If you are only going to be visiting Sioux Falls for a week or a weekend, you may find yourself struggling to decide what to do. There are so many things to do in Sioux Falls. The fear of missing out or potentially wasting your time on a sub-par activity is completely normal, everyone feels that way. Luckily, this article is here to help. Here you will find everything you need to know about your upcoming trip to Sioux Falls, what to expect, where to eat, and which activities you should jot down in your calendar.
About Sioux Falls
You may look at Sioux Falls on a map or Google and expect nothing but small-town America, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sioux Falls is interestingly the largest city in South Dakota, with approximately 154k people. It is very much a fully functioning city with all the amenities and luxuries that come with it. But, it has kept its Dakotan charm. The city is clean, safe, and most of all friendly. Sioux falls is best known for its 70 parks and greenways throughout the city. The city planners have done their best to help the city keep its connection to nature. It is also known for its Falls park that surrounds the Sioux river waterfall. This river and waterfall is, of course, the city’s namesake.
The weather in Sioux Falls is generally pretty good, it doesn’t rain too much during the winter seasons (mostly in summer). The summers are warm but not sweltering (100 degree / 37 degrees Celcius days are not common). But you may find winter a little chilly, it will freeze from December to February. This isn’t a problem as the city is more than equipped to deal with the cold. Almost everything will still be open and running as normal. Whichever season you choose to visit doesn’t matter, there will always be things to do and places to see. Some of them may even be better in the snow.
The people are kind and down to earth, Sioux Falls may be a city but you will feel right at home right away. The people have somehow managed to keep their small-town charm and good natures even when the population rose to over 150k. If you are looking for a recommendation for a restaurant or an activity don’t be afraid to ask someone you meet. They will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Sioux falls has a very diverse culture and art scene. Many people might right them off at first but that simply isn’t fair. Sioux Falls and its people have a deep connection to the land and the native populace. There is a wonderfully diverse population in the city itself and the surrounding countryside. There is such a huge variety of cuisine, music, art, literature that you are sure to find something new and interesting.
The city itself isn’t home to a huge amount of interesting animals. Sure, there are raccoons, bats, and whitetail deer but nothing out of the ordinary. That being said, the surrounding countryside is home to a huge variety of cool and interesting wildlife. You can find Bighorn sheep, Coyotes, Bison, Mule deer, and prairie dogs. Despite the name, “The Badlands”, these lands are surprisingly great for wild animals. They don’t just survive there but thrive.
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Where to Eat
If you are only passing through, or are just in town for a few days, making sure you don’t waste one at a subpar restaurant is important. You want to eat the best food properly, with the best service, for a fair price. Eating at the best restaurant does not mean the most expensive. None of these recommendations will break the bank. They will, however, ensure you are getting a top-quality meal. If you meet a local and get to chatting, it’s a good idea to ask for their recommendation. They might be able to point you in the direction of a hidden gem of sorts.
This is the priciest option on this, but you get what you pay for, Minerva’s is the place to go if you are going out with friends or on a date. If you are in Sioux Falls on vacation with your significant other you won’t want to miss out on an evening meal at Minerva’s. If you are looking for a budget meal out this one isn’t for you, but, it’s nice as a one-off treat.
Morrie’s Steak House
Morrie’s steak house does steaks and it does them well. This is a very family-friendly establishment and is far more affordable than Minerva’s. This doesn’t make it worse in any way, just different. If you are looking for somewhere to take young children, this one could be a coin flip. There will be things that they can eat but not many.
Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe
Camille’s is a great place to grab a bite to eat during the day. It is perfect for taking the kids too. Its the lowest priced out of this trio of options but is in no way the worst. They are all slightly different and suit different people’s needs. If you are looking for a quick snack during the day, Camille’s is the one for you.
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Things to Do
Next up on the list are things to do and the places to visit. There are so many things to do and places to see in Sioux Falls, here are just a selection of some of the most interesting. Feel free to deviate from this list if you like, perhaps you heard from a local that there was a special event going on. Lists like these are great, but, locals will always know more. Not all of these sights and activities are possible year-round, depending on the season you may not be able to even want to take part in all of these activities. So long as you keep an eye on the weather report before getting dressed for the day you will be fine. For the most part, so long as you bring a coat with you the weather won’t be too much of a problem.
