Are you planning a sightseeing trip to Pierre, South Dakota? There are plenty of things to do in Pierre and beautiful places to visit. If you want to make lasting fun memories, here are the best things to do in Pierre during your vacation.
Pierre is a city located in the state of South Dakota in the United States. It is an ideal place for vacation as it has natural beauty and rich culture.
Founded in 1880, it is South Dakota’s capital city, and it’s estimated to have a population of 14,091 as of the 2020 US census. Pierre is the county seat of Hughes County.
There’s always something to do in Pierre, no matter what the season is. Whether you’re looking for a place to hike, explore, or just relax in nature, there’s something for everyone. Pierre is home to many attractive destinations, including:
- The Oahe Reservoir
- Flaming Foundation
- Cultural Heritage Center
- South Dakota State Capitol
- South Dakota Discovery Center
There are also many boutiques and department stores where you can shop, as well as budget-friendly and luxurious hotels and restaurants to dine or spend the night. No matter your interests there’s always something to do in Pierre.
Don’t know where to start, read on to discover incredible things to do in Pierre, South Dakota.
Table of Contents
- TLDR – Our Favorite Things in Pierre, SD
- Best and Fun Things to do in Pierre, South Dakota
- 1. LaFramboise Island Nature Area
- 2. Visit the Cultural Heritage Center
- 3. Explore the Oahe Dam
- 4. Tour the Cow Creek Recreation Area
- 5. Take a Family Tour to the SD Discovery Center
- 6. South Dakota State Capitol
- 7. Marvel at the Fighting Stallions Memorial
- 8. Visit the Capitol Grounds Flaming Fountain Memorial
- 9. Explore the South Dakota National Guard Museum
- 10. Have a Ball at the Pierre Players Community Theater
- How to Commute in Pierre
- Where to Eat in Pierre
- Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Pierre: Big Toms Diner in Pierre
- Where to Stay in Pierre
- Cheap Accommodation: Baymont by Wyndham Pierre – Starts at only $49
- Mid-range Hotel and Accommodation: Ramkota Hotel- Starts at $88
- Luxury Hotel: Clubhouse Hotel & Suites – Starts at $124
TLDR – Our Favorite Things in Pierre, SD
- Best park – La Framboise Island Nature Area
- Best free activity – National Guard Museum
- Best foods – Black & Blue Steak Tips
- Most significant landmark – Cultural Heritage Center
- Best all-round accommodation – Clubhouse Hotel & Suites
- The best activity for kids – SD Discovery Center & Aquarium
- The best activity for adults – Cultural Heritage Center
- Best nightlife – St Charles Lounge
Best and Fun Things to do in Pierre, South Dakota
1. LaFramboise Island Nature Area
If you’re looking for a nature getaway, you’ll want to check out LaFramboise Island Nature Area in Pierre, South Dakota. This pristine area along the Missouri River is perfect for hiking, boating, biking, fishing, picnicking, hunting, and kayaking.
LaFramboise Island Nature Area is also a perfect spot for birdwatching. That’s because the island is covered with meadows and trees including, ash, cedar, Russian olive, and native cottonwood, which form the ideal home for different species of birds. In addition, it has elks and buffalos, which made it earn the name “Good Humored Island.”
Touring the lovely LaFramboise Island is free. And, you can visit any time as the island is open throughout the year. Some of the ADA Accessible amenities for the physically challenged include fishing piers, picnic tables, and Group picnic shelters.
Other amenities for all visitors include boat ramps, drinking water, picnic table, vault toilets, shore fishing access, hiking & biking trails. If you’re planning a trip to Pierre, don’t miss a nature expedition to this island.
2. Visit the Cultural Heritage Center
For the best things to do in Pierre, you can also consider visiting the Cultural Heritage Center. This is home to South Dakota Archives and museum facility houses. It is a great place to learn about the history of Pierre and South Dakota at large.
Built on the side of the Hill, a big percentage of this heritage center is constructed underground. This beautiful local museum has many artifacts and cultural visual displays, each with a brief written history.
The archive has over 12,000 cubic feet of records documenting the South Dakotans’ heritage and history. These archival records are open to public research and are used by attorneys, teachers, government officials, authors, journalists, and historians.
This museum is open seven days a week, and admission is free for South Dakota residents and kids under 17 years. There are volunteer guides to show you around.
You’ll enjoy exciting adventures at every turn as well as learning opportunities. The center is air-conditioned and would be a perfect place to spend an afternoon.
