25 Best Things to Do in Watertown, SD

Watertown, SD
Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock.com

Watertown, South Dakota, stands as a hidden gem, exuding small-town charm coupled with big-city amenities.

Its rich history, stunning natural beauty, unique attractions, and warm, friendly people make it a remarkable destination.

Every day in Watertown can be an adventure, offering must-see spots and unforgettable experiences for both first-time visitors and returning travelers.

This guide presents the best things to do in Watertown, South Dakota, making it clear that it's much more than just a dot on the map.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: James Herod, Delores Lehman, Douglas Stuart, Edward Tignor, Susan Linhart, Marco Foster and Phillip Lee.

Unwind at Lake Kampeska

The waters of Lake Kampeska
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Once you set foot on Lake Kampeska, you're welcomed by an air of tranquility that's often hard to find in the city.

My family and I often retreat to this sanctuary for our annual vacation, making priceless memories.

Our tiny home on Lake Kampeska is like a slice of heaven, providing the perfect backdrop for our family reunion.

The house is spacious, leaving enough room for everyone to enjoy their time.

It's quiet, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, and above all, clean.

Fishing from the dock in the evenings is a family tradition we hold dear, with the catch of the day often becoming the star of our dinner.

Surrounding the lake are numerous attractions that keep us busy throughout our stay.

From the local zoo and the water park to the exquisite movie theater and sushi restaurants, there's never a dull moment in Watertown.

The Terry Redlin Museum is one of our favorites, offering a glimpse into the life and work of one of America's most popular wildlife artists.

But what makes Lake Kampeska truly special are the people. The residents are warm and welcoming, making you feel at home.

The parks, beaches, and multiple water access points for boating or swimming are superb, making it a favorite spot for a jog or a bike ride.

Lake Kampeska has been our family's little paradise for years, and it's always hard to say goodbye when our vacation ends.

But the memories we make here always keep us coming back for more.

Discover the Magic of Terry Redlin at the Redlin Art Center

You know, there's something purely magical about the Redlin Art Center that whispers to the soul, capturing the essence of the American heartland through the captivating paintings of Terry Redlin.

I visit this place often, and I must say, it's like stepping into a live Terry Redlin painting every time I walk through the doors.

The center houses many of Redlin's original creations, each displayed most impressively.

Moreover, the details of the paintings are complemented by the beautifully designed building and the equally stunning grounds outside.

It's impossible not to be drawn into the world of Redlin, with informative videos and a short film providing an intriguing backstory to his work.

Not to mention, the place has a fantastic gift shop.

Over the years, I've bought a few wines from there, which have been delightful.

The peaceful stroll through the center and a shopping spree at the gift shop make for a perfect day.

Whenever I'm traveling along I-29, I make it a point to stop by the Redlin Art Center.

It serves as a quaint, serene retreat from the bustle of everyday life.

So, if you ever find yourself in the area, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting this stunning art center. It's a must-see, an absolute gem in the heart of our town.

Unwind at Breakout

Every community has its hidden gem; for us here in Watertown, it's unquestionably Breakout.

An unassuming nook on Broadway, this place has quickly become my go-to for weekend relaxation and spontaneous evening plans.

Whether it's their engaging challenges and puzzles bound to keep you on your toes or their hand-selected craft brews that are an absolute treat for beer enthusiasts like me, there's something for everyone here.

And did I mention the coffee? It's hands down the best in town.

Each sip feels like a loving hug from a trusted old friend.

The food is just as fantastic, serving delicious bites that perfectly pair with the incredible G selection of games.

Making memories at Breakout has become a cherished tradition with my family now.

I love it here, and we've spent countless cherished hours bonding over the exciting games and puzzles.

It's a haven of joy and happiness we look forward to every week.

I'll bet it'll become your new favorite spot in Watertown, too.

Discover the Gems of History at The Codington County Heritage Museum

There's something quite charming about The Codington County Heritage Museum.

Nestled in a venerable 1906 library, this museum is a treasure trove of our town and county's rich history, told through various engaging, permanent, and temporary exhibits.

