17 Things You Should Know BEFORE Moving to South Dakota – From Black Hills to Tax Benefits

south dakota

Greetings, fellow adventurers! As someone who has journeyed across continents and called many places home, I’ve gathered a wealth of experiences and insights. South Dakota, with its vast landscapes and rich history, is one of those unique gems I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. If you’re considering making this state your next home, allow me to share some invaluable insights from my time there.

Stuff You Should Know

1. The Tax Landscape

South Dakota offers a refreshing tax landscape. One of the first things that struck me was the absence of state income tax. This, combined with a property tax rate of about 1.32%, makes it financially appealing. The general sales tax rate stands at approximately 4.5%, which is quite reasonable compared to many other states I’ve resided in.

As an entrepreneur, I found South Dakota’s business-friendly environment invigorating. The state’s tax benefits and favorable requirements provide a nurturing ground for small-scale businesses to flourish.

2. Housing: To Rent or To Buy?

Brookings SD

During my initial months in South Dakota, I opted to rent. Renting a house here is more economical than buying one. With an average mid-month rent of about $696 compared to a mortgage of $1,255, the difference is substantial. However, this doesn’t mean owning a home is out of reach.

While renting may be cheaper, buying a home in South Dakota is still more affordable than in many other states. The sense of permanence and the ability to customize my space made me eventually consider purchasing a property.

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3. Living Costs and Lifestyle

South Dakota’s cost of living index is approximately 88.3, which is notably lower than the national average of 100. This means that your dollar stretches further here, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

From my personal experience, the lower cost of living doesn’t mean compromising on quality. Whether it’s dining out, entertainment, or recreational activities, South Dakota offers a plethora of options that are both affordable and enriching.

4. Navigating the Weather Patterns

South Dakota’s weather is a tale of two distinct zones: East River and West River, separated by the Missouri River. While both zones have cold winters and warm summers, their climatic nuances are what make them unique.

The eastern part, where I spent most of my time, has a humid climate with moderate humidity and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. On the other hand, the western region, with its semiarid steppe climate, boasts sunnier days and lesser rainfall. It’s essential to be prepared for both, especially if you’re like me and love road trips across the state!

5. Job Opportunities and Economic Landscape

South Dakota Business

South Dakota’s economy, ranked 27th in the US, is robust and diverse. With a GDP of about $49.81 billion and a median income of approximately $29,611, the state offers a stable economic environment.

During my time here, I noticed a plethora of job opportunities across various sectors. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a professional, or someone looking for a fresh start, South Dakota’s job market has something for everyone.

6. Getting Around: Transportation Insights

One thing became clear during my South Dakota adventure: owning a car is almost a necessity. Given the state’s vastness and relatively sparse public transportation, a personal vehicle offers the freedom to explore at your own pace.

 Driving through South Dakota’s scenic routes, with the wind in my hair and the horizon stretching endlessly before me, remains one of my most cherished experiences. The roads here are less congested, making road trips a sheer pleasure.

7. Embracing the Tourist Within

Mount Rushmore Travel

South Dakota is a treasure trove of tourist destinations. From the iconic Mount Rushmore to the mesmerizing rock formations of Badlands National Park, there’s no dearth of places to explore.

While Mount Rushmore is undoubtedly a must-visit, I found myself equally captivated by the ongoing Crazy Horse Memorial project and the intricate cave systems of Wind Cave National Park. Each visit offered a unique blend of nature, history, and culture.

8. A Culinary Journey Through South Dakota

Restaurant in South Dakota

South Dakota’s culinary scene is as diverse as its landscapes. From gourmet restaurants to quaint cafes, there’s something for every palate. Some of my personal favorites include Sanaa’s Gourmet in Sioux Falls and the delectable donuts from Jerry’s Cakes in Rapid City.

For those who enjoy a good drink, South Dakota doesn’t disappoint. The Pile O’ Dirt Porter from Crow Peak Brewing Company in Spearfish became my go-to brew, while the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis offered a vibrant nightlife experience.

9. Exploring South Dakota’s State Parks

South Dakota Palisades State Park

South Dakota’s state parks are a nature lover’s paradise. Custer State Park, with its sprawling 73,000 acres, was a regular weekend getaway for me. Whether it was fishing, camping, or simply hiking, the park’s natural beauty always left me rejuvenated.

Apart from the popular spots, South Dakota is home to several lesser-known parks that are equally enchanting. Roughlock Falls State Nature Center in Lead and Palisades State Park were some of my favorite hidden gems.

10. Museums and Cultural Experiences


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South Dakota’s rich history and cultural heritage are beautifully encapsulated in its museums. The Akta Lakota Museum offered a profound insight into the Northern Plains Indian Tribes, while the Redlin Art Center in Watertown showcased the artistic brilliance of Terry Redlin.

One of the most unique experiences was my visit to the Wades Gold Mill in Hill City. The hands-on gold panning session, coupled with a tour of the mining grounds, was both educational and fun.

11. The Quirky Side of South Dakota

Wall Drug 80ft Dinosaur

South Dakota is full of quirky and unusual attractions. Wall Drug, with its 80-foot dinosaur and mounted jackalopes, was a delightful discovery. The Porter Sculpture Park, with its massive iron sculptures, added an artistic touch to my adventures.

One of my most memorable stays was at the Hotel Alex Johnson. Established in 1972, this historic hotel has hosted the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Its vintage charm and tales of hauntings added a touch of mystery to my South Dakota experience.