3. Explore the Oahe Dam
For those seeking a vacation destination slightly off the beaten path, check out Pierre Oahe dam. This sleepy little town in South Dakota gives you access to one of the most impressive engineering marvels – the Oahe Dam.
Opened in 1962, this massive dam symbolizes American ingenuity and engineering prowess. It is located along the Missouri River, a few miles north of Pierre, in the Hughes/Stanley counties. And, it is the source of Lake Oahe, one of the largest artificial reservoirs in the US.
The lake stretches 231 miles and is 245 feet high. Also, besides providing electrical power for area residents, it is a source of drinking water through two massive treatment plants. The reservoir offers hours of outdoor fun that you cannot afford to miss.
4. Tour the Cow Creek Recreation Area
The Cow Creek Recreation Area is perfect for nature lovers and anyone who wants to get a little exercise. The recreation area features a variety of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing. It also has a lake for swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and boating.
Both campground camping and primitive shoreline camping are available. The shoreline sites provide fantastic views of the Oahe Reservoir. Moreover, the campsites in the campground have easy access to restrooms/showers, clean drinking water, dump stations, self-serve entrance kiosks, shore fishing access, and fish-cleaning stations.
This recreational area is conveniently located just minutes away from Pierre. So, whether you’re in the mood for some family fun or some serious relaxation, the Cow Creek Recreation Area is definitely worth a visit.
5. Take a Family Tour to the SD Discovery Center
Founded in 1918, SD Discovery Center in Pierre is an impressive facility. And, it offers fascinating exhibits on animal life and geology, to help develop curiosity and scientific exploration. The facility is housed at the Pierre power plant, and it provides countless educational resources.
This science playground for the entire family provides exhibits and hands-on experiences to inspire scientific thinking. The center is open to visitors regardless of their income, ability, and education.
In the exhibit hall, you’ll find rotating hands-on stations where you learn about all the aspects of space and earth. You get to understand how everything connects from the soil beneath to the giant sun and even the unseen nanoworld.
Book your visit to the SD Discovery Center in advance to secure a spot. No matter what you choose to do in Pierre, stop by the SD Discovery Center on your way. If you are on a family tour, this is a great place to visit.
6. South Dakota State Capitol
This is one of South Dakota’s prominent monuments, and whose construction took place between 1905 and 1910. The building is constructed using Indiana limestone, native rocks, Italian marble, and Vermont. It features a dome that is 96 feet high, and it’s definitely worth a visit!
The building houses the South Dakota State Legislature, as well as other state offices, including that of South Dakota’s governors. All this makes the State Capitol building quite important in Pierre and the larger South Dakota State.
A tour of this place allows you to marvel at the structure’s incredible architecture, and might even rub shoulders with the state’s bigwigs.
7. Marvel at the Fighting Stallions Memorial
Constructed as a lifetime memorial for eight South Dakotans who perished in an airplane (N86SD) crash on April 19, 1993, the Fighting Stallions Memorial is a must-visit destination in Pierre. The plane crash had been caused by the failure of the Propeller Assembly in poor weather in Iowa near Dubuque.
This Mahogany carving was constructed by a South Dakota sculptor called Korczak Ziolkowski and is enlarged in bronze that dates back to 1935. It was built to pay tribute to great people, including four state employees, the governor, and three Sioux corporate leaders.
The Fighting Stallion Memorial symbolically helps represent a great struggle to overcome adversity, courage to believe in the future, and a huge desire for achievement. These eight people who were on a mission to save the largest agricultural processing employer made the ultimate sacrifice. When in Pierre, make a point of visiting this unique memorial.
8. Visit the Capitol Grounds Flaming Fountain Memorial
There’s no better way to spend a day in Pierre than visiting the Flaming Fountain Memorial. This beautiful monument made of granite and bronze is located on Capital Lake’s Shores. The memorial pays tribute to the country’s war veterans from South Dakota, and their names are inscribed on the structure.
A daytime view shows a stone memorial, fountain, waterfall, and an eagle statue. All these honor the great Sioux nation members who fought for the country in the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Make sure to check out the iconic Dakota Statue while you’re here.
9. Explore the South Dakota National Guard Museum
Located on the southeast corner of Dakota Ave and S.Chapelle is the South Dakota National Guard Museum. This is home to a collection of military artifacts, equipment, relics, records, and memorabilia.
