15 Best Things to Do in Watertown, SD

Watertown, SD
Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com

Watertown is a city offering an unforgettable experience for everyone who happens to be visiting, living in, or even working for the district.

One way Watertown does this is by making sure that you'll feel at home.

Being the county seat of Codington County, South Dakota, United States, Watertown has a wide variety of local and national amenities.

So whether you're looking to shop, relax after work with a beer, or experience the best of what Watertown has to offer, there really is something for every taste.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Watertown, SD:

Get an Up-Close and Personal Look at the Big Cats at Bramble Park Zoo

Exterior view of Bramble Park Zoo
Bp0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bramble Park Zoo stands isolated in northwestern Watertown along SD Highway 20.

Signs are visible from Interstate 29, Highway 212, and SD Highway 20.

Bramble Park Zoo is a fairly large enclosure with more than 500 amazing animals of 130 species in it.

It's been operating for the last hundred years, and in 1993, it received accreditation as a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Their Jaguar Junction features both melanistic (black) and regular phase jaguars in a large naturalistic exhibit.

There's an endless pool with cascading waterfalls for the animals to splash around in and plenty of viewing areas for guests to get an up-close and personal look at the big cats.

At the Bird of Prey Plaza, you’ll get to see a show featuring trained raptors!

You'll also find a Discovery Center, Children's Playground, and Children's Zoo here.

See the Greatest and Most Intense WISSOTA Races at Casino Speedway

Many know Casino Speedway in Watertown for their summertime racing events.

This beautiful, quarter-mile track is perfect for lovers of a fast-moving sport and those who love to see some of the more daring drivers on the water's edge.

While cars are designed for speed, it's also important for drivers to keep a steady hand on the wheel just in case.

Cast aside your worries and come out to this thrilling race as you'll be sure to enjoy yourself beside the great waters of Lake Kampeska.

The Casino Speedway features a family track where folks who don't drink while they race can come to enjoy a fun afternoon.

For the kids looking forward to meeting their racing idols, they have an area full of activities with Technicolor Screen Printing.

There are also some giveaways from Titan Machinery in store for the kids and candy tossing courtesy of Freedom Valu Centers.

Visit Casino Speedway from early May to late August on Sunday evenings to see some of the state's greatest and most intense WISSOTA races on the Northern Plains’ famous dirt track Casino Speedway.

Art Attack at the Redlin Art Center

Located in Watertown, South Dakota, Redlin Art Center is a nice art gallery with the largest collection of original paintings (over 160 wildlife and Americana paintings) by Terry Redlin.

It was Charles Redlin, Terry Redlin's son, who designed the 52,000-square-foot brick building, which opened its doors on June 6, 1997, and has already been visited by over two million people.

Terry saw himself as an average person and didn't think that his artwork was notable in any way except for the fact that he painted what he loved—rural America.

It wasn't long before others began to take notice of Terry's style of work.

The great news is that over three decades later, Terry has reached many milestones and has become well-recognized in the wildlife art scene.

For seven straight years (1991-1998), Terry held the title “America’s Most Popular Artist” by U.S. ART magazine—an impressive feat considering there were thousands of artists entered each year.

But in 1992, they inducted him into their Hall of Fame for his nostalgic themes, blazing sunrises and sunsets, and use of earthy colors throughout his work.

His many prints now grace the homes and offices of countless collectors throughout the country who can’t get enough of it.

And with over 2 million of them to date, he truly is America's favorite artist.

Enjoy the Water and Relax at Sandy Shore State Recreation Area

Sandy Shore Recreation Area is as easy to get to as it is for you to enjoy.

Surrounded by sandy beaches and beautiful lakes, it's the best place to enjoy nature to its fullest while still having access to all the amenities needed for an unforgettable experience.

What's more, the arena goes beyond camping and activities at the beach (Sandy Shore plays host to a number of water sports like swimming, tubing, or kayaking).

Because it's only 19 acres in size, guests really do get a sense of privacy.

When you want to connect with nature without feeling too far away from home, then Sandy Shore Recreation Area is your place!

Try a Game of Golf at Cattail Crossing Golf Course

Cattail Crossing is a fun, family-friendly course with 27 holes adjacent to charming Lake Kampeska.

You'll love the mix of holes that will let new beginners practice their skills while seasoned golfers can enjoy themselves as well.

