Find Museums, Kids' Activities and Water Fun in Southeastern South Dakota
In Watertown, paved trails weave around the gallery complex at the free Redlin Art Center, which shows original Terry Redlin oil paintings.
If you love Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, it's worth a detour off Interstate-29 to De Smet. Tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, or if you come on a July weekend, check the schedule for the outdoor Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant.
Traveling with young ones? A great stop for the family right off I-29: the Children's Museum of South Dakota in Brookings. Kids can splash through a stream, dodge a roaring T. rex and fish for trout in the outdoor prairie play area. And there's more to do at the cool indoor exhibits: Change the tires on a car, make pretend ice cream cones, or anchor a TV show.
When you're ready to drive south, head on to Sioux Falls. Check out the art on display at SculptureWalk, admire the soaring Arc of Dreams spanning the Big Sioux River, and plan an hour or two at Falls Park, where the Big Sioux River plunges 100 feet over pink quartzite ledges.
Plan to stay at the Hotel on Phillips, a former bank now rich with chic decor and river views. The bank's original vault serves as a fitting entrance to The Treasury Lounge.
Related: Getaway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
There's a lot to do in South Dakota's biggest city—and if you decide to spend more time here, check out spots like the Great Plains Zoo, the Butterfly House and Aquarium and Palisades State Park.
But to continue an I-29 journey, head to DJ's Specialty Resort and Sports Rentals in Yankton (80 miles southwest) to rent gear and paddle the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam.
Or join the locals for lunch in Yankton at JoDean's with an all-you-can-eat buffet and dessert bar. Afterward, get a day pass for the beaches at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area.
Music buffs will want to check out the gallery of celebrity guitars (Elvis, B.B. King and Johnny Cash) and 500-year-old instruments at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, 26 miles southeast (under renovation; as of July 2022, main exhibits remain closed but special exhibits, programs and events are open to the public). While you're in the area, drop by the Oscar Howe Art Gallery, which showcases works by the American Indian professor.
If your drive eventually takes you west on Interstate-90, you—and the family—can easily spend a couple of hours in Mitchell before heading to destinations like the Black Hills and Badlands.
Five great places to have fun in Mitchell
1. The World's Only Corn Palace
Every year, artists use more than 275,000 ears of corn to create a mural in this I-90 town in the middle of the state. It's fun to admire and we love the corn-y gift shop, too.
2. The Depot Pub and Grille
Mitchell's former train station is the place for great burgers and steaks. Kids can pull the train whistle and watch a model train chug around the room.
3. Dakota Discovery Museum
Vivid murals and 3-D exhibits emphasize Old West design-cowboys, Native Americans and pioneers, from the gritty 1800s forward.
4. Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop
If you've seen a Wells Fargo stage coach or a carriage at Disney World, chances are Doug Hansen and his team built or restored it. Browse their craftsmanship at the Mitchell store.
5. Crazy About Cupcakes
The cheery stop along Main Street sells small-bite and full-size cupcakes with a rotating roster of flavors like s'mores and soda pop.