Visiting one of the country’s most iconic sights, Mount Rushmore. Panning for gold in Deadwood. Taking selfies with “President Obama” in Rapid City.

Ending a day filled with meetings by sitting down to a cowboy supper in Spearfish. Groups traveling to South Dakota are not left wanting for experiences that are unique to the state.

Quintessential experiences make meetings fun and memorable in this historically rich Wild West destination.

Getting Presidential in Rapid City

Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a must for groups meeting in Rapid City.

If time doesn’t allow for a daytime excursion to witness this magnificent granite sculpture against a blue sky, groups are encouraged to attend an evening lighting ceremony from May through September.

“Only a 30-minute drive from downtown Rapid City, Mount Rushmore offers groups plentiful activities,” said Tyson Steiger, director of convention sales for Visit Rapid City.

For example, groups could hike the Presidential Trail, indulge in Thomas Jefferson’s original ice cream recipe at Carver’s Marketplace and visit the new Sculptor’s Studio.

Presidents are also on display in historic downtown Rapid City, where the “City of Presidents,” a series of life-size bronze statues of former presidents, lines the city’s sidewalks.

An Obama sculpture will join the installment this summer.

“Break your attendees into teams, hand them our City of Presidents scavenger hunt list and watch them meander around our beautiful downtown district taking selfies with our founding fathers, learning about American history and building team spirit along the way,” Steiger said.

The Journey Museum, Rapid City, South Dakota
The Journey Museum, Rapid City, South Dakota

One more quintessential experience for groups meeting in Rapid City is a reception at The Journey Museum and Learning Center, which features interactive exhibits and stirring displays that tell the region’s story.

“The really unique feature of this museum is its chronological setup that time-travels you through Rapid City’s history,” Steiger said. “A great addition to your group’s gathering at the Journey Museum is a localized menu featuring buffalo meat, Native American tacos or kuchen.”

Sioux Falls: Say Hello to the Arc of Dreams

Groups returning to Sioux Falls in 2019 will notice something new on the horizon, as Arc of Dreams, a massive stainless-steel sculpture, will debut downtown this year.

The Arc, designed by renowned South Dakota artist Dale Lamphere, will span the length of a football field and rise 70 feet above Big Sioux River.

“The design features two open steel structures with a ribbon effect,” said Alexandra LeBlanc, director of sales for the Sioux Falls CVB.

“The Arc will be a permanent part of the world-renowned annual SculptureWalk, which features over 55 sculptures owned by the artists and loaned to the community for one year,."

Sioux Falls Arc of Dreams Rendering
Sioux Falls Arc of Dreams Rendering

Falls Park, named after the waterfalls of the Big Sioux River, is another scenic spot in historic downtown Sioux Falls that groups will enjoy.

According to LeBlanc, attendees can explore the park’s visitor information center, five-story viewing tower and gift shop. Further, they could book an off-site dinner at Falls Overlook Cafe.

Falls Park, Credit: Sioux Falls CVB
Falls Park, Credit: Sioux Falls CVB

Planners can also arrange a brewery tour in Sioux Falls, including stops at Fernson Brewing Co., WoodGrain Brewing Co. and Remedy Brewing Co., among many others.

“Sioux Falls may just be the next major craft beer mecca,” LeBlanc said. “There are plenty of options to create a teambuilding experience by setting up a tasting tour throughout the city.”

History Is Everywhere in Deadwood

Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark—not just one of its neighborhoods, the entire town.

Therefore, meetings here should include an outing that engages the group with a fun history lesson. Local attractions, including three museums, a cultural center, historic cemeteries, stagecoach rides and reenactments, are all on deck.

“A troupe of reenactors that holds shootouts in the streets, old time music shows, card games and mock trials in the evening—all based on actual events in Deadwood’s history—can be hired to greet meeting attendees or perform a short show,” said Amanda Kille, marketing and sponsorship director for the Deadwood COC & Visitors Bureau.

Man Panning for Gold in a Deadwood Creek
Creek Gold Panning in Deadwood

Specialty experiential tours, including creek gold panning, teatime at a local Victorian mansion and candlelight tours of a historic mine, are also popular with groups in Deadwood.

“Depending on the tour, durations range from 30 to 90 minutes, making it easy to fit a tour into any itinerary,” Kille said. “Imagine your attendees going home with memories of taking a downtown tour with Deadwood’s first marshal, Con Stapleton.”

Deadwood also has a program called PastPort that utilizes the Deadwood Trolley system for free transportation to historic attractions, including Broken Boot Gold Mine and Days of ’76 Museum. The program runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

“PastPort brochures can be dropped off at the host property for all attendees, then they could catch the trolley for free to participating locations,” Kille said.

“A return trip to the hotel will be $1 per person," she added.

Additionally, attendees who collect stamps from the six participating locations could collect a souvenir Chubby Chipmunk chocolate bar or historic playing cards at the Deadwood Visitor Information Center. Perfect souvenirs to bring back home from the big event!

Water Steals the Show in Pierre

Several of Pierre’s quintessential experiences are waterborne, including paddleboarding on the beautiful Missouri River. Kayaking on the Missouri River is also popular, according to Lois Ries, executive director for the Pierre CVB.

“Kayaking is an affordable way to get active and enjoy companionship at relatively low costs and low exertion,” she said. “The waters are calm with a very gentle current, and kayaking provides beautiful scenery and a vast array of wildlife.”

Sunset Paddleboat Going Under Bridge in Pierre, South Dakota
Sunset Paddleboat in Pierre, South Dakota

One more idea is the Sunset Paddleboat, the last working paddleboat on the Missouri River. The vessel carries up to 120 people for cruises of the area. In addition, it has a dining capacity of 84 and an on-board beverage bar and catering available.

Spearfish Canyon: An Instagram-Worthy Attraction

Spearfish Canyon is the Northern Hills’ No. 1 natural attraction and a must-see for groups.

“They will see why as they gaze in awe at the lofty pines and spectacular cliffs throughout the 22-mile Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway,” said Mistie L. Caldwell, executive director for Visit Spearfish.

Spearfish Canyon, the Northern Hills' No. 1 Attraction
Spearfish Canyon, the Northern Hills' No. 1 Attraction

Photo ops along the way include three breathtaking waterfalls: Spearfish Falls, Roughlock Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. A casual outing to watch a Spearfish Sasquatch baseball game is another recommended activity in the area.

Groups of up to 60 people are encouraged to book the Party Deck, an exclusive setting including entry to the game, a privately catered meal and access to a nearby cash bar.

“It’s a fresh take on group fun,” Caldwell said. “All will be entertained and spirits will be lifted as groups enjoy America’s favorite pastime.”

Cowboy Supper at High Plains Western Heritage Center
Cowboy Supper at High Plains Western Heritage Center

Lastly, groups could visit High Plains Western Heritage Center for a comedy/music show accompanied by a chuck wagon-style cowboy supper.

“Not only for the history buff in the group, this activity is fun for all,” Caldwell said. “The show entertains as you enjoy a special chuck wagon meal with one heck of a view.”

South Dakota CVB Contact Information

Aberdeen Area CVB

Deadwood COC & Visitors Bureau

Pierre CVB

Sioux Falls CVB

Visit Rapid City

Visit Spearfish