Although South Dakota is out of the way for many travelers, the state is blessed with some seriously awesome scenery and offers an abundance of cool attractions. The state’s largest city, Sioux Falls is located right next to the amazing Big Sioux River and offers everything from magnificent nature and historic buildings to modern tourist attractions. From the Falls Park and its world-famous triple waterfall and remains of the 1881 seven-story Queen Bee Mill to family-friendly attractions such as the Wild Water West Waterpark and the Outdoor Campus, there are many great things to do in Sioux Falls, SD.
1. Falls Park
Falls Park is without a doubt the number one attraction in Sioux Falls. This 123-acre park is home to the triple waterfall which attracts a large number of visitors all year long. Besides admiring the beauty of the waterfalls, vacationers can visit the remains of the historic Queen Bee Mill on the east side of the river. In case you get hungry, visit the lovely Overlook Café that serves delicious food and offers spectacular views of the park.
2. Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History
If you are looking for things to do in Sioux Falls with kids, a visit to the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is simply a must. Home to more than 1,000 animals ranging from rhinos and tigers to leopards and monkeys, the Great Plains Zoo is open year-round and offers a variety of activities. The biggest attraction at the Great Plains Zoo is definitely the cute red panda. The adjacent Delbridge Museum of Natural History is dedicated to natural history and is also worth checking out while staying in Sioux Falls.
3. Butterfly House & Aquarium
Located within the Sertoma City Park, Butterfly House & Aquarium introduces visitors to the world of butterflies from all over the world, including Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Expect to come across several educational exhibits, as well as hundreds of species of corals and fish at the Marine Cove. The Shark and Stingray Touch Pool is one of the main attractions here and offers hands-on learning experiences where the little ones can come close to horn sharks and southern stingrays.
4. Wild Water West Waterpark
The largest water park in the state, the Wild Water West Waterpark is home to dozens of water features including the amazing Wave Pool that boasts six-foot-high waves, a long tube slide, and a fascinating 65-foot high Waterslide Complex where you will find four slides. Adults to wish to unwind with a refreshing drink can pay a visit to the Swim-up Bar. If you wish to enjoy non-water activities, you’ll be happy to hear that the Wild Water West Waterpark offers activities like sand volleyball, paintball, and mini-golf.
5. Good Earth State Park
When it comes to romantic things to do in Sioux Falls, SD, the Good Earth State Park is the most obvious place to visit. Located just a short drive from the center of the town, this state park ranks as one of the best parks in the state with attractions like the large visitor center where you can learn more about the Oneota traditional people and six miles of beautiful hiking trails.
6. The Outdoor Campus
Located right on the South Oxbow Avenue and operated by South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, the Outdoor Campus is an outdoor learning center that offers a wide variety of educational programs for both adults and their kids ranging from cross-country skiing to gardening, fishing, and kayaking. If you wish to pick up a new skill while staying in Sioux Falls, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
7. Downtown Sioux Falls
There are many interesting things to do in downtown Sioux Falls. Shopaholics will be glad to hear that the downtown area offers the widest array of shopping. From vintage clothing shops to ultra-hip boutiques and jewelry stores, there is something for everyone. When it comes to dining in the downtown area, travelers are spoilt for choice. There are dozens of elegant dining establishments, as well as casual eateries, bakeries, and bars where you can enjoy a refreshing drink. There is also no shortage of attractions here including the Old Courthouse Museum, Washington Pavilion, and SculptureWalk, and Downtown Riverfront.
8. Cathedral of Saint Joseph
Renovated in 2011, the Cathedral of Saint Joseph is a must-visit place in Sioux Falls for all you history buffs out there. Both self-guided and guided tours of the cathedral are available, but keep in mind that guides tours need to be arranged at least a few days in advance. During the scheduled times, everyone is invited to attend the Mas and admire the beauty of the cathedra’s stained glass and amazing pipe organ.
9. Pettigrew Home & Museum
If you are looking for things to do indoors in Sioux Falls, we recommend making your way to the Pettigrew Home & Museum on North Duluth Avenue. Built in 1889, the building was bought by Senator Richard Franklin who used to live here. Since Richard was a collector who loved to travel, he decided to add a museum to the back of the building and store a variety of items. Nowadays, the museum is home to items ranging from stone tools and natural history specimens to Native American clothing.
10. SculptureWalk & The Arc of Dreams Sioux Falls
A collection of sculptured displayed throughout the year in downtown Sioux Falls, ScultpureWalk is a great place to stop and have a break from exploring the shops and galleries in the center of town. There are more than 50 new sculptures every year and the majority of them are located around the Phillips Avenue. Not to be missed is also the Arc of Dreams, Sioux Falls’ newest landmark sculpture created by South Dakota Artist Laureate, Dale Claude Lampher.
11. Sioux Falls Bike Trails
A huge system of bicycle trails that goes through some of the most beautiful green spaces in and around the town, Sioux Falls Bike Trails is a real bicyclist’s paradise. There are more than 70 public parks in Sioux Falls and over 20 miles of paved multi-use paths to enjoy on a bicycle. The best place to start your cycling adventure in Sioux Falls is at Falls Park. Keep in mind that the pedestrian traffic is shared with this extensive trail system.
12. Washington Pavilion
Washington Pavilion is the state’s main hub of art, culture, and science. With two performing arts centers where you can watch everything from local recitals to Broadway shows to the spectacular Wells Fargo CineDome, this place has it all. However, the biggest draw at the Washington Pavilion is the amazing Kirby Science Discovery Center which houses dozens of hands-on displays and allows both adults and kids to have a good time.
13. Big Sioux State Recreation Area
Big Sioux State Recreation Area is located just a short drive from the town center right on the banks of the Big Sioux River. It’s one of the most unique landscapes and woodlands in the state with plenty of activities ranging from playing on the 18-hole disc golf course, hiking five miles of woodland trails, or just enjoying 50 campsites and three campsites.
14. USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial
For those who don’t know, the USS South Dakota is a famous ship that saw plenty of action during WW2 in the Pacific Ocean. It was part of the famous battles like the Santa Cruz Islands and the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. To see several relics from this amazing battleship, pay a visit to the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial.
15. The World’s Only Corn Palace
If you are searching for a unique place to visit while staying in Sioux Falls, we recommend heading out to the World’s Only Corn Palace that offers free guided tours that feature a video explanation of the Corn Palace story. Learn about the souvenirs and entertainment from the past times, see how the murals were created, and most importantly, how the corn is grown.
16. Old Courthouse Museum
With three stories of both rotating and permanent exhibits, the Old Courthouse Museum is one of the most famous museums in South Dakota. It is housed in an old courthouse building and houses numerous historical artifacts including fireplaces, stained glass, giant murals and walls, and much more. There are also many community events happening inside the buildings including Victorian tea lectures, parties, and concert series.