Places to Visit
Sioux Falls is home to some of the most beautiful parks and reserves in the entire state. You are almost always within walking distance of some kind of green area. If you don’t mind driving for a few hours, the surrounding countryside has a lot to offer. None of these locations is more than half a day’s drive from the city center itself. The badlands are the farthest, whether or not that is too far for you is a matter of personal preference. Here are some of the places you won’t want to miss out on visiting when you vacation in Sioux Falls
1. Falls park
If you only choose to do ONE thing on this entire list, it truly ought to be this one. The Falls Park is where the city of Sioux Falls got its name from. The falls are found along the river Sioux that was named after the native tribe. The falls are spectacular and worth the trip out. There is more than just waterfalls to entertain you, there is also an observation tower and cafe. It doesn’t take too long to see the falls, you perhaps want to allot about 3-4 hours to see it all properly.
2. The Badlands
The Badlands are a world-famous part of the South Dakotan countryside. Here you will find sharp rugged rock features, breathtaking canyon, and a myriad of interesting animals. Seeing Bison in their natural habitat is truly a once in a lifetime experience if you don’t live locally. The Badlands are truly breathtaking. You won’t want to forget your camera for this one. That being said, it is important to consider just how far the Badlands are far Sioux Falls itself. The drive can take 4-5 hours. If you plan to visit the Badlands and return to the city in the evening it is going to take all day. You need to account for 9-10 hours of driving total. For many people, this drive is not a problem as they want to see more of the countryside. For others, 10 hours of driving does not sound like the way they want to spend their vacation. Whether or not this one is for you is, of course, your choice.
3. Gitchie Manitou State Reserve
The Gitchie Manitou state reserve is not technically in South Dakota, it is in North Western Iowa. This means it is situated southeast of Sioux Falls itself. Don’t panic if you load up your GPS device and find out you need to travel out of state. Gitchie Manitou is the place to go if you are planning to get some hiking in. This state reserve is scenic and wonderful for exploring. There are also some ancient native American burial grounds, it is a place of great beauty and great history. Some beautiful Quartz formations can be found here, they are believed to be at least 1.6 billion years old.
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Great for Families
Sioux Falls is a wonderful place to vacation with your family. The reason being that there are so many wonderful sights to see and activities to do together. Keeping the kids entertained, and finding activities suitable for everyone, can be a real headache. Not in Sioux Falls though. These next activities are suitable for anyone of any age, they are just especially great for families who want to spend time together.
4. Wild Water West Waterpark
A water park is always a winner when it comes to finding something fun to do with the kids. This water park is no different. It goes without saying that if you are visiting Sioux Falls in the winter that this park is not an option. Even if it was open, the idea of swimming outside in below-freezing temperatures is not appealing. Even for children. This activity is perfect for mom and dad too. If they don’t see the appeal of going on the slides, why not lounge around on the lazy river. There are also Gokart racing tracks available for you to use. There truly is something for everyone of all ages.
5. Great Plains Zoo
The Great Plains Zoo is also home to a natural history museum. This is a great activity for everyone, though kids will likely gain the most from it. The zoo itself works to maintain its grounds and animals ensuring they receive the best care possible. The adjoining museum does a great job of educating you about the at-risk animals in the area, why they are so in danger, and what can be done to help. This is an important experience for children, raising responsible and mature children is so important. The zoo would be a wonderful learning experience for them. That and zoos are super fun.
6. Butterfly House Aquarium
The Butterfly house aquarium is an aquarium and butterfly house in one. Here you can learn about marine life and insects together. This is a unique combination that is bound to offer hours of fun and excitement. Whether you are looking to find stingrays, tropical fish, or tropical butterflies you won’t be disappointed. There is also a great gift shop in case you were on the market for a souvenir for you, your kids, or your significant other.
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Great for Couples
Sioux Falls isn’t just great for families, it is wonderful for a quick romantic getaway with your special someone. All of the above activities are perfect for anyone. These next activities are some romantic things to do in Sioux Falls as a couple. They are all equally relaxing and romantic. The snow and cold in winter won’t make these activities any less great. You could even argue the cold makes them better. It gives you an excuse to snuggle up together.
