While most of us are aware South Dakota has some astonishing natural beauty, what you might not be quite so familiar with is its abundance of charming towns, cities, and rural communities. Whether you dream of a slice of the good life in a dreamy little backwater or would prefer the 24/7 entertainment of the big city, South Dakota has a little something to please everyone. If you’re considering packing the trunk and heading west, don’t move a muscle until you’ve read our round-up of the top 20 best places to live in South Dakota.
The family-friendly community of Somerset has a list of benefits a mile long, including an average median income of $80,139, a great range of job opportunities, shops, restaurants, and bars galore, and thanks to its idyllic location, enough outdoor recreational activities to keep nature lovers happy for weeks on end.
With the average three-bedroom home costing just $145,000, Blackhawk is the kind of town where you get a lot of bang for your buck- not to mention a great selection of public schools, a safe, quiet environment, and a plethora of attractions within striking distance (including the Black Hills, numerous sacred sites, the Crazy Horse Monument, the Mt. Rushmore Monument, Spearfish Canyon, Tanka Bar factory, The Great Plains Art Market on Main Street Square, Prairie Edge… the list goes on).
With an average household income of $41,727, the residents of Yankton can’t claim to be the wealthiest in South Dakota, but they’ve got a good claim to being some of the happiest, nonetheless. Along with the good selection of public schools, the town benefits from a close-knit community, a quaint, historic center, an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, and the superbly affordable median house price of $137,600.
17. Fort Pierre
For just $157,600, you could join the homeowners of Fort Pierre, a tiny town of 2,276 that’s punching well above its weight when it comes to desirability. Those new to the area can expect a crime rate that’s so low, it’s practically non-existent, a diverse range of friendly neighbors (most of whom are also pretty wealthy, at least if the median income of $68,237 is anything to go by), a good little selection of amenities (including several grocery stores and the ever-popular city pool), and a conveniently short drive to the numerous larger cities that surround it.
As home to Northern State University, Aberdeen is a vibrant, buzzing community with plenty of job opportunities, nightspots, restaurants, bars, and shops. Despite its youthful vibe, it’s still very much a family orientated community, with a good selection of schools, a low crime rate, and a relaxed, safe feel. Although the average household wage is slightly below the national average ($47,506 vs $55,322), it’s a figure that’s more than compensated for by the astoundingly low cost of living- if you’re looking to buy a property here, you’ll probably be able to do it for around $144,000, over $40,000 less than the US average.
15. North Sioux Town
For first time buyers, the affordable housing on offer in North Sioux Town is a huge draw. Even if the $134,000 median home value wasn’t enough in itself to entice you, the town has plenty more that will, including a diverse, welcoming community, a good nightlife, plenty of outdoor opportunities for hiking, biking, and getting friendly with nature, a decent education system, no shortage of cafés, bars, and dining options, and a good selection of job opportunities.
Tucked away in the Black Hills is the beautiful little town of Spearfish. With its abundance of hiking trails, lakes, parks, hills, and mountains (not to mention the nearby Spearfish Canyon), it’s a small piece of paradise on earth for outdoor enthusiasts. Once you get over the spectacular natural scenery, you’ll find a small, charming town with a great sense of character and community. If you fancy living in the kind of place where everyone greets you as you walk down the street, you may well want to start saving towards the $206,100 it takes to buy a home here
13. Rapid City
Rapid City is, as its name suggests, a busy, vibrant community that currently boasts 72,841 residents. Blessed with a wide array of shops, bars, and restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to do, see and experience in the city… although those looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle will find all the peace and quiet they need (along with some superb natural beauty) just a 30 min drive away at Mt. Rushmore. The year-round schedule of events and activities (including a popular “pop up” ice skating ring in winter and an outdoor movie theatre in summer) smacks of a friendly, engaged community- and one that’s certainly welcome to newcomers taking advantage of the city’s outstandingly affordable homes, most of which come in for just $170,700.
Tea manages to combine a friendly small-town vibe with all the attractions and amenities of the big city. The community is incredibly active, ensuring a plentiful line up of fun, year-round activities. The median property price, meanwhile, is a very reasonable $196,000- a figure that becomes even more accessible when you consider the average household in Tea is netting the enviable income of $79,978. Other attractions worth a mention include the decent education system, low crime rate, flourishing job market, and easy commute into Sioux Falls.
Residents of the little lakeside town of Mobridge might not have the highest incomes in South Dakota (just $43,243 by the last count) but what they do have is the kind of idyllic lifestyle that money can’t buy. With its lakeside location, it’s the perfect place for hiking, fishing, biking, and outdoor pursuits of all kinds. It can also boast the hugely attractive average property price of just $86,800.
