Sometimes the best stuff is right in front of you and you don’t notice it. I’ve always wondered how those relationships that start as friends and end up as lovers work. You know, the kind where you are friends for years, and then suddenly one day you look at this person and have different feelings for them. It has never happened to me, I’m more of a ‘Big Bang’ relationship type of person. However, apparently my inability to see good dating prospects right in front of me also bleeds over into my travels too.
My parents have lived in South Dakota for 10 years – as long as I have been traveling and living nomadically. In fact I still remember the day I received the email from them stating, “We bought a house in South Dakota!” and my reaction was “Huh? South Dakota?”
My family actually has no ties to South Dakota. I grew up in Illinois and all of my extended family is from Nebraska. But now South Dakota was going to be ‘home’ for my parents.
Even though I thought this was an odd choice, I embraced it and used it as an opportunity to explore the state that I knew very little about. We did a big South Dakota road trip in 2008 out to the west where all the popular tourists sights are.
The many ‘faces’ of South Dakota
But since then, I’ve mainly just flown to see my parents and spend some time at their farmhouse each year. When I do that, I fly into the biggest airport and city South Dakota has – Sioux Falls. My parents drive the 2 hours south to pick me up, and I never ever set foot in the actual city of Sioux Falls.
After 10 years of visiting and flying in/out of my good ‘friend’ Sioux Falls, I finally looked at Sioux Falls in a new relationship ‘light’. I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment when suddenly I realized – Sioux Falls is kind of sexy. And it’s a damn good place to explore and travel too! I only had exactly 24 hours to explore what to do in Sioux Falls, and I pushed it (and my stomach) to the limit.
What to do in 24 hours in Sioux Falls South Dakota
Have Coffee with a Queen
The first things to do – start your day where the locals are – at Queen City Bakery with the some of the best baked goods in the city! Kristine, the owner and head baker came back to her hometown after a few years on the east coast, to start QCB. The space itself is something to see. It’s located in an old industrial building, gutted and redone, which now looks bright, raw, and hip. It’s full of young professionals working away on their laptops. The coffee was wonderful, and the baked goods were mouth watering. Make sure if you are there on a Sunday to get the fresh baked croissants made that morning!
More Info on Queen City Bakery in Historic Downtown
Take a Sculpture Walk
Just walk the streets of Sioux Falls and you’ll see that art is alive and well in the Midwest! Sioux Falls hosts an annual sculpture exhibition and contest along the streets in historic downtown. Artists’ sculptures from around the country are loaned to the city to be on display all over downtown. From May to September, the public votes for its favorite sculpture, which is deemed the ‘People’s Choice Award’. That sculpture is purchased at the end of the exhibit year for the city’s permanent collection.
More info on the annual Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk and competition.
Visit ‘High School’ for Art Class
Sculptures are one thing, but modern art in the Midwest? I was skeptical. However, when I walked into Washington Pavilion I was stunned. What once was the high school (1879-1992), is now the epicenter of culture and art in Sioux Falls. Washington Pavilion includes a performing arts center (where you’ll catch Broadway shows and theatre), the Kirby Science Discovery Center, and the Visual Arts Center. While preserving the shell of the old high school they’ve managed to squeeze in all of this luscious art – I was completely taken aback (in a pleasant way) with the whole complex. I enjoyed walking through the contemporary and modern exhibitions in the Visual Arts Center the most. I spent the most time viewing the current Deep Sea Imaginarium exhibition. I had to keep reminding myself I was in South Dakota!
More info on Washington Pavailion’s building and exhibitions
Have a Local Lunch
Make sure you go beyond the reclaimed barn wood interior and head to the little outdoor patio of the popular lunch spot M.B. Haskett Delicatessen. The outdoor patio has some lovely local street art not to miss. However, first order at the counter and choose from a variety of artisan meats and cheeses for your sandwich and enjoy the fact that all ingredients are locally sourced in South Dakota.
More info on MB Haskett Delicatessen in Historic Downtown
Take a ‘trip to Paris’ for Macarons
Time for un petit bonbon! In the heart of the historic district is a little slice of Paris. Stop in at Ch Patisserie for one of their delicious and colorful macarons! World Champion Pastry Chef Chris Hanmer came to South Dakota to infuse a little bit of Paris into the cornfields. His accolades also include Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America and Top Chef of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts
More information on CH Patisserie in Historic Downtown
See the Town Namesake at Falls Park
This is a ‘must do’ in Sioux Falls. Hear the roar of the falls at the beautifully landscaped Falls Park located near downtown. Each second, an average of 7,400 gallons of water from the Big Sioux River drops 100 feet over the course of the falls. Take a stroll on the walking trails and head up the viewing towers to work off all of that delicious food you’ve been enjoying! And don’t forget to browse around the historic buildings surrounding the falls.
