Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Sioux Falls South Dakota, August 2012
Last month I attended a travel writing conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was my first time visiting South Dakota, and I was pleasantly surprised. I stayed at the Best Western Plus Sioux Falls Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center. This hotel is every kid's dream with an indoor waterpark right in the hotel. I was amazed that there was a backdoor to my room that opened up right into the water park, which is free for hotel guests. The water park contains a large slide, as well as a little slide and fun things for the kids to play on and walk on across the pool. The rooms themselves are a nice size with comfortable beds, nice TV's, refrigerator, microwave and complimentary Wi-Fi. There's a restaurant and a bar on the property that are very reasonably priced. While there I discovered chislic, a deep fried steak which South Dakota is best known for. The hotel is just a few minutes from the airport and they provide a complimentary local shuttle. This is definitely a great place to stay while visiting Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
My first night in South Dakota I visited the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, the first facility in America to have a Visual Arts Center, a Performing Arts Center, and a Science Center in one building. The Visual Arts Center has six galleries, including a hands-on children's studio. The permanent collection features over 1000 works, including over 300 by noted South Dakota artists. I really enjoyed the exhibit by Don Snell featuring a series of "poem" paintings. The Performing Arts Center features two theaters where the South Dakota Symphony performs, as well as Yo-Yo Ma, Jerry Seinfeld, and more. My favorite area of the Washington Pavilion is the Kirby Science Discovery Center, with over 21,000 square feet and three floors. There are over 100 science exhibits for the entire family to enjoy. There are exhibits focusing on the mechanics of the human body, where it times how fast you run or how high you jump. I enjoy walking up the stairs of sound were you walk up the stairs and as you do, you hear different animal sounds. You could easily spend hours exploring all of it.
A block away from The Washington Pavilion in downtown South Dakota is Philip Street, where you can walk down and explore a number of stores and restaurants. Also along the street is the sculpture walk, where a variety of sculptures are displayed all year long throughout downtown Sioux Falls. The sculptures are owned by the artists and lent to the exhibit for one year. From downtown you can take a free trolley to Falls Park, which covers 123 acres. The Falls is an incredibly majestic site, wherein each second an average of 7400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the falls. Every night during the summer there is a free Falls Park sound and light show, featuring information about the history of Sioux Falls, using laser lights. Visions appear and sounds are heard in all directions, and you feel like you're in the middle of the actual event they are describing. A bike trail in Falls Park begins a nearly 20 mile long trail called the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail and Greenway. This trail follows the Big Sioux River and loops around the city. I was actually hoping to take a bike ride around the river, but ran out of time. Definitely something I will do when I return.
There are a variety of fun places to visit in Sioux Falls, especially with kids. I visited the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History. I actually pet a skunk. The zoo cares for 1000 animals, from anteaters to zebras. Right now they have a We Are Rhinos of Africa exhibit going on. I saw a baby rhino nursing on his mom. The Hy-Vee face-to-face farm is an area that brings kids up close to animals with feeding and painting opportunities and an opportunity to ride a camel. I can now say I rode a camel. The zoo is very open and spacious with a lot of trees and easy walking path. This is a great way to spend the day with your family.
There is a wonderful children's hospital in Sioux Falls, called Sanford Health The hospital is designed like a castle. If a child has to spend time there, at least they can pretend to be somewhere magical. The zoo launched ZooTV which involves a live feed from 14 different cameras to televisions in patients' and waiting rooms at Sanford Children's Hospital and Sanford USD medical center. The partnership between Sanford health and the zoo includes the ZooExpress, which allows zoo educators to visit the sick children at Sanford Children's Hospital several times a week.
Sertoma's Butterfly House and Purdy Marine cove is another great place to visit. The Purdy Marine Cove has hundreds of vibrant marine animals. The colors are astounding. There is a touch tank where you can touch the stingrays. The butterfly house has over 800 free flying butterflies from around the world in the tropical butterfly house.
A wonderful program that takes place in South Dakota is the Outdoor Campus, where you can hike, bird watch, and enjoy many hands-on programs such as hunting, fishing, kayaking, archery, and more. Youth programs are free, but some adult classes have a small materials fee. Be sure to sign up for these adventures in advance. There is also a room for the kids to play in that includes a kayak, a tent, and a campfire so they can pretend they are camping. In addition, they make campfire foods such as what they called Smaco or Smurritos, where you combine chocolate chips, marshmallows, and peanut butter on a flour tortilla, wrap it in foil, and throw it on the hot coals to cook.
One place that I did not have time to visit, but I'm sure my kids would have loved, is the Wildwater West Waterpark, South Dakota's largest waterpark and only wave pool. In addition to the kiddie pool, lazy river, and fun slides, it also has a swim up bar for adults. In addition, they have go carts, bumper boats, mini golf, batting cages, and paint ball. Talk about a fun filled day.
I really enjoyed my visit to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I want to thank the Travel Media Showcase for hosting my stay and activities while I learned about the Sioux Falls area.