember your camera!

Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel expert and enthusiast. Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group bus tours in the US and Canada, including popular bus trips such as the Smoky Mountains bus tour.


South Dakota is home to six National Park Service (NPS) units. Despite federal sequestration, visitors should know that our national parks in South Dakota are ready to welcome them this summer. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Missouri National Recreational River are open for business!

Wind Cave National Park

South Dakota is fortunate and proud to be home to these great parks in the Mount Rushmore State. We certainly encourage you to visit their webpages at for more information before your visit to confirm hours and educational programming.

As of today, here is the status of the National Parks in South Dakota:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Operating normally. Visit their website for information on programming.

Badlands National Park: The Ben Reifel and White River Visitor Centers will remain open as normal. Cedar Pass Lodge, operated by Forever Resorts, LCC, will open on April 12. Check their website for ranger program information.

Wind Cave National Park: Visitor center hours will be slightly reduced from June 9-August 10. Elk Mountain Campground will be closed for the summer. Visit their website for information on visitor hours, cave tours, etc.

Jewel Cave National Monument: Some minor changes to some visitor services, but otherwise operating normally. Additionally, the visitor center will be displaying new exhibits for the summer. Visit their website for information on visitor hours, cave tours, etc.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: Some slightly reduced services, but barely noticeable. Visit their website for information.

Missouri National Recreational River: Slightly reduced hours at the visitor center. Check their website for information on visitor center hours.

South Dakota looks forward to making your family feel welcome in our great state filled with Great Faces and Great Places.