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In a state recognized for its corn fields to the east and sprawling ranches to the west, longtime South Dakota residents refer to Sioux Falls as the Gateway to the Plains. Indeed, while South Dakota may be home to the pine-blanketed Black Hills around Mount Rushmore and grasslands where buffalo have been known to roam, there are plenty of things to do in the city of Sioux Falls itself. A bustling downtown sprinkled with upscale delis and white-tablecloth restaurants plus a vibrant arts scene make Sioux Falls—the state’s most populous city—a Midwestern destination with charms to appeal to every type of traveler.
Located on the banks of the Big Sioux River, Sioux Falls beckons with big-city attractions and a small-town vibe. Much of Sioux Falls' activity happens in and around Downtown, where up-and-coming enclaves like Uptown and Eastbank appeal to locals and visitors alike.
In the geographic heart of the city, Downtown delights with its shops, restaurants, and public art. The SculptureWalk traces a loop through Sioux Falls’ central business district, while mouthwatering restaurants tempt customers with some of the region’s tastiest food (think grass-fed burgers and tacos with tortillas made from local corn).
North of Downtown's humming commercial zone, independent coffee shops and savory sandwich joints sprout up beside contemporary condo buildings in Uptown. Sites of interest include the Museum of Visual Materials and the Old Courthouse Museum, which documents the history of South Dakota.
As Downtown crosses the Big Sioux River it becomes Eastbank, where galleries, gourmet shops, and yoga studios abound. Walk or jog less than a mile north on the Sioux Falls Bike Trail and find yourself at Falls Park, where a gushing waterfall and historic outbuildings attract thousands of visitors each year.
Whether you want to immerse yourself in the history of the region or appreciate the city's community theater, there are a bevy of things to see in Sioux Falls. Begin at the Falls Park Visitor Information Center, where a trek to the top of a five-story viewing tower offers an unobstructed look at the rapids. On Saturdays in summer, the park hosts the Falls Park Farmer’s Market, where purveyors sell everything from heirloom tomatoes to fragrant geraniums. Looking to see a live show during your visit? Consider heading to the Sioux Empire Community Theatre to catch a regional play, or check out the Orpheum Theater Center for concerts hosted by the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society. For mainstream acts, the Washington Pavilion or the Denny Sanford Premier Center are your best bet.
A 10-minute drive from the Sioux Falls Regional Airport lands you in the heart of Sioux Falls, where there are endless attractions and things to do. History lovers savor the chance to visit the Pettigrew Home and Museum, where South Dakota's first state senator amassed an extensive collection of artifacts including Native American clothing, guns, and items related to the settlement of Sioux Falls. Art aficionados might like to pay a visit to the Eastbank Art Gallery, which showcases masterpieces by the area's artists. Or, soak up the natural wonders at nearby Palisades State Park, where towering quartzite spires are a mecca for rock climbers. Likewise, endless adventures await for those traveling with children. South of downtown, the Butterfly House & Aquarium introduces little ones to more than 800 free-flying butterflies from around the world, while Wild Water West is an exhilarating water park and a favorite among families in warmer months. Finally, those in search of a premier retail experience can head to the Empire Mall, a recently renovated shopping center with the area's hottest boutiques.