Falls Park. Photo by Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Sioux Falls, South Dakota: The Midwest Urban Center

If all you know about the Dakotas is what you see on Fargo, then you’re in for a surprise when you visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city. It’s an easy two-and-a-half-hour plane ride from McCarran International Airport (Allegiant flies direct) to the no-frills regional airport, where you’re in and out in a jiffy.

Sioux Falls consistently makes national lists of the top places to live, and rightfully so. While it’s growing fast, it still has fewer than 300,000 residents. Its neighborhoods are well maintained and the air is crisp and clean. As for the traffic… well, there isn’t any. It’s wide open roads for miles and miles around. The scenery is bucolic, studded with cows and horses and bales of hay.

But don’t mistake this city for a sleepy flyover. It’s very much a vibrant hub for a relaxing weekend getaway, especially for the urban explorer. While outdoor activities abound, the downtown scene is where you’ll feel Sioux Falls’ modern vibe. Encompassing several walkable blocks, the area is filled with mom-and-pop shops (remember those?) and places to eat and hang out.

Just how quaint is this place? Well, if you’re looking for a caffeine fix, there isn’t a green mermaid in sight. There’s Coffea Roasterie (200 S. Phillips Ave., coffearoasterie.com) instead, a coffee shop/art gallery/music venue. This is a haven for java lovers, especially those who take theirs with milk. (You are in the heartland, after all. That milk didn’t travel very far from its udder.)

Pace yourself on sweet treats, though, because for that, you’ll want to go to Queen City Bakery (324 E. Eighth St., queencitybakery.com), which has some of the best pies and cookies your grandma could only dream of baking. (Unless, of course, your grandma is from the Midwest, then you’re right at home.) Tucked in a modern brick building, it looks straight out of DUMBO, Brooklyn, but much cleaner, and you don’t have to fight for a seat.

Speaking of Brooklyn, it doesn’t have sole claim to the hipster scene. Sioux Falls is cultivating its own with that most hipster of beverages—craft beer. Fernson Brewing Company (201 N. Weber Ave., fernson.com/on8th) boasts a 1,000-square-foot taproom and offers a well-curated wine list and nonalcoholic options.

Food choices are plentiful, but one of the most innovative places to nosh is M.B. Haskett (324 S. Phillips Ave., mbhaskett.com). With an ever-changing menu, this deli brings together French, Spanish and Mediterranean flavors in the most unexpected ways. Muffalettas, quiche, and sweet or savory crepes are on offer, as well as a good selection of cheese on the mezze menu, all locally sourced. The three-course prix fixe meal ($36, plus $14 for the wine pairing) Friday through Sunday evenings is a can’t-miss, if simply for the novelty of dishes that change weekly, upping the seasonality game considerably. (Braised duck leg with pesto bucatini, English peas and asparagus was a recent entrée.)

The rest of downtown begs for a good stroll. For Etsy types who appreciate one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods, Unglued (218 S. Phillips Ave., ungluedmarket.com/sioux-falls) is a wonderland of creativity. Hand-sewn felt animals, vintage quilts, knitted garments—these are the products born of long winters and unfettered imagination.

And when you’ve had your fill of downtown, you still have the crown jewel of Sioux Falls to explore. Falls Park (131 E. Falls Park Dr.) is 123 acres of cascading waters—specifically, 7,400 gallons dropping 100 feet each second. You can spend several relaxing hours here strolling the grounds, contemplating whether to trade your real life for this one.

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