Quirky Road Trips
There are many seriously beautiful places to see and interesting things to experience in this part of the amazing state of South Dakota, but there's also some very quirky and fun places that definitely need to be on your bucket list. So, when the time is right gather the family or a few good friends and head out on this quirky Southeast South Dakota road trip.
1. World's Only Corn Palace - Mitchell
This a-maize-ing structure is covered with murals that have been created out of thousands of bushels of corn, grain and grasses. The murals are changed every year with a new theme. This year (2020) the theme is South Dakota Home Grown. The kids (and adults) will want their photo taken with the statue of the Corn Palace mascot Cornelius. On top of the Corn Palace are color-changing light-up domes that provide a fabulous night time display and inside the building are some fun corny activities for the kids as well as an auditorium that hosts top name entertainment during the annual Corn Palace Festival in August.
The Corn Palace will open on May 11 and begin tours on May 18. And, of course, the exterior of the building is always visible and available to visitors.
(Photo by South Dakota Tourism)
2. Jackalope Statue at Thunderbird Lodge - Mitchell
While you're in Mitchell, be sure to swing by another quirky photo op located right in front of the Thunderbird Lodge, which is a great lodging option if you're spending the night in Mitchell. The jackalope, affectionately know as Thunder Bunny, even has a sadle, inviting young and old alike to come take a ride.
Photos by @jchjw (Instagram) and @leverspaugh (Instagram)
3. Porter Sculpture Park - Montrose Exit, Interstate-90
(25 minutes west of Sioux Falls)
As you travel Interstate 90 west of Sioux Falls, you will spot an enormous 60 ft. tall bull’s head rising out of the prairie, but that is only the beginning of this quirky and imaginative award-winning sculpture park. You'll discover over 50 whimsical and surreal salvaged metal creations by self-taught South Dakota sculptor Wayne Porter scattered throughout 18 acres of prairie. The newest sculpture, also visible from the interstate, is a giant 40-ton steel horse made from railroad tie plates. Porter Sculupture Park is open late May through early September. The park will open this year (2020) on May 22nd.
(Photo by South Dakota Tourism)
4. National Music Museum - Vermillion
With over 15,000 instruments, the National Music Museum has one of the largest and most important collections of historic instruments in the world, but you'll find that many of the instruments are rather quirky in their appearance. Some instruments can't seem to decide what they want to be - a harmonica or trumpet - a harp or a guitar? The museum is located on the campus of the University of South Dakota and is currently closed to the public due to an extensive building expansion. It is slated to reopen in 2021. Until then you can visit their website, www.nmmusd.org and view photos of the amazing collections of instruments.
(Photos - www.nmmusd.org)
5. Jack McCall Trial and Hanging Sites and Grave - Yankton
One of Yankton’s most infamous characters was “Crooked Nose” John “Jack” McCall. Being the first territorial capital of the Dakotas, Yankton hosted the trial and hanging of the notorious Jack McCall for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, SD. The trial began on Dec. 4, 1876 in a courtroom at what is now present-day intersection of Third and Capital Streets. Two days later, the jury found McCall guilty. McCall’s hanging took place on March 1, 1877 near the present day intersection of Highway 81 and Highway 50. The trial and hanging are remembered by historical plaques describing the events. The gravestone of Jack McCall was just placed on his burial site in the City Cemetery (25th & Douglas) in 2017.
(Photos - www.visityanktonsd.com/businesses/jack-mccall-historical-site/)
6. Heritage Hall Museum - Freeman
Museums are full of quirky items and exhibits and the Heritage Hall Museum in Freeman is no exception. You'll find many unusual items including a huge collection of well over 4,000 brooches that came from all over the US and around the world. Within this collection you'll also find campaign pins. If you take a look around this museum you're sure to find even more quirky items from the past. We recommend you call to check when they will be open.
(Photos by Southeast South Dakota Tourism)
7. Eiffel Tower Replica - Tyndall
This Eiffel Tower replica in front of Tyndall's Court House is another great photo op. In 1898 a contract was made with Canton Bridge Company ( Canton, Ohio) to erect a 100 ft. flagstaff on the courthouse grounds to be completed before July 4, 1898. According to the County Auditor, a large flag pole reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower in France was probably planned as early as the 1880’s.
(Photo by Southeast South Dakota Tourism)
If you'd like a Visitor Packet with more fun road trip ideas in Southeast South Dakota, you can request one here.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social distancing. We will continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful even though we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We hope this will inspire your future adventures!