The museum houses various items, including uniforms, firearms, and tanks. You’ll also find exhibits on state history and the civil war in this museum.
The Dakota Guard has taken the responsibility of preserving their fine heritage for their families. Its members fund the preservation, and thus, admission to this museum is free. Also, veterans who served in the South Dakota Army and their family members have donated the artifacts to the museum.
It is one of the best South Dakota history museums, offering more military history of South Dakota than you can take in. It’s open on weekdays from 9.00 AM to 4.00 PM and closed on weekends and holidays. The museum is a great place to spend your afternoon with family or even friends.
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10. Have a Ball at the Pierre Players Community Theater
The Pierre Players Community Theater is home to various performances. Here, you can enjoy anything from musicals and plays to comedy and magic shows. With top-notch seats and an engaging atmosphere, you’ll have a great time at every show.
This community theatre inspires the community by promoting diverse artists, stories, and ideas. Additionally, it offers an equitable and inclusive space that values and respects everyone. This means that no matter your age, gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin, you’ll be quite comfortable here.
If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to spend your day, consider checking out the Pierre Players Community Theater. The theater is home to some of the best productions in the area, and you won’t be disappointed by a single performance.
How to Commute in Pierre
Pierre has a well-developed road network that connects major parts of the city. To commute comfortably, you can take advantage of car rental services or use public transportation.
The city has an airport, Pierre Regional Airport, with regular connections to Minneapolis and Denver. To commute from the airport to your hotel or destination, you need to grab a taxi that costs around $40.
Greyhound runs the long-distance buses into Pierre with a stopover on E Dakota Avenue, which is in the city.
- Private Car
A car is a perfect way to travel when using I-90 on Route 83 located at Vivian, South Dakota. I-90 runs south of Pierre, and it offers direct connections to all the major cities such as Denver, Seattle, Chicago, and Kansas City.
Where to Eat in Pierre
Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Pierre: Big Toms Diner in Pierre
If you’re looking for a delicious, satisfying meal, Big Toms Diner is the place to be. Located at 1415 East Wells Avenue, Pierre 57501, this local favorite is known for BBQ ribs, brisket, and hamburgers.
The diner also serves pork, chicken, baked salmon, grilled sirloin, green soup, marinated cod, and fried fish. Plus, their prices are incredibly reasonable, so you can enjoy a hearty meal without breaking the bank.
Big Toms Diner is a great place to spend a relaxing lunch or dinner with an intimate atmosphere and friendly staff.
Where to Stay in Pierre
If you’re planning to spend some quality time in the mesmerizing city of Pierre, there are plenty of hotels to stay in while you’re there.
Cheap Accommodation: Baymont by Wyndham Pierre – Starts at only $49
Baymont by Wyndham Pierre is an affordable hotel and home to an amazing pool and spa. It also has a variety of other activities and amenities that you and your family will love. From a beautiful on-site restaurant to the children’s playground, it’s built for everyone in the community.
Room types in Baymont are non-smoking. And, you can book any kind of room from those with a double bed, king bed, king bed suite to those with a king bed suite and a sofa set, free WiFi, hot breakfast, and refrigerator.
Mid-range Hotel and Accommodation: Ramkota Hotel- Starts at $88
Ramkota Hotel is a boutique hotel known for its luxurious and restful sleep experience. It offers a wide range of services and amenities, perfect for tourists and business travelers.
Located at 920 West Sioux Ave, Ramkota is a 3-star property with everything you need to relax and recharge after a long day of sightseeing. Plus, with its central location in Pierre, it’s easy to get to all the hotspots in this charming town.
It has non-smoking room types including,
- One king bed
- One Queen bed
- A comfortable room with microwave and refrigerator,
- One double bed
- Queen size murphy bed coffee maker and free WiFi
Luxury Hotel: Clubhouse Hotel & Suites – Starts at $124
If you’re looking for a luxurious place to relax and sleep after a long day of exploring Pierre, we have a great suggestion. Sioux falls Clubhouse Hotel & Suites!
It has spacious and comfortable rooms that come with various amenities, including a TV, a refrigerator, and a microwave. For a truly restful night, book Clubhouse Suite, which comes with:
- Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast
- Whirlpool and spa
- Indoor Children’s water playground
- 24-hour business center
- On-site Fitness center
- On-site restaurant
Also, the hotel is situated in the heart of the city at 808 West Sioux Ave, Suite 100 Pierre, SD 57501. The location makes it easy for you to explore all that Pierre offers.
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