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When the good people of South Dakota aren't rooting for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits in Brookings or enjoying a beer at the bike rally in Sturgis, they can be found maintaining some of the best places to live in the country.
While the whole place is downright lovely, some spots in The Mount Rushmore State deserve special attention for standing out as truly extraordinary. This is why HomeSnacks created a list of the top ten best places to live in South Dakota for 2021.
South Dakota has quite the mix of great places to call home. Cool college towns like Vermillion, up and coming towns for young professionals like Harrisburg, and quintessential Midwestern towns like Martin are not only some of South Dakota's best places to live, they're also some of the best places to raise a family.
Business is great in South Dakota and the economy is strong: we're talking 2.9% unemployment strong. Coincidentally, we can also thank some of South Dakota's best places for giving the rest of the country businesses like Trail-Eze Trailers, The Furniture Mart, and the famous Wall Drug. South Dakota is also currently one of the least dangerous states. We're not at all surprised. South Dakotans are so busy making their corner of the country great, they don't have time to be naughty.
So where are these amazing places in South Dakota where homes are affordable, jobs are plentiful, and neighborhoods are safe? Read on.
How did we determine the best place to live in South Dakota for 2021. We looked at the most recent FBI and Census data for places with 2,000 or more residents. The competition was fierce to say the least, but there can only be one best place to live in South Dakota, and that would be Brandon.
To see what other places made our list, keep reading. And if you don't see your favorite there, head on down to the bottom.
For more South Dakota reading, check out:
- Best Counties To Live In South Dakota
- Cheapest Places To Live In South Dakota
- Best Places To Raise A Family In South Dakota
The 10 Best Places To Live In South Dakota For 2021
We've been covering the best places to live in South Dakota for awhile now, and Brandon just keeps topping the list. A suburb of Sioux Falls, Brandon has a lot to love. It topped our list of South Dakota's safest cities, with a crime rate 75% below the national average. GreatSchools gave Brandon's district a 9/10 average score, and the city has the 2nd lowest high school dropout rate in South Dakota.
The poverty rate in Brandon is a measly 2.6%, the 3rd lowest in the state. And 96.0% of residents have health insurance, the 3rd highest rate in South Dakota. While the cost of living is slightly higher than the statewide average, that's mostly due to higher housing costs. In any case, Brandon's residents enjoy the 2nd highest median household income in the state at $87,250. People agree that Brandon's pretty awesome, seeing as the city has grown by roughly 20% in the last decade. Even better? Income and property values in Brandon also went up by more than 5% in the last year alone. After moving to Brandon, toast to your smart planning with a glass of vino from the local Wilde Prairie Winery.
We turn to Sioux Falls' southern suburb, Tea, for our 2nd best city in South Dakota. Tea is one of South Dakota's fastest-growing cities, swelling by nearly 50% since 2010, and it's easy to see why. It's one of the premier family cities in the state, with top-quality schools that have achieved the 5th lowest high school dropout rate in South Dakota There are also loads of kid-friendly activities around, like Wild Water West Waterpark, which provides oodles of summer fun for the whole family. And Teapot Days, a summer festival complete with a parade and carnival, is a real treat for the whole community.
Tea has the 2nd lowest poverty rate in the state at 2.6% and unemployment is safely below 3%. Tea has the 4th highest rate of residents with health insurance in the state, so unwelcome medical surprises are a little less menacing here. Homes in Tea might be the 4th priciest in the state, but Tea's residents don't mind, seeing as they earn $83,162/year, the 3rd highest median household income in South Dakota.
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $170,700 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 0.5% (2nd best)
More on Dell Rapids: Real Estate
Located a half-hour north of Sioux Falls, Dell Rapids is the 3rd best place to call home in South Dakota for 2021. Between opportunities for history buffs, enthusiasts of fine arts, and golf courses, there's really something for everyone in Dell Rapids.
