Welcome to the land of majestic Mount Rushmore, endless prairies and the dazzling Badlands.
When it comes to finding your forever home or maybe just a fresh start, South Dakota offers a ton of appealing options. From bustling urban hubs to cozy lakeside towns, this guide to the best places to live in South Dakota is your golden ticket to discovering the towns that boast excellent schools and stable job markets in undeniably beautiful surroundings.
- Population: 196,528
- Average age: 34.2
- Median household income: $66,761
- Average commute time: 18.5 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $995
Sioux Falls is often considered one of the best places to live in South Dakota, and it’s easy to see why. This bustling city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, artists and aspiring professionals alike. The Big Sioux River winds its way through town, offering scenic beauty and outdoor activities like kayaking and fishing, right at your doorstep. But if you’re more of an indoor person, don’t worry; the city is home to the Washington Pavilion, a unique space with an art gallery, science museum and even a performing arts theater.
When it comes to everyday life, Sioux Falls is as practical as it is picturesque. The city boasts a robust job market, with opportunities in healthcare, financial services and retail, among other industries. Schools are top-notch, offering a quality education for the younger generation, while the healthcare facilities are some of the most advanced in the area. Ease of living is another big draw — traffic jams are a rarity, and most amenities are just a short drive away.
- Population: 76,184
- Average age: 37.2
- Median household income: $58,072
- Average commute time: 15.7 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $1,205
If you’re thinking about the best places to live in South Dakota, Rapid City should be on your radar. Imagine a city where you can have breakfast Downtown, hike in the Black Hills National Forest by lunchtime, and be back in time for a locally brewed beer from Lost Cabin Beer Company and a buffalo burger for dinner. This isn’t a fantasy; it’s just an average Saturday in Rapid City.
Rapid City is surrounded by pristine nature and serves as the ideal home base for those looking to explore natural wonders like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. With an eclectic mix of art galleries, cozy coffee shops and historic architecture, Downtown Rapid City is more than just a pit stop, it’s a destination in its own right.
The Rapid City economy is strong, buoyed by tourism and a fast-growing tech industry, so you’ll find a variety of career options. Schools are solid, and there are ample parks and recreational facilities for kids and adults alike. The city also hosts a series of community events throughout the year, from summer concerts to winter ice-skating festivals.
What you won’t find? The hassles of big city living. Traffic is manageable, the cost of living is reasonable, and people generally say “hello” when you pass them on the street. Rapid City captures the essence of South Dakota — friendly, scenic and endlessly fascinating.
- Population: 23,577
- Average age: 24.5
- Median household income: $53,845
- Average commute time: 13.3 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $940
Brookings emerges as a compelling choice as one of the best places to live in South Dakota, especially for those who appreciate a blend of intellect and community spirit. Home to South Dakota State University, the town has an atmosphere brimming with youthful energy and academic curiosity.
The McCrory Gardens offer a breath of fresh air and botanical beauty, while the Children’s Museum of South Dakota provides a magical world of learning for the youngest residents. College sports are a big deal here, and even if you’re not a student, you’ll find yourself swept up in the fervor of a Jackrabbits football game before you know it.
Excellent schools make Brookings ideal for families, and there’s a burgeoning job market in industries like agriculture, healthcare and education. Shopping and dining options are plentiful, offering everything from homegrown produce at the local farmers’ market to sushi and international cuisine. The town even has an active arts scene with frequent community theater performances, art walks and concerts. Safe streets and a strong sense of community make Brookings a place where neighbors know each other and people look out for one another.
- Population: 12,358
- Average age: 36.1
- Median household income: $52,258
- Average commute time: 17.6 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $775
Known for its breathtaking landscapes, Spearfish is encircled by the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon and a wealth of outdoor opportunities. Whether you’re into mountain biking, hiking or fishing, you’re practically destined to become an outdoor enthusiast here. But Spearfish isn’t just about the great outdoors; it’s also a hub for education and culture. The town is home to Black Hills State University, which adds a layer of youthful energy and intellectual depth to the community, along with venues like the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center, showcasing everything from plays to musical acts.
On the practical side of everyday life, Spearfish delivers and then some. The local economy is strong and diverse, benefiting from a mix of education, tourism and small businesses. Its public schools are top-rated, making it a safe bet for families, and the community itself is close-knit, often gathering for seasonal events and festivals. Plus, unlike some small towns where you have to drive miles for basic amenities, Spearfish has a solid range of shopping and dining options.
What truly sets Spearfish apart is its genuine sense of community combined with the backdrop of natural wonder. It’s a place where you can catch a university lecture one evening and find yourself fly fishing in crystalline waters the next morning.
- Population: 28,324
- Average age: 35.8
- Median household income: $58,439
- Average commute time: 10.9 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $845
Known as “Hub City,” Aberdeen serves as a regional hub for healthcare, commerce and culture. The city boasts several landmarks like the Aberdeen Community Theatre and the Dacotah Prairie Museum, both of which offer regular events that enrich the social scene. If you’re in the mood for something more outdoorsy, Wylie Park and Richmond Lake are perfect spots for fishing, camping and unwinding under the South Dakota sun.
