Everyone knows the big cities across the U.S.: New York, Chicago, L.A. Heck, they even know the big cities in the Great Plains like Omaha and Oklahoma City. But what about Sioux Falls? This town is home to over 117,000 people but gets overlooked – and usually driven right through – when people are traveling in the Great Plains. If you take the time to stop, you’ll discover there are a lot of things to1 do in Sioux Falls and it’s well worth an overnight stop at least!
When my husband and I sat down to plan our honeymoon road trip last year, we decided to make a stop in Sioux Falls with little idea of what there was to do – or what we’d discover. After our short trip, we were evangelists for this mid-sized Great Plains city and all it has to offer. From street art to gorgeous public parks and an incredible dining scene, you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.
So whether you’re planning a trip to or through Sioux Falls, this post will help introduce you to the city and all the things to do in Sioux Falls. In the end, you’ll have a good idea of how to fill your time – or why you should extend it and spend more time in Sioux Falls!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Yankton and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
1. Visit & Hike in Falls Park
Hands down one of the best things to do in Sioux Falls is to visit the falls! Yes, Sioux Falls is so named because of the waterfalls right in town. They’re formed as the Big Sioux River runs over and cuts through the pink-hued Sioux Quartzite formation here. Because the park is formed around a natural rock formation and waterway, there are some uneven areas and hills where it’s less like a “stroll in the park” and more like a hike!
Falls Park is also home to a number of historic buildings that allow you to learn about the history and industry of Sioux Falls since it was founded in the mid-19th century. Of particular interest are the remains of the Queen Bee Mill and the Light and Power Company Building, which is now the Falls Overlook Cafe (more on that later).
If you only have time to do one thing in Sioux Falls, visiting Falls Park is it!
2. Walk the SculptureWalk
Further upriver from Falls Park, downtown Sioux Falls has developed a beautiful area around the Big Sioux River where you can do a SculptureWalk along the river and downtown. There are nice trails, terraced seating areas, and sculptures that you can admire. These sculptures change each year, so every time you visit Sioux Falls, they’ll probably be different!
The highlight is the Arc of Dreams, a sculpture that rises over the river and the pedestrian bridge at this part of the river; it’s beautifully lit at night, too.
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3. Visit the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial
The other famous attraction in Sioux Falls is one for you military history buffs. The USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial is open during the summer months, May through September, and free to visit. It’s a spot where you can honor the sacrifice made by the men who served aboard.
4. Eat & Drink Local
I always love recommending that you eat and drink local when you’re visiting any small town; this is the best way to support the local economy when you travel!
When it comes to restaurants, you’ll probably be surprised how many options there are. Some that caught my eye
- The Hello Hi & Pizza Cheeks – A combo cocktail bar and pizza joint that’s a perfect pair.
- EightyOne Arcade Bar – An arcade bar with a delicious food menu
- Fernson Downtown – A kitchen and taproom that serves tacos, burgers, and other delicious things to enjoy a drink with.
- Ode to Food & Drinks – More on them below!
There are also a number of local breweries, like WoodGrain Brewing and Remedy Brewing Companies. There’s also a South Dakota distillery tasting room is set to open later this year.
In short, it’s (perhaps surprisingly) hard to go wrong when you dine and drink local in Sioux Falls.
5. Explore Downtown
In addition to eating, drinking, and exploring along the river, I recommend walking around downtown Sioux Falls to discover the rest of what the city has to offer. You might pop into one of the theaters – both live and cinematic – or explore the Paladino Hohm Sculpture Garden. There are also lots of local shops and stores you can shop at, if that’s something you enjoy while traveling.
6. Discover Street Art
Additionally, there’s a bunch of street art in downtown Sioux Falls; exploring it is another of those great things to do in Sioux Falls.
Of course, there’s the entire SculptureWalk, with 62 sculptures that change annually; public murals are also starting to pop up around town after the first major installation was painted in 2019. If you only have the time or interest to visit one spot, head to 101 E 6th St. There’s a gallery of multiple murals.
7. Visit the Butterfly House & Aquarium
If you’re traveling with kids, the Butterfly House & Aquarium is a must-do in Sioux Falls! This is a hands-on attraction where you can touch stingrays, hold butterflies, and visit the only saltwater aquarium in the Dakotas. (Yes, both of them!)
The Butterfly House & Aquarium is open seven days a week and is $12 for adults and $9 for kids.
8. Visit Historic Museums Around Town
There are also a number of museums in Sioux Falls that you may want to visit. These are especially good options if you’re going to be there during the cold winter months:
- The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History – These two facilities are close together and perfect for an entire day, especially if you are visiting Sioux Falls with kids.
- Pettigrew Home & Museum – A famous home in Sioux Falls, you can tour this restored historic home and the museum built by its namesake founder.
- Old Courthouse Museum – This historic building is a Sioux Falls landmark, and the inside is a beautiful architectural wonder.
- Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science – Home to an art gallery, science museum, and a theater and concert hall, this is a cornerstone of the city’s cultural scene.
9. Stroll through Terrace Park
There are a lot of parks in Sioux Falls, but Terrace Park is the other one I most recommend visiting if you’re visiting and curious about things to do in Sioux Falls. Home to nice trails, flowering trees in the spring, a small lake, Veteran’s Memorial Park, and Japanese Garden, Terrace Park offers a lot in a small urban green space.
10. Admire Michelangelo Replicas
I always love little odd things I discover while traveling, and the Michelangelo replicas in Sioux Falls completely fit the bill. Thomas L. Fawick was born in Sioux Falls and went on to be come an inventor, industrialist, and art collector through the early 20th century. As part of his appreciation for art, he hired someone to travel to Italy and make copies of two famous Michelangelo statues – David and Moses – and install them in Sioux Falls.
Today, you can see Moses on the campus of Augustana University, and David is on display in Beadle Park near downtown.
11. Dine with a View
Photo credit: Don Graham via Flickr
Last but certainly not least, there are a number of good spots to dine al fresco with a view of Sioux Falls – both the city and the natural wonder!
An Ode to Food and Drinks is located along the Big Sioux River within a few steps of the Arc of Dreams. The restaurant has an interior dining area but their outdoor terrace allows you to enjoy views of downtown and incredible food. (This was the best place my husband and I ate on our cross-country honeymoon road trip!)
Falls Overlook Cafe is located in the old Light and Power Company Building in Falls Park. There’s a big indoor dining area, but they also have a small outdoor dining area that directly overlooks the waterfalls. It’s the place for an iconic meal that really allows you to experience Sioux Falls.
Where to Stay in Sioux Falls
If you need recommendations for where to stay in Sioux Falls between days of exploring these sights and spots, I’ve got you covered! Here’s where I recommend:
- Historic Victorian Inn – A locally owned and beautifully historic place right near the city center. From $91/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Holiday Inn Sioux Falls City Center – Right along the river and within walking distance of almost everything on this list. From $119/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Sioux Falls – Across the river from downtown but still within easy walking distance. From $127/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
There are also some fantastic Airbnbs and vacation rentals in Sioux Falls if that’s the kind of place you prefer to stay.
So those are my favorite things to do in Sioux Falls, and I hope they help you plan your trip. Do you know other great things to do in Sioux Falls? Let me know in the comments!
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