Haven’t ever considered a trip to The Mount Rushmore State? Well, a) that’s a travesty, and b) I want you to know there’s far more to South Dakota than Rushmore and Badlands National Park (though obviously you should pay both of these iconic spots a visit, too!).
While I’d previously traveled to the western part of the state, I’ll admit I knew relatively nothing about Sioux Falls and eastern South Dakota prior to my arrival. And the outcome? I was pleasantly charmed—make that dazzled—by South Dakota’s largest city.
- It went from having one brewery to five in less than two years. I’m sure you’ve learned this about me by now, but I love me some craft beer. And Fernson Brewing Company makes some of the tastiest microbrews I’ve had in ages. For those who don’t have time to venture a few miles north of downtown to the brewery itself, Fernson’s ales are carried all over town, in addition to their new taproom on 8th Avenue.
- It’s full of interesting entrepreneurs like Wes Eisenhauer starting cool roasteries and other creative endeavors. Remember that little Recession that rendered millions of Americans out of work? Yeah, it didn’t touch Sioux Falls. (Case in point: The unemployment rate hovers around just 2 percent.) That lack of economic hardship has opened a door for myriad ideas and urged entrepreneurship to thrive.
- It’s just an hour from Vermillion, home to the National Music Museum. Whether you’re a musician, a history buff or a mere lover of music, you’ll dig the 15,000 instruments that line the cases of the NMM. If you time it just right, you might even be there for a live performance. Just be sure to take a stroll around the University of South Dakota campus and grab a bite at Café Brule while you’re there.
- Have you met Sanaa Abourezk? Not only does the Syrian-born chef whip up some of the healthiest—plus, the most delicious—food in town, but she’s also sassy to boot.
Go in between busy hours, chow down on some fatayer, and get the owner of Sanaa’s Gourmet Mediterranean to tell you her riveting life story and how she came to live in Sioux Falls.
- It’s small and easy to get around—and has virtually no traffic. How many other mid-sized cities can you say that about? (I’ve yet to find any.) SVV also commented on how wide the roads are, which may seem like an odd observation, but I agree: Sioux Falls is peppered with vast, open spaces despite boasting 175,000 residents. In other words, you get the perks of your urban life while still having room to breathe.
- It’s got a winery on the outskirts complete with chickens you can feed and a number of unique blends to sample. If cranberry jalapeño—i.e. Strawbale Winery’s popular Burning Bog—sounds weird to you, I urge you to try it first. It’s so good, I made the ultimate sacrifice of checking a bag to bring a bottle back. And if you’re heading to Sioux Falls this summer, drop in on the winery’s Summer Porch series every Thursday night.
- SVV got to try on an astronaut suit and experience a tornado. The ultimate science geek, my husband loves nothing more than a museum full of hands-on exhibits. And he got just that at Washington Pavilion, a performing arts venue, kids’ discovery center, science and tribal art museum, theater and piece of living history all rolled into one. I regret we didn’t have more time to spend slowly working our way through each level, as we could have amused ourselves all day—then stuck around for a symphony show or viewing of The Force Awakens on the state-of-the-art CineDome come nightfall.
- The coffee culture is top notch. I thought Nashville had a lot of coffee shops per capita, but I’d bet Sioux Falls easily matches that. Not only were there more cafes than we had time to drink our way through (see: Coffea, Josiah’s, Black Sheep), but we also found a number of awesome bakeries—like Breadico or Queen City Bakery—that were equally deserving of our time. Too few days, too many good places to eat (#FoodLoverProblems)! Only solution? Plan a trip back, obviously.
- Makers’ gonna make. I love shopping when I travel, but I refuse to buy any tourist crap or merchandise manufactured in China (and so much of it often is). If I’m going to clear space in my suitcase, it’s going to be for something local and insanely, over-the-top cool. I found many such things carefully crafted with care by local South Dakota makers during our trip, many of which were displayed in Unglued and sold at a number of boutiques lining the quaint streets of Downtown Sioux Falls.
- A waterfall runs through it. Seriously. Normally, you have to drive miles to reach an oasis like Falls Park, but in Sioux Falls, the series of cascading water are located an easy walk from the center of town. Additionally, there are 80+ parks in the area, full of lakes, pools, splash pads, water rides, creeks and more.
- Have I mentioned the people are pretty much the nicest anywhere? Well, they are. And the best part about Sioux Falls, we both agreed, is that the qualities we so loved weren’t as tangible, they weren’t solely the food scene or the bevy of craft brews. It wasn’t the baked goods (OK, that may have been a small part of it) or even the jumping chickens. It was the welcoming vibe, the way mere strangers embraced us like friends, the feeling that we were already part of this secret, but thriving community—all of it weaves together to form one awesome destination, for both visitors and residents alike.
Don’t understand what I’m saying? Well then, I guess you’ll just have to travel there and experience it for yourself!
I traveled to South Dakota for the #MyGreatPlace campaign on behalf of Travel Mindset. For more tips on what to eat, drink, see and do in Sioux Falls and Vermillion, read my Road Trip Journal here.