A typical home in Dell Rapids sells for around $170,700 and rent will set you back about $856/month. The median household income in Dell Rapids is the 7th highest in South Dakota at $71,162/year and the poverty rate of 3.4% ranks as the 4th lowest in South Dakota. Dell Rapids spends about 10% more per student than the statewide average, and the public school district consistently outshines the rest of South Dakota in test scores and graduation rates. We just hope you like your neighbors because Dell Rapids is the 6th most densely populated spot in the whole state.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $184,000 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 1.5% (6th best)
More on Hartford: Real Estate
Hartford is a suburban city of 3,220 situated about 20 minutes northwest of Sioux Falls. Good schools, safe streets, and an unemployment rate of just 1.5% are just some of the reasons why Hartford ranks as the 4th best place to live in South Dakota. There's Buffalo Ridge Brewing for thirsty folk with a taste for craft beer, a golf course for those looking to hit the links, and the city park and swimming pool are a big hit with just about everyone.
Hartford takes care of all its residents, as evidenced by its poverty rate of 3.9%, the 5th lowest in South Dakota. Homes are the 7th most expensive in the state, and the median rent price of $833/month is a bit higher than the statewide median. However, Hartford's residents earn the 5th highest median household income in the state at $74,063/year, so it all evens out.
We're taking our first departure from the Sioux Falls suburbs to reach our 5th best place to live in South Dakota, Summerset. A suburb of Rapid City, Summerset is the newest city in South Dakota at just 14 years old. Animal enthusiasts will find plenty to love on day trips from Summerset; whether you're checking out bears, elk, mountain lions, buffalo, and reindeer on your car trip through Bear Country USA or enjoying a snake show at nearby Reptile Gardens, there's enough wildlife around to satisfy your craving for the exotic.
Before making the move to Summerset, be forewarned that it ranks among the most expensive cities in South Dakota. Homes are the 2nd costliest in the state at $225,200, and you won't find a place on this list with a higher median rent than Summerset's $1,127/month. Luckily, Summerset's residents are also the best-paid in the state, with a typical household bringing in around $88,526/year. You get some nice perks for all that money, like living in the place with the lowest poverty rate and 14th lowest violent crime rate in South Dakota.
South Dakota's 6th best place to live, Harrisburg, is also the state's fastest-growing city, adding more than 60% to its population in the past decade. Having South Dakota's biggest city nearby opens up your entertainment options, but Harrisburg has plenty going on to keep its residents happy without a 20-minute drive. Country Apple Orchard is a great spot for families and anyone with a sweet tooth. The whole community loves Harrisburg Days, a 4-day annual event chock full of locally-made food and live entertainment.
The first thing to know about your neighbors in Harrisburg is that they're smart; over 40% of folks have a college degree, and 10% have a master's, PhD, or professional degree to boot. We just hope you're comfortable rubbing elbows with the state's elite because Harrisburg is one of South Dakota's richest cities. Harrisburg enjoys the 5th lowest unemployment and poverty rates in South Dakota, so you know everyone gets a piece of the pie here. Harrisburg residents enjoy the 4th highest median household income in the state at $81,359/year.
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $151,300 (18th best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.6% (16th best)
More on Elk Point: Real Estate
Located in southeastern South Dakota, 20 minutes northwest of Sioux City, Iowa, Elk Point comes in as the 7th best place to call home in the Mount Rushmore State. Main Street is packed with thriving local businesses that help support a sub-2% unemployment rate. And for such a small city, there's plenty of recreational hotspots in and around town.
Schools in Elk Point do better than the statewide average in test scores and graduation rates, so your kiddos will be ready for college when the time comes. Folks here earn the 9th highest median income in South Dakota, $64,000/year. If you just want to try Elk Point out without committing to a $151,300 mortgage, you're in luck; Elk Point has the cheapest rent on this list at $822/month, which is less than half the average rent in South Dakota. Income and property value both grew by more than 3% in the last year, so there's no time like the present if you're planning a move.