10. Hot Springs
When it comes to getting the measure of a town, it’s hard to beat the opinions of its residents… something which makes the reviews on Niche particularly illuminating. Judging by the comments left about the small community of Hot Springs, it’s one seriously hot property. “Love Hot Springs. Friendly people, the beautiful river you can walk along on the sidewalk with your dog. Home prices very reasonable and there’s a VA hospital for vets.
Beautiful old homes in valley and contemporary homes on hill overlooking valley,” says one, while another comments, “Hot Springs is known as "The Veteran's Town" and is home to the VA Hospital and PTSD treatment facility as well as a State Veteran's Home so the community is very supportive of our nation's veterans. I have been a resident of Hot Springs since I was 6 months old and it has been a community that supports and embraces both the youth and its retired community. I love traveling and visiting larger cities like Denver, but no other place feels quite like home. People welcome you with open arms.”
If you want affordable housing, you’ll find Madison’s average home price of $113,700 hard to beat. Combine that level of affordability with a first-class range of attractions and community events, safe streets, a great education system, and a low key, family-friendly vibe, and it’s easy to understand the attraction of this charming little town.
The town of Pierre boasts a lot more than just a population of 13,974. Along with the eminently affordable average home price of $168,700, there’s a very attractive median income ($56,110 by the last count), an up and coming job market, a charmingly small-town vibe, stunning natural scenery, and a small but active (and never anything short of welcoming) community.
As suburbs go, Harrisburg Is hard to beat. Along with the affordable housing (the price of a three-bedroom family home is pretty much bang on the national average at $184,900), the community offers an expected income of $80,648, a booming local economy, a great selection of schools, some lovely parks, a grand selection of cute cafes and friendly bars, and, last, but most definitely not least, an exceedingly warm welcome.
6. Colonial Pine Hills
Fancy living somewhere where you can expect to earn in the region of $90,833? If yes, you might want to cast your eyes in the direction of Colonial Pine Hills, a small town of 2,192 that’s positively dripping in charm. Along with the high income, newcomers can expect to enjoy some first-rate schools, a disarmingly low crime rate, a plethora of job opportunities (as that massive median income suggests), and enough shops, cafes, and bars to provide plenty by way of recreational fun.
5. Sioux Falls
According to Livability, Sioux Falls ranks as the #1 place to live in South Dakota. While its ranking is debatable, few would dispute it makes an excellent place to live, nonetheless. Low house pricing (expect to pay around $168,600 for a very decently sized family home) combines with a healthy median income (most of the city’s 170,401 strong population are netting an average income of $56,714) to make for a very reasonable cost of living. The amenities and services in the area, meanwhile, are superb: along with the excellent education system, there’s a good clutch of restaurants, bars, pubs, and coffee shops, a diverse range of local businesses, and more seasonal outdoor recreational opportunities than even the most avid outdoor enthusiast will know what to do with.
If you’re a first-time buyer looking to get your foot on the property ladder, the small town of Vermillion makes an excellent choice. Not only is housing extremely affordable (expect to pay no more than around $136,100 for a good-sized family home), but the standard of living is superb. Make the move and you can expect a plethora of job opportunities, a reassuringly low crime rate, and, thanks to its status as a university town, a buzzing, vibrant atmosphere that’s helped along nicely by the superb umber of shops, cafes, and bars.
Wondering why the little town of Brandon makes such a high entry on our list? Then take a quick glance at the stats. According to Area Vibes, Brandon’s crime rate is a frankly astounding 91% lower than the US average, giving residents a just 1 in 389 chance of falling victim to either a property or violent crime. The 2% unemployment rate is 54% lower than the US average, while the median income of $75,424 is a respectable 36% higher than the US average.
The average house price of $183,000, meanwhile, is 1% less than the national average, while the median rent is 12% less. When it comes to the school system, the results are equally noteworthy, with a 96% graduation rate (16% higher than the average), and a 61% test score rate (24% higher than the average). Throw in a friendly, diverse community and a great range of amenities, and it’s understandable why Brandon is such a hot destination.
With a healthy population of 23,471, a supremely affordable median income of $169,400, an outstandingly low crime rate, first-rate schools, a superb range of amenities, and just a short driving distance from the attractions of Sioux Falls, the lovely town of Brookings just misses out on a #1 ranking by a whisker.
1. Dakota Dunes
To experience the best South Dakota has to offer, you’ll find the small town of Dakota Dunes hard to beat. Although the median home price of $266,400 may sound on the expensive side when compared with the national average of $184,700, it’s more than compensated for by the robust median income of $99,034. Along with the outstanding salary, the town’s 2,895 strong population can expect an excellent school system, a good range of amenities, and, thanks to its idyllic riverside location, plenty of fishing, hiking and biking opportunities. To cap it all, the crime rate is one of the lowest in the area.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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