From sculptures to stingrays and butterflies to beers, Sioux Falls surprises and enchants this adventurous couple from Minnesota.

DAY 1

Rich: My fiancé and I are from the Twin Cities. We eventually want to move to a more family-friendly town, and Sioux Falls isn’t too far from our parents, so it might fit the bill. 

Desiré: We’re not following a guide book, just gonna ask people where we should go. Our overnight trip starts now.

Desiré: The Porter Sculpture Park – super weird but in an admirable way. It’s like walking into Wonderland. 

Rich: We were driving down I-90 and the giant bull head just jumps out of nowhere. Nobody knows about this place but you’ll be talking about it for weeks, especially if you have kids.

Desiré: Sioux Falls is unexpectedly hip! Cool old buildings and an affordable but classy bakery with heaven-sent coffee!

Rich: Good breakfast at a legit place downtown called Queen City Bakery

Rich: Heard a place here has stingrays you can touch. Had to check it out. 

Desire: So, Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove is totally awesome. I’ve never seen so many colors in my life! 

Desiré: Okay, so it turns out there are these pigmy quail here and they were introduced into the butterfly house to stop an ant infestation. And they can’t fly, so the butterflies live in peace. 

Rich: Actually, I totally saw a butterfly dive-bomb a quail. Poor quail! It’s the circle of life in here!

My favorite sculptures were the red fish - I called them Swedish fish, like the candy.

The bull head is huge. But make sure you look INSIDE the head - a special treat inside.

Eating breakfast in downtown Sioux Falls. They even have whoopee pies with a fall theme!

Brick-and-mortar neighborhood. Didn't expect this in South Dakota. It's like a big city but without all the congestion and honking horns.

The Sertoma Butterfly House & Marine Cove has a bubble you can crawl into and be surrounded by fish and coral. And you can fit two in it. ;)

Butterflies everywhere in this greenroom. Butterfly "House." Duh.

Dare I say stingrays are cute?! They're like cats but underwater!

Saw a giant butterfly just chilling in a tree. Feel like a kid here. Awesome.

Been trying to get a butterfly to land on my finger and one finally lands on Rich's back. And then it crawls on my finger. So gorgeous!

DAY 2

Rich: Great Plains Zoo. Impressive, not gonna lie. Rhinos are legit and they’ve got two of them. This town officially rocks.

Desiré: Petting zoo! And one of the zoo people pointed out a fat goat that looked like Val Kilmer. Totally did!

Desiré: Lunch at JL Beers! They have postcards at every table. You can write a letter to anybody you want and they’ll mail it for you.

Rich: JL Beers gives you nametags. I wrote down “Bernard” to see if the waiter would call me that. Did not. Good burger, though. Had a fried egg on top.

Desiré: SculptureWalk is a treat! Loved the family of polar bears. 

Rich: Might have to walk back up and look at these again.

Desiré: Prairie Star Gallery has all kinds of cool Native art. Love the carvings of animals and wooden chiefs. And I really want a buffalo skin to snuggle with.

Rich: All the art is by local artists which makes it that much better. There are some legit oil paintings too – Indians on horseback in snowy forests. 

Desiré: Really cool free stuff to see at the Washington Pavilion. They have a paper crane display made of more than 1,000 paper cranes. It just hangs from the ceiling. I LOVE unexpected art!

Rich: Best part of the Pavilion was the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Love the look of album covers from back in the day. And I didn’t know so much great music came out of South Dakota.

Rich: A volunteer at Falls Park recommended Crawford’s as a unique spot for a drink. Really cool look and very chill.

Desiré: This was the perfect city to be spontaneous in. So many hidden gems and food everywhere. Felt like a kid going to all these great places! And this place is gorgeous in the fall.

Rich: What made this road trip special was that there was literally too much to do. We needed more time. We weren’t expecting to find so much.

One of the goats made the weirdest sounds - it was like a grandpa laughing.

JL Beers has cheap hamburgers and an almost endless selection of great beers.

Downtown has a rockin' sculpture walk. Loved taking pics with the silver dude.

We sprawled out underneath the paper cranes and wondered how it would feel if they all dropped on us at once.

You actually get to walk on the rocks at Falls Park. Kinda romantic to just sit and listen to the water.

Almost fell asleep at Falls Park. Really peaceful place. Need to spend more time here next time.

Out for a drink and dinner at Crawford's downtown. This place is like sitting in a painting.

The perfect road trip should have these three things: food, unexpected discoveries, and nice people. Sioux Falls has all three in spades!

You'd never think that in the far corner of South Dakota there would be a town like Sioux Falls. Rich keeps saying this place is legit. He's right!

Next Up: Backpacking Sage Creek

Photographer Carl Johnson traversed the Badlands for three days without a human encounter.

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