Travels 2016: Enjoying ‘great’ places in South Dakota

South Dakota

Rock-n-Roll lives on at Mitchell’s Corn Palace.

South Dakota’s slogan is “Great Places. Great Faces.” We checked out some great places during our trip during the summer. From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family homestead to a music museum that ranks with the best of them, South Dakota lived up to its tourism tag.

We had long been interested in checking out a variety of attractions in eastern South Dakota, so one weekend we jumped in the car and headed north on Interstate 29. We enjoyed checking out the waterfalls at Sioux Falls’ Falls Park and a few area attractions. The waterfalls may not be as high as others, but their location allows visitors to walk up next to them. Rarely are we allowed that kind of access to a beautiful attraction.

South Dakota

Falls Park is home to a beautiful waterfall in Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls has some great architecture that dates back to the late 1800s. The Old Courthouse Museum should be on everyone’s list when visiting the city.

South Dakota

The Old Courthouse Museum allows visitors a chance to appreciate some beautiful architecture.

The Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove is home about 800 butterflies and moths, as well as some impressive sea creatures, including urchins and small sharks.  The attraction is home year round and maintains a constant 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. That means, it’s always summer at the butterfly house.

South Dakota

Hundreds of butterflies live at the Sioux Falls butterfly house.

The Great Plains Zoo is home to some interesting animals, including the endangered black rhino. The zoo also has a nice museum featuring a variety of animals from around the world in interesting exhibits.

South Dakota

The endangered black rhino is one of the animals living at the Sioux Falls zoo.

About 30 miles west of Sioux Falls is the Porter Sculpture Garden. The Montrose attraction can be viewed from Interstate 90, but it needs to be witnessed up close. Unique pieces dot the hillside. A giant bull’s head has been called satanic, but to Wayne Porter, it was just an interesting piece to create.

South Dakota

The bull’s head can be seen from the interstate.

His creations run the gamut from vultures as politicians to fish swimming out of a bowl. My favorite view is a series of red-clad priests who appear to be making their way to the bull’s head.

South Dakota

“Priests” walk toward the bull’s head.

About 90 minutes north of Sioux Falls, Watertown is home to the Terry Redlin Center. The art center features about 150 original oil paintings by the famed South Dakota artist. The paintings, and a small museum highlighting a local ice cream company, are housed in an impressive colonial style building on a beautiful campus.

South Dakota

The Redlin art center features the original works of the South Dakota artist.

Laura Ingalls Wilder spent many of her younger years with her family on a homestead in De Smet. Based on what we read and learned, it seems like a lot of the stories that took place in Walnut Grove on “Little House on the Prairie” television series actually occurred in De Smet. She met and married Almanzo Wilder here.

South Dakota

A look at farming in the 1800s awaits visitors at the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead site.

The homestead has been turned into a living history attraction. Visitors can check out buildings that range from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Visitors are welcome to climb a horse- or mule-drawn wagon for a ride around the homestead.

South Dakota

Our mule-driven wagon took us to an old country school house.

A replica of the original “Little House on the Prairie” stands on the homestead. It was built based on records filed by Charles Ingalls when he was developing the farm.

South Dakota

A replica of the “Lille House that Charles “Pa” Ingalls built.”

Rock-n-Roll came to Mitchell’s Corn Palace and decided to stick around for a couple of years. “Rock of Ages” featured the likenesses of Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson among the other murals created from corn cobs and husks. The display was in its second year, due to budget constraints. The Corn Palace normally has a new creation each year.

South Dakota

Elvis is immortalized on the side of the Corn Palace.

The University of South Dakota in Vermillion is home to the world-class National Music Museum. The museum has thousands of instruments in its possession. Displays are rotated throughout the year. We saw instruments as old as the 1500s. Violins, drums, pianos and even guitars can be viewed in interesting displays.

South Dakota

Violins dating back to the 16th century are on display at the USD museum.

Huron is home to the world’s largest pheasant. Standing 20 feet tall and 40 feet long, the pheasant greets visitors to the northeastern South Dakota town. Huron is considered the pheasant capital of the world.

South Dakota

The world’s largest pheasant in Huron.

Our visit to South Dakota fulfilled the state’s tag of “Great Places. Great Faces.” With the attractions we visited, we can add “great times,” too. For more information on South Dakota and its attractions, visit

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