7. Japanese Gardens
The Japanese gardens are designed to be as sweet and relaxing as possible. The gardens have such positive energy and are so well maintained you will feel immediately at home. If you have a few hours to spare here and or there, there is no better place to visit than these gardens. They are open year-round so you can enjoy them in the warm sun or the delicate snow.
8. Terrace Park
Terrace park is home to some beautiful pools and lakes. If you are looking for somewhere to stroll around while you chat away it doesn’t get better than this. Terrace park is not the largest, but when you the park isn’t your main focus this is no problem. The park is free so it can leave you some extra money left over in the day for a nice meal out at Minerva’s. The Terrace park is also home to some interesting architectural features. They seem to blend native American patterns with Mediterranean/European designs.
9. Sioux Falls Bike Trail
The bike trails offer a great way to see the city and get around quickly. Cycling around the city might not seem the most romantic idea for everyone. Whether it is right for you as a couple is a matter of personal preference. It can be lots of fun, if you are very competitive it can be even better. Cycling through Sioux Falls might not be the best idea when it’s cold and icy, as it can be a little dangerous. This activity is best left to the summer months. A visit to the accident and emergency department at the hospital may ruin your vacation. It will certainly be memorable though.
Great for Everyone
Not every activity needs to be aimed at families or couples. Some activities are great no matter who you are, whether you are in a group of 8 or a group of one. These next activities are great for all sorts of people. Some of these museums are not going to be as interesting to young children as they are to adults, so whether they are going to suit your needs is up to you to decide.
10. Sioux Falls Skyforce
If you are a big sports fan you can’t go far wrong with a trip to watch the Sioux Falls Skyforce play. They are the Miami Heat’s development team playing in the G League. They are one of the best teams in their league and have a pretty decent roster. Because they are the Heat’s affiliate team, you might get lucky and manage to see some talented NBA players who are there rehabbing injuries. For just a few bucks you can get some okay tickets, great tickets are pennies on the dollar when compared to the NBA.
11. Pettigrew Home and Museum
This 1889 house has been renovated into a very interesting museum. It is home to a huge collection of cool antiques and knick-knacks. If you are interested in finding some cool and unique little bits and pieces here you are in for a treat. The museum is very well maintained and is worth seeing. It only takes an hour or two to do the entire place.
12. Oldtown Courthouse Museum
The Oldtown courthouse museum is another great place to learn some history. They specialize in the history of the entire town so you will learn lots. The building itself is the oldest in Sioux Falls so it is in of itself a historical artifact of sorts. This museum takes a little longer if you want to see everything, it will be worth it though.
13. USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial
The USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial is a tribute to those that gave their lives in the service of their country. There are lots of plaques and a small museum so you may learn a lot too. This isn’t one to miss if you have a lot of interest in history and/or the navy. Because it is a memorial, whether or not it is appropriate to bring your kids is up to you to decide.
Sometimes it can be hard to know if an activity is going to be possible when you are visiting. While most of the activities on this list are possible year-round, some are simply not going to be open in the dead of winter. Others might be open, you may just decide you’d rather not do them because of the cold. Either of these two activities will be possible year-round.
14. Veterans Memorial Park
The veteran’s memorial park is worth visiting no matter the time of year, no matter the weather. It may not be exciting in the same way some of the other activities on this list are. But it is still worth visiting. If only for a few minutes, to pay your respect. The park is also beautiful to look at due to it being well maintained and well-loved. It looks especially good with a coating of snow.
15. Cathedral of Saint Joseph
This cathedral is very impressive. It only takes about half an hour to see the entire thing, so there will still be plenty of time in the day for other things. You don’t need to be Catholic, or even religious, to appreciate the time impressive architecture and interesting art. It is free to visit, though you may want to make a small donation to be polite.
As you can see there is a lot of things to do when you are visiting Sioux Falls. The city, the people, the food, the culture all blend perfectly. Whether this is your first time visiting or you are a regular there are always new things to see or do. Sioux Falls has so much to offer that picking just a few locations to visit or activities to do can be hard if time is of the essence. If you only have a short amount of time to spend in the area, it is best to visit the falls themselves. They are so incredible and such an important part of the cities identity.