12. Preparing for Your Move: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Planning and Delegation – Moving can be overwhelming, but with proper planning, it becomes manageable. Start by creating a detailed timeline and delegate tasks if you have helpers. I found it beneficial to maintain a folder with all moving-related documents and receipts.
  • Notifying Relevant Parties – Inform your landlord, service providers, friends, and family about your move. This ensures a smooth transition and avoids any last-minute hassles.
  • Storage and Decluttering – Consider hiring storage services if needed. Before packing, declutter your household. This not only makes the move easier but also gives you a fresh start in your new home.
  • Packing and Travel Arrangements – Start packing well in advance and ensure you have all the necessary packing supplies. If you’re driving, get your vehicle inspected. If flying, book your tickets early for better rates.
  • Preparing Kids and Pets – Moving can be especially challenging for kids and pets. Have open conversations with your children and ensure they understand the reasons for the move. For pets, a visit to the vet and understanding South Dakota’s pet laws is crucial.
  • Utilities and Cleaning – Ensure you settle all utilities in your current home and set up services in your new residence. Consider hiring cleaning services for your old home to leave it in pristine condition.
  • Embrace the Adventure – Lastly, moving is not just about logistics. It’s a new chapter, a new adventure. Embrace it, make memories, and enjoy the journey!

13. Moving Options in South Dakota

South Dakota offers a range of moving services tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re moving a small load, require furniture shipment, or need specialized services like piano transport and art shipping, there’s something for everyone.

For those unexpected last-minute moves, there are services available to assist you. If packing seems daunting, consider hiring professional packing services. They can take care of everything, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the move.

14. The Rich Native American Heritage

Rich native American Culture

One of the most profound experiences during my time in South Dakota was understanding its rich Native American heritage. The state has been home to various tribes, including the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota divisions of the Sioux Nation.

The Black Hills, considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux, is a testament to the deep spiritual connection the indigenous people have with the land. Visiting places like Bear Butte State Park, I felt the spiritual energy and learned about the vision quests and prayers that Native Americans have practiced here for centuries.

15. The Festivals and Events

South Dakota’s calendar is brimming with festivals and events that celebrate its diverse culture, history, and traditions. From the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to the traditional powwows, there’s always something happening.

I had the pleasure of attending the Sioux Falls JazzFest, a musical extravaganza that left me tapping my feet. The Sisseton Winter Show, showcasing the agricultural prowess of the state, was another event that provided a unique insight into the local way of life.

16. The Educational Landscape


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South Dakota boasts of some top-notch educational institutions. The University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University are renowned for their academic excellence and research contributions.

What impressed me was the state’s focus on indigenous education. Institutions like the Oglala Lakota College cater specifically to the Native American population, ensuring that their rich traditions and knowledge are passed on to future generations.

17. The Great Outdoors and Recreational Activities

Fishing in South Dakota

South Dakota is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts like me. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, or simply picnicking, the state offers a plethora of options. The Spearfish Canyon, with its breathtaking waterfalls, became my favorite spot for weekend getaways.

The state transforms into a winter wonderland, offering activities like snowboarding, skiing, and snowmobiling. My personal favorite was ice fishing on the frozen lakes – a serene experience that’s a must-try!


Why It’s So Cheap to Live in South Dakota?

Several factors contribute to the affordability of living in South Dakota. The state has a lower population density, which often results in lower land and housing costs. Additionally, the absence of state income tax and the state’s efficient use of its resources contribute to a lower overall cost of living.

The Cost of Living in South Dakota?

Yes, South Dakota is generally more affordable than many other states in the U.S. This affordability is reflected in housing costs, utility bills, and even day-to-day expenses. The state’s cost of living index is notably lower than the national average.

The Appeal of Living in South Dakota?

Many people are drawn to South Dakota for its natural beauty, from the Black Hills to the vast plains. The state offers a slower pace of life, fewer crowds, and a strong sense of community. Additionally, the business-friendly environment and tax benefits make it attractive for both entrepreneurs and retirees.

A Good Income in South Dakota?

While the definition of a “good income” can vary based on individual needs and lifestyles, the median income in South Dakota is approximately $29,611. Given the state’s lower cost of living, this income can provide a comfortable lifestyle for many residents.

The Experience of Living in South Dakota?

South Dakota offers a unique blend of outdoor adventures, cultural events, and historical sites, making it an exciting place to live. From attending local festivals to exploring national parks, there’s always something to do.

Living Salary?

A living salary in South Dakota would be one that covers basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. Given the state’s lower cost of living, a salary of around $40,000 to $50,000 for a family of four can be considered a decent living salary, although individual needs may vary.

Safest Town in South Dakota?

While South Dakota boasts several safe communities, Brookings is often cited as one of the safest towns to live in. With a low crime rate and a strong sense of community, it’s a popular choice for families and individuals alike.

Winter in South Dakota?

Winters in South Dakota can be quite cold and snowy. The state experiences two distinct climatic zones, but both can expect cold temperatures and snowfall during the winter months. While the cold can be intense, it also brings with it the beauty of snow-covered landscapes and winter sports opportunities.

Final Words

South Dakota, with its vast landscapes, rich history, and welcoming communities, offers a unique living experience. Whether you’re drawn by its natural beauty, the promise of adventure, or the allure of a simpler life, South Dakota beckons with open arms. As someone who has journeyed far and wide, I can attest to the state’s charm and the warmth of its people. Here’s to new beginnings in the heart of America!

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