Itineraries

15 Best Things to Do in Sioux Falls in 2019

Are you looking for things to do in Sioux Falls?

Sioux Falls is the largest city of South Dakota, so expect a variety of places to see, parks to explore, and things to do around town.

Located in the “Heart of America,” bordering Minnesota and Iowa, Sioux Falls is conveniently located at the junction of Interstates 90 and 29 on the banks of the Big Sioux River. This means the city is also just a day’s drive away from many Midwestern attractions.

Before I talk about other Midwest states you can visit as side trips to your South Dakota tour, here are 15 things to do in Sioux Falls:

Outdoorsy Things to do in Sioux Falls

1. The Falls of the Big Sioux River

Sioux Falls

Photo Credit: Ruiwei Qi

The rock formations that make up the Falls provide a breathtaking view of pounding water downstream no matter which side of the river you are. Every second, an estimate 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the Falls.

You have the entire day to roam around the park’s 123 acres. There’s a horse barn, Seney Island, Queen Bee Mill, and The Big Sioux River and Recreational Greenway to explore.

If you’re visiting sometime in November to January, Falls Park becomes a spectacular “Winter Wonderland” with picture-perfect lighting.

2. Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens.

This popular wedding venue is located in Terrace Park, near the Aquatic Center.

In this Japanese-inspired garden, the entire place was designed by architect Koichi Kawana in the 80s.

Today, over 200 trees, waterfalls, koi ponds, reed lanterns and many pagodas will welcome you to this amazing spot.

3. Join the SculptureWalk

If you walk around downtown Sioux Falls the first time, you’ll notice many art pieces scattered all over the city.

You should thank SculptureWalk for this interesting installment. SculptureWalk began in 2004 and has become the largest and most recognized annual exhibit of public art sculptures in the country. As of 2019, there are 59 sculptures to find and enjoy.

Each year, artists submit their work in hopes of being chosen and displayed in town permanently. The top 2 finalists get cash prizes, too!

4. Hike, Rock-climb or Ski

Rock climbers and skiers have been going to certain Sioux Falls spots for years.

About 30 minutes northeast from downtown, follow the trails at  Palisades State Park and descend on the 50-feet quartzite cliffs.

Meanwhile, the Great Bear Recreation Park is known better for snowboarders and skiers.

If you’re a fan of water skiing, “The Greatest Show on H2O” has been happening at Catfish Bay for 20+ years.

5. Sioux Empire Fair

The Sioux Empire Fair is a fair held annually each summer for 10 days at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds in Sioux City.

While it is open, anyone can enjoy family entertainment, carnival rides, livestock shows, arts exhibits, vendor shopping, and other activities.

6. Sioux Falls Michelangelos

Thomas L. Fawick and his wife Marie are devoted fans of Italian sculpture. As proof, they donated two recreations of Michelangelo’s sculptures to this South Dakota town.

Visit David (keeping an eye on everyone at the public park) and Moses (situated on the campus of Augustana University).

7. Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

Good Earth at Blood Run is South Dakota’s newest state park. It is also a National Historic Landmark.

The Park has accessible hiking trails winding throughout the grounds, so if you’re in the mood for some scenic photo-ops, or just embracing Mother nature, this park is a good choice to explore.

Indoor Sioux Falls Attractions

If you love art and history, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Sioux Falls.

Visit the following indoor attractions:

8. Washington Pavilion Visual Arts Center

Marvel at how rich Native American history is engrained in Sioux Falls as you go from one artifact to the next.

You’ll also see a wide range of pieces both from local artists and internationally-acclaimed names like Andy Warhol (whose Wicked Witch adaptation is proudly shown in the exhibit).

9. Pettigrew Home

The beautiful old Victorian home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was originally built in 1889 for Thomas and Jennie McMartin.

However, South Dakota’s first Senator, Richard F. Pettigrew purchased the home in 1911 and has been wildly known as the Pettigrew House since then.

Pettigrew was an amateur archaeologist and avid collector, which is seen from the Native American artifacts, natural history specimens, and memorabilia showcased around the house.

Pettigrew Home

Photo Credit: Jerry

10. Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town

This Wild West attraction is alive with over 50 animated mannequins that re-enact 1800s life of the American West and region. 

See horse-drawn farm equipment, an antique museum, all in it’s glory?

