When people think about South Dakota, they usually envision the Black Hills, with the infamous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Mount Rushmore, or the unique Badlands landscape, or maybe even Wall Drug. But if you’re not paying attention, you could miss out on a wonderful small city called Sioux Falls on the south-eastern edge of this vast state. Located in what is known as the Prairie Hills at the junction of I-29 and I-90, Sioux Falls was established on the banks of the Big Sioux River prior to the Civil War in 1856. Abandoned for three years because of the Dakota War of 1862, the population grew to 2,100 by 1880, making Sioux Falls the largest city in the Dakota Territory. Today, the city has 174,360 residents and remains South Dakota’s largest city. My daughter, Tara, and I recently spent a weekend here to attend my cousin’s wedding. Here is an account of what we experienced.
Mackenzie River Grill & Pub
MacKenzie River is a privately held, Montana-based company with restaurants in Montana, Idaho, Washington, North Dakota, and South Dakota. They started 22 years ago in Bozeman, Montana, attracting customers through quality and uniqueness. Originally focused on pizza, they have since expanded their menu with creativity, freshness, and selection including flatbreads, burgers, fish tacos, Kentucky bourbon bites, specialty cocktails and much more. In the downtown Sioux Falls location, they have a distinct Montana atmosphere and friendly staff. The food was full of flavor with generous portions. Our table enjoyed pizza, flatbread, fish tacos, burgers, pasta, and salads. Definitely a recommendation while you’re in town.
Holiday Inn City Center
The wedding had blocked rooms at the Holiday Inn City Center, so that’s where we stayed. This is a really nice, clean hotel and has an onsite bar as well as a restaurant. The reception and bar staff were friendly and attentive, but we did not try the restaurant. Our room was on the 8th floor and was clean and comfortable. The bathroom was a bit small, but doable. There was a Keurig coffee maker, a microwave, a refrigerator, and free wi-fi in the room. It cost $5 to park in the lot or the ramp. Elevators (there were three of them) were extremely slow during Sunday morning as a lot of people were checking out. The hotel had an indoor pool, but we did not check it out. We didn’t hear any complaints from the kids that did though! The location was nicely situated where you could walk to several restaurants and attractions. Would recommend a stay here when you’re in town.
This 123 acre park encompasses the falls of the Big Sioux River, the focal point in this region throughout history, as well as many historical buildings and an observation tower & visitor center. The falls are the result of the Big Sioux River cascading over Sioux Quartzite, a ‘pink’ rock with hardness second only to diamond. Many historic buildings were made from this rock and it continues to be used as an aggregate in concrete construction. The remains of the Queen Bee Mill lies on the east bank of the river. The mill opened in 1881 and processed 1,500 bushels of grain each day. However, by 1883, it was closed due to an inadequate water supply and a short supply of wheat. The wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1956, leaving the outer stone walls. The history of John Morrell and the stockyards, the center of the city’s economy until the middle of the 20th century, can be viewed in the Stockyards Ag Experience – housed in a large, former horse barn on the property. If you’re in the area or even just driving by, Falls Park is a must see!
This local eatery started it’s history at a different location under a different name back in 1996. Located in an old silver airstream trailer on Phillips Avenue, this retro diner serves up a great variety of food, has daily specials, and even has espresso drinks, cold beer, and wine! We ate breakfast here both mornings and really enjoyed it, including the Farmer’s Scramble (with hollandaise on the side), the Breakfast Burrito (with added Cholula), Sunrise Waffle, and the Eggs Benedict. All very tasty and satisfying. Definitely a thumbs up!
Summit Event Hall
The wedding reception was held in the Summit Events Hall in Sioux Falls. The hall was originally built as a single-family home in 1903. It was purchased by the Knights of Columbus in 1941 and they added the event space in 1947. In 2015, the building was re-opened by Ryan Hochreiter and Jane Gullickson as Summit Events Hall and provides a unique space for weddings, corporate gatherings, reunions, private parties, and more. The upstairs includes a 2-bedroom suite that sleeps eight people. This venue was perfect for a wedding reception – offering a unique and historic site with adequate space for dining, dancing, and restroom facilities. The staff was friendly and helpful in all aspects I observed as a guest.
Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ
Rowdy Hog Smokin’ BBQ is a locally owned barbecue restaurant opened in 2013. Started by a Sioux Falls, South Dakota native, the food is all homemade, the sauces are from scratch, and the meat is all fresh from Staber Meats in Sioux City, Iowa. They catered for the wedding reception where we enjoyed their pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, and coleslaw. Everything was very flavorful and delicious. Definitely going to go back to try more! Reviews are high on their ribs, brisket, and potato salad, so be sure and check it out!
SculptureWalk is an outdoor exhibit in downtown Sioux Falls, displaying sculptures by various artists along several downtown sidewalks. The sculptures are displayed year round and change from year to year since 2011. Viewers can vote for their favorite or even look into purchasing the sculptures on their website. I was not even aware of this feature of Sioux City until we noticed the various sculptures walking downtown. This is definitely a unique and worthwhile experience! You can download a map at their website here.
The Gateway Lounge is a low-key local bar and grill with friendly staff, lots of televisions and gaming, pool tables, and great burgers and tator tots! My cousin is a bartender here and we stopped in on Sunday to watch the Viking/Packer game before heading home. Great selection of cold beer, hot popcorn, and plenty of televisions to watch several of the games in progress. The Monster Burger and tator tots were great! They also have outdoor seating available. Glad we stopped in!
Those are all of the places we were able to check out on this wedding weekend. There are definitely more in the area that we would love to be able to come back to! The zoo, Good Earth State Park, Palisades State Park, and more!
As always, thanks for reading!
Kristi – aka The Trippy Tripster!