What do you consider to be the top things to do in Sioux Falls? Ok so if you have visited this part of South Dakota, you may be able to chime off a couple of cool attractions but if you haven’t, it’s feasible that you may not even have heard of Sioux Falls. Located on the eastern side of South Dakota, a short drive from Minneapolis (a little under 4 hours which is pretty reasonable given the wide open roads in this state), Sioux Falls is a gorgeous city waiting to be discovered.
Frequently left in the shadow of more popular tourist attractions on the other side of South Dakota, namely Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, Sioux Falls is a city that needs to be on your radar if you are planning to visit one or both of the Dakotas. Pierre may be the capital but Sioux Falls is South Dakota’s largest city.
Having visited 46 states prior to our recent epic road trip, number 47 was achieved when we crossed the state line from Nebraska and headed to our first stop – Sioux Falls.
Things to Do in Sioux Falls
Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons we consider Sioux Falls should be added to your list of ‘must-see’ destinations in South Dakota.
- Falls Park
- St. Joseph Cathedral
- Old Courthouse Museum
- Downtown Sioux Falls
- Battleship USS South Dakota
You could easily spend a couple of days in Sioux Falls exploring but as is typical with most of our travels, we spent just a few hours here before heading across I-90 to Rapid City to experience.
However, there are clearly a lot of things to do in Sioux Falls so it’s really dependent on how much time you have in the region. Whether you are a historian, nature lover or food critic, Sioux Falls has a plethora of reasons to keep you occupied.
Our number one choice has to be Falls Park! Not only does this offer breathtaking photography opportunities but it is an incredibly relaxing location to welcome visitors to the city of Sioux Falls.
It’s no surprise to hear that ‘The Falls of the Big Sioux River’ have played an integral role in shaping the history of this part of South Dakota.
I really believe that the pictures paint their own picture but if I had to put our experience into words, just walking around the park and listening to the falls pounding on the rocks below was an experience that will long live in our memories.
The main waterfall was surging over the edge before heading downstream to the safe haven of the river that quietly continued meandering through the city of Sioux Falls.
As you walk around, there are countless opportunities to get up close and personal with the main waterfall. Take care on the rocks as they can be a little rugged and slippery, but there are ample chances to get that perfect selfie or perhaps just another iconic picture that creates an everlasting memory that you can cherish while reflecting on your experience in Sioux Falls.
The ruins of the Queen Bee Mill complex remain standing on the side of the river. This quirky structure was an active mill producing large quantities of bushels until it closed in the late 19th century.
Since then, it was renovated into a warehouse before a major fire left this as an inoperable building. Today, it stands as an everlasting memory of what was once a thriving industry in this part of Sioux Falls but also provides an attractive addition to pictures of the falls.
The visitor center offers an opportunity to purchase a souvenir or perhaps you just want to head to the summit of the 50ft tower that provides breathtaking views across Falls Park and the rest of Sioux Falls.
From here, you can see the full extent and beauty of the falls along with identifying the locations of some other attractions worth visiting.
St. Joseph Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls dates back to 1919 when construction was completed on this beautiful structure.
The history actually dates back about 30 years prior to this when Sioux Falls’ first Catholic Church, St. Michael’s, stood on the ground of today’s parish.
For almost 90 years, The Cathedral has served as a beacon of hope for both a community and a Diocese.
I love how this cathedral is perceived as being a ‘beacon of hope’ to the Sioux Falls community. Regardless of your faith, the location of this cathedral at the top of a hill overlooking the city makes this an important focal point for the city.
Several renovation projects have taken place over the years, the most recent in 2011 and today visitors can appreciate the stunning architectural design of this cathedral.
Old Courthouse Museum
The former Minnehaha County Courthouse has since been transformed into a historical museum that provides a detailed, colorful look at the region’s history. The original building was constructed in the late 19th century and was designed with such magnitude and grandeur that it would be the “largest courthouse between Chicago and Denver”, according to local architect Wallace L. Dow who was the brains behind this design.
The courthouse was used for county business until 1962 when it was determined that it was too small to perform the required duties. A newer courthouse was constructed and this building was added to the list of structures to be demolished in the next few years. Locals caught wind of this and petitioned for the building to remain and they finally won their case in the mid-1970s.
In 1974, the building went through the process of being converted to a museum and combined with the Pettigrew Home and Museum to become the Siouxland Heritage Museums. This is a really spectacular building, both on the outside and inside and with admission being free, I am sure you won’t be able to resist exploring here.
Downtown Sioux Falls
With a wide variety of diverse restaurants and specialty boutique shops, downtown Sioux Falls is the undoubted heartbeat of the city. After leaving Falls Park, take some time to get out and walk around the downtown area because you will likely stumble across something that sparks your interest.
If you need to partake in a little retail therapy while in Sioux Falls, the downtown neighborhood will be the perfect spot. If you prefer to relax with your favorite espresso while basking in the summer sun, you would be hard-pressed to find a better spot in Sioux Falls. When the sunset falls, downtown Sioux Falls turns into a vibrant and lively nightlife scene with a myriad of bars and local pubs to wind down your day.
When the sunset falls, downtown Sioux Falls turns into a vibrant and lively nightlife scene with a myriad of bars and local pubs to wind down your day. It’s the perfect spot to grab a glass of your favorite Cabernet or perhaps a local brew while enjoying the atmosphere around this historic neighborhood.
Battleship USS South Dakota
In commemoration of the USS South Dakota that was commissioned in 1942 for World War II duty, a battleship memorial was formed in the heart of Sioux Falls in 1969.
This grand memorial shall stand in quiet tribute to a man-of-war – a Navy fighting ship that did its best for her country (Vice-Admiral Roeder)
When Vice-Admiral Bernard Roeder, commander of the Navy’s First Fleet, spoke the above words about the USS South Dakota, he was referring to a vessel that stood the test of fighting in the Battle of Santa Cruz. Taking down over 30 Japanese aircraft during an attack, this iconic vessel continued its primary task of defending the Carrier Enterprise with due diligence and bravery.
Today, there are numerous memorials and monuments to remember this ship along with a number of state flags representing the sailors who served aboard the South Dakota. If you love history, this is definitely a memorial you can’t afford to miss. Admission is free so why not head over and check it out if you are visiting Sioux Falls in the near future!
If you have time to visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota we strongly encourage you to experience as many of the above attractions as possible. For us, Falls Park was undoubtedly the highlight but that’s perhaps because I am partial to waterfalls and this really is a spectacular spot to just hang out and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
With the historic downtown neighborhood just a short walk away and many of the other attractions just a block or two away, this is certainly a part of South Dakota worth visiting. If you are already impressed by this array of things to do in Sioux Falls, you are in for a real treat as you head across I-90 to explore the stunning sights of Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park!
If South Dakota isn’t already on your radar, it will be soon!
What are your experiences in Sioux Falls? Do you prefer to visit natural landmarks like waterfalls when you visit a destination or do you prefer the cultural/historical perspective of a city?