Sioux Falls Park
The Big Sioux River flexes its muscles as it flows through Sioux Falls’ Falls Park. It starts in northeastern South Dakota and runs for 419 miles before joining the Missouri River near the Iowa-South Dakota border. In the meantime, the river provides a beautiful setting for Sioux Falls’ popular park, with a series of waterfalls.
Falls Park is only one of the attractions visitors need to check out in in South Dakota’s largest city. The hometown of former Miss South Dakota and entertainment reporter Mary Hart is home to outstanding military memorials, historical buildings and downtown, as well as endangered animals at the zoo.
Falls Park is the city’s top attraction. Visitors can walk up to the edge of the water, along a series of quartzite rock formations. About 7,400 gallons of water drop over a 100-foot waterfalls each second.
The park covers 123 acres. It includes an observation tower at the visitors center, an old mill and sculptures. One sculpture honors the American farmer, while another pays tribute to the national mammal, the bison.
Downtown Sioux Falls
Falls Park is a short walk from downtown. Sioux Falls encourages visitors to check out the area. A variety of businesses operate downtown. We enjoyed a great meal at the Phillips Street Diner. Downtown is home to some great architecture.
The city promotes public art through a series of sidewalk sculptures. They were some beauties on display. While my personal favorite was a saxophone player in from the diner, others were just as fascinating, including a boy trying to train his dog.
Old Courthouse Museum
A few blocks from downtown stands the Old Courthouse Museum. A converted courthouse, the museum takes a look at life on the prairie. It explores the lives of the region’s Native Americans with an exhibit that includes their uses of the buffalo they would hunt. Native Americans relied on the American buffalo (bison) for more than just food. They used the hide for clothing, shelter, as well as other uses. Bones were used for tools and weapons, while other parts used for various functions.
The museum also looks at the pioneers’ westward move and development of the land. From packing a covered wagon for optimal use to farming tools, the Old Courthouse Museum covers the gamut. It even looks at old military forts in the area.
Pettigrew House & Museum
Richard Pettigrew was a leader during the early days of Sioux Falls. He was a successful businessman, who eventually became South Dakota’s first U.S. Senator. He donated his home to the city to be used as a museum, because he had created a small one inside his home.
A visit to his mansion is an interesting walk through history. The kitchen used two sources of power for lighting – electricity and gas. A switch on the light fixture could be turned to use either method.
The Pettigrews entertained guests in the main parlor. He also had a small office on the first floor. The mansion is beautiful and worth a visit.
St. Joseph Cathedral
St. Joseph Cathedral serves as the spiritual guidance for members of the Sioux Falls Catholic diocese. The cathedral, completed in 1918 after a three-year construction project, serves as the primary place of worship in the city. The cathedral stands tall above the city’s downtown skyline.
The cathedral was constructed in a Romanesque and French renaissance style by French architect Emmanuel Masqueray. It was designed based on the St. Paul, Minnesota, cathedral. Cathedrals usually are well-adorned. St. Joseph has its beauty – stained glass windows, art and altar area.
Great Plains Zoo
Sioux Falls is home to a small, but nice zoo. The Great Plains Zoo is paired with a natural history museum to give visitors an interesting look at animal life. The zoo occupies about 45 acres. The Delbridge Museum offers a look at about 150 mounted animals from around the world.
The Sioux Falls zoo had a couple of exhibits that fascinated us. The first was a Komodo dragon. The giant lizard had its own shelter. He was an active creature. We followed as he moved along a narrow path near the viewing window. He eventually turned down a route away from us, but he was fun to see up close.
The zoo is home to two endangered black rhinos. Imara and Jubba are the pair at the zoo. Worldwide, there are only about 5,000 left. So, it’s important for rhinos like the Sioux Falls duo to mate and continue the species. Though they appear greyish in color, the term black refers to a hooked-lipped appearance. White rhinos tend to be square-lipped.
The Delbridge Museum of Natural History is a must-see exhibit. You actually walk through it as you exit the zoo. But, you only see a small portion there. You need to walk the entire museum. It has some excellent displays. You’ll see displays featuring animals specific to a region or climate. You can see lions and tigers hunting prey.
Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove
It’s always summer inside the butterfly house. Visitors to the Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove can count on temperatures between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit every day of the year. So, if it’s the middle of winter and you need a reminder of what lies ahead, stop in the butterfly house and warm up. While you’re there, check out more than 800 butterflies and moths from around the world.
The butterfly house has been open for 14 years and is a major tourist attraction with about 82,000 visitors last year. The beauty of the 3,600-square foot tropical garden is enough to want to visit. The trees and plants in the garden attract butterflies and moths.
Veterans Memorial Park
Sioux Falls honors it military veterans with a majestic park. Veterans Memorial Park recognizes the men and women who have served the United States. A series of small exhibits make up the park. A Medal of Honor walk recognizes regional recipients. The park is located on a former military base used during World War II.
USS South Dakota Memorial
A memorial to the USS South Dakota recognizes the most decorated ship during World War II. The USS South Dakota, commissioned in 1942, served as the standby ship during the Japanese surrender to end the war. Its sea battles included the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands and the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The original ship was scrapped for metal following the war. However, the memorial’s museum has obtained items used on the ship, such as wooden planks (used for the ceiling) and bell.
Sioux Falls is a great place to spend a weekend or a few days. The area’s attractions extend beyond the city’s borders, which makes it the perfect base camp location. We recommend you visit Sioux Falls and check out its beauty and history.
For more information on Sioux Falls, please visit www.visitsiouxfalls.com.