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Once upon a time, North and South Dakota were one territory. But geographical disputes over the capital city, along with cultural and population differences, led the Dakota territory to form two separate states.

Despite their political separation, North and South Dakota are equal in their natural beauty. Plus, since they each have small populations, they make for the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Here’s what you need to see if you’re planning a trip to the Dakotas.

The Black Hills

On the western side of South Dakota, there is an isolated mountain range called the Black Hills. These steep, rough rocks rising from the earth provide the perfect setting for mountain climbers, hikers, motorcycle cruisers or those who just want to be surrounded by nature.

Mount Rushmore

If you’re venturing the Black Hills, keep your eyes wide for Mount Rushmore. Many refer to this national monument as the Shrine to Democracy. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are famously carved into the mountainside. This is South Dakota’s most popular tourist destination, so get your selfie-stick ready!

Badlands National Park

Not unlike the Grand Canyon, the Badlands feature a beautiful vastness of canyons and red rocks. You’ll want to visit at sunrise, when the first lights of dawn ignite the rocks, turning them a fiery red. If you’re into stargazing, head there after dusk, an equally breathtaking experience. In the absence of any city lights, you’ll have a spectacular front-row seat to the cosmos. 

North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum

Your trip isn’t quite complete until you’ve stopped at the local museum. Head to North Dakota’s Heritage Center and State Museum. The exhibits show both the geological and cultural history of North Dakota. You can learn about the wild horses there, the region’s original inhabitants, and the dinosaur fossils discovered in the area.

Lewis & Clark Riverboat

To end your stay in the Dakotas, head out onto the Missouri River for a riverboat dinner cruise. Watch the sunset over the water as you sip on wine and indulge in local cuisine. There are also entertainment tours for those who love dinner and a show.

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