With a major new event facility recently opening, South Dakota’s largest city is primed to take a leading role on this Great Plains state’s meeting stage, but that’s just one of the surprises on tap in Sioux Falls.

Debuting last fall, the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, which is attached to the 100,000-square-foot Sioux Falls Convention Center, has made Sioux Falls an option for a larger swath of groups, according to the Sioux Falls CVB. The three-facility complex is comprised of the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, the Sioux Falls Convention Center and the Sioux Falls Arena, all of which are managed by SMG, along with downtown’s Orpheum Theater Center.

“It just kind of opened up our entertainment offering,” says Mattie Burnham, director of sales for the Sioux Falls CVB, adding that since the 12,000-seat multipurpose facility opened, the destination has hosted 11 sellout conferences, including the Professional Bull Riders’ First Premier Bankcard Invitational, held March 13 and 14. “The flexibility of those three facilities is unique in itself.”

Burnham says Sioux Falls offers approximately 5,000 hotel rooms citywide, with 1,000 within a one-mile radius of the three-facility complex, and Sioux Falls Regional Airport is about a five- to 10-minute drive from downtown.

Any meeting or convention convening in Sioux Falls will likely find itself immersed in the scenery of the Big Sioux River, which snakes through downtown and is bordered by numerous restaurants, Falls Park—which boasts a triple-tiered waterfall that gives the city its name—and the Big Sioux River Recreation Trail and Greenway. Falls Park was named one of the top 25 parks in the country by TripAdvisor, Burnham notes, adding that its observation tower’s Overlook Cafe seats 200 and is often used for opening ceremonies. The area can also be tented for larger events.

The Greenway’s latest addition is a new pedestrian bridge and Greenway Amphitheater, which offers a scenic spot for presentations or entertainment with downtown serving as a backdrop. There are 14 rock benches that can accommodate 60 to 85.

“People like to be by the river and its water features,” Burnham says, “and it’s just across from our main street, Phillips Avenue, with a ton of home-style restaurants.”

Burnham singles out CH Patisserie, where Top Chef: Just Desserts winner pastry chef Chris Hanmer, who has won top honors on the world pastry stage, holds court.

Surprisingly enough, according to Burnham, Sioux Falls, with a population of around 250,000, supports some 650 restaurants, gaining notoriety for being quite the dining town.

“It’s kind of a hidden secret about us, but the word has gotten out,” she says, adding that The New York Times even did a feature on the city’s culinary scene.

Also on the fine F&B scene are two wineries, Strawbale Winery—constructed of straw bales, no less—and Prairie Berry, located on the east Bank of the Big Sioux and offering lunch, dinner and charcuterie meats and cheeses. Burnham notes that the local wineries and restaurants often set up wine and beer pairings and food stations for groups.

A popular cultural option is Prairie Star Gallery, celebrating area tribes with centuries-old works from some 500 artists.

Sioux Falls accommodations include the 136-room Hilton Garden Inn Sioux Falls Downtown, which opened last fall and has about 7,000 square feet of meeting space, and the 243-room Sheraton Sioux Falls Hotel.

The CVB offers groups a free convention app and assistance with name badges, registration and transportation.

All of this adds up to a pleasant surprise for many meeting planners that chose the city.

“We have a lot of testimonials from planners saying they never knew about Sioux Falls, and that they were pleasantly surprised,” she says.

5 Fantastic Off-SITEs

Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History

More than 1,000 animals, including zebras, penguins, tigers, snow leopards, rhinos and giraffes, call this 45-acre facility home. Several spaces are available for rental, including Savannah Park (accommodating up to 5,000), Wallaby Pavilion (max. cap. 600), Memorial Garden (for small gatherings), the Shoreline (for 300-600 guests when combined with the Memorial Garden) and the Great Room, which offers 6,400 square feet of space and can seat up to 400 for a banquet and 200 for a conference.

The Outdoor Campus

A joint project of the South Dakota Department Game, Fish and Parks and the City of Sioux Falls, The Outdoor Campus offers a variety of outdoor learning experiences for groups, including two miles of walking trails, the South Dakota Outdoor Museum, a 3,000-gallon aquarium and bird-watching. Staff and volunteers instruct in cross-country skiing, hunting and fishing, archery, cooking wild game in Dutch ovens and gardening for butterflies, among other outdoor skills.

Siouxland Heritage Museums

Comprising the Old Courthouse Museum and Pettigrew Home, these historic downtown buildings offer an elegant glimpse of Great Plains history. The 1889 Queen Anne-style Pettigrew Home and Museum houses artifacts, photos, detailed woodwork and wall coverings, and jeweled glass windows. The late-1800s quartzite Old Courthouse boasts three floors of beautiful art, hardwood floors, stained glass windows, a grand staircase and a variety of rooms for events. The second floor contains a restored circuit courtroom and library.

Strawbale Winery

With a production building constructed of straw-compacted panels and a tasting shop and gift shop made of straw bales, this unique facility offers more than 20 different wines, including varieties made from black currants, apples, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and other fruits. The facility has handled groups up to 1,000.

Washington Pavilion

A regional center for entertainment, the arts, education and science, the downtown Washington Pavilion includes the Husby Performing Arts Center, with the 1,800-seat Mary W. Sommervold Hall and 291-seat Belbas Theater; the Kirby Science Discovery Center, with 80 interactive science exhibits; the Wells Fargo CineDome, offering a 60-foot domed screen; and the Visual Arts Center, with six galleries of changing exhibits, and one dedicated to Native American art. The facility can serve everything from a small business luncheon to evening events with hors d’oeuvres and full meals.

Sioux Falls CVB