South Dakota boasts a colorful history filled with thundering herds of buffalo, the Sioux Nation and the legendary antics of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The state is the former stomping ground of dinosaurs: fossils discovered include the Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops. Located in the central region of the state is the capital Pierre, named after Fort Pierre Choteau, a former 1832 trading post. Visiting South Dakota for a vacation is made easy by choosing sites in advance. Mount Rushmore Immortalized forever are the faces of four American presidents -- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt -- carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore as a memorial. Stop at the information center near the entrance to pick up a park map or a complimentary wheelchair. Spend some time at the visitors center featuring the Lincoln Borglum Museum, twin theaters showing films about Mount Rushmore, an information desk and a bookstore. Dine at the Carver's Cafe offering a variety of fare from pizza and hamburgers to buffalo stew and Parmesan trout, and visit the Sculptor's Studio to view plaster models and tools used to create the president's faces. Pets are not allowed at the memorial, but the park provides an exercise area for animals. Parking fees permit unlimited use for the rest of the year. Operating hours are extended during summer and Mount Rushmore is open every day except Christmas. Crazy Horse Memorial Striding a galloping horse is Crazy Horse, a Lakota hero chosen to symbolize and honor the traditions and cultures of all Native Americans as a mountain monument. Work on the colossal memorial began in 1948 under the tutelage of visionary sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a work-in-progress and when completed is expected to be the world's largest mountain sculpture, measuring 563 feet high. The Crazy Horse Memorial offers an educational and cultural campus featuring a welcome center, the Indian Museum of North America, a Native American Educational & Cultural Center and Korczak's Studio and Home. Dine at the full-service Laughing Water Restaurant offering casual fare and free coffee, and then peruse the gift shop. The memorial charges admission fees and allows pets on a leash. It is open every day and operating hours are extended in summer to showcase a laser-light show. Allow two to four hours to experience all the sights and bring binoculars for easy viewing. Badlands National Park Bands of yellow ochres and earthy reds splash across the mesmerizing landscape of Badlands National Park, a 244,000-acre park of remote pinnacles, spires and buttes. Activities and attractions include hiking, biking, birdwatching, interpretive exhibits, an astronomy program, fossil displays and ranger-guided walks. Guest services are available at the Ben Reifel and White River visitor centers. Camp at the Cedar Pass or Sage Creek campgrounds or stay at the Cedar Pass Lodge or Badlands Inn. The park is open 24 hours a day every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. There is an entrance fee. Wind Cave National Park Recognized as the fourth-longest cave in the world, the 135-mile Wind Cave National Park is known for its boxwork, a rare honeycomb-like formation. The park offers a variety of guided cave tours that range from easy to strenuous. Bring comfortable shoes and a jacket, since the cave maintains a constant temperature of 53 degrees. Local activities include hiking, horseback riding and backcountry camping. Pitch a tent at the Elk Mountain Campground. Wind Cave National Park charges fees for cave tours and camping. There is no cost for park entry or hiking and the park is open all year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
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