What To Do In South Dakota – Pierre

If you have been to the US state of South Dakota, chances are that you have visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial or Badlands National Park. Maybe you went to the state because of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which takes place annually in early August. So, maybe you haven’t been to a place in central South Dakota called Pierre. Pierre is a city that serves as the capital of the state.

The city which is located on the banks of the scenic Missouri River, has a population of approximately 14,000 residents. That makes Pierre the second smallest state capital in the US behind Montpelier, Vermont which you can learn about here. Pierre is one of only four state capitals that aren’t directly served directly by an interstate highway. For what to do in South Dakota, you will want to consider making a detour into Pierre.

South Dakota State Capitol

(Photo courtesy of J. Stephen Conn via Flickr)

Given the fact that Pierre is the state capital of South Dakota, the first place you will want to check out is the South Dakota State Capitol. It is located on East Capitol Avenue in Pierre. It houses the office of the governor, currently Kristi Noem, along with the state House of Representatives and the state Senate chambers. The state capital is renowned for its Neoclassical architectural style.

The state capitol features a copper dome, Corinthian columns, and rusticated walls of granite and Bedford limestone. The interior of the state capitol is just as gorgeous. The floors are decorated with terrazzo tiles which were placed by Italian workers. The state capitol is also known to feature murals and paintings. That include four large round paintings under the dome that feature four Greek goddesses.

They symbolize the four South Dakota themes of agriculture, livestock, mining, and family. The state capitol’s dome is about 96 feet high. There is a marble staircase inside the state capitol. Located outside on the state capitol’s scenic grounds which include a small lake, are four memorials. The first one is the Fighting Stallions Memorial.

This memorial honors the eight South Dakota residents, including former governor George S. Mickelson, who were killed in an airplane crash in April of 1993. The second memorial is the Flaming Fountain Memorial. It contains a fountain of continually burning flame sourced from natural gas. It was created to honor South Dakota veterans.

The Law Enforcement Officer Memorial honors the police officers who were killed in the line of duty. The World War II Memorial contains of six bronze figures that represent one branch of service that South Dakota residents took part in during World War II. The entrance admission to the state capitol is free for all.

South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center

The South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center is located on Governors Drive in Pierre. This is a unique attraction because of the way it is built. It is largely built underground and is covered by gentle rolling prairies. This attraction is home to a museum that is dedicated to the history and heritage of South Dakota. There are currently five permanent exhibits available to explore at the museum.

The first one is called The Ways of the People. This is the place to learn about the history, values, and beliefs of a group of American Indian tribes known as the Sioux. The Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota tribes make up the Sioux grouping.

The Proving Up exhibit concerns the history of South Dakota from the placing of the Verendrye Plate in 1743 through to the final competition in 1904 of localities seeking to become the state capital of South Dakota. This exhibit explores the adventures of explorers, trappers, settlers, miners, and statesmen that established South Dakota. The third exhibit is known as Changing Times – South Dakota in the 20th Century.

This exhibit examines the changes and challenges that South Dakota faced throughout the 20th century ranging from the Great Depression to the arrival of rail limes and automobiles. Silent Silos: South Dakota’s Missile Field is the fourth exhibit at the museum. This exhibit traces the development of the missile field in South Dakota that was used during the Cold War.

The fifth and final exhibit to mention is The Right is Ours: Women Win the Vote. This exhibit dives into the movement in South Dakota and across the US that resulted in women gaining the right to vote in state and national elections. In addition to check out these exhibits, you can head to the museum’s Observation Gallery in order to get a breathtaking view of the state capitol and the Missouri River bluffs.

The admission to this museum are $4 for adults and $3 for seniors. Those aged under 18 will receive free admission to the museum.

Trail of Governors

(Photo courtesy of Otis1000 via Wikipedia)

Another attraction worth checking out during your time in Pierre is the Trail of Governors. This is basically an outdoors attraction where you can view life-size bronze statues of all of South Dakota’s previous governors. The statues are spread out generally starting from the state capitol and continuing onto the Missouri River in downtown Pierre.

The first statues to be erected for the Trail of Governor was in 2012 starting with former governors Arthur C. Mellette, Harlan J. Bushfield, and Walter Dale Miller. The most recent additions took place in 2019 and include former governors Samuel H. Elrod, Archie M. Gubbrud, and Dennis Daugaard. So, as of right now, there are a total of 25 life-size bronze statues of former governors with six more still to come.

Also, current governor Kristi Noem will have her own statue erected once she leaves office. If you are interested in checking out these statues during your time in Pierre, you can go here to find a map for the Trail of Governors.

These are a few things you can do during you are in Pierre. So, when you’re in search for what to do in South Dakota, I would suggest you to exit Interstate 90 and drive 34 miles north on US Route 83 to Pierre so you can check out these attractions.

If you are looking for more to do within the state, one suggestion is for you to visit the scenic Black Hills area where Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located. You can head to this post to learn more about the area. You may also want to head here to learn more specifically about the few charming towns located in the Black Hills area.

Pierre Hotels

If you are looking for a place to stay at in Pierre, I am here to help you out. Here are two hotels I would suggest you to book with.

Governor’s Inn – Pierre

This hotel is located on West Sioux Avenue in Pierre. There is free breakfast available at the hotel. Located outdoors onsite are BBQ facilities for cookouts. Should you get hungry, a few nearby restaurants include RedRossa Italian Grille, La Minestra, and Mad Mary’s Steakhouse & Saloon. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. A fitness center is also available for your usage.

All of the hotel’s rooms come with WiFi, mini refrigerators, and microwaves. The average rate for a standard room range from $72 to $91. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.

ClubHouse Hotel & Suites

This hotel is located on West Sioux Avenue in Pierre. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. If you get hungry, there is a restaurant attached to the hotel called RedRossa Italian Grille. The hotel’s outdoor courtyard houses the firepits for soaking yourself in warmth. The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. A fitness center is also available for your workouts.

All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have WiFi, mini refrigerators, and microwaves. The average rate for a standard room range from $132 to $168. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.

What are your thoughts? Are you planning to head to Pierre to check out these attractions? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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