Sioux Falls has aptly been called a part of America’s fly-over country. South Dakota just isn’t a state that you happen to visit that often, for really any reason, whether business or pleasure. It’s out of the way, there aren’t even major cities and you probably won’t drive through it…so you fly over it.
Unfortunately, it’s a shame, as Sioux Falls offers some gorgeous scenery and quite a lot to do, all in a part of the United States that you may not be as familiar with. Try a little adventure and something brand new, and check out this underutilized vacation spot!
Let’s explore the best things to do in Sioux Falls:
1. See the Falls
Of course, the first thing you have to do in Sioux Falls is see the falls themselves.
Located within Falls Park, the Big Sioux River tumbles over beautiful rock formations.
They may not be the biggest, or widest, falls in the world, but they hold their own appeal quite well.
Here at Falls Park, which stretches to 123 acres, you can also find the walking (or biking) trail that can take you all around the city.
While you’re there, see if you can spot the remains of the Queen Bee Mill, a 19th-century structure on the east side of the river.
2. All Aboard!
You probably don’t think ships when you think of South Dakota.
After all, the state is in the middle of the country, separated from the ocean by hundreds upon hundreds of miles of land.
However, that didn’t stop the state from building a memorial.
The South Dakota Battleship Memorial reminds us of the battleship USS South Dakota and those who served aboard it.
3. Learn About Butterflies
Go to the Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove to see a combination of wildlife.
The Butterfly House is a balmy 80 degrees with 800 butterflies floating around the 3,600 square feet of space.
Unlike some butterfly houses, though, you won’t just see the little insects that are native to South Dakota.
Instead, you’re treated to species from all around the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia.
On the other side of the complex is the Marine Cove, where there are likewise hundreds of coral and fish.
You can even touch a bamboo shark or a stingray!
4. See the Wild Stuff
If you (or your child) is more interested in seeing something a tad more dangerous, you may want to head on over to the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum.
The zoo has lots of your favorite “big” animals, like leopards, tigers, rhinos, monkeys and more.
There are a handful of endangered species to check out, and there’s an oh-so-cute red panda! The connected museum is dedicated to natural history, so it just extends the learning process even further.
5. See Some History
If you want to extend your museum explorations, you can check out Old Courthouse Museum, a historic building that was the first courthouse in the county, built in the late 19th century.
The structure, which looks rather imposing from the outside, was constructed from Sioux quartzite stone.
Inside, you’ll find lots of lovely architecture, including lots of stained glass, and fireplaces.
In addition, there are 16 murals throughout the building, that (much like in the comedy “Parks & Rec”) depict the county’s past.
6. Go to Church
The Cathedral of Saint Joseph is more than a place of worship — it’s also a civic landmark that you can tour.
Self-guided tours are available in the mornings and afternoons, and a guided tour can be arranged a week in advance.
The exterior makes it stand out in its surroundings, and the interior really shines with amazing architecture, sculptures and more, very reminiscent of the same cathedrals that you would find in Europe.
Visitors rave about the magnificent pipe organ and the stained glass.
And, if it’s your thing, you can get the full effect by attending a mass.
7. See a Show
One great spot to check for upcoming events is the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.
There’s an art gallery, a science museum, a theater and a concert hall, and it’s there that you’ll enjoy some great acts by the Dakota Academy of Performing Arts, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues Society.
Check the calendar for performances during your stay, but also make a stop by just to check out the art gallery and the science museum.
You won’t be disappointed in either!
8. See Some Outside Art
The Sioux Falls ScultpureWalk is a collection of sculptures displayed all through the year in downtown.
Artists contribute for one year, and then the sculptures go up for sale (so if you see anything you like, take note!). This year, there are 56 sculptures in total, and you can download a map to make sure that you see them all.
However, the large majority line Phillips Avenue, near the Big Sioux River, making it super-easy.
The various sculptures range in subject matter and artistic styles, but you want to keep an eye out for the adorable dog and deer, flying pigs and the beautiful buffalo.
Also, though technically not part of the SculptureWalk, as you make your way around downtown, be sure to look for the Michelangelo recreations, including those of David and Moses.
9. Get Outside
The Outdoor Campus is ran by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department, and it’s a great spot to pick up a new skill, such as fishing, gardening or even skiing.
The classes are for both adults and children, so you and the kids can learn something useful at the same time.
The campus also gives you lots of fun events, where you can do many outdoor activities totally for free, like kayaking and fishing.
Plus, the Outdoor Campus is set on a lovely parcel of land that really will make you want to get out into the wilderness and stay there!
10. Explore a Timeless Collection
The Pettigrew Home and Museum was built in 1889, and then passed on to Senator Richard Franklin for $12,000. It would be Franklin who would make the home into what is today — a fantastic tribute to South Dakota history and a wonderful learning experience.
Franklin loved to collect and his collection is on display in his restored home.
You’ll see Native American artifacts, stone tools, natural history specimens and lots of artifacts that represent the heritage of Sioux Falls!
11. Hit the Park
If you want to get outside, but wilderness isn’t really your thing, you can have a tamer experience at Terrace Park.
There are lots of fun amenities, ball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts and water features.
You can fish, canoe, kayak and splash around in the water as much as you please.
There’s even a swimming pool with water slides! Parents, while your kids are enjoying the water, maybe check out the sculpture, formal and Japanese gardens for a few quick pictures.
12. Enjoy a Concert
Be sure to check the upcoming lineup at the Denny Sanford Premier Center while you put together your Sioux Falls itinerary! There’s always something interesting going on, whether you do indeed want to see a concert, or you’d rather check out a sporting event or even a rodeo.
Some of the upcoming performers include Chris Tomlin, Foo Fighters and the Kidz Bop Kids.