The interiors are filled with an eclectic mix of antiques and historical artifacts, each a silent testament to our shared past.

And it's not just looking; there's plenty to touch and try, making it an interactive experience for kids and adults.

Taking a tour of the museum is a favorite pastime for my family and me.

We often find ourselves snapping pictures and marveling at the artifacts.

Plus, my daughter, who can be discerning in her choice of entertainment, particularly enjoys the basement.

A play filled with hands-on activities keeps her engaged and sparks her curiosity.

And to cap off the trip? There's always the gift shop.

It's a little corner of the museum that offers a selection of souvenirs and sweet treats.

So, whenever I find myself with some spare time or when we have visitors, The Codington County Heritage Museum is always on my list of places to visit.

It's a charming, engaging, and enlightening slice of history in our town.

Get a Taste of Japan at Downtown Sushi Japanese Restaurant

Every time I stroll down the quaint, cozy streets of old downtown, I can't resist the allure of Downtown Sushi Japanese Restaurant.

Its inviting environment envelops me in an authentic Japanese ambiance, serving as a delightful break from the monotony of the identical strip malls that populate the town.

The menu is a delightful surprise, boasting a variety of delectable and affordable dishes.

I am especially fond of their savory soups and divine sushi rolls, possibly the best I've ever had.

It's no exaggeration to say that this is, without a doubt, the best sushi spot in town.

My favorite is the "Lunch Box," a value-packed offering richer in taste and quality than the average fast food lunch and just a dollar more.

Every bite of this light plate, priced between $16 - $24, is a testament to the skill and dedication of the restaurant's talented chefs.

It's hard to resist a satisfying meal, whether enjoyed within the restaurant's welcoming walls or as a to-go order.

I find myself returning time and again to this hidden gem amidst the hustle and bustle of Watertown.

Consider stopping by for a meal if you're ever in the area.

Reflect at the Watertown Veterans Memorial

Every evening, after a long day, I find myself heading towards the Watertown Veterans Memorial for peace.

There's something about the serenity of the place that never fails to calm my restless spirit.

The memorial is adorned with nameplates of heroic soldiers who served our country during the war.

Their bravery is immortalized in stone. It's humbling to be surrounded by such valor.

One of the best things about living near the memorial is its proximity to the lake.

On a clear day, the setting sun's reflection on the water surface is a sight to behold, a spectacle of nature painted in hues of orange and red.

During winter, the freezing temperature turns the scene into a tranquil winter wonderland.

The anticipation of warmer days often has me eagerly looking forward to fun at the park as the lake bustles with people swimming, picnics, walking, and even geocaching.

Moreover, the memorial is also a fountain of knowledge.

It's rich in informative content about our past, providing a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made by our veterans.

Whether you're seeking solace, a fun time at the park, or an opportunity to remember and honor our heroes, the Watertown Veterans Memorial is worth a visit.

Distill Your Knowledge at Glacial Lakes Distillery

Whipping around the backroads of my hometown, I stumbled upon a hidden gem, Glacial Lakes Distillery.

I was intrigued, so I decided to take a tour. I was pleasantly surprised, not just by the enticing samples of their spirits, but by the knowledge I gained!

The tour was beyond my expectations.

It was engaging, informative, and full of surprises. I soaked up new facts about distilling like a sponge.

The distiller had an array of raw materials on display to help illustrate the process, from grain to glass.

I learned about the intricate details of creating smooth, flavorful spirits from these displays.

As if the education wasn't rewarding enough, there were samples of their fine products, each crafted with passion and precision.

I was amazed at the variety, from grain-based vodka to corn whiskey to South Dakota bourbon.

And the best part? You can buy bottles directly from the distillery!

There's nothing like supporting local businesses; bringing home a bottle or two of their handcrafted spirits makes for a great souvenir or gift.

It's a unique learning experience, one where knowledge meets taste in a beautiful symphony.

I plan on returning the next time I want to impress out-of-town guests.

