South Dakota is located within the United States’ Midwestern region. It is named after the Indigenous tribes named, the Lakota and Dakota Sioux. It is also sometimes referred to as “The Mount Rushmore State” because of its most famous landmark, Mount Rushmore National Memorial. For quiet living and open spaces, it’s an excellent choice. Under 1 million people currently call South Dakota home.
South Dakota is a rugged state with clear blue skies and gentle prairies. Ask the locals, and they’ll tell you it’s also one of the best states to live in for many reasons. Besides the beautiful scenery and friendly people, South Dakota offers a low cost of living, good schools, and low crime.
South Dakota is one of those places where you can experience all four seasons, which is an appealing aspect for many people. It has a diverse array of cities and towns from which to choose, so there’s something for everyone within its borders.
Whether you’re looking for a small-town vibe or an exciting city with nightlife, consider moving to one of these communities. These are our picks for the 10 best places to live in South Dakota.
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- Population: 23,577 (2021)
- Median home price (2023): $283,802
- Average age: 24.5 years
- Median household income: $59,178
Brookings is one of the best places to live in South Dakota. The city of 24,804 has the advantage of being home to the largest educational institution in the state, South Dakota State University. The city also hosts the famous Brookings Summer Arts Festival and is home to the largest art museum and children’s museum in the state.
In addition to the educational aspects of Brookings, the city has plenty of opportunities as it is known for its manufacturing businesses. The young population also enjoys an excellent level of safety, as crime rates are 55% lower than the state’s average. While there are many renters in the city due to the University, people who are looking to relocate there permanently can buy a home for a median cost of $220,800, a very reasonable price point for South Dakotans.
In addition to the museums mentioned above and festivals, Brookings also has plenty of good nightlife, including restaurants, bars, and breweries. It also provides some big-time college athletics for sports fans to check out while they’re in town and visiting the University.
- Population: 6,071 (2021)
- Median home price (2023): $240,222
- Average age: 37 years
- Median household income: $58,564
If you’re looking for a quiet lifestyle in a medium-sized town, the 7,064-person Madison may be the place for you. Lake County is named so for its abundance of picturesque lakes, which gives Madison one of its significant advantages in the scope of South Dakota living.
Crime in Madison is 60% lower than in South Dakota as a whole, making it a terrific place to settle down with a family or an individual. Real estate prices may be even more attractive to bargain hunters. They are nearly a quarter lower than the state’s average. The median home price is just $160,200. The Madison Regional Health System is the primary healthcare provider for Madison residents.
One of Madison’s best attractions is Lake Herman State Park. People can enjoy water sports, swimming, camping, hiking, and nature watching here. It’s a well-maintained park and sees thousands of visitors each year. History lovers can also take a trip to the Prairie Village, which has dozens of old architecture and a historic feel.
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- Population: 11,802 (2021)
- Median home price (2023): $233,817
- Average age (2020): 23.3 years
- Median household income: $56,077
The name of Vermillion refers to the nearby Vermillion River and translates from Indigenous American languages as “red stream.” The city is unique because it has an exciting balance between academic culture and a rural feel. The state’s only law and medical schools are in Vermillion as part of the University of South Dakota. 11,308 people call the city home.
For a city with a lot to offer, Vermillion is an affordable place to live. Real estate prices are about 9% lower than those across the state, with a median home price of just $187,900. Crime rates are lower than the rest of South Dakota by about 15%.
With plenty of typical college town amenities, Vermillion can indeed provide some fun attractions. Most uniquely, they have the National Music Museum, dedicated to all types of music and instruments of all types and sizes. Vermillion is also home to the Spirit Mound Historic Prairie, which was part of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition from the early 1800s.
- Population: 7,638 (2021)
- Median home price (2023): $341,063
- Average age (2020): 29.3 years
- Median household income: $81,952
The second suburb of Sioux Falls on our list is Harrisburg. It’s a town of 7,126 and has undergone significant growth in the past few years. A fun fact about the community is that the local bank teller desk still has a bullet hole fired by infamous bandit John Dillinger after he robbed the place back in the 1920s.
Modern-day Harrisburg is unlikely to see any bank robberies. The crime rate is 21% lower than in the rest of the state. People who want to buy property here can do so at a decently low rate. The median home costs $252,600. The public schools are considered some of the best in the region, which, combined with being so close to Sioux Falls, makes this a great community for families.
It has a unique tourist attraction, Abby Normal’s Museum of the Strange. The venue is a dedication to all things quirky and bizarre. If that’s not your speed, you can always check out the local natural landscape, apple orchards, and businesses for families, such as the local trampoline park.
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5. Hot Springs
- Population: 3,485 (2021)
- Median home price (2023): $295,823
- Average age (2020): 54,7 years
- Median household income: $44,167
If we combine the aspects of safety, cost of living, and real estate prices, Hot Springs has a terrific balance. The western South Dakota city is nestled in the Black Hills. It is nicknamed “The Picture City” for the marvelous views you can capture here with a camera. Hot Springs won’t give you the excitement of a big city, but it’s great for quiet lovers, as it’s home to just 3,502 people.