13. Pay Your Respects
Veterans’ Memorial Park is a peaceful and pretty spot to reflect and remember.
The memorial commemorates the local military members, and it sits on a former Army Air Corps site.
In addition to the memorial, there’s also some historic exhibits and sculptures, an amphitheater, walking trails and some gardens.
14. Catch a Baseball Game
There’s nothing like a minor league game to get you in the spirit of baseball Americana.
The seats are cheap enough that you can really get good ones, the food is cheap enough that you can have as many hot dogs as you want and the staff is small enough that they really try to engage the audience in the experience.
The Sioux Falls Canaries play at the “Birdcage,” as they like to call it, and they run tons of promotions, so you never know what kind of surprise you’ll get when you head there for a game and a fun time that’s budget-friendly and perfectly authentic.
15. Dinner With a View
There’s nothing quite like eating with a great view, and one of the best dining spots with a view in Sioux Falls is the Falls Overlook Cafe.
It’s perched upon a steep bank and gives you a direct line of sight to the falls and the surrounding rocks and landscaping.
The building itself is pretty interesting too.
It was once a 1908 hydroelectric power plant, and it stayed that way until 1974. Now, the cafe is highly trafficked by tourists checking out the falls, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t top-notch.
You can find your normal cafe fare, such as salads and sandwiches.
If the weather’s nice, you can even sit outside.
16. Shop a Little
Head to The Empire Mall, recently receiving renovations, for a brand-new feel with all of your favorite brands.
Shop at Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, Coach and all the rest, and also enjoy quite a few dining options for whatever you may be craving.
The flagship stores include JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Dick’s, but there are also several large stores located around the mall and separately, including Gordmans and Toys-R-Us.
17. Splash Around
Wild Water West is the largest water park in the entire state, and has a ton of fun activities, whether you like to just float around a lazy river, or you want all the thrills of a huge water slide.
There are plenty of waterslides to go around at this park, and there’s even a wave pool with six-foot-high waves! Additionally, you can take advantage of the swim-up bar, something you won’t see in most water parks.
If your entire family wants to head to Wild Water West and you’re just not feeling like dipping your toes in, they do have options for those who’d rather stay nice and dry, including mini golf, sand volleyball and paintball.
18. Explore the Local Beer Scene
Stop by WoodGrain Brewing Company for some high-quality craft beer, created using locally sourced ingredients, including hops, barley and unique strains of yeast.
Try the beer, but also be sure to check their calendar, for fun options like live music and brewery yoga classes, as well as barbecue fests.
The normal menu is definitely nothing to turn your nose up at, though.
They have several unique varieties of pizzas (taco, mediterranean, breakfast, etc.) and yummy appetizers like pot roast sliders.
All the food, though, is provided from a separate company, Tuesday-Friday.
Food trucks show up on Fridays and Saturdays, and they also encourage you to bring in your own food to eat while you sip away.
19. Ski the Slopes
Headed to Sioux Falls in the winter? You’re in luck, because this part of the country receives a lot of snow.
Go to Great Bear Recreation Park for some awesome skiing, with 12 runs and three lifts.
The Terrain Park allows for space to perform your best aerial maneuvers.
You don’t have to wait until winter to enjoy everything the park has to offer, though.
It’s still open during the summer, and you can enjoy the mountainside via several walking trails.
20. Learn Some Medical History
If you have an interest in modern medicine, visit the Sioux Empire Medical Museum, which displays various exhibits related to medical advancements from the early 20th century onward.
You’ll glance a 1912 vintage operating room, as well as an iron lung from the 1940s.
See nursing uniforms, equipment and more.
Keep in mind, though — if you have a fear of mannequins, this is not the place you want to go, as you may catch a glimpse of a few glass-eyed nurses and sick children staring back at you from behind a display.
21. Bike Your Way Around
Sioux Falls is a bicyclist’s paradise.
The Sioux Falls Bike Trails is a huge system that winds and weaves through the city’s best green spaces (of which there are more than 70!). Falls Park is your best starting point, and then you can make your way around the city from there.
Be careful though, as about 20 miles of this extensive trail system is shared with pedestrian traffic, so you’ll want to avoid an accidental collision.
22. See Something Unusual
The Earth Resources Observation and Science Center is a very remote research and data center for the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
As of right now, it’s home to one of the largest computer complexes in the department of the interior and it has more than 600 employes.
The complex receives data from Landsat satellites as they pass over the United States, making its location the perfect spot for the job.
Overall, it’s a bit of a weird, though interesting, organization, and you can totally take a tour.
23. Embrace Agricultural Education
The Stockyards Ag Experience Plaza and Barn is a regional attraction that showcases the ways in which agriculture not only impacts the locals in Sioux Falls, but also the world as a whole.
Kids (and adults) can learn the role agriculture plays in all of our lives, and how its played a role in history.
The attraction just opened in March 2017, so it’s pretty new, but seems to already be getting a lot of attention.
A holiday exhibition is rumored to be planned for the first year.
24. Visit the Past
The Center for Western Studies is located on Augustana University’s campus, and features expansive collections that have to do with all things American West.
Anyone can stop by and see the art and artifacts on display, and admission is totally free.
The gallery’s exhibitions are always changing, so check the center’s site ahead of time to see what will be on display during your time in Sioux Falls.
25. See Something a Little Weird
The Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town is totally weird, and totally great because of it.
Anyone who likes weird travel will want to stop here.
Built as a little attraction in the ‘60s, it’s a single street of buildings, filled with robots.
There’s a saloon, a Chinese laundry, a fort, a haunted mine, etc.
The robots are dressed as period men and women (and there’s even a version of Abraham Lincoln), but most are in serious disrepair and are falling apart in a very eerie way.
You can take a self-guided tour of the town, no problem, and explore all of the creepy, nearly abandoned weirdness for yourself.