Vice.com tells the most fantastic review of the place as “One-part museum, one-part ghostly amusement park, one-part outsider art exposition, and about 27 parts Whaaaaat the f*** this is so uncomfortable and awesome” and it’s probably the most accurate description I could find.

But a-must visit nevertheless, especially if you love everything about the Old West and roadside Americana.

11. Visit local Breweries

Some of the best things to do in Sioux Falls a day of brewery-hopping.

The city is home to a bunch of breweries, so plan appropriately. Here are several well-known breweries, their must-try brews, and locations where to find them:

  • Hydra Beer Company (2425 S. Shirley Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57106) – Founded in 2015 by two metal-rockers Chad Petit & Nick Murphy, make sure to sample their homemade sodas, cold-brewed coffee on nitro, and of course, their signature craft beers such as the cranberry berlinerweisse.
  • Monks House of Ale Repute (420 East 8th Street Sioux Falls, SD 57103) – This craft beer bar has been around since 2007. It is known for its signature brews include Buzzards Roost, Possum Belly Pale Ale and Bindlestiff Dark Ale. If you’re lucky, you might just experience square dancing too!
  • WoodGrain Brewing Co. (Plaza Building on Phillips Avenue, Downtown Sioux Falls, SD.) You won’t go wrong with WoodGrain’s Imperial Brownale, or house-made soda (for those below 21).
  • Fernson Brewing Company (1400 E. Robur Dr. Sioux Falls, SD 57104) – This entertainment complex (with arcade, games, tours, restaurant, and so on) is famous for its craft beers. Its flagship draft beer is Lion’s Paw Lager, which is a safe bet to try. Or go with any seasonal brews – Fernson makes them super-special.

12. Butterfly House & Aquarium

The one-of-a-kind attraction is home to over 800 free-flying butterflies from around the world in a year-round tropical oasis.

You can visit any time of the year. Admission is free for kids below 2, but have fees for kids 3-12 ($9), adults 13-59 ($12) and seniors 60 years old or above ($11).

3 Fun Things to Do in Sioux Falls

Here are 3 more attractions you can check out around town.

Note that the last 2 are newer Sioux Falls attractions and are worth the effort of visiting (and paying for).

13. Visit 5 Ancient Burial Mounds

Sioux Falls has a cemetery that’s 1,600+ years old, and you don’t need to pay admission fees to check it out.

Located at Sherman Park along Kiwanis Avenue the burial mounds were discovered to have the remains of Woodland Indians buried here 1,600 years ago.

14. The LifeLight Festival

If you’re a fan of music festivals, forget Coachella or the Burning Man.

Sioux Falls hosts one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. Called the LifeLight Festival, this free, three-day concert happens over Labor Day weekend and attracts a whopping 350k people from all corners of the country.

The LifeLight Festival was originally hend downtown, but has since been moved 30 minutes south of town to accommodate thousands of people.

15. Wild Water West Waterpark

Ideal for families, this water park and amusement park combo features a wave pool among other aquatic attractions and traditional fun activities like go-karts, mini-golf & paintball.

Other South Dakota Attractions

Mt. Rushmore

If you run out of things to do in Sioux Falls and decide to extend your journey all over South Dakota, you’ll need an entire morning or afternoon (about 5 to 7 hours tops) to reach the following major destinations:

  • Corn PalaceThe Corn Palace aka “The World’s Only Corn Palace” or “Mitchell Corn Palace” is a castle-shaped multi-purpose arena. Check current events before booking.
  • Mount Rushmore National MonumentThe sculpted heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt on the side of the mountain is the most visited South Dakota attraction ever.
  • Crazy Horse Memorial – Inspired by Mount Rushmore, this memorial features a carved head and upper body portion of Chief Standing Bear into this mountain. There’s the Indian Museum of North America on-site as well.
  • The Mammoth Site – Located in Hot Springs, South Dakota, this site features over 60Columbian mammoth bones, and a very interesting Ice Age Exhibit Hall.

If you’re staying in the Midwest and want to explore other states, check out my Iowa guide, or North Dakota guide for all the must-visit places.

Know of any hidden gems in or around Sioux Falls?

I’d love to learn all about them.

Feel free to comment below!

Cover Photo Credit: Kris Horvath