The US state of South Dakota is renowned for being the home to Mount Rushmore National Memorial as well as not just one, but two, national parks – Badlands and Wind Cave. All of these serene beauties are located in the western portion of the state. Across the sweeping plains of South Dakota lie Sioux Falls.
The bustling city surrounds the scenic Big Sioux River in the far eastern part of South Dakota near the state border with Minnesota. Sioux Falls is the state’s largest city. As such, the city comes with compelling attractions of its own. So, if you aren’t sure where to start for what to do in South Dakota, may I suggest the state’s biggest city?
Falls Park is Sioux Falls most famous attraction. So, this should be the first place that you visit in the city. The park is located just north of downtown Sioux Falls. It is home to beautiful waterfalls. In fact, the waterfalls is a big part of how the city got the name Sioux Falls. The waterfalls average about 7,400 gallons of water per second as it drops 100 feet down the Big Sioux River.
The waterfalls had been known to exist since the last ice age around 14,000 years ago. Sioux Falls was founded around the waterfalls in 1856, hence the city’s name. There is a 50-foot viewing tower located at the Falls Park Visitor Information Center where you can get a nice overhead view of the waterfalls. There is also a gift shop inside the visitor center.
Should you get hungry, you can head to the Falls Overlook Cafe which gives you a chance to dine while soaking in the views of the waterfalls. If you are looking to go on at least a short hike, there is a trail that starts within Falls Park and then travels along the Big Sioux River as it navigates its way through Sioux Falls.
Also, there are 12 permanent sculptures throughout Falls Park for you to discover. Monarch of the Plains, American Farmer, For Which it Stands, and Coming Home are among the permanent sculptures within the park.
Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science
You will then want to head into Sioux Falls’ vibrant downtown to the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science. It is a multi-story building of Neoclassical style that houses multiple attractions within it. There are two attractions in particular that I would like to discuss.
Kirby Science Discover Center
The first attraction is the Kirby Science Discover Center. It is a massive science museum that takes up three floors. It contains over 100 hands-on exhibits for you to check out. The science museum covers a wide range of topics from outer space to tornadoes to rock climbing to music and movies. One hands-on exhibit is called Jack’s Imagination Lab.
This is where children of all ages can learn about science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics by participating in an activity in which they try to think of something and then try to build it using a set of kid-friendly tools. A scavenger hunt activity is also featured within this hands-on exhibit in which children search for answers to images and facts shown on a large display.
Dinosaur Discovery is a hands-on exhibit in which you can learn about dinosaurs that once roamed the land that is now South Dakota, including the Dakotaraptors, Pterosaurs, and Triceratops. There is a life-sized model of a T-Rex. You can also dig for dinosaur bones and learn about the tools used to uncover fossils.
There is an interesting experience within this hands-on exhibit in which you can ride a Jurassic Jeep and meet a couple of dinosaur scientists to learn about how they study dinosaurs. There is also an activity to color dinosaurs on interactive screens. The Learn South Dakota hands-on exhibit is basically what it sounds like – a place for you to learn about the state of South Dakota.
Here are a few of the hands-on activities in which you can learn about the state. The first one involves you in selecting a type of South Dakotan as your player, ranging from a farmer to an inventor, and take an interactive quiz regarding the state. The second one will have you become the fifth US president to be on Mount Rushmore via an interactive postcard.
The third hands-on activity will give you a better feel for a tornado by actually touching one. These are among the hands-on exhibits available at the science museum. The admission prices for the Kirby Science Discover Museum are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and military members, and $7 for ages 3 to 17.
Those aged under 3 will get free admission. It is worth noting that the admission into the Visual Arts Center, which I will be talking about in a moment, is also included when buying the passes to the science museum.
Visual Art Center
The second attraction within the Washington Pavilion is the Visual Arts Center. This art museum is home to seven galleries that showcase a variety of artwork from local, national, and international artists. Each of these seven galleries has an area of focus as far as the type of artwork and artists are concerned. The Jerstad Gallery is focused on artwork from well known contemporary artists in a variety of styles and media.
The Contemporary Gallery is where you can find installations, video art, and new media. Artwork created by artists with ties with the southeastern region of South Dakota can be viewed in the Shultz Gallery. The Egger Gallery is dedicated to Northern Plains Tribal Art. Those of you wanting to see South Dakota-inspired artwork will want to check out the Bates Trimble Gallery.
The Everist Gallery is concerned with large-scale artwork. Lastly, the Young Artists Gallery is, as you can guess, is focused on displaying artwork created by young local artists.
Great Plains Zoo
Animal lovers hungering for a place to go in Sioux Falls will want to head to the Great Plains Zoo. The mid-sized zoo is located on South Kiwanis Avenue in Sioux Falls between downtown and Interstate 29. The zoo is home to more than one thousand animals from 137 species, including 43 endangered species. The zoo’s signature animals are the snow monkeys.
Also among the animals you can check out at the zoo are tigers, giraffe, rhinos, zebras, and anteaters. The zoo is divided into eight categories, each focusing on a particular group of animals. They are North America, African Savannah, Primates, Flamingos, Asian Cats, Birds, Bugs & Amphibians, Hy-Vee Face to Face Farm, and Endangered Animals.
The zoo also contains the Delbridge Museum of Natural History which is home to a unique collection of 150 mounted animals, including 38 vanishing species. The admission prices to the Great Plains Zoo are $12.75 for adults, $11.75 for seniors, and $9.75 for children aged 2 to 12. Those aged under 2 will get free admission to the zoo.
These are some places for you to check out in Sioux Falls. Regardless of whether the city is your stopover on the way to other destinations within South Dakota or your standalone destination, there is something to do there. So, I would suggest you to give the city a look for what to do in South Dakota.
Sioux Falls Hotels
If you are in need of a hotel to stay at in Sioux Falls, I am happy to help you out with this. Here are the two hotels I would suggest you to book your stay at.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Sioux Falls, SD
This hotel is located on East Eighth Street in downtown Sioux Falls. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. If you get hungry, the hotel houses an onsite restaurant called Falls Landing. There is an indoor, heated swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel. If you are looking for a place to workout, the hotel contains a fitness center.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $92 to $199. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Sioux Falls
This hotel is located on West 41st Street west of Interstate 29 in Sioux Falls. Free breakfast is available at the hotel. For nearby dining options, a few of them include Texas Roadhouse, Shahi Palace, and PizzaRev. The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. There is also a fitness center available for your workouts.
All of the rooms at the hotel offer WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $100 to $149. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.
What are your thoughts? Are you looking to check out South Dakota’s biggest city? Feel free to leave a comment here.