The Beauty of the Big Sioux: Sightseeing in Sioux Falls

Nestled on the banks of the Big Sioux River, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, offers a blend of natural beauty, historical depth, and modern attractions. Whether you’re arriving by a scenic road trip through the Midwest or flying directly into the city, Sioux Falls welcomes you with open arms. From the vibrant heart of Downtown to the picturesque outdoors, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic city. Let’s delve into the beauty of the Big Sioux and discover what makes Sioux Falls a sightseeing gem.

Key Takeaways

  • Downtown Sioux Falls is a hub of culture and entertainment, featuring attractions like the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science and the serene Falls Park.
  • Folsom’s Addition offers a glimpse into the city’s history with landmarks such as St. Joseph Cathedral, complemented by local dining and accommodation options.
  • The Great Plains Zoo and Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove are must-visit destinations for wildlife enthusiasts and families looking for fun and education.
  • Shopping and entertainment are abundant, with the Empire Mall and Denny Sanford Premier Center providing endless activities and events.
  • Sioux Falls is a photographer’s paradise, offering scenic spots and golden hours that present the perfect opportunity for capturing breathtaking photos of nature and wildlife.

Downtown Delights: Exploring Sioux Falls’ Heart

Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science

The Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science stands as a beacon of culture in the heart of Sioux Falls. This multifaceted institution is not just a museum; it’s a dynamic hub where art, science, and learning converge to offer an enriching experience for visitors of all ages. The Pavilion’s Visual Arts Center showcases a diverse range of exhibitions, from contemporary works to historical pieces, ensuring that every visit offers something new to discover.

At the Kirby Science Discovery Center, interactive exhibits invite guests to delve into the wonders of science and technology. The center’s hands-on approach makes it a favorite among families, fostering a love for learning in a fun and engaging environment. Additionally, the Pavilion honors history with the memorial to the World War II USS South Dakota, providing a poignant reminder of the past.

The Pavilion also houses the Husby Performing Arts Center, where live performances and concerts bring the community together. Whether you’re interested in visual arts, science, or performing arts, the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science is a must-visit destination that truly captures the spirit of Sioux Falls.

Falls Park: A Natural Oasis

Nestled just north of downtown, Falls Park stands as a testament to Sioux Falls’ natural beauty and historical significance. Spanning over 123 acres, this urban retreat offers a plethora of sights and activities for visitors. At the heart of the park, the Main Falls Outlook provides a vantage point to witness the majestic Sioux Falls, with the Queen Bee Mill ruins serving as a poignant reminder of the city’s industrious beginnings.

The park is not only a feast for the eyes but also a hub for community engagement. The Falls Park Open Air Shelter hosts vibrant farmers markets, while the historical horse barn has been repurposed into an art exhibition space, showcasing local talent. For those seeking a tranquil escape, the park’s diverse landscapes, including woodland and wetland areas, offer a serene backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a reflective pause.

Beyond the cascading waters and lush greenery, Falls Park is a cornerstone for local culture and events. Whether it’s the changing leaves in autumn that Dan Schelske, Park Manager, invites visitors to enjoy, or the year-round artistry of the Monarch of the Plains, there’s always something to captivate the senses. Here’s a quick list of must-dos when visiting Falls Park:

  • View the falls from the Main Falls Outlook
  • Explore the Queen Bee Mill ruins
  • Visit the art exhibitions at the historical horse barn
  • Browse the seasonal farmers markets
  • Relax and take in the natural surroundings

The Pulse of the City: Shopping and Dining

Sioux Falls’ vibrant city center is a hub for those looking to indulge in retail therapy or savor the local cuisine. Downtown Sioux Falls offers an eclectic mix of shops and boutiques, where visitors can find everything from handcrafted goods to high-end fashion. After a day of shopping, the city’s dining scene provides a plethora of options to satisfy any palate. From cozy cafes to upscale eateries, the culinary landscape is as diverse as it is delicious.

For a taste of what Sioux Falls has to offer, consider these top-rated dining spots:

  • R Wine Bar & Kitchen: A favorite among locals for its inviting atmosphere and extensive wine list.
  • Morrie’s Steakhouse: Known for top-rated food and an impressive selection of steaks.

Whether you’re in the mood for a casual meal or a fine dining experience, Sioux Falls’ restaurants cater to all occasions. The city’s dining guide, often highlighted by titles such as ‘The Best Restaurants in Sioux Falls Right Now | OpenTable‘, is a great resource for visitors looking to explore the best local flavors. With a range of prices and cuisines, there’s something for everyone in the heart of Sioux Falls.

