If you find yourself along the I-29 corridor in South Dakota, don’t miss a stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It’s perfect for a family getaway. Our TravelingMom with Daughters explores six free things to do in Sioux Falls, the Heart of America.
6 Free Activities in Sioux Falls the Whole Family will Love!
Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, located at the junction of I-29 and I-90 near the state’s borders with Minnesota and Iowa. Whether you’re looking for shopping, food, outdoor adventures or arts and culture, there’s plenty to offer here. There are many free experiences to enjoy in this beautiful area of the Midwest too, so you don’t have to break the bank. Although I left my daughters at home on this trip, I can’t wait to bring them back to explore together. Here are six of my favorite no-cost ways to see what Sioux Falls has to offer.
1. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: Falls Park
It’s easy to see where Sioux Falls got its name. The beautiful waterfall on the Big Sioux River is the highlight of this free, 123-acre public park. Another unique aspect is the pink-colored Sioux Quartzite rock that’s exposed around the falls and along the river banks. This durable stone was excavated and used in local buildings as well, so be on the watch for it as you explore downtown Sioux Falls.
Along with the signature waterfall, Falls Park also offers plenty of open lawn area, paved bike/walking paths and a visitor center. An open air shelter houses a weekly farmer’s market (May-October) filled with produce, baked goods, flowers and more. Whether you are looking for picnic space or somewhere to let the kids run off some energy, there’s plenty to do and explore. If you really want to tire the kids out, climb the 5-story observation tower for an even better view of the falls and surrounding area.
If you have a few dollars to spend, stay for lunch or dinner. The former Sioux Falls Light and Power Company building was converted into the Falls Overlook Cafe where you can eat inside or (weather permitting) out on the patio overlooking the falls.
2. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: Big Sioux River and Recreation Greenway
Just under 26 miles in length, this paved trail starts at Falls Park, loops around the city and is open year-round. The Greenway winds through both urban and wildlife areas for a scenic way to explore the Sioux Falls area.
3. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: SculptureWalk
Every year a new set of sculptures is chosen to line the streets of downtown Sioux Falls for SculptureWalk. Each piece remains on display for a full year and the public is encouraged to vote for their favorites. Whether you’re looking to shop or eat, there’s already plenty to do in downtown Sioux Falls. The outdoor art adds a whole new dimension and level of excitement to see what the next sculpture will be as you walk down each block.
You can pick up a brochure detailing each piece of artwork at many of the downtown shops. It’s a great way to help teach kids to appreciate art and can be turned into a fun scavenger hunt as well by challenging them to find specific pieces.
4. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: Siouxland Heritage Museums
The Siouxland Heritage Museums include the Old Courthouse Museum and the Pettigrew Home & Museum. Both 1800’s era buildings are restored and include regional history exhibits and galleries. Admission to both buildings is free.
5. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: Good Earth State Park at Blood Run
Good Earth State Park is a bit of a hidden gem located just outside Sioux Falls. The area is a historically important one as it’s one of the oldest sites of human habitation in the U.S. An extensive network of trails allows for hiking, biking or just leisurely exploration of the river, wooded and prairie areas of the park. And yes, it’s worth the hike down to the river bank just for the view alone.
Away from the river, the park surrounds you in a sea of prairie grasses and wildflowers that ripple in the breeze. It’s easy to imagine yourself back on the prairies of the 18oo’s that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her Little House books. In fact, her Little Town of DeSmet, SD is located less than 100 miles away from Sioux Falls.
As of late 2016, the State Park is undergoing enhancements to make it more easily accessible to more people. Currently many of the trails are not paved, so I wouldn’t recommend it for wheelchairs or strollers. However, it’s a perfect place for dog walkers.
6. Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls: JazzFest
For over 25 years, the Sioux Falls area has been home each July to this massive 3-day outdoor music festival. JazzFest draws crowds of over 125,000 and offers two stages of entertainment, food vendors, beer and wine gardens, fireworks and more. Not just for jazz enthusiasts either – concerts include everything from blues to rock, Latin, soul and much more. No outside food or drink is allowed at the free concerts and festivals, so if you want to enjoy a snack or beverage you will have to buy them.
Perfect for families with kids aged 12 and under, the JazzQuest Kids Area offers a kids-only space with plenty for them to do. Inflatables, demonstrations, arts and craft activities and a rain tent are all available, free of charge.