Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls, SD

  • Published 2022/12/15

Located on the confluence of the Big Sioux River, the city of Sioux Falls in South Dakota is the state’s hub for entertainment, culture, and outdoor adventure.

It’s the county seat of Minnehaha County, whose history dates back around 14,000 years ago when the last Ice Age formed the eponymous falls.

Many Native Americans settled in the area until it was chartered in 1856, with many burial mounds visible on the high bluffs close to the river.

The city was named after the falls and has drawn lots of visitors from around the world.

Whether traveling solo or with family and friends, trust that the city has amazing adventures for you without spending a cent.

See the falls, traverse the nature trails, walk around the historic district, or sit at a park and watch people wander past you.

Discover the free things to do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

See the Historic Falls Park

Aerial view of the Historic Falls Park

dustin77a /

Your visit to Sioux Falls isn’t complete without visiting Falls Park, where you can see the historic falls created thousands of years ago.

The famed waterfalls drop around 7,400 gallons of water in 100 feet every second.

The park encompasses more than 128 acres, with historic sites, including the Queen Bee Mill, which operated until 1883.

There’s also a five-story observation tower where you can get great views of the waterfalls.

Cascades of the Historic Falls Park

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The Falls Overlook Café, which offers lunch and dinner, is in a 1908 hydroelectric plant building inside the park.

You can traverse the walking paths closer to the falls and enjoy a picnic on site.

There are sculptures and a small gift shop at the observation tower.

Falls Park is off East Falls Park Drive.

People at the Historic Falls Park

Jason Ray Photography /

Step Back in Time at the Old Courthouse Museum

Exterior of the Old Courthouse Museum

Bonita R. Cheshier /

The Old Courthouse Museum is a Richardsonian Romanesque-style architecture built in 1890 and designed by architect Wallace L. Dow.

It’s filled with the city’s history.

The Siouxland Heritage Museums Alliance maintains the museum with three floors of exhibits about Sioux Falls.

It was the main county courthouse from 1890 to 1962, featuring a tall clock tower and Roman archways.

View of the Old Courthouse Museum's entrance

Bonita R. Cheshier /

In May 1973, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Apart from the history and culture, the museum’s structure is outstanding.

So, don’t miss the Old Courthouse Museum on Main Avenue on West 6th Street.

Hike up the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail

The Big Sioux River Recreation Trail doesn’t disappoint, thanks to fresh air and scenic views.

Locally known as the bike trail, this nature area offers more than 34 miles of paved trails where you can hike, take strolls, or ride a bike.

It passes many different parks, including the historic Falls Park, and loops around the city, giving you extra sights to check and explore.

The trail is in the recreation area where the Big Sioux River flows through the park.

The park has lovely cabins, a disc golf course, a public gazebo with a grill, and a cozy campground.

Whichever way you want to spend an afternoon, make time to explore the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail.

Join the Free Hunting and Fishing Classes at the Outdoor Campus

Front view of Outdoor Campus' exterior

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

If you haven’t tried fishing or hunting before, you can do it this time at the Outdoor Campus, which offers free classes to the public.

You only have to sign up to take advantage of this excellent opportunity to learn how to fish and hunt.

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

At the campus, you can enjoy kayaking, fishing, hunting, archery, birdwatching, and walking around the nature trails.

Fish sculpture at the Outdoor Campus

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The kids can also enjoy their time at the campus’ playscape, a natural playground.

During the winter season, the campus is also open to snowshoeing.

Yes, it’s all about the outdoors at the Outdoor Campus!

Established in 1997, you can visit the campus at Sertoma Park on South Oxbow Avenue.

Exterior of the Outdoor Campus

Jake DeGroot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Self-Guided SculptureWalk in Downtown Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is where culture meets art.

A self-guided SculptureWalk downtown lets you discover and see the larger-than-life sculptures scattered around downtown, from Falls Park to the Washington Pavilion.

Each year, almost 70 sculptures are displayed downtown; all are loaned from the artists for the exhibit.

The public will then vote for the best masterpiece of their choice, and whichever work wins will receive the People’s Choice Award.

The city will then buy the winner’s sculpture as a permanent collection.

Check out the Arc of Dreams, a 15-foot gap sculpture suspended 85 feet above the river, which is SculptureWalk’s cornerstone.

For guidance, drop by the visitor center at the Washington Pavilion.

Get Closer to Nature at the Japanese Gardens

Small footbridge at Japanese Gardens

Callie Wyrsch /

The Japanese Gardens is home to exotic flowers, lush foliage, beautiful trees and wildlife, with lovely pagodas and lanterns, established in 1928.

The walking trails can get you closer to nature, with a lovely lake to watch if you sit and relax in one of the green spaces.

Flora at Japanese Gardens

Jerry from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also see ducks and geese swimming in the water.

The Japanese Gardens is an excellent spot in the city if you want to spend a fine afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the modern metropolis.

It’s located off North Grange Avenue.

The grounds of Japanese Gardens

Jerry from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catch a Free Outdoor Concert at Levitt at the Falls

What’s not cool about catching free outdoor live music?

About 50 free outdoor concerts happen at Levitt at the Falls, where traveling musicians in different genres play during the summer.

It’s a great way to relax in Sioux Falls and watch live music without going too far.