Folsom’s Addition: A Neighborhood Guide

Cultural Hotspots Near Folsom’s Addition

Folsom’s Addition, nestled in the heart of Sioux Falls, is a vibrant neighborhood brimming with cultural significance and attractions. Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling downtown, visitors can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of local history and arts.

The area boasts a variety of cultural landmarks, including the renowned Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, which offers a plethora of exhibits and performances that cater to a wide range of interests. For those seeking spiritual and architectural wonder, the St. Joseph Cathedral stands as a testament to historical craftsmanship and provides a serene retreat from the city’s pace.

Here’s a quick guide to the cultural attractions you shouldn’t miss:

  • Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science: Engage with science and art exhibits.
  • St. Joseph Cathedral: Marvel at the architectural beauty and historical significance.

Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique experience, Folsom’s Addition has something to offer. Don’t forget to check out our ‘Where To Stay’ guide for the best deals on Sioux Falls Hotel and Vacation Rentals.

St. Joseph Cathedral: A Historical Treasure

Nestled in the heart of Sioux Falls, the St. Joseph Cathedral stands as a testament to the city’s rich historical tapestry. With its stunning architecture and storied past, the cathedral has been a beacon of faith and culture since its consecration. The original Cathedral rectory, dating back to 1925, has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, enduring through periods of prosperity and challenge alike.

The cathedral’s significance extends beyond its religious functions; it serves as a cultural landmark, attracting visitors from all walks of life. Its intricate design and historical relevance make it a must-visit for anyone exploring Sioux Falls. The ongoing restoration efforts underscore the community’s commitment to preserving this iconic structure for future generations.

  • Historical Significance: A cornerstone of Sioux Falls’ heritage.
  • Architectural Marvel: Gothic revival design that captivates onlookers.
  • Cultural Hub: Host to a myriad of events, enriching the local cultural scene.
  • Community Effort: Testament to the dedication to historical preservation.

Local Eats and Sleeps in the Area

Sioux Falls offers a delightful array of accommodations and dining options that cater to every taste and budget. From cozy bed and breakfasts to luxurious hotels, the area around Folsom’s Addition provides the perfect retreat after a day of exploration. Notable mentions include the Ramada by Wyndham Sioux Falls Airport-Waterpark & Event Ctr, Baymont by Wyndham Sioux Falls, AmericInn by Wyndham Sioux Falls North, and the Hampton Inn Sioux Falls, all of which promise a restful night’s sleep in close proximity to the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.

When it comes to dining, Sioux Falls’ culinary scene is as diverse as it is delicious. Whether you’re in the mood for ranch-style comfort food or contemporary cuisine, the local restaurants serve up dishes that are sure to satisfy your cravings. For those who prefer the comforts of home cooking, grocery delivery services are available to bring fresh ingredients right to your doorstep. And for an authentic taste of the region, don’t miss out on the local eateries that offer a true cultural voyage through their menus.

Planning your stay is a breeze with resources like the city’s visitor guide, maps, and insider news. Whether you’re budgeting for a vacation or organizing a family reunion, Sioux Falls provides all the necessary tools to ensure a memorable experience.

Wildlife and Nature: Sioux Falls’ Outdoor Escapes

Great Plains Zoo: A Walk on the Wild Side

The Great Plains Zoo stands out as a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts and families alike. With a 4.5/5 rating from visitors, it’s clear that this zoo has made a significant impact on those who’ve experienced its charm. The zoo is home to both native and exotic animals, offering a glimpse into the diverse wildlife that inhabits our planet.

Visitors can expect to see a range of animals, from the majestic bison, which are a common sight in the region, to the more elusive pronghorn, known for its speed and agility. The zoo’s commitment to education and conservation is evident through its various programs and tours that not only entertain but also inform guests about the importance of preserving these species and their habitats.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the highlights you can expect at the Great Plains Zoo:

  • Exhibits: Explore different habitats, from the African Savannah to the Asian Cat exhibit.
  • Education: Participate in interactive learning experiences and animal encounters.
  • Conservation: Learn about the zoo’s efforts in wildlife conservation and how you can contribute.
  • Events: Check out special events like ZooBoo or the summer concert series.

Whether you’re attending a sporting event or simply looking to discover the area’s beautiful waterfalls, a visit to the Great Plains Zoo is an enriching addition to any Sioux Falls itinerary. Remember to bring your camera for those unforgettable moments and perhaps even capture a shot worthy of the title ‘THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Sioux Falls – 2024 (with Photos)‘.

Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove

The Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the serene world of butterflies and marine life. Step into a vibrant, climate-controlled sanctuary where hundreds of butterflies from around the globe flutter freely. It’s an enchanting experience for all ages, providing educational insights into the life cycle and habitat of these delicate creatures.

Visitors can also explore the Marine Cove, where a touch tank allows for hands-on interaction with sea stars, urchins, and other marine animals. Knowledgeable staff are on hand to answer questions and share fascinating facts, making it a learning experience as much as it is a sightseeing one.

Here’s what you can expect during your visit:

  • A tranquil butterfly habitat with a variety of species
  • Interactive exhibits and educational programs
  • The chance to see a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis
  • A touch tank experience in the Marine Cove

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or looking for a peaceful escape, the Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove is a must-visit destination in Sioux Falls.

Greenway Adventures: Trails and Parks

Sioux Falls’ Greenway offers a refreshing escape into nature, with a network of trails that cater to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking to jog, in-line skate, walk, or bike, the trails along the Big Sioux River provide a scenic route through diverse landscapes, including woodland, wetland, and agricultural areas. The Greenway is a testament to South Dakota’s commitment to outdoor recreation, offering a slice of tranquility amidst the city’s hustle.

The area is not just for the active traveler; it’s also a haven for wildlife watchers. As you traverse the Loess Mountain Range, keep an eye out for deer and other local fauna that call this region home. The Greenway’s trails are part of a larger effort across Eastern SD to preserve and maintain spaces for public enjoyment and health.

Here’s a quick guide to what you can expect on your Greenway adventure:

  • Jogging and in-line skating: A smooth path for those looking to keep up their fitness routine.
  • Biking: Miles of trails for both leisurely rides and more challenging excursions.
  • Walking: Take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the natural beauty.
  • Wildlife Watching: Spot local wildlife in their natural habitat.

Remember, National Trails Day is a great opportunity to join fellow trail enthusiasts in celebrating these precious outdoor spaces. Keep an eye out for special events on June 3rd that aim to bring the community together and honor those who help maintain our trails.

Entertainment and Shopping Spots You Can’t Miss

Denny Sanford Premier Center: Events Galore

The Denny Sanford Premier Center stands as a beacon for entertainment enthusiasts in Sioux Falls. With a stellar rating of 4.5 out of 5 from over 160 reviews, it’s clear that this venue is a crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re in town to catch a hockey game, attend a concert, or participate in a convention, the Premier Center is your go-to destination for an unforgettable experience.

Upcoming events are a testament to the center’s versatility, ranging from sports to live performances. For instance, the Lincoln Stars versus Sioux Falls Stampede hockey match on March 23, 2024, is already creating a buzz. Here’s a quick look at ticket options for this event:

  • Number of Tickets: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5+
  • Price Per Ticket: Varies
  • Delivery Type: e-Ticket, Suite, Instant Delivery, Parking, ADA, Special Discounts

To ensure you don’t miss out on the action, it’s advisable to check for ticket availability and pricing in advance. The Premier Center’s website offers a user-friendly platform where you can filter your search based on price, section, and more, making it easy to find the perfect spot for your next big event in Sioux Falls.

Empire Mall: Shopper’s Paradise

The Empire Mall stands as a beacon for shoppers, offering an unparalleled retail experience in Sioux Falls. With over 140 stores, this shopping center caters to a variety of tastes and budgets, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists alike.

Discover exclusive deals and seasonal events that enhance the shopping experience. For instance, the Bunny Photo Experience is a delightful seasonal event that families look forward to each year. Reserve your visit now and make it an Easter tradition!

Whether you’re in search of the latest fashion trends, electronics, or unique gifts, the Empire Mall’s diverse selection ensures you’ll find exactly what you need. Here’s a quick guide to some of the mall’s highlights:

  • A wide array of fashion retailers from high-end to budget-friendly
  • Specialty stores for electronics, home goods, and more
  • A food court featuring a variety of cuisines to satisfy any craving
  • Regular events and promotions that offer savings and entertainment

After a day of shopping, unwind at one of the many dining options available within the mall. From quick bites to sit-down restaurants, there’s something to please every palate.

Sanford USD Medical Center and Surrounding Attractions

The Sanford USD Medical Center is not just a healthcare facility; it’s a cornerstone of the community with a stellar 4.5/5 rating from visitors. Whether you’re in Sioux Falls for medical reasons or simply exploring, the area around the medical center offers a variety of attractions that cater to different interests.

