On the lake-dotted prairie in eastern South Dakota, three oases along Interstate-29 invite travelers to celebrate creative souls. Sioux Falls, Brookings and Watertown promise beautifully crafted pastries, an expansive American art collection and indie-folk concerts in an opera hall. Consider this your introduction to a corridor of cool.
A late-1800s hotbed of theater, this affluent city of 22,000 still supports a thriving arts scene with a museum celebrating hometown painter Terry Redlin and a rehabbed opera hall. visitwatertownsd.com
Charley’s at the Goss Opera House Opened in 1889, this three-story, block-size building once housed a drug store, boutique shops and one of Watertown’s three opera halls. Today, it’s home to a casual restaurant, which serves American classics like pepper-garlic filet mignon, and a rehabbed opera hall where up-and-comers like indie-folk artist Jami Lynn play. gossoperahouse.com
Codington County Heritage Museum In a former Carnegie library, explore Victorian home decor, a dry goods store and thousands of vintage photographs to learn about Watertown in the early 1900s. Free admission. cchsmuseum.org
Redlin Art Center An Egyptian Revival building houses more than 150 Terry Redlin oil paintings celebrating nature and Americana. (The name may not ring a bell, but his twilight-lit scenes almost certainly will.) In addition to exploring the art, visitors can hike the center’s 30 acres. Free admission. redlinart.com
South Dakota State University anchors this city of 23,000 (full-time) residents, and visitors find the campus’ South Dakota Art Museum and cow-to-cone ice cream at the dairy, plus a spot to explore scienc visitbrookingssd.com
Children’s Museum of South Dakota There’s plenty of delight in running from Mama the animatronic T. rex, wandering through a maze of prairie grass or scrambling through the Climb a Cloud exhibit at Brookings’ interactive museum focusing on prairie life. prairieplay.org
South Dakota Art Museum South Dakotan Harvey Dunn’s intimate portrayals of the prairie (you see them here) join collections of Pop and Native American art at this free-admission museum in Brookings. Through July 26, check out the exuberant prints and lithographs in No Holds Barred: Experiments of William Weege. sdstate.edu
SDSU Dairy Bar Students learning the ins and outs of dairy production take pride in their ice cream, made with cream from cows living a mile off campus. Get a scoop of cookies ’n’ cream, a flavor that some say was invented here. sdstate.edu
The largest city in South Dakota (164,000 people), Sioux Falls’ downtown offers television-starring pastries, a unique collection of historical artifacts (including a walrus skin kayak) and the chance to play art critic. visitsiouxfalls.com
8th Street eateries This one street in central Sioux Falls contains all manner of gastronomical delights. Sanaa’s serves traditional Syrian fatayer (hand pies stuffed with mixtures like feta, tomato and mint) sanaacooks.com; Queen City Bakery turns out three-layer caramel-chocolate Brooklyn Blackout cake (featured on Martha: The Martha Stewart Show) queencitybakery.com; and Prairie Berry East Bank pairs gourmet cheese and meats at its epicurean bar with local wine and beer at its fermentation bar prairieberry.com.
Pettigrew Home and Museum Visitors find state Sen. R.F. Pettigrew’s seriously strange collection: Mammoth bones, the shackles worn by Wild Bill Hickok’s killer, a walking stick from Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii and a walrus skin kayak are just a few of the oddities. History is the only major theme, and the museum resides in the senator’s early-20th-century mansion, still decorated with original furnishings. siouxlandmuseums.com
SculptureWalk Walk through downtown Sioux Falls to study the 55 sculptures on loan from national artists, then vote for your favorite piece. (Or just enjoy the free outdoor art gallery, no voting required.) In October, officials present the people’s choice prize (and others); a new set of sculptures takes over in April. sculpturewalksiouxfalls.com