For tourists headed west on Interstate 90 to a Black Hills vacation, Sioux Falls is the last major population center they encounter until Rapid City.
There’s an awful lot of driving between those two places — about 350 miles, which is enough to engender fears of boredom and whining kids. But the drive across South Dakota need not be boring. In fact, there are so many things to do along I-90 between Sioux Falls and Rapid City that you could easily spend a day of your vacation just exploring the places along the way.
Following is a rundown, from east to west, of some of my favorite spots between Sioux Falls and the Missouri River. The next time I post, I’ll list my favorites between the river and Rapid City.
- Falls Park, Sioux Falls: Yes, there are actually falls in Sioux Falls. Falls Park, located near the city’s downtown area, is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. The kids can roam around the park looking at the falls from varous angles, and the whole family can climb the stairs of the lookout tower for a better view. With the roaring falls as a backdrop, Falls Parks is also a great place to take a family picture.
- Porter Sculpture Park, near Montrose: Located about a half-hour west of Sioux Falls in a rural setting, this is a place for families to stop and laugh and roam. Wayne Porter has erected some of the more interesting iron sculpures you’ll ever see in a pasture along the roadside. If you don’t stop, you’ll probably find yourself thinking that you should have.
- Corn Palace, Mitchell: There’s only one place in the world where you can see a large building covered in artworks made out of corn and various grains: The World’s Only Corn Palace, located about an hour west of Sioux Falls in Mitchell. This is another one of the places that’s worth stopping just for the sheer novelty of it. While you’re in Mitchell, you might also consider visiting the Prehistoric Indian Village, the Dakota Discovery Museum and the McGovern Legacy Museum.
- South Dakota Tractor Museum, Kimball: This attraction consists of a bunch of steel sheds erected by old, retired farmers who wanted to show off some of their antique tractors, farm equipment and vehicles. The people are just as interesting, though, as the exhibits. Oftentimes, the museum is staffed by one of the old farmers whose stuff is on exhibit. If you’re lucky enough to get a tour from one of those guys, you’ll get to hear some great, firsthand stories about growing up on farms in South Dakota before running water or electricity.
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, near Chamberlain: This is really a glorified rest stop between exits 263 and 265, about two hours west of Sioux Falls. But you won’t find many rest stops with a view like this one. It’s perched high atop the bluffs on the east side of the Missouri River, with a sweeping view of the river both upstream and downstream. There also are some exhibits related to the Lewis and Clark expedition, which came through the modern-day Chamberlain area.
- Al’s Oasis, Oacoma: On the other side of the river from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is Al’s Oasis, one of the best places to eat in the state. Here you can get a great beef or buffalo burger, or any number of other selections, and shop for souvenirs in a really nice gift shop.