Nearby, you’ll find a plethora of vacation spots that are perfect for extending your stay. From the serene beauty of Falls Park to the excitement of the Denny Sanford Premier Center, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a quick guide to what’s around:

  • Denny Sanford Premier Center: A hub for sporting events and concerts with a high visitor satisfaction rating.
  • Empire Mall: Indulge in some retail therapy at one of the largest shopping centers in the region.
  • Falls Park: Discover the natural beauty of Sioux Falls with its stunning waterfalls and scenic landscapes.

For those looking to venture a bit further, cities like Garretson and Renner are just a short drive away, offering their own unique charms. And if you’re considering a longer visit, the area boasts a variety of accommodations, from cozy vacation homes with exceptional reviews to convenient hotels near top attractions.

Capturing the Beauty: Photography in Sioux Falls

Scenic Spots for the Perfect Shot

Sioux Falls, nestled in the heart of South Dakota, is a haven for photography enthusiasts. The region’s diverse landscapes offer a plethora of opportunities for capturing stunning images. From the rolling plains to the dense forests, the area provides a dynamic backdrop for both amateur and professional photographers. The lighting during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset is particularly spectacular, creating conditions ripe for memorable photographs.

The city itself boasts a variety of scenic locations ideal for photography. Whether you’re looking to document urban architecture or natural beauty, Sioux Falls has it all. Here’s a quick guide to some of the most photogenic spots in the area:

  • Falls Park: The city’s namesake waterfalls offer a majestic view, especially when the light hits the cascades just right.
  • SculptureWalk: Capture the intricate details of these stunning public artworks that line the city streets.
  • Historic Downtown: The blend of old and new architecture provides a rich tapestry for urban photography.

While South Dakota offers diverse golfing and outdoor activities in different regions like Western, Central, and Eastern SD, photographers will find that the Sioux Falls area, with its unique blend of urban and natural landscapes, provides a particularly compelling canvas for their work. Over 100 golf courses in the state also provide scenic and challenging experiences, but it’s the untamed beauty of Sioux Falls that truly stands out for those looking to capture the essence of South Dakota.

Sunrise and Sunset: The Golden Hours

The transition times of sunrise and sunset in Sioux Falls are not just a daily spectacle but a photographer’s delight. The interplay of light and landscape creates a canvas that changes by the minute, offering a unique opportunity for capturing the city’s beauty. The soft glow of dawn and dusk accentuates the contours of the land, from the gentle roll of the plains to the silhouettes of the city skyline.

For those eager to capture these moments, timing is everything. Here’s a quick guide to help you plan:

  • Golden Hour: Begins roughly 30 minutes before sunrise and lasts until 30 minutes after. The same applies for the evening, starting 30 minutes before sunset.
  • Blue Hour: A shorter window, occurring just before sunrise and just after sunset, offering a cooler, ethereal light.
  • Weather Check: Always verify the local weather forecast to ensure clear skies for the best light conditions.

Whether you’re an amateur with a smartphone or a professional with a DSLR, these hours provide the perfect light to bring out the vibrancy of Sioux Falls. Remember to explore different vantage points around the city, such as the observation tower at Falls Park or the open fields near the Big Sioux River, to find your ideal composition. And don’t forget, the early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the most breathtaking views.

Wildlife Photography in the Great Outdoors

Sioux Falls is a haven for wildlife photographers, offering a diverse range of subjects set against the backdrop of South Dakota’s stunning landscapes. The city’s extensive SculptureWalk offers a snowy stroll through a gallery of ice-kissed art, perfect for those looking to capture the serene beauty of winter scenes.

The region’s natural beauty extends beyond the urban limits, with locations like the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and the Black Hills National Forest providing photographers with mile-high elevations to shoot breathtaking vistas. These areas are a rich tapestry of rolling plains, towering mountains, and dense forests, with the lighting during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset creating particularly spectacular conditions for memorable photographs.

For photographers braving the colder months, Sioux Falls becomes a hub for winter photography and outdoor activities. While some hiking trails and summer activities may be off-limits due to snow, the untouched snowy landscapes present a unique opportunity for uninterrupted photography sessions. Whether you’re an amateur or an experienced photographer, the dynamic subjects ranging from ranch activities to campfire gatherings offer a chance to document authentic adventures and capture the essence of the Wild, Wild Midwest.

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Great Faces. Great Places.

South Dakota is an incredibly unique state in that each region offers a completely different experience then the others. Check out each of the regions to see what each has to offer!


Western South Dakota

Featuring the Black Hills, Badlands, the Sturgis Rally. This region tends to be the most popular.


This region of South Dakota offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the entire central US. 

Eastern Region

The eastern region is home to the largest city in the state and provides visitors with a true "prairie" experience.