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Falls Park: A Must-See Sioux Falls Stop

The next time you find yourself in or near Sioux Falls, take a few minutes to visit Falls Park. It's a must-see when you're in this eastern South Dakota city. But it's also a great roadside stop when you're passing through on either I-29 or I-90.

If you have 20 minutes

Find this peaceful and pretty park just north of downtown Sioux Falls, along the Big Sioux River. Even if you only have a few minutes to stretch your legs, watching the waterfalls toss and churn 7,400 gallons of water a minute over brownish pink quartzite ledges is strangely invigorating.

Be sure to get a photo to document the occasion. The falls themselves make a lovely landscape photo, but this is a good opportunity to get a photo of yourself or your group as well. Everybody takes photos here, so you'll have no trouble finding someone to snap one for you.

It's fun to venture out to explore the ruins and climb on the rocks near the water. But be careful -- the rocks can get slippery. Don't go into the water under any circumstances and keep a close on curious children. The falls are beautiful, but they're also very dangerous.

Use the nearby restroom, grab a drink of water and then you're ready to get back on the road. But I recommend lingering a bit, if you're able to.

If you have a couple hours

If you have a little more time, stroll the paths that wind through the 128-acre grounds. Then climb the five-story observation tower to get a bird's eye view. There's also a small gift shop onsite if you want to pick up a souvenir.

Then stop into the seasonal Falls Overlook Cafe for lunch or 15 flavors of ice cream made fresh from milk from Stensland Family Farms just outside of Sioux Falls. The patio is the perfect place to listen to the rumbling water and enjoy a warm panini, pizzas topped with local Stensland cheese, homemade soup or salads made with fresh regional produce.

The building itself is of historical interest. It's made of the same pink quartzite as the falls and was constructed as to house hydroelectric generators in 1908.

To make it a day trip

Get outside the park to see understand how the falls are an integral park of the city itself. Falls Park is a hub for a number of walking and driving routes, so this is a perfect place to start your urban explorations.

Walk or drive the Phillips to the Falls route along Philips Avenue. You can travel it backward, starting at the park and traveling to from 5th Street downtown.

Once you're on Phillips, head toward the river on 7th Street to see Arc of Dreams, which stretches from bank to bank. This massive piece by South Dakota Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere is the symbol of the city.

It's also the capstone of Sculpture Walk Sioux Falls, a rotating selection of dozens of outdoors art pieces that changes annually. You'll pass dozens as you continue deeper into downtown on Phillips Avenue.

It's fun to chose your favorite. Don't forget to do a little snacking or window shopping along the way.

You can also see many of Sioux Falls' key attractions by bike or the seasonal trolley. The Big Sioux River Recreation Trail and Greenway runs right through Falls Park. The popular bike trail system includes a 19-mile loop and more than 15 miles of neighborhood spurs connecting neighborhoods to the main trail.

If you're in Sioux Falls during the summer, check out the Downtown Trolley. It departs from Falls Park twice hourly, Tuesday through Sunday. The hop-on, hop-off trolley is just $2 per person and it'll whisk you off to some of the city's most interesting historic and artistic attractions (including ones discussed here) and drop you back at Falls Park.

What about you?

How do you like to spend an afternoon in a new city?

What do you look for in a roadside stop?

What's your favorite thing to do or see in Falls Park?

How about in Sioux Falls in general?

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