Aberdeen shines in terms of everyday convenience and quality of life. The job market is steady, with opportunities in healthcare, education and manufacturing. Educational facilities, from elementary schools to Northern State University, offer top-notch learning environments. Even better, Aberdeen has a low cost of living, making it easier to stretch a dollar whether you’re buying a house or enjoying a night out at one of the town’s tasty restaurants.
- Population: 14,000
- Average age: 38.7
- Median household income: $69,868
- Average commute time: 12.5 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $755
As the state capital, Pierre is a hub of political activity, and you can feel the historical gravitas just by walking near the South Dakota State Capitol building with its iconic copper dome. But the city offers more than just legislative action; it’s also a sportsman’s paradise. Sitting on the banks of the Missouri River, Pierre is an angler’s dream come true with an abundance of walleye, and it’s no slouch when it comes to hunting either, offering some of the best pheasant hunting in the United States.
By and large, life in Pierre is straightforward and hassle-free. The local job market is solid, primarily driven by government jobs, healthcare and education. There’s a lot to do here for singles and families, whether it’s hiking along the scenic LaFramboise Island Nature Area or taking part in the many community events that pepper the town’s calendar. Pierre offers a unique blend of outdoor activities and political buzz, making it a distinctive spot for those looking to experience the best of South Dakota.
- Population: 11,802
- Average age: 23.3
- Median household income: $47,920
- Average commute time: 14.6 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $995
Home to the University of South Dakota, Vermillion is a small but lively town where brains meet beauty on the banks of the Missouri River. You’ll find a mix of students, professors and residents enjoying everything from Coyotes football games to riverside picnics. The National Music Museum — featuring an awe-inspiring collection of musical instruments from various epochs and cultures — is another local treasure that elevates the town’s appeal.
The educational ecosystem in Vermillion is top-notch, with excellent public schools complemented by the intellectual resources of the university. Employment opportunities are ample, thanks to the university and a variety of small businesses. You won’t be stuck in traffic for hours; instead, you can spend that time enjoying local parks or taking in a college basketball game. What’s more, the cost of living here is quite reasonable, making it easier to enjoy what the town has to offer without breaking the bank.
- Population: 15,453
- Average age: 41.3
- Median household income: $59,190
- Average commute time: 11.6 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $632
In a state rich with scenic beauty and friendly communities, Yankton stands out as one of the best places to live in South Dakota. Located along the Missouri River and famously the former Dakota Territory capital, Yankton melds historical significance with an array of modern attractions. Outdoorsy types will be quick to appreciate the town’s proximity to Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, where water sports, camping and hiking opportunities abound.
Everyday life in Yankton checks off all the boxes for a well-rounded experience. The local economy is buoyed by a mixture of manufacturing, healthcare and retail jobs. Education is a strong suit as well, with a range of public and private schools that consistently earn high marks. Local businesses — from cozy coffee shops to essential grocery stores — meet daily needs while the friendly residents make you feel part of a genuine community. Events like the annual Riverboat Days festival encapsulate Yankton’s communal spirit and offer an entertaining diversion for residents young and old.
- Population: 22,722
- Average age: 37.6
- Median household income: $56,520
- Average commute time: 13.5 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $630
Known for its stunning lakes, particularly Lake Kampeska and Lake Pelican, Watertown is a haven for anyone who loves water sports, fishing or just gazing at beautiful sunsets over the water. And don’t forget the town’s signature attraction, the Bramble Park Zoo, which boasts an impressive collection of wildlife and offers educational programs designed for residents of all ages. Watertown is also home to the Redlin Art Center, showcasing the works of Terry Redlin, a renowned American wildlife painter, making it a hidden gem for art aficionados.
Watertown offers a high standard of living while maintaining that cherished small-town charm. The job market is steady with a focus on manufacturing, healthcare and retail industries. In terms of attractions, Watertown has plenty to offer, from shopping malls to restaurants that go well beyond the standard small-town fare. You’ll also find a rich social fabric here, marked by community events like outdoor concerts and seasonal festivals that provide plenty of opportunities for mingling with neighbors.
- Population: 6,071
- Average age: 37.0
- Median household income: $58,564
- Average commute time: 11.8 minutes
- One-bedroom average rent: $640
Home to Dakota State University, Madison is a hub for technology and innovation, a place where you can bump into cybersecurity experts as easily as lifelong anglers. Speaking of lakes, Lake Herman and Lake Madison offer ample opportunities for fishing, boating and picnics, making them popular spots for family outings or tranquil solitude.
Madison delivers on the practicalities of daily life, too. With a stable job market centered around education, healthcare and local business, making a living here isn’t a high-stakes gamble. Plus, community events like the annual Prairie Village Jamboree add a layer of entertainment and social engagement that keeps life interesting.
Settle down in South Dakota
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a tech whiz or someone who just wants to enjoy the simple pleasures of a tight-knit community, South Dakota has something for everyone. From the buzz of the state capital in Pierre to the academic atmosphere of Vermillion, or the natural allure of Watertown, the Mount Rushmore State is an undiscovered gem for those looking to improve their quality of life.
Making a list of the best places to live in South Dakota isn’t just about numbers and statistics — it’s about understanding the lifestyle, culture and opportunities that make each place unique. So pack your bags and set your GPS, because your dream apartment might just be in a South Dakota zip code.