From a beautiful waterfall to outstanding food, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is home to amazing nature, culture, and history. As you explore the city, you’ll find its architecture and public art among the best in the Midwest. You may want to plan a long weekend to explore the sights and sounds that make South Dakota’s largest city special.
1. Explore Falls Park
As Sioux Falls’ most popular attraction, it’s easy to spend several hours at Falls Park enjoying the sights and sounds of the Big Sioux River as it dumps nearly 7,500 gallons of water per second over a series of falls -- with the tallest at 100 feet -- creating unique quartzite formations. With observation decks next to the river, you may feel a little adventurous and walk among the rocks along the shoreline to get up close to the water. Falls Park consists of more than 120 acres, with walking trails, an observation tower at the visitors center, and the remains of an old mill. Trees line walking paths, creating a beautiful setting for a stroll any time of the day. During your visit, check out the public art, including a statue honoring farmers and a life-size sculpture of an American bison.
2. Stroll Along The Downtown Sculpture Walk
With nearly 60 sculptures located throughout downtown Sioux Falls, the Sculpture Walk has made for a unique art scene since starting in 2004. Accepting new entries annually has helped the program grow over the years such that it provides a never-ending invitation to visit downtown Sioux Falls. You can get a map online or at the Sculpture Walk’s visitors center at Washington Pavilion and enjoy a self-guided tour. From statues such as a jazz musician near Phillips Avenue Diner to bears and eagles, the sculpture walk offers an opportunity to appreciate the art of some of South Dakota’s best artists.
3. Visit The Arc Of Dreams
Standing 85 feet above the Big Sioux River and spanning the length of a football field, the Arc of Dreams celebrates Sioux Falls’ growth as a vibrant city on the prairie. The stainless steel monument, which is lit at night, is considered the crown jewel of the city’s sculpture walk program, expanding it to the riverfront. Designed by noted sculptor Dale Lamphere -- who created the 50-foot-tall Native American sculpture Dignity near Chamberlain -- Arc of Dreams is a must-see when visiting Sioux Falls.
4. Explore The Old Courthouse Museum
Having served as Minnehaha County’s courthouse from the 1890s to early 1960s, the Old Courthouse Museum now shares the area’s history over three floors of exhibits. From Native American and pioneer collections to special exhibits, the real attraction may be the building itself. Constructed in the Romanesque revival style, the four-story building was built using South Dakota-quarried quartzite. The architectural marvel’s clock tower stands 125 feet tall.
5. Visit Pettigrew Home And Museum
Architecture and history enthusiasts enjoy visiting the Pettigrew Home and Museum. Designed in the Queen Anne style, the house, constructed in 1889, was purchased by Richard Pettigrew in 1911. Pettigrew eventually served as South Dakota’s first full-term senator but originally settled in the area as a surveyor. A collector of artifacts ranging from rocks to weapons and Native American clothing, Pettigrew opened a small museum at the back of the house. Following his death in 1926, the house was opened to the public as a museum. The first floor chronicles life at the house with era-appropriate appointments ranging from kitchen items to furniture and games. The second floor showcases Native American artifacts and various weapons. Because visitors need to use stairs to access the second floor, this attraction is not fully accessible. The museum offers free admission.
6. Have Fun At The Butterfly House And Aquarium
Remember chasing butterflies as a kid? The Butterfly House and Aquarium offers a fun break during your visit to Sioux Falls. Kept at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the Butterfly House is home to more than 800 butterflies from around the world. As you stroll through the 3,600-square-foot exhibit, you’re sure to have a few land on you. Remember not to touch them, but enjoy the experience. With benches located around the Butterfly House, you can spend as much time as you desire observing and enjoying the butterflies. Watch them eat from dishes with fruit and juices or just enjoy them in flight. Either way, you’ll have a wonderful experience.
The cost of admission also includes access to South Dakota’s only saltwater aquarium. Home to colorful coral from the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, anemones, fish, and seahorses are also found in the 10,000-gallon aquarium. If you’re game, check out the Pacific Tide Pool and touch pool, where you can get hands on with anemones and other sea life.
7. Walk Along Terrace Park’s Japanese Garden
Enjoy a stroll around Terrace Park and spend some time exploring the Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens, designed in the 1920s by a local resident who studied Japanese landscaping and believed it would add to the beauty of the park and its lake. Following World War II, it fell into disrepair. Resurrected in the 1980s, it remains a popular attraction to explore. You’ll see stone accents such as lanterns, steps, and walls, and some of the area’s trees have been landscaped to resemble Japanese bonsais.
