Downtown Sioux Falls, S.D.

Downtown Sioux Falls, S.D. (Rich Murphy, Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau)

I came to Sioux Falls for a wedding and stayed for a weekend. It is a surprisingly wonderful place, perhaps not a destination but certainly worth a couple days en route to a place such as Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.

In a national landscape strewn with boarded-up towns, it is a healthy little city that evokes the past but also points the way to a hopeful future.

At Sioux Falls' center both physically and culturally are the lovely, three-tiered falls themselves and the large park that surrounds them. The park is the site of summer music, winter festivals and year-round walking and biking. To have so deftly incorporated nature in town recalls Manhattan's green nucleus of Central Park and San Francisco's embrace of hills and bay.

As for the town, yes, Sioux Falls has been "big boxed," but it has replaced the old downtown businesses not with empty storefronts and discount stores but with locally owned boutique shops, restaurants, galleries and loft spaces. All show the tasteful influence of civic imagination, as do the town's art festival, sculpture walk, farmers markets and an old high school beautifully converted to a civic center.

Of course, all of this costs money, and it helps that Sioux Falls is "doing well." Though its population is only 154,000, it is the largest city between Minneapolis and Boise, Idaho, and plays big. With many schools of higher learning, medical centers and several credit card headquarters, Sioux Falls is an educational, health and banking center for parts of five states.

So if you find yourself out there on that vast prairie, look in on Sioux Falls, a great place to visit, and you might want to live there.