15 Best Things to Do in Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls, SD
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Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota.

It offers visitors fun activities year-round, though the best time to explore it is in the summer.

Visiting means exploring outdoor activities, tasting various dishes and craft beers, listening to live music, and adoring artworks.

One of the city's major draws is the Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens, which can make you feel like you're in Japan.

You'll feel like you just got dropped in a different country by featuring koi, red lanterns, and pagodas.

There's also a replica of Michelangelo's David statue in downtown Sioux Falls and around 800 living butterflies at the Butterfly House and Marine Cove.

Likewise, one of the country's biggest music festivals, the Lifelight Festival, is at Sioux Falls.

This three-day campout Christian music fest happens over Labor Day weekend, attracting 350,000 concertgoers.

Imagine the massive crowd at the new venue, a farm 30 minutes to the south of town.

It sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Here are the best things to do in Sioux Falls, SD:

See the Animals at the Great Plains Zoo

Entrance to the Great Plains Zoo
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This place's full name is the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Its main objectives include recreation, conservation, education, and discovery.

The zoo and museum started with the personal collection of Senator Richard F. Pettigrew in the 1880s.

American bald eagle at Great Plains Zoo
Adam Tremel / Shutterstock.com

Today, its collection has reached hundreds of live animals from around the world, thriving in their natural habitats.

While they renovated older exhibits, they also created bigger habitats for many larger animals such as the African rhinoceros and Asian big cats.

Today, the zoo is already a leader in regional education, attracting up to 40,000 children and adults to the interactive ZooMobiles each year.

There's hands-on programming for infants through early high schoolers, such as STEM and nature-inspired classes.

A rhinoceros at Great Plains Zoo
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Check Out the Butterfly House and Aquarium

Exterior of the Butterfly House and Aquarium
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Have you ever felt a butterfly landing on your shoulder or arm?

If you haven't, visit the Butterfly House and Aquarium.

This is Dakota's only opportunity to experience marine aquariums and tropical butterflies.

A nonprofit organization runs this place, one of the few butterfly houses open year-round.

Butterfly exhibit in Butterfly House and Aquarium
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

Its mission is to encourage the conservation of the vital blocks of sea, sky, and land through its educational experiences.

You'll see the most delicate animals such as jellyfish and butterflies.

Starting in 2002, it became a must-visit attraction in Sioux Falls, especially when they installed a marine aquarium in their renovated gift shop.

So, what waits for you on your visit?

Find an aquarium, butterfly house, the Pacific Tide Pool, discovery den, the stingray habitat, and many fun and exciting experiences.

Colossal sea turtle display in Butterfly House and Aquarium
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Discover Great History at the Old Courthouse Museum

Exterior of the Old Courthouse Museum
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Enrich your knowledge of the history of South Dakota by spending some time at the Old Courthouse Museum.

This quartzite building from the 1800s features three floors of regional history exhibits.

Entrance doors of Old Courthouse Museum
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The museum opened in 1974 and features an 1893 clock tower, 16 murals, and a circuit courtroom and law library.

You'll find permanent and changing exhibits that focus on the Siouxland region's cultural and natural histories.

When you visit, attend a workshop, lecture, astronomy program, or walking tour.

The clock tower of Old Courthouse Museum
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Splash around at the Wild Water West Waterpark

Are you thinking of where to go with the family?

Enjoy a day of wild water at the Wild Water West Waterpark.

Catch the ultimate wave at the state's only wave pool or stay at the swim-up bar near the lazy river.

You can also do other activities, including the All-Star Batting Complex, outdoor paintball at the Commando Paintball, go-karts, miniature golf, sand volleyball, and bumper boats.

For more than 30 years, Wild Water West Waterpark has remained the best place for summer entertainment in South Dakota.

It attracts thousands of visitors yearly, so visit it too!

Admire the Collections at the Pettigrew Home and Museum

Exterior of the Pettigrew Home and Museum
Jerry from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1911, Senator Richard Pettigrew himself bought this house from Queen Anne.

He arranged its donation to the city upon his death in 1926, which they turned into a museum.

Side facade of Pettigrew Home and Museum
Jerry, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, it features artifacts that Pettigrew collected from his travels worldwide.

Tour the restored home and admire the many galleries that depict Sioux Falls in the late 1800s.

Enjoy a morning or afternoon of educational exploration.

Prayer rock in front of the Pettigrew Home and Museum
Jerry7171, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn to Explore the Outdoors at the Outdoor Campus

Entrance to the Outdoor Campus
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

The Outdoor Campus is the premier outdoor skills education center in South Dakota.

The center doesn't teach just any skills but activities you may never have considered.

Outdoor Campus' bass fish display
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

These include fishing, hunting, shooting a bow and arrow, cross-country skiing,  gardening for butterflies, and cooking in a Dutch oven.

This place is a joint project of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and the City of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

Enjoy the campus' natural playground, birdwatching, and two miles of walking trails.