After all, there's always more to learn, and more to taste at Glacial Lakes Distillery.

Enjoy Thrilling Evenings at Casino Speedway

There's nothing that quite matches the thrill of a roaring engine.

The smell of rubber, the loud rumble of finely-tuned machines, the crowd cheers - it's all a part of the experience at Casino Speedway.

Every weekend, my family and I join the throngs of enthusiastic spectators that flock to the Speedway.

The atmosphere is always electric, filled with camaraderie and good-natured competition.

It's fun for ages, and if you're more on the sober side, like us, they have a family section where you can enjoy the races without the smoke or the beer.

The track itself is a spectacle to behold.

Compact yet challenging, it's the perfect stage for the adrenaline-pumping races that are the Speedway's hallmark.

We've watched countless races here, and they have always managed to strike a balance between entertainment and efficiency.

The races are well-organized, and they wrap up early enough so that even out-of-town visitors can get home at a decent hour.

The Casino Speedway is more than just a race track to us. It's become a beloved weekend trip, and we're already looking forward to our next visit.

Discover History at Mellette House

Exterior of Mellette House
JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It was a sunny afternoon when I decided to revisit the cornerstone of our local history, the Mellette House.

Located at the heart of our town, it's been a place I've frequented since childhood.

Walking through the well-maintained garden, I could almost feel the stories whispered by the rustling leaves of the old trees.

Each room was a peek into the past, a testament to the Victorian-era charm that the house contains.

The Mellette House is a piece of our hometown's history, a living time capsule that allowstake a walk back in time.

If you ever find yourself around, make sure to pay a visit. It's truly a spectacle to behold!

Spend a Regular Day at Cattail Crossing Golf Course

There's just something about starting the day with a round of golf at Cattail Crossing Golf Course that puts a spring in my step.

It's a beauty, well-kept, and always in excellent condition.

The course layout is nicely done, all for a challenging yet enjoyable game.

This golf season was an exceptional one for the course.

The greens and fairways were seen to be constantly improving, enhancing the quality of the game.

Starting your morning with a gamis always worthwhile here - even if it's windy.

I played a quick nine holes on the yellow course this morning.

It was a little waterlogged due to overnight rainfall, but only on two holes, so it didn't affect the game much.

With 27 holes to play, choosing Cattail Crossing for your golfing needs is a no-brainer.

So if you're up for a game of 18 or all 27 holes, this is your place to be.

I'll return soon for another round at my favorite local golf course.

Visit Stokes-Thomas Lake City Park

One of the best parts about living in Watertown is being just a stone's throw away from the beautiful Stokes-Thomas Lake City Park.

Nestled next to Lake Kampeska, this park is an oasis of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of city life.

An average evening for me often involves setting up camp by the lake.

The park's camping facilities are top-notch, and the peace and calm that settles over as the sun sets over the lake is simply surreal.

It's an ideal place to disconnect from the world and reconnect with nature.

There's nothing quite like watching your kids (8,6,2) enjoy the playgrounds as you soak in the breathtaking lake views.

The park's boardwalk along the lake is another favorite spot of mine.

For instance, the views from there are incredible, especially during sunset.

So, if you're around, don't miss out on this picturesque walk.

Stokes-Thomas Lake City Park is a local gem that's worth your time.

Whether you're into camping, picnics, or simply enjoy nature walks, this park has something for everyone.

So, add this place to your itinerary next time you're in Watertown. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Try a Healing Touch at Five Star Massage

You know, there's nothing quite like the soothing power of a good massage, especially after a long week of work.

That's when I turn to Five Star Massage to help me unwind and recharge.

It's a therapeutic haven where each rub and stroke targets your pain areas precisely.

After just one session, the tightness in my back and hip were gone.

Five Star Massage is truly a gem in our community.

If you're ever in need of a therapeutic massage, look no further.

Enjoy Unforgettable Evenings at The Goss Opera House

There's a rustic charm to this place that we're truly blessed to have in our town!

A night at The Goss Opera House is a night well spent, I can tell you that.

