11 Things To Do In Brandon, South Dakota

Brandon, South Dakota is a place that approximately 11,000 people call home. A very small city, it doesn’t have much of a grand history.

It got its name from an even smaller town called Brandon in Vermont, but the two have little in common with each other. The South Dakota town’s earliest history is the fact that it had a functioning post office as early as 1878.

Post cards written in 1908 and 1909 reinforce the fact that the town was well settled. The writers mention the upcoming harvest and going to school, further suggesting that Brandon had been occupied for some time.

Interestingly, one of the post cards headers is printed in English, French, and German, suggesting that a diverse population of immigrants originally settled the area.

Where is Brandon, South Dakota?

Brandon is only a 17 minute drive from the nearest city: Sioux Falls, South Dakota – not to mistaken with Sioux City, Iowa, which is an hour and a half south.

It’s easy to make the mistake given the cities’ similar names and their proximity to each other – all of these cities lie on the borders of South Dakota and Iowa.

Brandon is also a mere seven miles away from Minnesota. In this northern border corner, Brandon seems like an accessible suburb of Sioux Falls.

It will take a good four hours to reach the nearest national metropolis, though, as Minneapolis is over 200 miles away and Des Moines over 300.

Brandon is also completely across-state from the world famous Mount Rushmore – a five hour and thirty minute drive that is unlikely to become a day trip. Rest assured, there’s plenty to do in Brandon.  

Things to Do in Brandon, South Dakota

1. McHardy Park 

mchardy park brandon south dakota

McHardy Park was the first developed park in Brandon, officially established in 1977. Its most famous feature is its 50-foot-tall observation tower that was built by the National Guard in 1983 which provides a view over the park’s 74-acres.

It also has a horseshoe pit, a softball diamond, a volleyball court, and future plans for soccer fields.

In the winter you can go sledding down the hill and in summer people fish along Split Rock Creek at the handicap-accessible fishing pier.

It’s the perfect place for family picnics and is home to the annual Arts & Crafts Festival.

2. Big Sioux Rifle and Pistol Club

Big Sioux Rifle and Pistol Club brandon sd

Those interesting in testing their skills can spend a day at the Bix Sioux Rifle and Pistol Club. Only open on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Club has an airconditioned (in the summer) and heated (in the winter) clubhouse to get comfortable in.

They offer 10 pistol lanes and 18 rifle lanes which are always monitored by a range officer.

Memberships are affordable, as long as you’re also registered with the NRA, but non-members can have a go at only $20 per day.

They host U.S. Practical Shooting Association lessons and cowboy action shooting competitions. 

3. Valley of the Giants Trail

valley of the giants trail brandon south dakota

(photo: Ryan Miller, AllTrails)

On the west side of town, in the Big Sioux State Recreation Area, is the Valley of the Giants Trail.

It’s a year ‘round trail that is an easier walk than the name suggests. Less than two miles, the trail loops through the floodplain’s forest of oak and cottonwood – the largest in the state – as well as ash, boxelder, elm, and willow trees.

These giants have been protected since the 19th century when the original homesteader to settle here, Oleg Bergerson, admired their beauty.

The trail is great for people of any activity level and dogs on leashes.

4. Big Sioux State Recreation Area

Big Sioux State Recreation Area - brandon sd

(photo: South Dakota: Game, Fish and Parks)

The Valley of the Giants Trail isn’t the only thing to do in the Big Sioux State Recreation Area. It’s a protected 270-acres that contain forest, prairie, and wetland habitats, all of which are ideal for birdwatching.

There is an entrance fee, but day passes are as little as $5 and go towards the management of the park.

The river allows for boating (motored, canoes, and kayaks), fishing, and swimming, while landlubbers can picnic, practice archery, and even hunt in limited area.

There’s a campground that allows for RVs to park up and connect and has toilet and shower facilities.

5. Huset’s Speedway

Huset's Speedway - brandon south dakota

(photo: JJ Skippy)

In direct contrast to Brandon’s idyllic parks, a more lively, fast-paced activity is a visit to Huset’s Speedway.