The extensive renovation of this course has provided newer, modern facilities that allow everybody to enjoy playing on this course regardless of skill or profession.

Other new features include a new fairway range and driving practice area, along with full-sized golf balls perfectly suitable for novice golfers to practice their skills.

If you are looking for an enjoyable game of golf with a fun experience, including beautiful scenery with plenty of space between holes, Cattail Crossing offers exactly what you’re searching for.

Discover the Region’s Heritage at The Codington County Heritage Museum

Located in downtown Watertown, South Dakota, within the former Watertown Carnegie Library building, the Codington County Heritage Museum is a heritage museum that holds thousands of historical artifacts that tell you stories about the area.

The museum aims to preserve and share South Dakota’s history by celebrating its people who have made significant contributions over time.

It's home to multiple exhibits, including fun activities for both children and adults alike.

And you’ll definitely want to call ahead if you're doing a research project.

Their staff and volunteers are ready to help, and they can assist you with resources like documents, maps, photographs, or city directories.

You’ll find a great way to connect with Codington County by examining these old records.

The archival collection is located downstairs in the museum.

Go Camping at Memorial Park Camping Area

Located at 1200 North Lake Drive Watertown, South Dakota, Memorial Park Camping Area offers visitors a beautiful campground near beautiful Lake Kampeska.

You can access the campground from I-29 in under 20 minutes; it's a 12-mile trip.

The couple who manages the park is amiable and helpful.

There are plenty of paved roads within the property, giving campers excellent maneuverability for their RVs or tents.

The amenities are fantastic for the kids, including a game arcade and clean restrooms.

Its proximity to scenic, well-maintained hiking trails enhances the ambiance of its location significantly, providing a rapturous overnight experience for those seeking an escape from their homes.

Power and water are available at various sites, along with sewer and WI-FI (though not necessarily all together).

You'll also find that some of the sites here are generously covered in gravel, making them easier on your feet when visiting.

Visit Watertown Veterans Memorial

Watertown might not look like much of a military stronghold, but with the Veterans Memorial in Stokes-Thomas Park, it's clear that patriotism is an integral part of this town.

Given that water is the source of life for this city and its surrounding areas, it's easy to see why the city got the name Watertown.

It almost seems as though Lake Kampeska is protecting some precious treasure from harm, as it protects all of those who bravely served the country as they constructively pass their time during their golden years.

There's a playground in the area providing kids with fun playgrounds to play at.

Picnic and restroom facilities are also available.

It is possible to go find information about your ancestors; for example, if someone fought for our country during a war, you might want to know who they were and what battles they took part in.

Additionally, 19 inscribed benches provide space to contemplate on these well-served men and women as they fondly remember their contribution to the armed forces.

Spend a Fun Afternoon at Stokes-Thomas Lake City Park

Located at South Lake Drive, Stokes-Thomas Fish & Game Park is a modern wilderness facility offering state-of-the-art amenities.

It's supervised by an experienced ranger who takes pride in serving the community responsibly and healthily.

While you're here, you can try your hand at biking, jogging, or reading a book in silence during your free time.

Stokes-Thomas Lake City Park has three playground areas, a large picnic area, and non-supervised swimming and beach area, where you can watch your children splash around in the water while enjoying a nice picnic lunch with the family.

They also offer boat launching facilities available to rent on a seasonal basis.

You can also stop by the shelter house for tornado protection during a storm, enjoying the cool shade from the oak trees that gracefully adorn this magnificent land.

Take the Family for a Refreshing Dip at Family Aquatic Center

Whether you want to sunbathe and work on your tan, or you're looking for a refreshing dip in a zero-depth pool, the Watertown Family Aquatic Center has all of the amenities you need.

The aquatic center in Watertown, South Dakota, boasts a state-of-the-art facility that includes a bathhouse and concession stand with three swimming pools.

This facility also features a Lazy River, which allows you to float around and enjoy the sunshine.

The Family Aquatic Center also has multiple other slides for kids of all ages, including a "Frog" slide and drop slide.

Swimmers can do laps in the lap area, and they can also float on their backs and enjoy nature in the floatables.

For those who're more into basketball, there's a goal where they can play a game of 1v1 or 2v2 with someone, and then afterward, they can jump into the water to go on a cool and refreshing swim.

Other features that the Family Aquatic Center offers are a water walk, an in-water playground, and four interactive play features.