Their entertainment segment is top-notch, with superb sound quality that captivates you.

One particularly memorable night was when I attended dinner and a movie at the opera house.

Nothing beats the winter blues like a good meal and a classic movie like "Raiders of the Lost Ark"!

It's the perfect antidote to winter monotony and a great way to unwind.

Speaking of food, I've got to admit, the cuisine at the Goss is among the finest in the city.

The Goss Opera House is a place where memories are made and cherished.

If you're ever in the area, I wholeheartedly recommend you visit it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Spend an Evening at Willy's Sports Bar

There's no better way to unwind after a long work week than to head to my favorite spot, Willy's Sports Bar.

Their array of burgers is hard to match, offering a variety you just can't help but get excited about.

I've been frequenting this joint for years, and their burgers never disappoint.

One day, I found myself ensnared by an intense craving for onion rings - a craving that Willy promptly satisfied with a plate of the best ones I've ever had.

There's also something to be said about their prices.

In a world where a good burger can cost a pretty penny, Willy's offers a blessing in disguise with their delicious burgers at reasonable prices.

But what makes Willy's stand out from the crowd is their Burger Night.

Buy one burger, get another for half off! It's a fantastic deal.

So, if you're ever in town looking for a great place to dine, don't forget to check out Willy's Sports Bar.

It's a local gem that never fails to deliver.

Make a Weekend Getaway at Memorial Park Camping Area

As the sun begins to set, painting the sky with hues of orange and purple, my heart fills with gratitude for the tranquil escape of the Memorial Park Camping Area.

Nestled in the heart of Codington, the camping area has quickly become my favorite go-to spot for unwinding with family, friends, or just me and my trusty canine companion.

The camping sites here are spacious, allowing for various fun-filled activities.

Whether it's a competitive game of beanbags or a leisure round of fetch with my pup, there's always something to do.

The campground is also generously shaded, making it a perfect spot to share stories by the campfire on a starlit night.

One particular feature that I've grown to appreciate is the intertwining trail in the woods.

It's a treat for nature enthusiasts and casual walkers alike. The diversity of the local bird population is astonishing.

A walk around the trail is like a mini safari, with so many unique creatures to spot.

The chic reeds that edge the duck pond provide a secure bird sanctuary yet don't obstruct the view, making it an ideal place for birdwatching.

And let’s not forget the lake – a true gem of the camping area.

I’ve spent countless afternoons on its serene surface, appreciating its crystal-clear beauty.

Those with children can rest easy too, the playgrounds are well-maintained, and are always filled with the sound of children's laughter.

The camping area operates on an honor system for firewood, adding charm to the overall experience.

It's a relief not to have to go uptown for it.

With reasonable prices for amenities, it's almost like having a little piece of paradise right in our backyard.

I look forward to my next weekend getaway at the Memorial Park Camping Area – there’s always more to explore and enjoy.

Create Unforgettable Memories at the Watertown Family Aquatic Center

The Watertown Family Aquatic Center is my go-to place for summer fun.

This place is pure magic.

It's where countless memories are created, and every visit feels like a family adventure.

Besides, it's right in our backyard in Watertown!

The wide array of activities the Aquatic Center offers is mind-boggling.

I've spent enjoyable afternoons floating down the lazy river, unable to resist the gentle tug of the water current.

There's a thrill of anticipation when the giant bucket tips, a warning bell ringing out before a deluge of water cascades onto the crowd below, leaving peals of laughter and excitement in its wake.

My toddler has had his fair share of fun in the zero-entry wading area, a safe and enjoyable space for the small pool's deep family.

The separate sand play area is a mini beach away from the beach, a perfect spot for building sandcastles.

Likewise, the deep end of the pool is an adventure in itself, complete with a lily-pad crossing and a diving board.

The drop-off slide is a particular favorite of mine.

Plummeting down into the cooler depths of the water is an exhilarating experience!

There's never a dull moment with the multitude of slides.

Whether you are a thrill-seeker going for the big slides or prefer a more leisurely pace on the open slide, there's something for everyone.