Just down the road from the Big Sioux State Recreation Area (and hopefully out of earshot) is a one-third of a mile, high-banked, dirt oval track – the fastest one in the area.

Parking is free but tickets will cost you. Another option is to camp on-site. Huset’s has an extensive campground that offers plots with access to water and electricity or just electricity.

Their three-day packages make for an affordable weekend experience.

6. Catch A Baseball Game at Aspen Park 

Aspen Park  - brandon south dakota

(photo: Brandon Valley Baseball Association BVBA)

In the center of town, Aspen Park is home to Brandon’s water treatment plant and the municipal pool. It’s also home to seven baseball diamonds.

The Brandon Valley Baseball Association organizes baseball games for rookies and little league teams up through American Legion.

Their teams are often state champions and one of the alumni, Jake Adams, even went on to play for the Houston Astros.

There’s hardly a better place to go watch for upcoming talent. Grab some blankets and a picnic and cheer on the local team.

You never know, they may be professionals one day!

7. Bottoms Up Bar

Bottoms Up Bar  - brandon south dakota

Every town needs a good dive bar and Bottoms Up ticks that box for Brandon. Just north of town, the Bottoms Up is a reliable place to enjoy a good beer inside or out.

They have twelve taps of beer on, serving names you know and love as well as some local craft brews. There are weekly karaoke nights and in the summer, their big beer garden allows for live music on a stage.

The Bottoms Up is perhaps best know for its regular darts tournaments – both competitive and those ran to raise money for charity. 

8. Brandon Golf Course

Brandon Golf Course - brandon south dakota

Baseball isn’t the only sport widely practiced in Brandon. The golf course that got its name from the town is ideal for daily fun or yearly members.

Brandon Golf Course is an eighteen-hole course with a 71 par layout, ranging from 3 to 5 par per hole.

They hold regular tournaments up through state level. The Course goes beyond sport, though, as it’s also a venue for weddings of up to 300 guests.

While their pro shop may not sell tuxedos, Brandon Golf Course is great for mornings on the green and nighttime fun in the banquet room.

9. Wilde Prairie Winery

Wilde Prairie Winery brandon south dakota

Some may not expect a local winery to exist in southeast South Dakota, let alone one that uses 100% South Dakota-grown grapes, but Wilde Prairie Winery exists.

They first planted in 1997 and officially became a farm winery in 2004. You can visit the winery and its 2,000+ vines from May to November most of the week.

On the off season you can still have tastings or tours by appointment. The Vineyard regularly hosts fairs, farmers markets, live music, and other events.

It’s the perfect place for a picnic to complement their reds, whites, and event rhubarb wines.

10. El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant

el tapatio mexican restaurant - brandon south dakota

El Tapatio is a traditional restaurant bringing southern flair to the northern reaches of the U.S. Its cuisine is based on that from the state of Jalisco, Mexico which is famous for its mariachi music.

The restaurant itself is done up in bright warm colors, accenting the rich palates served by bilingual staff. Their extensive menu gives you a taste of Mexico across the board with a variety of vegetarian, chicken, meat, and fish dishes.

Don’t forget to order a margarita or, if you don’t drink, a Mexican coke or other Jarritos flavor! 

11. Tailgator’s

Tailgator’s - brandon south dakota

(photo: Tailgators Grill & Bar)

If you can’t all agree on Mexican, Tailgator’s Grill & Bar is another great choice to eat in Brandon.

They have choices for everyone, from appetizers and small plates to share, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and pizza to their mouth-watering entrees including four types of steak and even a surf and turf option.

You can wash down their fine fare with the usual beer, wine, and spirits, or choose one of their seasonal cocktails.

They have four different reservable rooms perfect for private events. It’s the perfect place to end your day out in Brandon.

Final Thoughts

Many people think small towns don’t have much to offer, but Brandon is jam-packed with things to do that are suitable for all ages.

The great outdoors are plenty in South Dakota and the parks do not disappoint. There are sports to suit every hobbyist, whether you want to participate or just sit back and watch.

When the weather’s not great, though, there are some great places to take shelter and fill empty stomachs.

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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