Whether you look up or down in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the view is sure to impress.
The “Arc of Dreams” sculpture rising 70 feet above the Big Sioux River illustrates the art-focused modernity of the city. And at the state’s newest park, Good Earth State Park, visitors examine the ground where archaeologists excavated remnants of a long-lost Native American settlement.
Although Sioux Falls boasts plenty of indoor attractions that appeal to groups, such as the Washington Pavilion’s Visual Arts Center and several local wineries and breweries, its outdoor attractions especially shine. The most populous city in the state offers an impressive downtown waterfall, an art walk and a water ski show.
Groups will rave about these four Sioux Falls outdoor attractions.
An average of 7,400 gallons of water drops down a three-tiered, 100-foot waterfall every second in Falls Park, a 123-acre park on the banks of the Big Sioux River in the center of Sioux Falls. Guests can enjoy the beauty and power of the waterfall before exploring the park’s many other attractions.
The Falls Park Visitor Information Center introduces guests to Sioux Falls. Groups can shop for local memorabilia or enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the top of the five-story, 50-foot-high observation tower.
The park holds many historic buildings. The Falls Overlook Café sits inside the former 1908 Sioux Falls Light and Power Company building. Groups can view the falls while eating lunch.
A late-1800s horse barn serves as the home of one of the city’s newest attractions: the Stockyards Ag Experience. The museum tells the story of the Sioux Falls Stockyard, which had an impact on the region from its opening in 1917 until its closing in 2009.
“Every generation moves a little farther away from a family farm,” said Jackie Wentworth, sales manager for the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. “So many individuals may not have a concept of how their food is grown. This museum walks them through the process and connects them to agriculture. We are an agricultural city. The museum really captures that part of our history.”
Groups in town during summer weekends can attend a free concert at the Levitt at the Falls outdoor music venue. The newly opened venue offers a diverse lineup of 50 concerts each summer.
Catfish Bay’s Greatest Show on H20
A 20-person human pyramid zooms across the water effortlessly at every performance of Catfish Bay’s Greatest Show on H20.
On Friday nights during the summer, the water-skiing comedy adventure dazzles visitors with acting, singing, dancing and highly choregraphed water stunts. Wakeboarding, water ballet, barefoot water skiing and daring jumps keep guests gasping throughout the hour-and-a-half performance.
Over 25 skiers in the show have gone on to professional shows around the world in places like Sea World and Cypress Gardens.
“It’s neat to be able to see this type of show in South Dakota, a landlocked state,” said Wentworth. “You are not going to be able to see a show like this within a couple-hundred-mile radius. It’s so fun that we have this amazing water stunt show right in our backyard. It’s really fun for all ages.”
Spectators watch the show at Catfish Bay, a private water ski park with concessions and bleacher seating for over 1,000 people. Groups can book a package experience with reserved seating and concession vouchers.
Good Earth State Park
When workers began removing topsoil for the construction of the Good Earth Visitor Center, images began to take shape in the soil. Archaeologists examined the dirt to discover that ancient Oneota tribes had moved soil from the river to the site to create designs on the ground. Hundreds of years later, these pictures in the soil were still visible.
The 11,000-square-foot visitors center moved to a less historically significant spot. Guests can still see the dirt images restored to their former glory as a design on the floor of the visitors center.
South Dakota’s newest state park includes the Blood Run Site, a National Historic Landmark created in the 1970s. The 2017 Good Earth Visitors Center explains the importance of the park’s archaeological treasures. Groups can stroll past a variety of exhibits, including a reconstructed Oneota lodge. A 20-minute video gives a historic overview of the Oneota tribes who populated the site for 8,500 years until 1720.
“These Native Americans were not nomadic,” said Wentworth. “They lived off the land along the Big Sioux River. They lived in lodges instead of tepees. It is a very historically significant site where you learn how they lived.”
The park sits about 15 minutes southeast of Sioux Falls on the Iowa border. Visitors can enjoy this time capsule of indigenous culture by attending an educational program or hiking any of the six miles of trails that traverse the 650-acre park.
At first glance, the dramatic “Arc of Dreams” seems to be missing a piece. The massive stainless-steel structure spans the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls for the length of a football field, except for an 18-foot gap in the middle. The space at the top of the arch symbolizes the leap of faith that dreamers take to see their dreams come true.
The city installed this signature art piece in July as a celebration of SculptureWalk. Now in its 16th year, SculptureWalk has become one of the largest and most-well-known public art sculpture exhibits in the country.
“All art mediums are utilized, from bronze to metal to recycled goods,” said Wentworth. “The pendulum of styles swings from the very serious to the extremely whimsical. Last year, we had a 12-foot Bigfoot made from wire and metal. This year we have a bear sculpture made of forks. It’s a fun exhibit.”
In 2019, 59 sculptures line the Sioux Fall streets. The city switches over 50 sculptures each year in April and May. People can vote for their favorite until September, when the votes are tallied, and the winning sculpture is purchased to keep in permanent display.
Groups can dine at a local restaurant before using a self-guided map to find some of the sculptures. With so many artworks, the SculptureWalk is easy to access throughout downtown.