South Dakota receives big recognition from Midwest Living magazine

Badlands National Park was named ‘Best National Park’ and Wall Drug received the title of ‘Best Photo Opportunity’ from Midwest Living.
Published: Mar. 7, 2021 at 1:19 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - As days get longer and start to feel warmer, summer tourism creeps closer and closer.

After an interesting 2020 tourism season, state officials are optimistic for 2021 and recent accolades are giving South Dakota a boost as a top vacation spot.

In 2020, tourism took a hit across the nation, with visitation and spending dropping 45% and more nationally.

South Dakota stayed fairly steady however, visitation was down just 13% and visitor spending down only 18%. But as the pandemic continues into its second year, what is the expectation for 2021?

“We’re already seeing for 2021, incredible interest through our website,,” said Jim Hagen, South Dakota’s secretary of tourism. “Vacation guide requests are incredibly strong, some of the strongest we’ve seen in years. Website visits, we’re setting all sorts of records for website visits.

“We’re already hearing that outdoor activities like camping are doing very very well and reservations are up over last year,” said Michelle Thomson, president of the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association. “So we’re incredibly optimistic that 2021 will be a good year for us.”

And even though it just started, it’s already been a good year. A regional magazine gave South Dakota some big recognition with its Best in the Midwest awards.

“Midwest Living is an incredible magazine that showcases our area quite often but to be able to have Best of the Midwest recognition with Badlands and Wall Drug is really incredible and people being able to view those areas like they may not have been able to in the past, I do think we’ll have more people looking at this area for a vacation,” said Thomson.

“Those are fun accolades and again, that’s reaching an audience of millions of readers, especially those families, those moms who’re driving vacation decisions and so really really proud of that and very excited about it,” said Hagen.

Badlands National Park was named ‘Best National Park’ and Wall Drug received the title of ‘Best Photo Opportunity’.

Hagen said their department has put in a lot of work in the last decade to draw people to South Dakota.

“Maybe it’s been a struggle in the past, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, to maybe get people intrigued by South Dakota,” said Hagen. “We no longer find that’s the case.”

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