Exterior of the Outdoor Campus
Jake DeGroot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy Year-Round Fun at the Great Bear Recreation Park

Tubing hill at Great Bear Recreation Park
Jake DeGroot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You don't have to go far for tons of fun and adventure when you're in Sioux Falls.

The Great Bear Recreation Park awaits you just a few minutes from the Sioux Falls downtown area.

This 220-acre park offers year-round fun and excitement as the largest park in the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

Visiting in the summer lets you enjoy the perfect setting for hiking, birdwatching, jogging, or picnicking.

Winter view of Great Bear Recreation Park
Jake DeGroot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Winter sports activities await, especially with its terrain park, 14 downhill trails, and the Kirby Family Tubing Park.

It also offers cross-country and snowshoeing trails for all skill levels.

You might even witness special events such as outdoor weddings, family reunions, and corporate events.

After all, this park is one of the state's top natural attractions.

Explore the SculptureWalk Sioux Falls

SculptureWalk Sioux Falls is the world's largest annual exhibit of public sculptures.

Artists graciously loan their works installed in the spring throughout downtown Sioux Falls.

These stay throughout the year for people to see as they walk by.

The People's Choice Award is selected based on public votes from May through September.

The City of Sioux Falls buys the winning work for its permanent collection.

Check Out the U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial

Daytime view of the  U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial
AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

World War II's most decorated battleship, which fought in every major naval battle from 1942 to 1945.

The Battleship South Dakota Memorial attracts thousands of visitors from various states to see its artifacts.

Access Unlimited Fun at Downtown Sioux Falls

People at Downtown Sioux Falls' falls park
Steven Frame / Shutterstock.com

Downtown Sioux Falls is one of the best places to find unlimited fun and activities.

There's Falls Park, where you and your family can claim a spot for a quiet picnic.

You can also enjoy biking or walking on Sioux Falls' 30-mile paved trails, which weave through the city's parks and downtown.

The big sioux river at Downtown Sioux Falls
Maxpower2727, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stop by the 8th & Railroad Shopping Center to discover unique stores you won't find elsewhere.

If you love movies, music, and science demos, go to the Washington Pavilion for hours of entertainment.

This place alone may fill your entire day with exciting activities!

Buildings along Downtown Sioux Falls
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Enjoy the Outdoors at the Terrace Park

Welcome sign of Terrace Park
Jerry7171, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the spring, there are plenty of places to visit in Sioux Falls, including the Terrace Park.

Pack your picnic basket because you'll want to stay the whole day.

Find the famous Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens, one of the park's strongest draws.

Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens at Terrace Park
Jerry from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a stroll and admire the sound of the gurgling water features or notice the Japanese lanterns that dot the area.

There are benches where you can sit to relax, take in the peace and calm, and admire the beautiful surroundings.

The Covell Lake accompanies your walk as it runs the park's entire length.

Believe in Dreams at the Arc of Dreams

Night view of the Arc of Dreams
ammoyer35 / Shutterstock.com

The Arc of Dreams is a massive stainless steel sculpture dedicated to the dreamers of the past, inspiring the next generations of dreamers.

The Arc of Dreams spans an entire football field, with a 15-foot gap at the center, and rises 85 feet above the river.

The South Dakota Artist Laureate Dale Claude Lamphere sculpted America's newest landmark.

Aerial view of the Arc of Dreams
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Witness the "Greatest Show On H2O" at Catfish Bay

On Show PI is Catfish Bay, where you can witness the "Greatest Show on H2O".

This waterskiing comedy adventure is designed for the entire family and includes tons of dancing, singing, acting, and other amazing stunts.

They have trained over 30 skiers for their performances, including sound technicians, actors, boat drivers, and ski performers, all volunteers.

Each show lasts about an hour and 45 minutes to two hours, guaranteed to give you fun and laughter while making you hold on to your seats.

Spend the Day at McKennan Park

A bandshell at McKennan Park
AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

McKennan Park is home to the Mediterranean Sunken Gardens, Statue of Liberty, a restored 1926 bandshell, and the "Pillars of the Nation."

See the Pillars of the Nation at the entrance.

It comprises four stone pillars representing rocks from the 48 contiguous states.

There are also eight tennis courts, a basketball court, a free wading pool, shuffleboard, an open picnic shelter, horseshoe pits, a children's play area, and an open park area.

Drink Up at the Glacial Lakes Distillery and Brewhouse

Spending a relaxing night at the Glacial Lakes Distillery and Brewhouse is an excellent way to end your stint in Sioux Falls.

Three guys with a passion for concocting high-quality spirits established the place.

They started with vodka, using only quality ingredients, and sent a bottle from Batch #1 to a national competition, which received a bronze medal.

Return to a simpler time as you sit on a handmade wooden boat at sunset.

Final Thoughts

Sioux Falls is a stunning place, full of activities and fun adventures for all ages.

Everyone can have a piece of heaven here, in history, culture, arts, or just about anything.

You won't regret spending time and money in this place, so go ahead and plan your Sioux Falls trip!

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