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $158,000 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 0.7% (4th best)
More on Fort Pierre: Real Estate
Welcome to Fort Pierre, a city in central South Dakota that bills itself as the place "Where the West Begins." Here you'll find an odd, but enjoyable, mix of cowboys and suburbanites, entrepreneurs and historians. Therer are museums dedicated to famous frontiermen and women and rodeo legends, important historical sites, and the Fort Pierre National Grasslands for outdoorsy folks.
Fort Pierre has low poverty and unemployment rates, great schools, and a tight-knit community. Oh, and a well-educated population, seeing as over 15% of residents have a master's degree or higher. Works appreciate two things about Fort Pierre; having the 6th highest median household income at $71,579/year and having the 10th shortest average commute time in South Dakota at 12 minutes. You can find a spot to rent in Fort Pierre for just $761/month, and homes are moderately priced at $158,000.
The final stop on our tour of South Dakota's best cities brings us to Brookings, the state's 3rd biggest city. Brookings is the home of South Dakota State University, which helps explain why, with a median age of 24, it's the youngest city on this list. It also makes sense that Brookings ranked so highly on our list of the best cities for singles in South Dakota. There's Dakota Nature Park if you're looking for a peaceful retreat from the big city, the Children's Museum for families, and too much shopping, nightlife, and festival activity to cover here.
The crime rate in Brookings is 40% below the national average, and even if you do get banged up somehow, the city has the 11th highest rate of residents with health insurance in South Dakota. The cost of living here is lower than the national average in almost every category, and while homes are the 8th priciest in the state, a median rent of $753/month is quite reasonable.
The only thing better than going on vacation is calling that destination home, which is exactly what the people of Spearfish, our 10th best place to live in South Dakota, get to do. This community of 11,547, which sits near the South Dakota and Wyoming border, is a hot spot for nature lovers throughout the year. Tourists make their way here to savor outdoor fun through everything from cross-country skiing to rock climbing.
As if that were not enough to contribute to the energy of this city, thousands of students also come to the area to attend Black Hills State University. Higher education is not all Spearfish emphasizes though. Young minds are nurtured here from the start thanks to the community's multiple elementary schools that achieve above average ratings from GreatSchools.
But no matter what causes an influx of people to Spearfish, its economy is surely benefiting. The area ranks 7th for lowest levels of unemployment in the state. The housing market is healthy as well. Homes here can run you $212,700, but at least getting to and from work takes just 16 minutes.
Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in South Dakota
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Pierre with a population of 13,961 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities -- Populations over 2,000
- Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 2,000
- Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000
This left us with 36 cities, 37 towns, and 239 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in South Dakota have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 2,000 people to truly be 'the best'.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In South Dakota
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in South Dakota across a number of criteria from one to 36, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In South Dakota".
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in South Dakota? That would be Brandon.
If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in South Dakota.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Brandon at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In South Dakota
If you're looking at areas in South Dakota with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Brandon made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in South Dakota for 2021.
Best Towns To Live In South Dakota
- Crooks (Pop. 1,380)
- Groton (Pop. 1,905)
- Piedmont (Pop. 1,111)
- Britton (Pop. 1,689)
- Volga (Pop. 1,883)
- Platte (Pop. 1,531)
- Gettysburg (Pop. 1,203)
- Garretson (Pop. 1,291)
- Worthing (Pop. 1,066)
- Miller (Pop. 1,527)
Best Small Towns To Live In South Dakota
- Pine Lakes Addition (Pop. 305)
- Bath (Pop. 242)
- Warner (Pop. 454)
- Northville (Pop. 160)
- Ethan (Pop. 423)
- Shindler (Pop. 782)
- St. Lawrence (Pop. 165)
- Humboldt (Pop. 719)
- Onida (Pop. 748)
- Jefferson (Pop. 584)
If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in South Dakota according to the data:
- Sisseton (Pop. 2,468)
- Huron (Pop. 13,282)
- Flandreau (Pop. 2,458)
For more South Dakota reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In South Dakota
- Richest Cities In South Dakota
- Safest Places In South Dakota
- Worst Places To Live In South Dakota