My name is Chris Ashbach, and I’m a First Officer with Trans States Airlines. If you’ve ever flown with me and tried to lift my bag out of the closet on the aircraft, you know that I bring around 20 pounds of camera gear with me whenever I fly. Before joining Trans States Airlines I was a professional travel blogger. Now that I’m a First Officer at Trans States, I’ve combined my love for flying and my love for travel into a monthly blog article highlighting some of the amazing destinations that we serve, along with not-to-be-missed activities for overnighting crews. First up … Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Falls Park in Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls is a thriving city in southeast South Dakota. The city is famous to Midwesterners as a stopping point along Highway 90 for road trippers before they get to the infamous Corn Palace in Mitchell as they continue on their way through the plains and the Black Hills toward the Rocky Mountains. For tourists, the city of Sioux Falls is most famous for its rambling waterfalls that stretch over a rare quartzite rock formation in what is now Falls Park. But the city is much more than just a rest for weary road trippers. Trans States serves Sioux Falls with regular flights supporting the vibrant economy of this little-known gem of a city.
While most people don’t think of the Dakotas as a particularly exciting winter destination, if you do make the trip, the warmth of the people is all you need to survive the cool weather. For a perfect day in Sioux Falls, I recommend a visit to Winter Wonderland in Falls Park, followed by a chance to warm up in Downtown Sioux Falls with some great barbecue. Both are an easy walk from our crew hotel.
Winter Wonderland in Falls Park
Falls Park is one of the most searched-for attractions in South Dakota. Visitors can find Sioux Falls’ namesake here as they watch the Big Sioux River tumble and toss through the rocky outcroppings of the park. The below photo was taken just after sunset, truly one of my favorite times of the day.
These falls are the gem of Sioux Falls, and are the very place the city was first formed. A stone building where the first settlers milled their crops still stands by the bustling river. Today the city celebrates its history and the natural beauty of this place through what is now called Falls Park. With lighted, paved paths, Falls Park is the perfect place to walk, bike, or run around historic sites and waterfalls, day or night.
If you visit from early November through early January, you’re in for a special treat. The city’s “Winter Wonderland at Falls Park” adorns the beloved falls with holiday cheer, and features over over 25 miles of lights and colored LED spotlights.
From the crew hotel, head north about one block on Phillips Street, and then catch the trails from the park entrance. Find the plowed walkway through the field on your right, and you will descend into a rare quartzite patch worn bare by the river. After a short walk, the falls will appear in front of you as they fall away into the lower levels of the park.
The largest part of the falls’ drop is found near an observation deck down this path. Don’t miss a stop here. It’s beautiful.
Perched on a nearby hill you can stop at the Falls Park Visitors Center and observation deck to warm up before you continue on. The city built this outlook to take advantage of the beautiful park and downtown area past it. Outdoor speakers play holiday music, and I saw more than a few couples out walking, just enjoying the fresh nighttime air and magical views.
Warm Up In Downtown Sioux Falls
After your walk through Falls Park, head downtown to warm your belly at one of Sioux Falls’ fantastic restaurants. On your way, don’t just take the streets back. Enjoy the rest of the Winter Wonderland by walking the paths south to 10th street and then cut west one block to get downtown.
Downtown Sioux Falls is loaded with great restaurants and eateries. The downtown area starts one block south of our layover hotel on Phillips Avenue. Some of our crews’ favorite eateries include JL Beers for a good craft burger and MacKenzie River Pizza. During my most recent layover, I stopped at BackYard BBQ, right in the heart of Phillips Avenue, for some authentic BBQ.
On the way back from dinner, don’t miss CH Patisserie for a French macaroon or another tasty treat to enjoy back in your room.
After a good nights rest, we were back as a crew for our hotel pickup headed for Joe Foss Field. A few legs later and we were ready to explore another city the following night.
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This article was written by Chris Ashbach, MA; a First Officer at Trans States Airlines, professional speaker, blogger, and photographer. You can learn more about Sioux Falls Tourism on Chris’ travel blog. Chris also owns LiveDan330.com and his brand has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, Investment News Magazine, and IZEA, Inc. You are welcome to read more about Chris on ChrisAshbach.com, or enjoy his food blog, FourKidsAndAChicken.com. Chris is also a featured gardener in the upcoming book on Straw Bale Gardening by New York Times best-selling author Joel Karsten.