South Dakota is where the heartland plains collide with the west’s magnificent mountain ranges. It’s the joining spot for big city life and rustic frontier towns, where rolling rivers quench the thirst of the buffalo that still roam free, and where the faces of four of our finest presidents gaze down upon us from the majestic monument, Mount Rushmore. In short, South Dakota is the perfect place for a vacation for the entire family.
Starting in Sioux Falls, we can spend a good part of a day touring the various historic sites, such as the McKennan Historic District and the Old Courthouse Historic District. Any of the sites can be toured on foot, or we can hop on the local trolley for a quicker stop-by-stop tour. But without a doubt, one absolute must-see visit is the very spot the town was named after, Sioux Falls. These awe-inspiring waterfalls were created roughly 14,000 years ago, and lured settlers to the area from as far back as 500 B.C. Lewis and Clark described their majesty in their expedition journals. In addition to the waterfalls, the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum are great places to spend some time while in town; the zoo features more than 500 animals on its 45-acre preserve, showcasing them in natural habitats. The Delbridge Museum of Natural History provides us with a look at a large collection of mounted animals from five continents.
As you might expect, Sioux Falls is a fine place to enjoy outdoor activities, and features many parks and camping areas to get in touch with nature. No matter what time of year we visit the area, there’s plenty to keep us busy. Winter, however, offers us a rare treat as the snow and ice turn the grounds and lakes into white-covered storybook lands, and gives us the chance to go sledding, snowboarding, and ice skating. The town decorates the streets with lights and holiday decorations, turning it into a setting worthy of a picture-postcard.
Heading south on the I-29 for a little over 50 miles, we merge with Highway 50, which we stay on for a quick 6 mile drive to the town of Vermillion, home of America’s Shrine to Music Museum. Located on the grounds of the University of South Dakota, the museum boasts a collection of more than 13,000 musical instruments from all over the world and from a variety of cultural and historical periods. Many of the instruments are rare and one-of-a-kind, including Stradivarius violins, and a pair of 18th century pianos by Cristofori.
Staying on Highway 50 for another 20 miles brings us to Yankton, a perfect spot to get out and enjoy some fun in the sun. The Lewis & Clark Lake is a fine place to set up camp for a few days of boating, tubing, jet skiing, or fishing. Visit in winter time and chop a hole in the frozen lake to try your hand at ice fishing, or go sliding across the ice on an inner tube. Or, hit up one of the local archery ranges to test your skill with a bow and arrow…it’s not as easy as they make it look in the movies!
Our final spot of Mitchell lies further west on Highway 50, where we merge with the northbound 37 and stay on it for about 40 miles. On arrival at Mitchell, we can’t help but visit the world-famous Corn Palace – it’s a massive structure that is meant to stand as a monument to the fertility of South Dakota’s soil. Murals are created on the exterior of the buildings, composed entirely of corn, grains, grasses and wild oats; the murals are stripped each year and new ones put up in their place, and depict a different facet of South Dakota life. The Corn Palace is an offbeat tribute to the American Heartland, and shouldn’t be missed.
From Mitchell, the return trip to Sioux Falls is a little more than 60 miles east on the I-90, but what’s the hurry? There’s so much to see and do in South Dakota, and home will still be there when we get back.
Other Area Sponsors in South Dakota:
Happy Holiday Resort