15 Best Places to Live in South Dakota

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

With Rapid City, Custer State Park, and Wild Cave National Park all on your doorstep, we need not write out a list of reasons to fall in love with South Dakota.

This sparsely populated state can be found deep in the mid-west, nestled between its northern sister, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Lest we forget that the northwestern edge of South Dakota shares a border with Montana, and the very southeastern corner brushes shoulders with Iowa. Neighboring in geography and by nature, wherever you lay your hat in South Dakota, you can be sure you will be welcomed with open arms.

With a great many neighborhoods and communities able to boast outstanding schools, low crime rates, and reasonably priced homes, there are so many options available in the state.

Nature lovers and weekend explorers would easily fall in love with South Dakota. The Black Hills provide the perfect backdrop for day-to-day life and the weather in South Dakota is more than agreeable for most of the year which is a significant plus point for many people.

Steeped in Native American history, you’ll feel right at home, we’re sure! Here are the 15 best places to live in South Dakota.

1. Brookings

BrookingsSource: www.youtube.com

Out and out the best place to live in South Dakota is Brookings. Not only is it the best place to live in the state but also proudly offers the best public schools too. In turn, unsurprisingly, Brookings has been rated as the second-best place to raise a family in the state.

Enough with the rankings; what makes Brookings so unique?

Local people say that it is the small-town feel, teamed with the large variety of student bars providing animated nightlife that makes Brookings feel at home. With a substantial student population, there is always something going on.

Median home value and median rent come in well below the national average making this neighbourhood all the more appealing. For those looking to save to get on the property ladder, then Brookings may be a good starting point. The median rent and home value are both below the national average and saving for a deposit is far from aspirational.

Safe, clean, and homely are the words that spring to mind when we think of Brookings.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Brookings are:

  • Children’s Museum of South Dakota
  • South Dakota Art Museum
  • McCrory Gardens Botanical Garden
  • Dakota Nature Park
  • Nick’s Hamburger Shop
  • Wooden Legs Brewery Company
  • Brookings Summer Arts Festival
  • Pioneer Park
  • Hillcrest Aquatic Center

2. Dakota Dunes

Dakota Dunes, SDSource: dakotadunes.com
Dakota Dunes

If you want to buy property in South Dakota, then Dakota Dunes should feature high on your list of options. Although the median home value is below the national average, it is value for money we should be focusing on.

For example, $150,000 will get you a 3-bedroom family home with two bathrooms. Home prices are always set to rise, so snap up your next home in Dakota Dunes while the price is right!

There are lots of family-run local stores dotted around, providing you with everything from light bulbs to the weekly grocery shop. It always feels good to support your local community and the economy too.

Residents note that the low crime levels are a vital factor in their happiness here. However, public transport in, out, and around Dakota Dunes is almost non-existent. For a small suburb of just over two thousand residents, Dakota Dunes has a lot going for it.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Dakota Dunes are:

  • Sioux City Railroad Museum
  • Sergeant Floyd Rover Museum
  • Charles Schwab Field Omaha
  • Stone State Park
  • Dakota Rose Casino
  • Bacon Creek Park
  • Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
  • Sioux City Public Museum
  • Sioux City Art Center

3. Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls, South DakotaSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Sioux Falls

Although the city feels very built up, arguably Sioux Falls is one of the most picture-perfect places to live in South Dakota. Home to over one hundred and sixty thousand residents, this is one of the most densely populated parts of the state; which is no bad thing.

Sioux Falls is one of the best cities to buy a house in the United States of America. With median home value below the national average, it is not hard to see why. Unbelievably, $150,000 can get you a 4-bedroom family home, complete with a spacious garden and driveway.

Of the top five public schools in Sioux Falls, all five have an A-Rating; significantly above average, and consistently high performing.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Sioux Falls are:

  • Falls Park
  • Butterfly House & Aquarium
  • Great Plains Zoo
  • Sioux Falls Convention Center
  • Terrace Park
  • Big Sioux State Recreation Area
  • Newton Hills State Park

4. Brandon

Brandon, South DakotaSource: TCN7JM / Wikimedia

Just south of Highway Route 90 lies the medium-sized suburb of Brandon. With just under 10,000 people living there, the area has the perfect mix of town amenities, but with a village community feel.

This small but perfectly formed suburb is considered the best place to raise a family in South Dakota. With the second-best public schools in the state, excellent access to outdoor activities, and commuting opportunities for parents, the appeal to Brandon keeps on coming.

