15 Best Places to Live in South Dakota

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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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 too. Lest we forgot that the northwestern edge of South Dakota shares a border with Montana and the very southeastern corner brushes shoulders with Iowa. Neighbouring in geography and by nature, wherever you choose to lay your hat in South Dakota you can be sure you will be welcomed with open arms.

With a great many neighbourhoods 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. The weather in South Dakota is more than agreeable for most of the year which is a major plus point for many people. Steeped in Native America history, you’ll feel right at home, we’re sure!

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 special?

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

Median home value and median rent both 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. Median rent is $664 a month. With median home value at $159,400, saving for a deposit it far from aspirational.

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

2. Dakota Dunes

Dakota Dunes, SDSource: dakotadunes.com
Dakota Dunes

If you are looking to buy property in South Dakota then Dakota Dunes should feature high on your list of options. Although median home value is $266,400, it is value for money we should be focusing on.

For example, $129,950 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 locals stores dotted around, providing you with everything from light bulbs to the weekly grocery shop. It always feels good to be able to support your local community and the economy too.

Residents note that the low crime levels are a key factor in their happiness here. However, public transport in, out and around Dakota Dunes is almost non-existent. For a small suburb of just 2,895 people, Dakota Dunes has a lot going for it.

3. Sioux Falls

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

Although the city itself feels very built up, arguably Sioux Falls is one of the most picture-perfect places to live in South Dakota. Home to 164,000 people, 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 all of the United States of America. With median home value coming in at $157,800, it is not hard to see why. Unbelievably, $129,500 can get you a 4-bedroom family home, complete with 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.

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 to be the best place to raise a family in South Dakota. With the second best public schools in the state, great access to outdoor activities and commuting opportunities for parents, the appeal to Brandon keeps on coming.

73% of residents live in owned homes which goes a long way in understanding the happiness of residents. Local people really do wish to lay their roots here and stick it out for the long haul. With median home values at $177,300, living in Brandon is something to think about.

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.

Median rent here is fantastically low, at just $472 a month! What is more, median home values are just $103,000. 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.

6. Pierre

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

Focusing on the positives first off, 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 just under 14,000 people.

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, however, 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 are one of the many reasons they like living in Pierre.

7. Tea

Tea, SDSource: www.teasd.com

Possibly the cutest place name in South Dakota, Tea is home to just 4,427 people. Very much with a suburban feel, Tea is far from a diverse neighbourhood. In spite of this, Tea is considered to be the best place for Millennials in South Dakota.

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

The community atmosphere is very much 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 up the rankings in years to come.

8. Vermillion

Vermillion, SDSource: User:Magicpiano / Wikimedia

Transected by Highway 50 is Vermillion. With 10,746 people living in the town, there is lots going on here.

Housing and jobs are both 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 favourable with computers. Head west on Highway 50 to get onto Route 29 which leads you up to Sioux Falls, down to Sioux City and eventually Kansas.

There is a big student population here making for a great nightlife scene enjoyed by all residents.

9. Aberdeen

AberdeenSource: Wikimedia

Aberdeen does have an airport, though be it far less useful than Madison’s for it only offers flights to Minneapolis. Nevertheless, good public schools and a wonderful array of nightlife activities make Aberdeen a solid all-rounder.

If you want something of a project, then there are lots of houses in need of doing up in Aberdeen. As such, the value of the houses as they stand now can be pretty low. It has been known that a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom single family home to be sold for just $89,000!

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

10. Hot Springs

Hot Springs, SDSource: MPSharwood / Wikimedia
Hot Springs

Although commonly known as ‘Veteran’s Town’, Hot Springs has a diverse population of 3,542 people. House prices here are almost insanely low! Averaging at just $85,400. With median rent at $589, you would kick yourself for not looking at Hot Springs as a place to live in South Dakota.

Being ‘Veteran’s Town’, there are not that many children living in the area. Only about 17% of the population are children making for fewer schooling options. That said, schools available in Hot Springs are still above average. Just don’t go expecting an inner city high-flying school in this small, cosy, city.

Of course, Evans Plunge Mineral Springs are 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 mostly down to the tight-knit mid-west community feel.

11. Yankton

YanktonSource: Ammodramus / Wikimedia

Perfectly placed on the banks of the Missouri River you will find Yankton. Home to a diverse community of people, 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 strike up a conversation at one of Yankton’s many bars; a great way to make new friends too.

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 major plus point for Watertown. Being the fifth largest city in South Dakota, Watertown is home to 21,919 residents.

Schools in Watertown would be more 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.

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 a lot to offer. The small community of just under 5,000 people have a lot of choice when it comes to schooling and housing.

Harrisburg is voted as both 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.

14. Rapid City

Rapid City, SDSource: John Wollwerth / shutterstock
Rapid City

Tucked away below Route 90, you will find Rapid City, lying east of the Black Hills National Forest. Also known as the gateway to Mt.Rushmore, Rapid City is home to 71,682 people. Good schools, good commuter routes and great 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 lots of job opportunities in this area of South Dakota, mostly within the tourism and hospitality industry.

15. Spearfish

SpearfishSource: nfnitloop / Flickr

Despite the less than ideal crime statistics, local 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 of ways.

Outdoors 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 at $632 a month.


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