You can also bring your lawn chair or a blanket to sit on while you’re enjoying live music at the outdoor amphitheater.

Pets are also welcome but put them on a leash so as not to disturb other visitors.

Levitt at the Falls is a joint project of the organization, the City of Sioux Falls, and the National Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation.

It was established in 2011 on North Phillips Avenue.

Wander the Downtown Historic District

The road of Downtown Historic District

Ben Harding /

Sioux Falls might be a progressive city, but despite the decades-long changes, it still takes care of its past.

More than 50 historic structures are scattered around the downtown historic district, which gives a glimpse of the city’s history and culture.

The district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in January 1995.

Check out the town’s oldest buildings, such as the City Hall, some churches, and the Central Fire Station, among others.

The downtown historic district continues to gleam with history.

Explore the area with ice cream or a coffee, perhaps!

Spend a Picnic at McKennan Park

Bandshell at McKennan Park

AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling with family is always an option at Sioux Falls, thanks to McKennan Park, which has a gazebo with picnic tables.

There’s a play area for the kids and a wading pool so they can have fun in the water, especially on a sunny day.

Walk through the paths and see breathtaking flowers and green foliage, making you feel at peace and relaxed.

There’s also a 1926 bandshell, sports fields, sculptures, the Statue of Liberty, and more to explore.

It’s the oldest park in Sioux Falls, which Helen McKennan donated in 1906 to the people of Sioux Falls.

McKennan Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

It’s located off East 26th Street.

Drop by the Falls Park Visitor Information Center

Drop by the Falls Park Visitor Information Center to pick up maps, booklets, brochures, and other helpful things for a more leisurely trip around the city.

You can get a visitor guide at the center, which gives you event and attraction information around the city.

The center is in a five-story viewing tower, where you can get stunning views of the falls and the city itself.

Sioux Falls Visitor Information Center is at Falls Park off North Phillips Avenue.

Admire the St. Joseph Cathedral

Exterior of St. Joseph Cathedral

Nagel Photography /

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 1974, St. Joseph Cathedral was built in 1915 and is one of the oldest churches in Sioux Falls.

In 1974, the National Register of Historic Places added the cathedral to its record.

It was constructed in the Renaissance Revival style, designed by architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray.

The church has seen several alterations.

Some were due to a fire in 1942 that destroyed the lower part of the structure.

Facade of St. Joseph Cathedral

AlexiusHoratius, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can get inside the church to see the structure up close, such as the French stained glass windows, the marble high altar and tester, and more.

Also, you can photograph the church’s facade to capture its glory.

St. Joseph Cathedral is on North Duluth Avenue.

Interior of St. Joseph Cathedral

Forestwalton, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Read a Book at Siouxland Libraries Downtown

An hour or two of reading a book isn’t trouble for traveling bookworms at Siouxland Libraries Downtown.

The library offers numerous great books by prominent authors and many other best selections.

Spend a morning reading one in the quiet nooks where nobody would bother you.

Siouxland Libraries was formed from a merger between the Sioux Falls Public Library and the Minnehaha County Rural Public Library in 1995.

It has about eight branches, including one at Siouxland Libraries Downtown on North Dakota Avenue.

Catch a Stunning Sunset at Arrowhead Park

Geese at Arrowhead Park

Jacob Boomsma /

Sioux Falls, from start to finish, offers fantastic outdoor fun and breathtaking sunsets, including one at Arrowhead Park.

The picturesque park offers unmatched natural areas to explore and catch a light-drenched sunset.

Sit on one of its benches and get soaked in the Instagrammable sunset, feel the natural breeze and enjoy the relaxing vibe.

A small pond at the entrance has ducks and geese swimming, which you can feed with corn.

The waters of Arrowhead Park

Jacob Boomsma /

The park is also a birdwatching staple.

You can also take the walking trails to explore the park and its natural areas with native prairie grass.

There’s a restored 1888 barn at the park, which is a must-see.

Arrowhead Park is nestled on River Bluff Road.

Watch a Friendly Game at Sioux Falls Stadium

Home to the Sioux Falls Canaries baseball team, Sioux Falls Stadium also hosts many friendly local games to watch.

You can catch one while in town, which is usually free to the public except for national games.

Officially opened in 1941, the stadium can hold almost 4,500 spectators with several concession stands if you need to grab a bite.

Sioux Falls Stadium is also known as “The Birdcage,”; an affectionate term that promotes the city’s home team.

You can find it on Northwest Avenue.

Paddle the Big Sioux River

Kayaking on Big Sioux River

Lost_in_the_Midwest /

Since Sioux Falls is filled with outdoor adventures, you might also paddle the Big Sioux River.

You can use your kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard, so you don’t have to rent one.

There’s a segment at Lien Park on North Cliff Avenue where you can paddle and get past other parks.

The waters of Big Sioux River

Steve Cukrov /

You can also stop by one of these free-admission parks to rest.

Big Sioux River offers about 62 miles of flat water paddling; however, there are areas you must avoid unless you’re an experienced paddler.

Don’t forget to drop by the visitor center for information and guidance.

Final Thoughts

Filled with outstanding natural wonders and rich history and culture, Sioux Falls is one of South Dakota’s crown jewels.

Don’t forget to take photos and make your budget-friendly adventure grand.

Plan your trip today and check out the free things to do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

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