Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Sioux Falls, SD

  • Published 2023/03/09

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

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

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 /

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

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

Check Out the Butterfly House and Aquarium

Exterior of the Butterfly House and Aquarium

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

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 /

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

Paul Brady Photography /

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

Bonita R. Cheshier /

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 /

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 /

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

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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 /

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

AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 /

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 /

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

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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.

Have a Serene Moment at Falls Park

Daytime view of Falls Park

dustin77a /

Falls Park is easily one of the biggest attractions in Sioux Falls and deserves its own recognition from the Downtown area.

Visited by thousands every month, Falls Park is a scenic destination that acts as the heart and soul of the city.

It’s famous for its observation tower where you can admire the serene waterfalls that accentuate the Big Sioux River’s aesthetic.

Entrance arch of Falls Park

Joseph Sohm /

The observation tower also has a gift shop, so this is a must-visit if you’re looking to buy the best souvenirs during your trip.

Another amazing thing about Falls Park is the rock formations that sprawl all throughout the area, some of which you can even climb for the full outdoor experience.

A can’t-miss in Sioux Falls, there’s so much to see at this jaw-dropping destination, located along East Falls Park Drive.

Ruins at Falls Park

Ken Wolter /

Attend an Event at Denny Sanford Premier Center

Exterior of Denny Sanford Premier Center

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Denny Sanford Premier Center is the go-to entertainment destination in Sioux Falls, famous for year-round high ticket events.

It’s a huge entertainment facility that also houses Sioux Falls Arena and Sioux Falls Convention Center, so expect a lot of events and activities happening here, especially on the weekends.

Live band performances to wrestling matches of the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE), Denny Sanford Premier Center has a little bit of something for everyone.

It’s also famous for hosting sports games here, particularly collegiate basketball tournaments and hockey matches.

A must-visit during your trip, you can find Denny Sanford Premier Center along North West Avenue.

Interior of Denny Sanford Premier Center

GassDaddy69, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Bowling at Eastway Bowl

If you’re in the mood for bowling, Sioux Falls’ Eastway Bowl is a fun addition to any itinerary, especially if you’re with friends and family.

Extremely popular among the locals, Eastway Bowl has amazing state-of-the-art bowling facilities that allows it to meet the growing demand of the city.

Besides their bowling alley, Eastway Bowl also has other fun activities to accommodate younger children.

They have a fun arcade facility in particular, a perfect way for the young ones to kill some time if they’re not interested in bowling.

There’s also a pool table here and a stellar bar where you have access to a wide range of alcohol and other beverages.

Eastway Bowl can be found along East 10th Street.

Appreciate the Scenery at Leaders Park

Because Sioux Falls has so many attractions, Leaders Park is one of the more underrated ones that not many tourists know about.

It’s a large park tucked along North Leadale Avenue, but you can easily miss it as it may seem unassuming at first.

It doesn’t boast a lot of facilities, but Leaders Park makes up for it in the sprawling greenery that’s best appreciated through its nature trails.

During the winter, this area becomes clad in snow and is a popular sledding site thanks to its hilly areas.

But no matter the time of year, you can visit Leaders Park for a relaxing respite in Sioux Falls.

Take a Swing at Elmwood Golf Course

Elmwood Golf Course is the primary golfing facility in Sioux Falls, located along West Russell Street.

Its location is right next to the airport, making this a windy course that adds a bit of challenge.

While planes occasionally are seen, the course is fun nonetheless and features great greenery and hazards for all skill levels.

There’s a driving range as well along with a pro shop, making this a great all-rounder for all golf enthusiasts.

So, if you’re in the mood to play a game or practice your swing, Elmwood Golf Course is a no-brainer.

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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