The cost of living within the borders of Hot Springs is on par with the state’s average, and home prices are 30% cheaper. The median home costs a modest $225,200. Plenty of healthcare options and local businesses abound in the county seat as well.
One claim to fame in Hot Springs is the Mammoth Site. In this prehistoric sinkhole, archaeologists have uncovered the world’s most extensive collection of wooly mammoth skeletons. Visitors will also enjoy Mocassin Springs, a natural mineral spa.
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With a population of 22,303, Watertown is South Dakota’s fifth-largest city. Its nickname is “South Dakota’s Rising Star,” which is more than just an excellent example of marketing. The city abuts two lakes, Lake Kampeska and Pelican Lake, so all of the amenities and advantages that come with living by the lake exist here in Watertown.
Residents of Watertown find it affordable. The cost of living is a tick lower than the average of the rest of the state. The median home price is $221,000. It is also considered a safe community, with crime rates hovering around 14% lower than in South Dakota. Prairie Lakes Hospital is the leading medical center located conveniently downtown. The schools are generally high-rated, particularly at the elementary level. Two post-secondary schools are situated here as well.
There are plenty of things to do around the city, particularly for families. It’s home to a zoo, a family aquatic center, and an art center and museum, both named for the famed artist Terry
Brandon is situated on the eastern border of South Dakota, just a stone’s throw away from Minnesota. The larger city of Sioux Falls is about 20 minutes away from Brandon. The proximity allows residents to take a day trip or enjoy the exciting nightlife while residing in a safer, quieter community.
Brandon is also along route 90, one of the longest interstate highways in the U.S. The small city has a population of 10,168, representing a relatively large growth in the last three years alone. It’s a place that seems destined to continue progress, as the very young 33.3 median age would indicate.
Crime in Brandon is incredibly low. It’s a complete 86% lower than the state’s average. That statistic is important since South Dakota as a whole is not specifically known for its crime rate. Brandon residents also enjoy low unemployment and very reasonable real estate costs. The median home price is just a tad over $300,000. The public school system here has a good reputation for any prospective families looking to move to Brandon.
Due to the young population, there has been a flourishing scene for new restaurants. There are also some excellent outdoor areas to explore, including nature preserves and well-maintained public parks.
Nestled into a unique curve of the Missouri River, Mobridge was settled by European-Americans in the early 1900s as a railroad stop and was named after a type of bridge built over the river there. The town’s biggest claim to fame is the legend that Lakota Chief Sitting Bull’s remains are buried there, overlooking the Missouri River, commemorated with a statue of his bust. Just 3,373 people call Mobridge home.
Mobridge is a safe and affordable place to live. Crime rates are 49% lower than the state as a whole. The cost of living is 10% lower, and real estate is a whopping 45% more affordable. The median home here costs a surprising $95,100, making this the only entry on our list that comes in lower than six figures. Still, the town center has everything people need to get by, including a cluster of healthcare centers and the local school buildings.
Mobridge might be an attractive place for history lovers. In addition to the Sitting Bull memorial, there’s also a locally-beloved Walleye Statue, a national history museum called the Klein Museum and the Indian Creek Reservation Area for outdoorsmen and women.
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9. Colonial Pine Hills
Colonial Pine Hills is a remarkably small community. Its population is just 2,348. It makes our list today for its proximity to the much larger Rapid City while offering a far safer community and better neighborhoods. Quiet is the name of the game for Colonial Pine Hills.
Crime is virtually nonexistent in this community. The rates come in at an incredibly safe 84% lower than the South Dakota average. The public schools here are highly rated, and it is considered one of the best places to raise a family throughout the entire state. These perks come at a cost, though, as real estate is much higher than the state’s average, and the cost of living is 27% higher. The median home costs $426,900, so it may be out of many people’s budgets to move here.
Because the town is so quiet, your best bet for activities might be a day trip to Rapid City, which is only a 15-minute drive. Or, you can spend more time in the car and drive a half-hour south to the iconic Mount Rushmore.
10. Dakota Dunes
Technically, Dakota Dunes is a small planned development community between two rivers, the Big Sioux and the Missouri. It’s located in the far southeastern corner of the state, and the closest city is actually Sioux City, Iowa. It’s just a 10-minute drive across the state line for the 3,199 people who live there.
Dakota Dunes is remarkably safe, with a crime rate 84% lower than the rest of the state. Real estate here costs a bit more than most communities, though. The median home will cost $303,700. It’s well worth it for this little slice of South Dakota living.
The community only has a few amenities within its borders. Still, the golf course here is nice enough to satisfy even the most veteran players. It was built and designed by the company that Arnold Palmer himself started.
Whether looking for a vibrant community to raise your family or live alone, this South Dakota list is a great place to start. With its thriving economic landscape, affordable housing, and rising population growth—there are numerous reasons to consider this state for relocation. The beautiful neighborhoods are terrific for raising kids. If you want to see what life is like here, don’t hesitate to start that process today!
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