And let's not forget the diving board! Leaping off into the deep end, you feel like family in flight.

And when the hunger pangs strike, the concessions stand offers various delicious treats.

Each visit to the Watertown Family Aquatic Center is a cherished memory, a day spent in the sun, water, and laughter.

This local treasure serves as a reminder of the simple joys of a summer well-spent.

Explore Bramble Park Zoo

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

From the moment you walk through the entrance at Bramble Park, you will see various animals.

Out of 100 species spread across 15 acres yearly, it's a wonderland for animal lovers like me.

One of the highlights of my experiences at the zoo was the opportunity to see animals that I had never seen before.

It's not every day that you come across species from all corners of the world right here in our little town!

The proximity to the animals is what seeing the animals blasts where the animals are far off in the distance; here, you can get closer, making the experience more real and engaging.

One afternoon, I was with my grandson and granddaughter at the zoo.

We had a blast seeing the animals, but the fun didn't stop there.

The kids were thrilled to take part in interactive activities like hauling wood in wheelbarrows and playing in the different play areas.

Their giggles of delight and wide-eyed wonder were worth every second spent there.

Every visit to Bramble Park Zoo is a day filled with discovery and fun.

Plus, the clean restrooms and the fact that you can walk the entire zoo in about 1.5 hours makes it a convenient and enjoyable outing.

Take it from me; if you're in town and looking for a unique way to spend a day, the zoo is sure to exceed your expectations.

Visit Morningside Park

There's something wonderful about the laughter of children.

Where do I hear it the most? Morningside Park.

This delightful park has become my go-to hangout spot with my little ones.

Its vast expanse offers the perfect space for kids to run wild, play different games, and even have a cozy picnic.

What's more, the park is a paradise for kids under 7, with its fun and Itsy equipment.

It's not unusual to see families make it the better part of the day here, creating memories.

But what really sets Morningside Park apart is its unique playground. My daughter can't get enough of it!

With its large size and generous sprinkling of pebbles, it's a haven for little explorers.

The tunnels are her favorite - she loves to crawl through thSeeingsome grand adventure.

Moreover, the jungle equipment is a big hit too.

The only thing my daughter wishes for heartwarming is more swings, as they're usually occupied, but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm.

It's heartwarming to see kids being kids and enjoying the simple joys of life at Morningside Park.

Unearth Local Treasures at Waterthanal Library

When the need for stewardship and a healthy dose of knowledge strikes, I usually find myself meandering toward the Watertown Regional Library.

I've found my saving grace in the form of the library's quiet rooms.

It's a bit of a gamble, though; the availability of these rooms is usually a hit or miss, and on lucky days, I can wall myself off from the distracting hustle and thoroughly concentrate on my work.

I must say that this library is a vital and vibrant part of our community.

It's not just about books here; you can borrow a variety of items like fishing gear and games, making it a veritable treasure trove of intriguing finds.

So, if you're keen on experiencing a library with a vibrant twist, the Watertown Regional Library might just be the spot for you.

Uncover the Beauty of Pelican Lake State Recreation Area

There's something serene about Pelican Lake State Recreation Area that's hard to put into words.

Located west of Sisseton, its beauty is nothing short of breathtaking.

From the mossy shoreline where American white Pelicans take their leisure, to the tall trees that seem to reach the sky, it's those simple, beautiful things that make you fall in love with this place over and over again.

During the day, you can visit the recreation area for a picnic or stroll on the walking trails, soaking in the scenic views.

The recreation area is also perfect for camping with huge lots, giving you the feeling of being one with nature.

Each year, the trees seem to get bigger, offering more shade and a sense of tranquility that's hard to match.

The amenities at Pelican Lake Recreation Area are top-notch.

Moreover, the restrooms and showers are always spotless, making your camping experience even more comfortable.

And for those who crave a bit of adventure, there are kayaks to rent.

Paddling in the calm waters of Pelican Lake is an experience like no other.

But the recreation area is not just about nature and tranquility.

For the equestrian lovers, there's horseback riding.