8. Hike Good Earth State Park
With more than six miles of walking and hiking trails, Good Earth State Park offers easy access to nature in Sioux Falls. About a 25-minute drive southeast of downtown, Good Earth State Park is located at Blood Run, a well-known Native American settlement dating back to 1300 to 1700 A.D. As you explore the park’s trails, you’ll have amazing views of the landscape and the river. In addition to its cultural and historical relevance, Good Earth State Park is a great spot for bird watching. The park charges a daily admission fee per vehicle; check the website for updated prices.
9. Pay Your Respects At The USS South Dakota Memorial
Sioux Falls is home to the USS South Dakota Memorial. The USS South Dakota was the standby ship as the Japanese signed the agreement to officially end World War II. The ship was decommissioned in the early 1960s, so the memorial was designed to resemble the actual USS South Dakota and spans the length of the ship itself. In the middle of the memorial is a visitors center that also serves as a museum. It houses artifacts from the USS South Dakota and other naval exhibits; you’ll want to check it out when visiting the memorial.
10. Honor Area Heroes At Veterans’ Memorial Park
Located on the grounds of a former military base, Veterans’ Memorial Park honors the men and women who have served in the United States military. The park flies each service’s flag alongside the American flag. A plaza recognizes regional Medal of Honor recipients. The park includes a series of sculptures, ranging from an eagle to one that honors fallen soldiers.
11. See The Animals At Great Plains Zoo And Delbridge Museum
Home to endangered animals such as the black rhinoceros, whose worldwide population is only about 5,000, Great Plains Zoo covers 45 acres. Plan to spend 2 to 3 hours visiting the built habitats of animals including Komodo dragons, tigers, and penguins. Near the zoo’s exit, the Delbridge Museum hosts exhibits featuring mounted animals posed in wildlife scenes, including a lion attacking its prey.
12. Take In Unique Art At Porter Sculpture Garden
Located about 30 miles west of Sioux Falls, Porter Sculpture Garden provides a unique look at one man’s concept of art. Featuring more than 50 sculptures spread out over 10 acres, Porter Sculpture Garden grew from a farmer’s love for art. He started creating art pieces from scrap metal around the farm, and his collection grew. Today, a horse that stands 40 feet tall joins an even larger 60-foot-tall bull’s head, which can be seen from Interstate 90. A visit to the sculpture garden, which is located on a sloping hill, can be surreal, as you see a pink dragon, a fly playing tennis, and a character sledding. The sculpture garden is open May through October.
13. The Food Is Delicious
Given its outstanding culinary scene, Sioux Falls offers something for everyone. Originally known as Market Diner, in 1996, after 19 years on Louise Avenue, owners of this area favorite moved the airstream trailer it's housed in to Phillips Avenue, where it became Phillips Avenue Diner. The rest, they say, is history. It’s a popular downtown attraction, and the diner is known for its chicken and waffles, as well as treats such as the Elvis Waffle, served with peanut butter and banana. Its neon-style sign illuminates Phillips Avenue at night.
Taphouse 41 may be best known for its bourbon and beer, but its burgers are the real reason to visit the Sioux Falls establishment. From classic burgers with the basic toppings to gourmet burgers, you’ll love the choices. From the PBR with duck fat fries and jalapenos to the mac and cheese with fried gouda as one of the toppings, the gourmet menu will tantalize any foodie’s palate.
14. Sioux Falls Boasts Great Places To Stay
Attached to the convention center and sports arena, the Sheraton Hotel offers an outstanding stay with excellent amenities. Rooms are comfortable and the beds are cozy. Falling Water Grille is an outstanding restaurant that also serves breakfast.
The Hotel on Phillips building originally served as a bank in the 1800s. Today, the upscale boutique hotel offers an intimate experience at a reasonable rate. Conveniently located downtown, the Hotel on Phillips is centrally located near attractions.
If you prefer a bed and breakfast experience, the Historic Victorian Inn is located within walking distance of downtown Sioux Falls. The B&B only has a few rooms, so you’re assured of personal service and a quiet stay.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or foodie, Sioux Falls has the perfect attractions for you to explore over a long weekend. Falls Park may be the most popular attraction, but the city offers so much more for your enjoyment.
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