The fifth largest city in South Dakota, Brookings had more than 18,000 registered residents as of the 2000 census. Named for Wilmot Wood Brookings, who supervised the building of a main roadway that traversed Brookings County, the city saw its first organized settlement, Medary, in 1857. The official city of Brookings was established near Medary to accommodate a central railroad path that would serve all of the existing communities. Today, the city functions as the official county seat.
Home to South Dakota State University, Brookings enjoys a rich academic culture. The college is the city’s second largest employer and is a major contributor to its economy. Two of the city’s main attractions, the McCrory Gardens and South Dakota Arboretum, are located on a 74-acre plot on the university’s campus. The site offers dozens of lush botanical gardens, prairie grassland, and a natural hedge maze.
The Swiftel Center serves as a multi-purpose civic and convention center, used for a variety of cultural events, entertainment performances, and business meetings in Brookings. The city’s Recreation Department provides a wide range of athletic and recreational pursuits for youths and adults, including baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, horseback riding, and cultural activities.
Art enthusiasts are serviced by four art galleries, including the South Dakota Art Museum and the Community Cultural Center. Early settlements and agricultural cultivation of the area are commemorated by such local museums as the Elkton Community Museum and the Mellette County Historical Society. A variety of local theatres, such as the Prairie Repertory Theater and the Brookings Community Theater, provide high-caliber dramatic productions throughout the year.
Downtown Brookings offers more than 150 unique dining, retail, and entertainment businesses. Avid shoppers will delight in the eclectic antiques, fine art, home furnishings, local jewelry, and literary offerings. Diverse dining establishments cater to a variety of tastes, including American, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian. Historical walking tours give visitors the opportunity to experience the rich heritage and architecture of downtown Brookings.