The town of Vermillion South Dakota prides itself on offering small-town charm to visitors, but with amenities befitting a city. The town of Vermillion SD itself is charming, with several historic homes and museums, and the attractions of a nearby Spirit Mound in the midst of gorgeous windswept prairie, and the mighty Missouri River.
Head down towards Main Street and you'll see small-town Vermillion South Dakota at its best. The quaint downtown area houses a variety of small local businesses, and you can grab a drink at the bar or a bite at a local cafe or restaurant. There are some unique clothing shops and thrift stores if you want to do a little bargain hunting. Cotton Park, at the southern end of Dakota Street, is a great place for a walk, and comprises 30 acres of natural scenic areas. There are picnic areas and a playground for kids, and you can hike or bike on some of the nature trails. Make your way down to the Vermillion River to enjoy the trees and water, or view it from above at the scenic bridge. If you enjoy wine, you can try wine tasting at the Valiant Vineyards Winery on Main Street overlooking the river.
Vermillion SD is also home to the University of South Dakota, the oldest university in the state. There are several attractions on the USD campus, including the National Music Museum, which has the most comprehensive collection of musical instruments in the world. Here you can view 15,000 musical instruments from various historical time periods and from all over the world. The National Music Museum also hosts concerts and events for music lovers throughout the year. While you're at the USD campus, you may want to check out the Dakota Dome, a 61,000-square-foot state of the art fitness facility providing services to students at the university and the community. You can get a guest pass here if you'd like to use the facilities for the day.
An excellent place to learn more about the history of Vermillion South Dakota and the surrounding country is at the W.H. Over Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The museum provides a way for visitors to learn about the plants, animals, and people who inhabited the prairies of South Dakota in the past. It includes a life-size buffalo, artifacts from the Sioux tribes who lived in the prairies, and a glimpse into the area's pioneer past. There is even an authentic claim shanty, a small wooden cottage built by settlers in South Dakota to live in during the first year on the land they had claimed. A vintage touring car from 1912 is also on exhibit.
After learning about the history of Vermillion SD and the surrounding land, an appropriate place to gain first-hand experience of the prairie is at the Spirit Mound, about five miles north of town. This grassy hill rising up in the middle of the prairie was well known among the tribes inhabiting the land before any explorers or settlers came. Famously, Lewis and Clark visited the mound in 1804 when they were first exploring the prairies and pronounced the view a "beautiful landscape.” Today a loop trail takes you on a gentle hike from the parking lot to the Spirit Mound where you can view the grassy prairie all around. Gradually, the native prairie grasses are being restored, so that the view you see today is very similar to what Lewis and Clark would have seen.
If you'd like to stay the night before heading on to other destinations in South Dakota, there are several accommodations in Vermillion belonging to the town's Chamber of Commerce that provide quaint local charm, such as the Prairie Inn and the Buffalo Run Winery Bed and Breakfast. There are also several chain hotels and motels for your convenience.
Image: J. Stephen Conn (flickr)