Shop, Share, Save at GSI Thrift

Thrift can save you money, and sometimes it can even help a charitable organization or nonprofit.

The GSI Thrifted Shop is a nonprofit resale shop that's been in business for over twenty years.

They've become celebrated in the community for their efficient methods of sorting, cleaning, and pricing donated items that come into their shop to be sold at affordable prices to the general public.

Their staff gets their hands dirty by sorting donations themselves on a daily basis—no matter what time one comes to choose from the many treasures they have to offer.

At GSI Thrift, you're sure to find incredible deals on an excellent range of products.

It has a friendly, professional atmosphere with well-lit displays to help make your shopping trip fun and memorable.

If you're looking for party/wedding/event decor, this thrift store has plenty of things that are wonderfully unique!

Get a Taste of Downtown Sushi Japanese Restaurant's Sushi and Sake

The Downtown Sushi Japanese Restaurant is home to some of the best sushi in Watertown, South Dakota, and is a great place to go for a quality dining experience.

The menu offers traditional and intercontinental choices for people looking for something new, but there are also some classic options if you're feeling nostalgic.

Many people have either found it difficult to locate or have dismissed Watertown as the location for this particular establishment.

Downtown Sushi is where you can find not only excellent service that makes sure your dining experience is an unforgettable one, but also chefs who will leave you with a soulful reminder of their hospitality.

You can get some mains that are sure to invigorate your taste buds and make you feel just like in Japan!

It's usually busy during the weekday lunch, but the attentive staff will help you find your way through their menu and any specials that might be available during any given time of day.

The food is always fresh, and they've got some top-quality sake if you're looking to get something extra with your meal.

Make a Stop at Morningside Park

Morningside Park is a 4.4-acre Watertown park in South Dakota, which is a wonderful place to take a break and admire the beautiful scenery.

It's also the best spot to go for a jog or just enjoy a nice stroll before beginning your day with work.

Morningside Park provides ample green space, seating areas, and rooms for friendly gatherings among friends and family members alike.

With 4.4 acres at its center, Morningside Park is among the largest parks in this city, which means you have more space for activities, fun, and exploration.

Morningside Park has a great mix of both athletic and recreational facilities.

These include ballfields, basketball courts, playgrounds, and picnic areas, in addition to horseshoes.

Try Different Outdoor Activities at Pelican Lake Recreation Area

Pelican Lake Recreation Area is one of the most enticing camping spots for RV campers in eastern South Dakota.

The activities you can do here include basketball, archery, biking (on park roads), biking (on trails), and basketball checkout.

The area also lets you do boating, horseback riding, bird watching, cross-country Ski Rental, canoeing, fishing, cross-country skiing, hiking, geocaching, kayaking, picnicking, and swimming.

If you're a naturalist-enthusiast, you'll enjoy exploring Pelican Lake’s Recreation Area by coming across many migrating birds and the vast amounts of prairie grasses and wildflowers that flourish during their summertime.

Winter enthusiasts will also appreciate Pelican's Recreation Area trails due to their many cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing, and ice fishing spots because they are all located within proximity to one another.

Each fall, the lake’s open waters are used as a resting area for the geese and ducks that migrate there.

Some shorebirds spend their entire summer in or near the park and can easily be spotted on any given day.

Read Some Books at Watertown Regional Library

Watertown Regional Library is a nice warm, friendly public library found at 160 6th St NE, Watertown, South Dakota.

If you want a place with a pleasant atmosphere and ambiance to study, you can't go wrong with the Watertown Regional Library.

They have a plethora of well-organized books, which appear up to date most of the time.

The Watertown Regional Library has clean and inviting spaces with helpful and friendly staff.

Watertown Regional Library's collection is vast and ever-growing.

With over 90,000 volumes currently in the collection and expanding at an exponential rate, Watertown Regional Library strives to reach a more inclusive demographic of the community.

Circulation of books averages out to 228,680 items each year due to the wide variety of reading material available and serves to heighten the cultural identity within Watertown.

Final Thoughts

Watertown is an incredible destination for anyone looking to get a bit of adventure and history in their lives.

Some of the most thrilling places for visitors of all ages are also among some of the more tranquil spots where you can enjoy a more relaxed pace.

With this list of the best things to do in Watertown, you're sure to have an exciting time while visiting this incredible town!