Riding through the trails with the wind in your hair is an exhilarating experience.

And when the night falls, you can hear the distant sounds of cars racing, adding a touch of excitement to the serene environment.

What I love most about Pelican Lake Recreation Area is that it's a place that has something for everyone.

From beach lovers to campers, from walkers to horse riders, it brings people together, a place that makes you love being outdoors.

Enjoy a Peaceful Escape at Sandy Shore State Recreation Area

As the hustle and bustle of daily life takes its toll, I often find myself heading to the Sandy Shore State Recreation Area for a much-needed retreat.

Nestled on the south shore of the serene Lake Kampeska, this gem is just a stone's throw away from my home.

The campground, particularly the spots on the left as you enter, has an enchanting atmosphere, whether you're in an RV or a cozy cabin.

You'll find yourself across the road from the lake, making access to the water a breeze.

The boat launch is an excellent spot for some fun-filled water activities.

Site #5 has a water spigot nearby, and there's a dump station close to the campground.

One thing I've particularly appreciated over the years is the attention given to maintaining a clean and attractive beach. It's the perfect place to enjoy a cool swim on a hot summer day. Camping spots and cabins are also well maintained, making your stay comfortable. The playground looks inviting, albeit, I must confess, I spend a lot of my time basking by the water or indulging in the tranquility of my camping spot.

During cooler weather, renting kayaks adds an extra layer of fun to the trip. Although, reaching the campground hosts can be a bit of a challenge. They could certainly improve their responsiveness to calls or knocks on the door. Trust me, braving the chilly weather for a kayak ride is worth it.

Sandy Shore State Recreation Area is a charming haven away from the city's chaos.

It's a place where tranquility meets fun, and nature's splendor is on full display.

Check Out GSI Thrift

GSI Thrift is a treasure trove where I could pick up vintage items at a steal.

You should know that GSI Thrift tends to pick out the best vintage items and price them like they're in an antique store.

I have to admit it's kind of fun to see these pieces on display.

It's like walking through a mini museum of sorts.

GSI Thrift remains a fun place to shop and is still one of the more robust thrift shops in town.

And, if you're patient, you can still stumble upon some great finds.

Their monthly discounts, which you can find on the flyers in store, are certainly worth checking out.

What I love most about GSI Thrift, though, is that it's the perfect place to find unique items for weddings, parties, or events.

And I must say, the bright atmosphere makes shopping a joy.

So, if you're planning a special event or just on the hunt for quality, unique pieces, GSI Thrift might just have what you're looking for.

If you're a local, I think it's worth a visit.

Visit Thunder Road of Watertown

One of my favorite weekend spots has to be Thunder Road in Watertown.

There's nothing like waking up on a Saturday and knowing the day is going to be filled with laughter, adventure, and lots of competitive spirit.

It's part of the rhythm of life around here.

My family and I love to make a day of it.

The kids go crazy for the go-karts.

They imagine they're driving at incredible speeds, hair flying, as they whip around the track.

And the best part? The karts are powered by locally produced ethanol, E85.

It's an eco-friendly thrill that adds an extra layer of satisfaction to the fun.

After the go-karts, it's off to mini-golf.

We've created an annual family tournament, each of us trying to claim the coveted leaf-green champion’s cap.

The course is challenging enough to keep the kids engaged, but not so tough that it's frustrating.

But what really seals the deal for our family is the water park.

We all love to cool off after a day of go-karting and mini-golf with a refreshing dip.

The kids can't get enough of the water slides, and I must admit, I've been known to take a turn or two myself.

Despite living here, every visit feels like a mini vacation.

And the value for the money? It’s almost unbelievable.

If you ever find yourself in our little part of the world, check out Thunder Road of Watertown.

It's a local gem that always delivers a great day out.

Final Thoughts

Watertown is an unparalleled gem tucked away in South Dakota.

It's a place where nature and culture blend seamlessly, creating a unique experience for every visitor.

With such diverse attractions and experiences, there's never a dull moment in Watertown.

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