The majority of residents live in owned homes which goes a long way in understanding the happiness of residents. Local people wish to lay their roots here and stick it out for the long haul. With median home values below the national average, living in Brandon is something to think about.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Brandon are:

  • Tailgator’s Bar & Grill
  • The County Fair Fun Company
  • McHardy Park
  • The Upper Room Bar & Grill
  • Wilde Prairie Winery
  • Valley of the Giants Trail
  • Hidden Valley Golf Course
  • Thunder Road of Sioux Falls Amusement Park

5. Madison

Madison, South DakotaSource: Jerry7171 / Flickr

Finishing up our top five best places to live in South Dakota is Madison. For those whose work takes them across the country, Madison is a great place to make a home and base yourself. Madison Airport connects you to 17 cities across the states daily, including Chicago, Boston, New York City, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The median rent here is below the national average! What is more, median home values are below $200,000. You will not be surprised to hear that Madison is the best place to buy a home in South Dakota.

Couple this new knowledge with the fact that the cost of living is highly desirable too and you’ve got yourself the dream combination.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Madison are:

  • Prairie Village History Museum
  • Stadium Sports Grill
  • Dakota Cinema
  • Lake Herman State Park
  • Great Plains Zoo
  • Bramble Park Zoo
  • Arnolds Park Amusement Park
  • Palisades State Park
  • Lakes Bar and Grill

6. Pierre

South Dakota State Capitol, Pierre (SD)Source: Joseph Sohm / shutterstock

Focusing on the positives, home value and median rent in Pierre is greatly affordable. Many homes have views of the Missouri River. Pierre is, in fact, the capital of South Dakota, home to around fourteen thousand residents.

The downside to Pierre is the lack of A-rated public schools. This would be a deciding factor for many parents. On the other hand, the schools here are still performing well above average; all of the top five schools have a solid B-rating.

Locals say that the proximity to the river for camping, fishing, and boating is one reason they like living in Pierre.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Pierre are:

  • South Dakota State Capitol
  • South Dakota Discovery Center
  • South Dakota State Historical Society
  • Flaming Fountain Memorial
  • Bill of Rights Brewery
  • Hyde Baseball Stadium
  • Lariat Lanes
  • Mad Mary’s Steakhouse & Saloon

7. Tea

Tea, SDSource: www.teasd.com

Possibly the cutest place name in South Dakota, Tea is home to over four thousand residents. Very much with a suburban feel, Tea is far from a diverse neighborhood. Despite this, Tea is considered the best place for Millennials in South Dakota.

Crime rates here are acceptably low, with a reasonable number of job opportunities. Sadly, the schools really let the side down in Tea. Making it more suitable for couples without children, empty nesters, and retirees.

The community atmosphere is very prevalent, and these true mid-westerners would be happy to see some new faces in the area.

Being one of the safest places to live in the state, we can’t help but think that Tea will feature higher rankings in years to come.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Tea are:

  • Falls Park
  • Climberz Rock Climbing Gym
  • Otooles Bar
  • Tea Play Place
  • Zooks Coffee Bar
  • Old Courthouse Museum
  • Casey’s Pizza

8. Vermillion

Vermillion, SDSource: User:Magicpiano / Wikimedia

Transected by Highway 50 is Vermillion. With 1just over eleven thousand residents living in the town, there is lots going on here.

Housing and jobs are in high demand, but if you feel Vermillion is the place for you, you will make it work. The crime levels are fanatically low, and with a diverse community, there is lots to love about this area.

Being right next to Highway 50 mess that Vermillion is favorable with computers. Head west on Highway 50 to get onto Route 29, leading you up to Sioux Falls, Sioux City, and Kansas.

A significant student population here makes for a great nightlife scene enjoyed by all residents.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Vermillion are:

  • National Museum Museum
  • Coyote Twin Theater
  • Bunyan’s Bar & Grill
  • Main Street Pub
  • Prentis Park
  • Valiant Vineyards Winery & Distillery
  • The Bluffs Golf Course
  • University of South Dakota

9. Aberdeen

AberdeenSource: Wikimedia

Aberdeen has an airport, though it is far less helpful than Madison’s, for it only offers flights to Minneapolis. Nevertheless, good public schools and incredible nightlife activities make Aberdeen a solid all-rounder.

If you want something of a project, many houses need doing up in Aberdeen. As such, the value of the houses as they stand now can be pretty low.

Aberdeen may just be scraping into our top ten now, but being a popular spot for Millennials means we could see the city climbing up the ranks in the years to come.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Aberdeen are:

  • Storybook Land
  • Wylie Park
  • Dacotah Prairie Museum
  • Wylie Thunder Road Go-Karts
  • Allevity Entertainment
  • Village Bowl
  • Aberdeen Aquatic Center
  • Capitol Cinema
  • SkateAway
  • Aberdeen Community Theatre

10. Hot Springs

Hot Springs, SDSource: MPSharwood / Wikimedia
Hot Springs

Although commonly known as ‘Veteran’s Town,’ Hot Springs has a diverse population of over three thousand residents. House prices here are almost insanely low, with the average rent below the national average. You would kick yourself for not considering Hot Springs a place to live in South Dakota.

As a ‘Veteran’s Town,’ few children live in the area. A small part of the population are children making for fewer schooling options. That said, schools available in Hot Springs are still above average. Don’t expect an inner-city high-flying school in this small, cozy city.