More information on Falls Park and calendar of events
Do a Progressive Dinner through Sioux Falls Restaurants
If you don’t have much time in a city but want the maximum culinary experience, why not try a progressive dinner through a variety of restaurants? That’s exactly what I did with the help of local, Jackie Wentworth, who helped me pick out the restaurants. If you aren’t familiar with progressive dinners, it’s when you have each course at a different restaurant. These were all easily walk-able since they were all located in the downtown area.
Appetizers at Parker’s Bistro
We started at Parker’s Bistro for appetizers and cocktails. The building was built in 1802 and has had a number of tenants over that time, but the Bistro has been operating there for 7 years. It’s eclectic design and old bar was a lovely place to grab rye cocktails and some snacks. I even tried the famous South Dakota dish, chislic – cubed red meat (venison, lamb, deer or game) that’s usually deep-fried and salted.
Maine Dish at Breadico and Fernson Brewery
Next we walked ‘across the tracks’ to grab our main dish at Breadico who specializes in breads and wood fired pizza. The space was bright, open, and shared a door with the craft brewery and bar next door.
The young owner, David Napolitano, has roots in Italy. However, he grew up in Sioux Falls, traveled around the country learning to bake bread, and then decided to come back and open this inventive bakery in Sioux Falls. He has made big inroads in bringing a younger vibe to the bakery using social media, and new ideas around bike deliveries. Plus he takes time to simply educate people about European cured meats and cheeses. I love the young, global perspective and start-up feel (he used to bake bread out of his parent’s garage!) he brought to the city food scene in Sioux Falls.
We took our Breadico margarita pizza next door to Fernson Brewery and Bar. The bar was filled with a young crowd enjoying TV trivia night. The place was hopping on a Tuesday night, and the beer delicious.
Dessert and Special Nightcap at Crawfords
To end our dinner, we walked back into the historic area of downtown to Crawfords Bar and Grill for dessert and a nightcap. The dimly lit bar had an eclectic feel to it full of décor that grabbed your attention including the jeweled walls.
David Graham, the owner, grew up in Sioux Falls and believed in rebuilding historic downtown. It was once the first butchery in Sioux Falls back in 1896, then utilized as a men’s shoe and clothing store, and now Crawford’s restaurant. If you look closely you’ll find little nods to all of the former tenants within the restaurant.
I was enamored with the chocolate peanut butter pie, but then David suggested I also try the Epiphany drink on the menu as he guaranteed me I had never had anything like it before. I thought to myself, I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in New York City – I felt like I had pretty much tried it all when it came to cocktails, but was intrigued by his challenge.
The Epiphany was a martini cocktail with a foamy egg white layer and a single yellow flower on top. The flower was called a buzz bud, and David instructed me to first take a sip of the drink to taste it. Next I was to eat the flower and then try the drink again. I started chewing the flower and it suddenly exploded in my mouth as if I had put a whole handful of poprocks in my mouth – it was shocking! When I tried the martini again, it had a completely different taste to it, thanks to the palette cleansing properties of the buzz bud.
David was right, I had never had a drink like that before. Who knew Sioux Falls could introduce me to new delicious cocktails? Mind blown…by a buzz bud.
Progressive Dinner Stops
My 24 hours was up, and I was stuffed and exhausted! I was so surprised by how much there was to do (and eat) in Sioux Falls. The city had successfully commemorated the old, while bringing in new life to its historic district. It’s a delicate balance I believe they achieved based on my 24 hours in the city.
I think what most impressed me with Sioux Falls was all of the locals who were starting small, inventive businesses. They were bringing life, art, and creativity into the old historic center again. Sioux Falls was really growing in great ways and putting all of my stereotypes of boring, conservative, artless, Midwestern cities to shame.
Over 24 hours I think I fell in love with Sioux Falls – and I promise it’s not just the buzz bud speaking! I can’t believe I had been looking past this lovely city all these years!
I was a guest of Visit Sioux Falls during my short 24 hours there, however all opinions expressed here are my own.