I have driven from one side of the state to the other so many times I couldn't possibly count. In fact, if you name a town's exit on I-90 I can tell you what the exit number is. All of those miles taught me where the best places to stop are.

The best stops are always good, but not always efficient. And my best stops have changed for a number of reasons over the years. While in college I went from my hometown of Beresford, 37 miles south of I-90 exit 396, all the way to Spearfish Exit 12 (I didn't look these up, I'm a nerd who remembers this crap).

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Back then I would usually end up stopping for a pee break at about Oacoma exit 260, and then fill up on gas at Wall exit 110. But now living in Sioux Falls, I don't make that stop until the Pierre exit 212, and if I'm driving my car I don't need gas until Rapid City, which is usually my destination these days. If the kids are along, I almost always count on stopping at Mitchell because one of them will have to go, and it's an excuse to hit Cabela's.

Most Efficient Single Stop

Google Street View

If all you are doing is going from Sioux Falls to Rapid City as quickly as possible and only want to stop once, due to the full bladder or empty gas tank or both, stop at Pierre exit 212. They have ample services and are right off the Interstate exit, plus there isn't a bunch of tourist crap to distract you, that's a half-hour north in Pierre itself. The only thing at the exit is the truck stop. Almost every other exit along the way will have other things you could do. One caveat is if you're driving a Tesla, you'll have to wait until the Murdo exit 20 miles down the road.

Most Fun Stop

Google Street View

If you're on vacation across South Dakota heading to or coming back from the Black Hills, the best stop is probably Wall. Yes, there's Wall Drug, but it's also the start or end of the Badlands Loop. If you've never driven through there, you have to at least once.

Best Stop for Food

Google Street View

This one is not even a question if you are stopping for a sit-down meal. It's Al's Oasis at the Oacoma exit 260 on the west side of the Missouri River. There are a few other sit-down joints that aren't fast food, but if I hit Al's in time for breakfast that's where I'm stopping.

Best Stop for Clean Bathrooms

Google Street View

This can be a crapshoot, pun intended. But generally, your best bet for the cleanest non-revolting restroom is going to be at the Coffee Cup at the Pierre exit 212. I don't recall ever gagging when stopping there.

Hidden Gem Stop

Google Street View

Another great place to stop to eat that you may have noticed but never stopped is in Kimball at Ditty's Diner. Formerly Doo Wah Ditty's Diner, Ditty's has always had a killer roadside favorite, the hot beef sandwich. If I have time for a sit-down steam table lunch or dinner, I will stop in for that.

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