Of course, Evans Plunge Mineral Springs is a big draw to the area; the novelty never wears off!

The low crime rates are another big bonus point for Hot Springs, perhaps due to the aging population but mainly the tight-knit mid-west community feel.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Hot Springs are:

  • The Mammoth Site
  • Evans Plunge Mineral Springs
  • Pioneer Museum
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Black Hills Putt 4 Fun
  • Custer State Park
  • Southern Hills Golf Course
  • Hot Springs Theatre

11. Yankton

YanktonSource: Ammodramus / Wikimedia

You will find Yankton, perfectly placed on the banks of the Missouri River. Home to a diverse community, Yankton only narrowly misses out on being in the top ten best places to live in South Dakota.

Schooling options in Yankton are varied, with the top four schools offering students a B-rated education standard.

Local people note that it is the geography and the history that first drew them to Yankton, but it is the homely community feel that made them stay. There is a great deal of history to learn about this city. A sure-fire way to find out more is to start a conversation at one of Yankton’s many bars, a great way to make new friends too.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Yankton are:

  • Fantle Memorial Park
  • River City Relics
  • Walnut Tavern
  • Fox Run Golf Course
  • Yankton Area Arts Association
  • Dakota Theater
  • Charlie’s Pizza House
  • Yankton Bowl Family Fun Center

12. Watertown

WatertownSource: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA / Wikimedia

Watertown Airport flies daily to Philadelphia and sees you land in the city in just over an hour. For commuters, this is a significant plus point for Watertown. Being the fifth largest city in South Dakota, Watertown has over twenty-one thousand residents.

Schools in Watertown would be preferable to parents than in Yankton, certainly in Hot Springs, but the cost of living may be a factor to consider.

On the other hand, property prices in Watertown are very reasonable, and the standard of housing available is high. Despite being a suburban area, many houses on the market offer spacious gardens and driveways.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Watertown are:

  • Bramble Park Zoo
  • Redlin Art Center
  • The Goss Opera House
  • Odyssey Grand 8 Theater
  • Family Aquatic Center
  • Sandy Shore State Recreation Area
  • Watertown Veterans Memorial
  • Dempsey’s Brewery Restaurant & Pub

13. Harrisburg

HarrisburgSource: courthouselover / Flickr

Falling in a solid 13th place is Harrisburg. Although not the most economically or ethnically diverse place to live in the state, Harrisburg has much to offer. The small community of just around five thousand residents has a lot of choices when it comes to schooling and housing.

Harrisburg is voted the third-best place to buy a house and offers the third-best public schools in the state too. There has been development in Harrisburg of late, most notably the new elementary school, which is proving popular with local children.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Harrisburg are:

  • Air Madness
  • Washingon Pavillion Performing Arts Theater
  • Great Plains Zoo
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Museumm
  • Sioux City Public Museum
  • Lake Alvin State Recreation Area

14. Rapid City

Rapid City, SDSource: John Wollwerth / shutterstock
Rapid City

Tucked below Route 90, you will find Rapid City, east of the Black Hills National Forest. Also known as the gateway to Mt.Rushmore, Rapid City is home to just over seventy-one thousand residents. With good schools, commuter routes, and excellent access to outdoor activities, there is little wrong with Rapid City.

If you prefer to live in more rural areas, then you can scrub Rapid City off your list now; this is very much a city.

There are many job opportunities in this area of South Dakota, mainly within the tourism and hospitality industry.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Rapid City are:

  • Dinosaur Park
  • Reptile Gardens
  • Storybrook Island
  • Badlands National Park
  • Museum of Geology
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Bear Country USA
  • Downtown Rapid City
  • WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort

15. Spearfish

SpearfishSource: nfnitloop / Flickr

Despite the less-than-ideal crime statistics, residents insist that Spearfish is a safe and happy place to raise a family. Peaceful, charming, and quaint would be the words that spring to mind when thinking about Spearfish, although not in the most traditional ways.

Outdoor pursuits are aplenty in Spearfish, most popularly the Elkhorn Ridge Park, with beautiful lakes and mountains in the background.

Home value is a little dearer here than in many other parts of the state, but if you decide to be a rental tenant, your options open up massively, with median rent below the national average.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Spearfish are:

  • Spearfish Parks & Recreation
  • High Plains Western Heritage Center
  • The Matthews Opera House & Arts Center
  • Lucky Strike Lanes
  • The Clubhouse of Spearfish
  • Flanagan’s Irish Pub
  • Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club

15 Best Places to Live in South Dakota:

  • Brookings
  • Dakota Dunes
  • Sioux Falls
  • Brandon
  • Madison
  • Pierre
  • Tea
  • Vermillion
  • Aberdeen
  • Hot Springs
  • Yankton
  • Watertown
  • Harrisburg
  • Rapid City
  • Spearfish